Several months ago, we published an article about T. Nelson Downs' adopted hometown celebrating his part in their history. Researching the story got us thinking and researching and reading.
That's a lot for a bear with little brains, as AA Milne noted. So it took us a lot longer than we expected to get where we are now. And where exactly are we?
We have read, re-read and corrected our distillation of the several copies of Mr. Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation floating about the public domain realm of the interwebs. None of the publicly available and public domain versions of the book were ready for publication. There were pages missing, headings applied incorrectly and very poor scanning performed. Our various attempts to run optical character recognition scans met with failure due to one or more of these flaws.
Our solution was to purchase some pretty sophisticated OCR, image and books assembly software. We were able to stitch together images from different scanned versions into one document ready for OCR and assembly. Still, we wanted to do more. Mr. Downs' book has historical references throughout that need to be chased. For instance, he begins the book with a defense of his position that he was the true inventor of the Back Palm.
He provides the place and time for his first public use of this essential sleight and suggests that those who claim to have invented the move are wrong or disingenuous. His use of the sleight was to hide and produce coins as part of his Miser's Dream routine. But he notes that other magicians use the same move for card effects.
Speaking of The Miser's Dream, Mr. Downs dedicates substantial portion of the book to teaching this classic act. His instruction is outstanding and the images are very helpful but if one hopes to duplicate his success with the act based on a quick reading and memorization of the script, that one will be frustrated and sad.
The moves taught are knuckle-busters plus. Perhaps part of his motive in writing this book was to dissuade would-be imitators from starting. If you are just starting in Magic or have worked as a professional for decades, this book will have something for you. You may not yet have the skills to perform everything but you will find something to fit your routine with a little practice.
Robert Browning was clearly speaking of magicians when he wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp / Or what's a heaven for?"
We will put T. Nelson Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation in the Inside Magic Library for those who would like a copy. The version will be revised periodically to include annotations and cross-references. Let us know if you find any problems with this or later editions. Enjoy!