FIVE READS: The Big Book of Magic—500 years of Illusion, Enchantment and Wonder.

Magic has spanned time, evoking everything from fear to amazement for thousands of years. The craft of magic was once persecuted as the work of the devil—with the ability to invoke spirits, read minds, and change behavior. As magic is all about illusion and the unknown, magicians have been perceived as heretics and sorcerers who warp the laws of known behavior. 

While no longer persecuted (for the most part), magicians still messmerisze us by making the seemingly impossible, possible.

There is a new book out by Taschen that celebrates more than 500 years of the stunning visual culture of the world’s greatest magiciansfrom the Middle Ages through the 1950s. The Big Book of Magic features more than 850 rarely seen vintage posters, photographs, handbills, and engravings. It also includes paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and Caravaggio among others.

The book explores the evolution of the magician’s craft, from medieval street performers to the brilliant stage magicians who gave rise to cinematic special effects; from the 19th century’s Golden Age of Magic to groundbreaking daredevils like Houdini and the early 20th century’s vaudevillians.

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