A few semi-important notes . . .

Note 1:

I recently referred to my ineffective marketing for the Erdnase book and for the Sachs book.

How ineffective has it been?

Well, so far maybe 30 people have pre-ordered the Erdnase book. In the past month (all of November) I received two orders.

As for the Sachs book, about 30 people have expressed an interest via email.  That’s pretty good, I think, but the most recent email indicating interest was November 18, almost exactly two weeks ago.

What are my conclusions from the foregoing?

Well, first, I do not perceive a whole lot of interest in either book. Just why this is, I don’t really know.

Secondly, and semi-independent of my first conclusion, my marketing as conducted on this blog is nowadays accomplishing just about zero.

Third, although it will be nice if orders pick up on the Erdnase book after it has been printed, I’m not sure to what degree this will happen.

As to the Sachs book, it probably doesn’t matter too much if orders pick up after it is printed, because (in all likelihood) there will not be many copies of the first printing remaining available. (Later printings are likely, but it may be a while.)

Note 2:

It kinda follows from the foregoing that just about all further marketing on this blog is probably a waste of time, and it would behoove me to DRASTICALLY cut back on my postings on this blog. This is especially so, because I have largely shelved a number of other projects because of Erdnase and Sachs.

Note 3:

Semi-relatedly, at least for now, I have decided to continue this blog as a joint Erdnase-Sachs blog. I know I said earlier that I was probably going to branch the Sachs material off into a separate blog. I did all the work, but ultimately I decided (at least for now) that having a separate blog for the Sachs material was not a good idea.

Note 4:

I’m not sure I have ever seen this discussed, but I have pretty much decided that for me, at least, in terms of numbers of words, it is 




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Johnny Sprong in context: a real connection to possible or probable clues on Erdnase’s real name . . .

Note: If you are interested in conjuring books of the Victorian Age, go to eBay and buy a copy of the third edition of my book Victorian-Age Conjuring Books: A Guide for Collectors and Bibliographers. Here is a link:  Link.

While you are at it, please also consider the purchase of a copy the 2017 first printing of another awesome book by me, called A Bibliography of Card-Game Booklets Written by Professor Hoffmann. Here is a link:  Link.

A while back (during 2015), I was engaged in a little email discussion with Mike Perovich regarding Johnny Sprong, and it got me to thinking a little more deeply about Sprong.

Sprong and The Man Who Was Erdnase . . .

Now if you look at The Man Who Was Erdnase, by Busby, Whaley, and Gardner, it appears that the authors threw in just about everything they could think of. The fact that the book was not too discriminating (in terms of importance of evidence) in some of the things it said makes it hard for the reader to discern which things are truly important and which are not. The book mentions lots of people in lots of contexts — in keeping with my theory that Bart Whaley’s goal was to win a Pulitzer Prize, and not just write a book about Erdnase.

One of the people mentioned in the book (I believe in material written by Busby) is Johnny Sprong. It seems likely that the Sprong references in The Man Who Was Erdnase were among the more important parts of that book.

It’s kind of too bad that we cannot ask Johnny directly about what happened with his Drake inquiries, and about whom he spoke with, and so forth. I have the impression that he spoke with someone, but maybe he wrote letters. The accounts I have seen appear to be unclear enough to allow one to wonder about a lot of the details.

An extract from my book Rethinking S.W. Erdnase . . .

The following is a small segment of a chapter entitled The Name “S.W. Erdnase,” from my 2015 book Rethinking S.W. Erdnase. I believe that this extract contains all the references to Sprong that are in that book.

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 11.25.22 PM.png

(The foregoing is from page 40.  The following is from page 41.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 11.25.59 PM.png

Other thoughts . . .

Still, someone at the Drake organization gave the impression (to us, anyway) that he or she actually had some contact with Erdnase. I know Vernon used the expression “old man,” but it may have been Vernon’s assumption that Sprong contacted the father (Frederick J. Drake).

I don’t think anyone knows exactly when Sprong conducted his investigation, but in order to speak with the father, it would have had to be 1912 or earlier, since the father passed away that year. Based on dates stated on the Erdnase thread, Drake’s kids would have been quite young when the book was published.

I still think Sprong’s investigations are stronger that the relevant statements of Rullman and Smith, but just how much weight the Sprong concepts are worth is another question.

But the name “E.S. Andrews” is still a good suggestion even in the absense of statements by Sprong, Smith, and Rullman. I’m not saying that one does not need a lot of other evidence in addition that. But as I discuss in Rethinking S.W. Erdnase, if your candidate’s name is not E.S. Andrews, that is generally going to be a weakness in the case for that candidate. In the instance of W.E. Sanders, the name at least rearranges ino S.W. Erdnase.

