Rare Edition of Early Illustrated Exposition of Magic at the 2015 Oxford Book Fair

A handsome and complete copy of one of the earliest English publications to explain and illustrate the tricks and conjuring previously deemed magic as mere ‘hocus pocus’.

The lengthy title demonstrates how early texts on magic grew out of earlier ‘books of secrets’ and household receipt (i.e. recipe) books and guides. ‘To hang two Knives on the brim of a Glass’ and ‘To name a Pack of Cards and not feel ‘em’ sits alongside ‘To preserve Fruit all of the Year’.

The text reveals:

How to make it freeze by the fire-side.
Call for a joint-stool, a quart pot, and a handful of snow, a little water, a handful of salt, and a short stick; first poor a little water upon the stool and upon it set a quart pot, and put the snow into the pot, the salt also, but privately, then let him hold the pot fast with his left hand, and take a short stick in his right and therewith churn the snow and salt in the pot, as if one should churn butter, and in half a quarter of an hour the pot will freeze so hard to the stool you can scarcely with both hands, pull it off from the stool.


How to make sport with a cat.

Some have shod a Cat round, with putting melted Pitch into four Walnut shells, and placing her Feet therein, and she will make a pretty Sport.

The full description of this magical work offered for sale at the Oxford Book Fair by Mike Kemp, Antiquarian Bookseller from Kent, and priced at £8750, is as follows:

WHITE, J. Hocus Pocus: or, a Rich Cabinet of Legerdemain Curiosities, Natural and Artificial Conclusions... adorned with 40 curious cuts. Sold at the Ring in Little Britain, and also at Hill's Legerdemain and Arts Treasury, etc. c. 1712. 12mo. pp. 72; illustrations. Contemporary half sheep a little worn, especially on the spine, a little age browning, bound without pastedowns or end papers. For all its minor faults this is an unusually nice copy of a scarce and early keystone magic book which is often found incomplete or considerably worn from extensive use. According to published auction records no complete copy has been seen at auction for over 30 years.Toole Stott 692; Hall 300. 


The annual PBFA Oxford Book Fair (www.oxfordbookfair.org) is one of the largest events in the antiquarian, rare and second-hand book, map, print and ephemera calendar. In 2015 over 100 dealers will offer tens of thousands of rare and collectable items.

Held at the Oxford Brookes University campus, it offers good national transport links via rail and road.

In the past, the Oxford Book Fair has attracted the attention of national media with notable highlights, such as an archive of the First World War aviator who coined the term ‘joystick’.

Venue: Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford OX3 0BP

Admission: £2 or free via the website -

Opening hours: Sat 25th April Noon-6pm, Sun 26th April 10am-4pm

Auction Guide