Magic, Legerdemain. 1811 Life, Adventures, and Unparalleled Sufferings of Andrew Oehler. First U.S. magic book.


The first work on magic and legerdemain printed in the United States, detailing the remarkable adventures of Andrew Oehler; perhaps of just as great an interest, at the rear of the volume Oehler appended the work with a description of how he achieved his phantasms (ghosts), explosions and electrical currents.

For his ghostly apparitions, (grossly oversimplified) Oehler used a "magic lantern", lenses and smoke to produce moving apparitions; some claim this could be considered an early source of development leading towards moving pictures. Although Oehler's appendix reveals many more details and layers of skill used in producing these life-like apparitions.

The apparitions were so lifelike that Oehler was imprisoned for bringing sorcery in Mexico after a show (according to Oehler; there is some doubts to the accuracy of his claims).

Really, a remarkable book. Other than sleight-of-hand and ghosts, Oehler also was a balloon pilot and his use of explosions, etc. and are often lumped in with "fireworks". He travelled the world, entertaining, and this is his memoir of his exploits, published upon retirement from entertaining.

This is known as the first book on magic printed in the US.

Bibliographic Details -

Magicpedia - see biography on Andrew Oehler

Two variants of this printing in 1811, the other stating that it was published by the author.

The Fantasms of Andrew Oehler, by Erik Barnouw - "Oehler goes down in history as the writer of the first book on magic published in the United States"

Worldcat OCLC 1611152, not rare, 26 copies recorded in libraries (although some question as to whether the libraries are recording that they have a physical copy or a digital copy) since the book is scanned and available online.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 17.7 x 10.7 x 2 cm. Leather spine and corners, with hardcover boards covered in marbled paper. Spine broke into compartments by double gilt fillet; one compartment with "Oehler Life" in gilt on black morocco.

Pages - 226

Collation - A-S6, T5. Signed in 6, but curiously the leaf signed "2" is always the third in a gathering. Collation ends at signature T5, meaning there was likely a blank T6 that is not present; OCLC only records the page numbers, of which all are present (226), the last page with a clear "Finis"

Condition -

See pictures. Binding is quite nice, with a little wear to label (re-used original, possibly?). Water stain marks throughout. Toned paper throughout. Pencil number of front pastedown. Occasional crease, thumb, page-edge chip, rust spot, dog-eared page, etc.. Light foxing throughout. Collation ends at signature T5, meaning there was likely a blank T6 that is not present; OCLC only records the page numbers, of which all are present (226), the last page with a clear "Finis"

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