E.S. Andrews is the strongest name that is available to an Erdnase candidate. But of course there are some fairly strong arguments as to why Erdnase’s real name was not E.S. Andrews.

—Tom Sawyer

October 21, 2017

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“Cover-design decay” in connection with “Modern Magic” . . .

Note: If you are interested in conjuring books of the Victorian Age, go to eBay and buy a copy of the third edition of my book Victorian-Age Conjuring Books: A Guide for Collectors and Bibliographers. Here is a link:  Link.

While you are at it, please also consider the purchase of a copy the 2017 first printing of another awesome book by me, called A Bibliography of Card-Game Booklets Written by Professor Hoffmann. Here is a link:  Link.

There is a tendency — in the cases of many books —  for cover-designs to degenerate over time. I occasionally have referred to this phenomenon as “cover-design decay.”

In the preceding post, I discussed the Tenth Edition of Modern Magic.  That basic cover-design was maintained for a while after the Tenth Edition.  But it changed.

The first image here is from the 1898 Tenth Edition front-cover.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 6.48.01 PM.png

The following image is from the front cover of the Sixteenth Edition. At the moment I don’t want to say a lot about these two images, but it should be obvious immediately that the image above is more nuanced. The coloration is more subtle, and the line-work (in black) is much “finer” — while in the image below, a lot of the line-work has blocked-up into masses of black.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 6.48.27 PM.png

This is not super-conclusive, because I have a Fifteenth Edition that is pretty close to the Tenth Edition with respect to the image under discussion.

The following, however, is quite clear.  The spine shown on the left is that of the Sixteenth Edition, and that on the right is from the Tenth Edition.

There are a number of differences that could be mentioned, but at the moment I’ll just say that none of the stamping on the spine of the Sixteenth Edition is in gilt, while on the earlier book (on the right), the title, publisher name, and a few horizontal lines are stamped in gilt.

vacb front 10 8 17 8 copy 2.jpg

I guess that is all for the moment!

—Tom Sawyer

October 21, 2017

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The big transition: Professor Hoffmann’s “Modern Magic” and the ninth-edition and tenth-edition bindings . . .

Note: If you are interested in conjuring books of the Victorian Age, go to eBay and buy a copy of the third edition of my book Victorian-Age Conjuring Books: A Guide for Collectors and Bibliographers. Here is a link:  Link.

While you are at it, please also consider the purchase of a copy the 2017 first printing of another awesome book by me, called A Bibliography of Card-Game Booklets Written by Professor Hoffmann. Here is a link:  Link.

The overall appearance of the first-through-ninth edition bindings of Modern Magic are pretty well-known to collectors. It’s also well known that at some point along the line, the binding was greatly simplified, with the front cover showing a hand holding a wand. (Here I am confining my discussion to English editions.)

But I suspect that very few collectors are aware of “when” this changeover took place.

To me, the newer binding-style has kind of a “recent” vibe, which might suggest that it was introduced in maybe the late teens or during the 1920s.

Not so.

The “new” style of binding was introduced with the “Tenth Edition,” which was dated 1898 on the title page. This is not that surprising when you consider the ornate “By Professor Hoffmann” on the cover.

Neither design (both of which are portrayed below) is what I would call an example of particularly brilliant design work. The top design is too busy, and the bottom design is probably too simple. Additionally, the “By Professor Hoffmann” is probably too ornate, and the elements of the design should probably have been more integrated, instead of being broken into essentially three parts.

Below is an image of an 1893 Ninth Edition front-cover, and then an image of an 1898 Tenth Edition front-cover.

vacb front 10 8 17 4.jpegvacb front 10 8 17 3.jpeg—Tom Sawyer

October 20, 2017

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Regarding the “reverse italics” on the front cover of “The Expert at the Card Table” . . .

The cover of the first edition of The Expert at the Card Table has an “a” in “Table” that is dramatically different from the other examples of lower-case “a” shown in the title there.

I posted a post on this on the Genii forum recently. Link.  But I have reason to believe that very few people will look at that post.

First, I would not call such things “reverse italics.” To me, it is just type-design.

Next, as I pointed out in the post just mentioned, I don’t think that the cover title was set in type. It was simply drawn by an artist, and a die was made from that. That seems to me to be pretty clear, just from looking at images of the front cover on the web. The letters are obviously hand-drawn, and few if any of the letters that appear more than once look precisely like any of the other letters. The same applies to the “acorns,” if that’s what they are — I have not seen clear enough images, really, but I would not be at all surprised if they were originally hand-drawn.

