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