The Digital Magic Wand

The Digital Magic Wand

THE MAGIC WAND magazine ran from 1910 and continued for 256 issues until 1957. It was edited first by George Munro and then by George Johnson and then by George Armstrong. Contributions were made by the greatest magicians of the era. Professor Hoffman was a regular contributor. There are reports of Chung Ling Soo’s stage shows and countless articles about Houdini. There is the serial publication of the Annals of Conjuring – over five years. Many of the great illusions of today had their first showing on the pages of the Magic Wand. 

The magazine was painstakingly scanned and put on three CDs and is supplied together with an introductory leaflet by Todd Karr.

The Magic Wand

by Todd Karr


A wave of the Wand and you will be transported into a world of secrets long hidden away.

Thanks to digital magic, you have the power at your fingertips to open the doors of bygone magicians and lost secrets. Caverns of information awaits you: articles by the masters, profiles on the top practitioners, historical research, and effects in every realm of conjuring. May you use this wisdom to better your craft and increase your knowledge of the magic art.

The story of The Magic Wand begins with P. T. Selbit, the inventive conjurer who founded The Wizard magazine in September 1905. Throughout its five-year run, Selbit filled his thin journal with the best news and effects he could collect. Because of his status as a professional performer and not simply a writer, Selbit was able to attract some of the top working magicians of his time to compose articles and contribute effects for his magazine.

With his performing career blossoming, Selbit apparently had ever-diminishing time to devote to his monthly publication, and so in 1910 he authorized magic dealer George Munro to continue the magazine under a new name: The Magic Wand.

The transition was smooth. Munro retained the format of The Wizard, so the new magazine differed mainly in title. He continued its tradition of strong material, including a series by Professor Hoffmann, thus launching The Magic Wand in style."

Munro's shop, Ornum's Magical Mart, was something of a crossroads for the magic community, allowing the editor to stay up to date with the latest news and developments in the art. Situated in London, he was also in a perfect location to encounter the many performers passing through town.

After over three years, however, Munro sold the magazine to his editorial assistant, George Johnson. As Johnson recalled in 1953, Munro, frustrated by deadlines and the pressure of filling pages, "said, 'Bother The Magic Wand' - at least, he said something like that." Munro passed his pen to Johnson, who became The Magic Wand's new editor and publisher.

Despite low earnings (losses the first year, and a profit of ninepence the second) and a break due to World War I, the publisher gradually expanded the magazine and refined its format. By 1919 he had begun including glossy supplementary illustrations for articles like Devant's "The Supreme Test."

In 1921 Johnson altered the publication schedule to quarterly, undoubtedly due to concerns about both time and money. To supplement his business, Johnson sold magic books and published his own as well, including S. H. Sharpe's translation of Hofzinser's Card Conjuring and many other titles. Johnson brought a sense of elegance to his magic books, with careful typography and aesthetic bindings and covers.

Johnson continually strove to help his magazine grow both in size and depth. The height of his ambitions was the serialization of Sidney Clarke's massive, detailed history of magic, The Annals of Conjuring. It took Johnson over almost five years - between 1924 and 1928 - to publish it all, and he still devoted great space and care to its illustrations, the finest quality yet included in a magicians' journal, separately printed on gloss paper, some in colored inks, with fine artworks, prints, and woodcuts depicting magicians from centuries before.

In March 1946, with issue 209, Johnson handed the Wand over to a new editor-publisher, Lieutenant W. G. A. Jenkins, known to magicians as George Armstrong. Johnson noted that through over thirty years and two world wars, he had tried to keep the magazine progressing as best he could, then told his readers goodbye, citing the author William Hone: "Thou wilt, maybe, not thank me for what I have done…but thou will be my witness that I have been at some trouble. In short, if thou ever wert an editor, thou wilt have some compassion on my failings."

Armstrong expanded the magazine's size to a large format in 1953 and continued publication before abruptly ceasing with volume 46, issue no. 256, ca. 1957. S. H. Sharpe's in-depth series "Salutations to Robert-Houdin" was in mid-stream. No fanfare, no goodbye. Like a magic wand had dematerialized it.

But now we can let George Johnson have the last word (as he wrote in 1946):

"May The Magic Wand wave over a still larger field and may the magazine and our art prosper."

Todd Karr
March 2003

As Todd Karr says in his wonderful introduction to The Digital Magic Wand, "A wave of the wand and you will be transported into a world of secrets long hidden away. Thanks to digital magic, you have the power at your fingertips to open the doors of bygone magicians and lost secrets. Caverns of information await you: articles by the masters, profiles on the top practitioners, historical research and effects in every realm of conjuring."

Price now only £65.00 (Plus postage)

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