On the Genii forum, mam kind of brought up this general topic back in 2015, and I posted some stuff as well in reply.

An ad that mam brought up (especially interesting since it involves the Jamieson-Higgins Co.) was the following. The version here is from the Hathi Trust Digital Library, The Publishers’ Weekly, May 31, 1902, page 1289 (digitized by Google, and from the University of California):

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.29.11 PM.png

Mam drew attention to the “The,” and to the “a” in Iscariot, and to the use of the “acorns.”

In my reply, I invited attention to the following examples (also from the Hathi Trust Digital Library, and also digitized by Google, and from the University of California):

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.32.36 PM.png


Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.34.08 PM.png

(The following is from page 779.)Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.36.08 PM.png

Not to beat a dead horse, but here are further examples from the same year of the same periodical, from Google Books:

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.11.20 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.11.48 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.12.20 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.13.28 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.17.35 PM.png

(The next are from 560 and 561.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.23.33 PM.png

(The next is from page 569, followed by the top of 570, for context.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.24.42 PM.png

—Tom Sawyer

October 19, 2017

Revised 10-20-17

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Re Dollie being related to Dalrymple . . .

Currently one of the big discussion over on the Erdnase thread of the Genii forum involves Dollie Seely (wife of Edwin Sumner Andrews) being related to Louis Dalrymple. It is probably going to take the passage of some time before I feel that I understand the significance of the recent developments, which are mainly due to the work of Richard Hatch and Bill Mullins. However, below are some reflections that are not set in concrete.

If the authorship of The Expert at the Card Table were  a matter of ordinary, day-to-day importance (that is, if it were not very important), I probably would be inclined to say that the case had been resolved adequately, and that it might be time for people to move on.

However, there are several problems with such a conclusion, even if we were dealing with a fairly unimportant matter.

First, there are several other candidates with cases that could be called “pretty good,” and this suggests that, to feel confident about Edwin Sumner Andrews, one probably needs more proof — better proof — MUCH better proof — than that which now exists.

In my most recent (2015) book on the Erdnase authorship issues (Rethinking S.W. Erdnase), I went into quite a bit of detail concerning the views I held regarding Edwin Sumner Andrews. Overall, I indicated that the case favoring him was actually pretty thin.  The strongest argument for him being Erdnase was the fact that his name perfectly reversed into S.W. Erdnase, which is not the case for Milton Franklin Andrews, and is not the case for W.E. Sanders.

And when THAT is your strongest argument, you have a really weak case! (However, you will recall that David Ben and others hold a decidedly different view.)

Andrews lived in Chicago at “the right time,” but so did a lot of people.

And among the things that make it hard to accept him as Erdnase is the fact that (as just mentioned by Richard Kaufman) there has been no showing that Andrews was “an experienced amateur or professional magician.” This is a good point. After all, a huge part of the book dealt with card magic.

Or maybe you don’t like that requirement. But shouldn’t there be something a little more than the Pippins bit to show skill at cards?

I do think it’s likely that the Pippins article is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, but when you get down to it, it doesn’t add a lot of clout to the Andrews case.

What I guess I am saying is that if you attach a great deal of importance to the Dalrymple/Dollie relationship, then your case is made. Andrews was Erdnase, and it’s “case closed.”

But maybe — for whatever reason or reasons — you DON’T attach a great deal of importance to the Dalrymple/Dollie relationship. Maybe you think that, definitionally, a third cousin, once removed, is not close enough to help. Or maybe you think it’s a pretty close relationship, but you don’t think Andrews would have been aware of Dalrymple and who he was. Or maybe you think, “Well, when you look at those two lines of the family tree, the relationship seems pretty close, but I’m guessing that Dollie had 150 third-cousins on her side, and another 150 on Edwin’s side, and NOBODY can be aware of that many people.”

Some might say, “Yes, but Dalrymple was famous, so he would be been well-known to Andrews.” Yes, but that’s just a counter-argument.  It doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to think the things I just said.

So, as I said, maybe you don’t think the Dalrymple/Dollie relationship is important. If that’s the case, then there isn’t a whole lot left over, as I discussed at length in Rethinking S.W. Erdnase.

I said, in that book:

“If it turns out that Dollie Seely (or Dolly Seely) was closely related to Dalrymple, then the chances of Edwin Sumner Andrews being Erdnase would immediately skyrocket. Even though I do not place much significance on Marshall D. Smith’s recollections regarding Erdnase, the possible coalescence of Smith’s statements about Dalrymple and observed facts as to Edwin Sumner Andrews is highly intriguing.”

