Thursday, February 9, 2012

Researching the NZ history of magic

I've received an email from Bernard Reid, currently engaged on a quite magical line of research.

I have been a professional magician for the last 50 years working mainly overseas and I became particularly interested in the history of magic in New Zealand. For 20+ years I have been working on a comprehensive history on this art. 

Preceding the introduction of motion pictures in New Zealand in 1898, the most popular forms of commercial entertainment were Minstrel Shows and Magicians. It may be surprising, but between the founding of New Zealand in 1840 and 1904, there were 88 internationally recognized magicians and illusionists who toured the country. All of these I have documented in detail but the brick wall I have hit is tracking down ephemera. I am well known among the magicians of New Zealand and so have had access to many private collections. I have haunted the libraries of N. Z. from the  Hocken Library in Dunedin to the Turnbull Library in Wellington to the Auckland Library and War Memorial Museum Library and have not unearthed one poster or handbill from the 19th century

During the 19th century the preferred method of advertising shows was by means of posters, handbills and town criers. Posters and handbills were date sensitive and hence were printed on the cheapest quality of paper which may account for the reason that none have survived. The best source of material so far has been the Will Alma collection in the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. 

My plea is this: I desperately need copies of photos and/or ephemera of magicians from the 19th century including any photographs that may include posters or publicity of magicians of the era. I also need copies of photos of interiors or exteriors of theatres of the era. 

Any assistance you can give would be sincerely appreciated and, of course, acknowledged. 

2 comments:

  1. Oh how awesome! That is so cool. Made my day seeing this. Now we have a cool guy who IS a magician looking into the history of magic in NZ. Wow!

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  2. Sounds really interesting. I know there was a significant collector of circus stuff, and after he passed the collection of what mostly seemed to be advertising material, was for sale through a dealer. I believe I may have seen that Turnbull acquired some of it for their ephemera collection. Whetehr there was magic-related posters in here I don't know, but it may be worth checking out.

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