The transcript of this letter is:
May 9 1896
Dear Sir
I have considered the question of purchasing your collection of Playing Cards and have decided not to do so. I may however hear of someone who would like such a collection, and if I do I will put the matter before him.
Yours very truly
J.N. Maskelyne
H. Evanion Esqr.

It would appear that this letter was once in the Jimmy Findlay Collection. Jim Hagy mentions in his book on Evanion that: ‘Findlay possessed in his collection a letter from Maskelyne to Evanion dated May 9, 1896 declining to purchase the latter’s playing card collection’. (Early English Conjuring Collectors: James Savren and Henry Evanion by James Hagy, Second Edition published in 2020 by Reginald Scot Books, Glenview, USA, page 72.) Jim’s excellent book is the place to go to for information on Evanion.

The transcript of this letter is:
June 19. 1889
Dear Sir
I shall be glad to inspect your collection a little later on. Just now I am exceedingly busy with machines for the Paris Exhibition.
I have much matter concerning androids.
Yours very truly
J.N. Maskelyne
H. Evanion Esq.

Maskelyne’s letter is to Henry Evanion, a major collector of paper ephemera, including much relating to magicians. For information on Evanion see Early English Conjuring Collectors: James Savren and Henry Evanion by James Hagy, Second Edition published in 2020 by Reginald Scot Books, Glenview, USA.

Some of the 1890-1891 Egyptian Hall programmes for the Maskelyne and Cooke shows include an advertisement for Maskelyne’s Mechanical Cashier & Book-Keeper on the back page. The example illustrated here is from Ref. no. N2012. According to the advertisement it ‘Beat all competitors at the Paris Exhibition, receiving the highest award given for cash registering apparatus’. The illustration includes the words ‘Silver Medal, Paris 1889’. It is likely that Maskelyne’s letter to Evanion refers to the work needed to prepare these machines for the Exhibition.

The curator of this website is currently trying to confirm that Maskelyne really did win the Silver Medal. This is necessary because J.N. Maskelyne’s claims cannot always be taken at face value. A search by the National Library of France confirmed that M. Maskelyne of Manchester did submit a cash register (details here) but was unable to find information relating to the medals awarded.

These four letters relate to a show that Devant put on at Balham Hall, south London, on the nights of 5 and 6 December 1892. Powell lent Devant some money to help finance the shows, but the venture made a loss and Powell lost some of his money. Whilst financially disappointing, the shows proved to be of great importance to Devant because it allowed his own illusion Vice Versa to be seen. This resulted in further work at the Crystal Palace and soon resulted in Devant’s first appearance in Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments at the Egyptian Hall. The story is told in the Davenport Collection website article David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa by Anne Goulden. The article includes transcriptions of all four of these letters.

Many entertainers have financial difficulties in their early careers. David Devant wrote about his early struggles in My Magic Life.

In December 1892 he put on a show at Balham Hall. The show made a loss, but it turned out to be an important step in securing a place for him in Maskelyne & Cooke’s theatre at the Egyptian Hall. He used the show to showcase his new stage illusion, Vice Versa. The illusion caught the eye of the Crystal Palace management, and before long Devant had secured a booking at the Egyptian Hall. However, Vice Versa was too large for the Egyptian Hall stage. J.N. Maskelyne asked Devant to come up with something more suitable. The result was The Artist’s Dream, based on the same principle as Vice Versa.

Anne draws on previously unpublished material which allows the fascinating details of the story to be told.

Click on Details if you would like to download a PDF of this e-news.
E-newsletters like this one are sent out four times a year, highlighting recent additions to the website. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please contact the curator.

The June 2021 issue included:
– a card trick with a canary.
– a box for changing a lily into a rose.
– information on Will Goldston (1877-1948).
– John Salisse and the Maskelynes.
– a levitating light bulb.
– a box of Egyptian Hall ephemera.
– Peter Lane’s talk on magicians’ programmes.

To see all the other e-news, click on Website e-news.

Click on Details if you would like to download a PDF of this e-news.

E-newsletters like this one are sent out four times a year, highlighting recent additions to the website. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please contact the curator.

The September 2018 issue included:
Chevalier Ernest Thorn – “King of Illusionists”, a talk by Paul Freeman.
– 19th century Egyptian Hall programmes.
– Chung Ling Soo’s dove pan.
– Magic apparatus.

To see all the other e-news, click on Website e-news.