(Blow Book)

[The Magic Picture Gallery].

(London: c. 1850). Small quarto. (64)ff. A delightful, and uncommonly large, blow book featuring hand-colored, double-page engravings of a variety of actors and entertainers emblematic of its era. Blow books operate by tabs incised into their edges, so that the magician can hold his thumb to one tab and show a single set of images, with the conceit that those images comprise the entire volume. The magician then changes tabs or opens the book in the other direction—often after an audience member has blown on it, hence the title of the genre—and a different set of illustrations "magically" arise. Among the images here are a harlequin, a ballerina, a clown, and a racist depiction of a black minstrel. Historial figures appear as well, including Edmund Kean as Richard III, and Anderson himself, producing nosegays from a hat.

John Henry Anderson was a Scottish illusionist who made his London debut in 1840. Both before and after his metropolitan arrival, Anderson offered largely standard effects, but had a knack for grandiose language. The blow book was a fixture of his repertoire, but at some point he realized that it was more profitable to sell the book rather than perform it.

Bound in black leather wrappers. Expected edgewear, some spine toning, and splits to head and tail are apparent but otherwise ineffectual, and interior remains remarkably bright. Near fine. Housed in custom drop-back box. Item #31170

Price: $5,500.00