OK, are we all a little Harry Pottered-out by now? I know, I know—for many of our bookish friends there is no such thing as too much Harry Potter, and who am I to say otherwise? But I don’t think anyone, not even the most curmudgeonly muggles among us, would argue about the extreme coolness of a secret magic library in New York.
Tucked away in a hidden midtown location (well… it’s on their website, but never mind), the Conjuring Arts Research Center holds the largest known collection of books, journals and ephemera having to do with “magic and its allied arts, which include psychic phenomenon, hypnosis, deceptive gambling, mentalism, ventriloquism, juggling, and sleight of hand techniques.” Conjuring Arts is open daily to performers, academics, collectors, and anyone with an interest in magic, providing access to over 12,000 volumes of magical reference, ephemera, and a number of rare—sometimes one-of-a-kind—historical texts, with a searchable database of books, magazines, and trick instruction sheets. It also supports Hocus Pocus, a program that teaches magic to at-risk youth, hospitalized veterans, and seriously ill children.
Founder Bill Kalush was turned on to magic by his father and started out working in a magic shop as a kid, cleaning the cages of the magicians’ doves and reading the books there in his free time. He moved on to collecting, and has amassed a seriously comprehensive selection of texts on the history of magic—including a leaf from the original 1476 William Caxton printing of The Canterbury Tales, where Chaucer describes a magician performing at a party. While magic equipment stores can often be a bit of a closed society, like the legendary Tannen’s, a few blocks away, Kalush has a more inclusive vision for Conjuring Arts:
My theory is this: If you take the effort to find us, to come here, to ask for the right book and then spend the effort to read it, you’re already becoming one of us.
Take a look at this rare book room:
But don’t go visiting their collection of Curious and New videos unless you have some time to kill. (And if you do, check out the one with the Impossible Motion optical-illusion marble race. Damn!)
(Photo of Éliphas Levi’s The History of Magic via Rokushakublog.)