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The Library for Magicians Is Taking Appointments

The Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York City houses some of the world’s rarest books on the art of deception

(Photo: Guilhem Alandry/In Pictures/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

When Bill Kalush, a former magician, founded the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York City, he wanted to create a place that "was available for anyone . . . to be able to come in and find some of the rarest material — the things that you couldn’t find, almost anywhere else in the world,” as he told PRI. The materials' subject? The ancient arts of magic and deception. 

Kalush has assembled books dating from the 15th century until now. The books themselves are available for members of the public to look through, but Kalush is also digitizing them and translating them, PRI says. (Many are in Persian, French, Italian or another language.)

The oldest book is De viribus quantitates by Luca Pacioli, which is still being translated from its original Latin. So far, the library includes scans of about 2.5 million pages of various books. All of them are accessible through the center's database, called Ask Alexander. The center also has around 20,000 letters written by magicians, PRI writes, some of which include tricks of the trade, others the gossip of the day. 

The center is open to the public, but visitors looking for insight on perfecting their card tricks or conjuring up white rabbits must make an appointment first. There might be a wait, however. As Kalush told PRI: "We try to keep it as mysterious as possible and we do have an awful lot of interesting people visit."

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