I doubt that many would contend that the two were “closely related.” On the other hand, in relationship to the connections of the other candidates (exception: W.E. Sanders) with Dalrymple (basically zero), the connection is relatively close.

But I am not yet certain that the relationship is “close enough.” Or if “close enough,” it is not clear what the conclusions should be.

One might want to look at matters from the following point of view.  Say Dalrymple and Andrews were very closely related.  Say Dalrymple was Andrews’s brother-in-law, and that they shot pool together every weekend.

But then assume that Andrews was not Erdnase.  Remember, this is just an assumption, arguendo.

Could two such apparently inconsistent assumptions coexist happily?

Oh, I think so, and I may go into this in a future post.

But here is something else which makes it difficult for me to be super-enthusiastic about the latest findings regarding Dollie and Dalrymple. It has to do with the commonness of the surname Andrews. Granted, if you take the typical guy named E.S. Andrews, he is quite unlikely to have a close, or medium-distance, relative named Louis Dalrymple.  But if you take a guy named Louis Dalrymple, it does not strike me as especially unlikely that he would have such a relative named E.S. Andrews, or several such.

After all, we are already loosening things up so that we (some of us) like the third cousin, once removed. What about fifth cousins and sixth cousins, once, twice, or three times removed? Where do you draw the line? We didn’t have any a priori standards set up.

It would be nice if, before the fact, someone had said, “I will accept any relative within such-and-such boundaries.  They can be uncles, nephews, great great great grandparents. They can be adopted. They can be half-brothers. They can be Dollie’s great-aunt’s grandfather’s half-brother’s twin-sister’s great-granddaughter’s great-grandniece. But they do have to be within the limitations I am setting forth.”

The limitations might end up allowing only 50 relatives, or they might include 500, or 1,000, or 10,000. I don’t know, and I don’t know what a “reasonable” number would be. And it isn’t just the number that is important, because certain circumstances would make it more likely that remote people would be known to Andrews.

If you “count” a third cousin, once removed, and everything closer, I have very little idea of how many are within that envelope.  I suspect that it is a large number, the vast majority of whom Andrews would not have had any knowledge of.

If you set forth the criteria in advance, at least you can be certain that you are not back-fitting your criteria to fit your results.

—Tom Sawyer

October 19, 2017

Revised 10-20-17

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Regarding “starting points” in the process of establishing candidates for being S.W. Erdnase . . .

In a post some time back (which may not be “up” anymore), I discussed briefly the ways in which certain candidates have been selected for discussion as candidates. Surely not all methods are of equal validity.

Why is this so? Let’s take a hypothetical case that is not directed at any particular researcher.

Say you have this idea:  You look at all of Dalrymple’s confirmed relatives, to see whether any are named E.S. Andrews, or W.E. Sanders, or just plain old Andrews, or are card-players, or are authors. And maybe you find a few people named Andrews and a couple of magic buffs. And another guy has the first name Drew, and his dad was a sleight-of-hand expert. Another guy self-published a book on rabbits, and magicians like rabbits, so he goes to the top of your list.

But you check into them and reject them, but you don’t want to give up on this general approach, because it is so inviting.

So, what happens in general with such an approach, especially as you continue with it and extend it into areas beyond Dalrymple? Remember, this is just a hypothetical, but the following things might happen.

You start loosening your criteria more and more.  Names of the author’s relatives, friends, and coworkers become just as important as the author’s name.

Since you do not have a pre-made list of criteria (except for a couple of things), everything you look at becomes something that helps (or hurts) your case. If your guy is tall, you rely on Johnston. If he is short, you rely on Smith. If he had good penmanship, he must have been a writer. If his name is A.A. Anders, that’s enough. If his father-in-law’s name is S.S. Sanderson, well, that’s a home run.

But ultimately, the main thing you find out is that none of your candidates really pan out.

And why is this?

It is because your original idea, of starting with people who are related to Dalrymple, gave you the illusion that you had a great starting point.

But all you really had was something that was almost bound to turn up several juicy-looking “candidates” who had nothing at all to do with the book. They might seem to, yeah, because you were so open to various things being evidence.

But now let’s say you use a different method.  You look at the book Erdnase wrote, and you decide that the author’s name must be E.S. Andrews — not exactly illogical! Or you decide that the author’s nickname must have been Erdnase, so you start looking for people who speak German.

Now whichever route you took — whether one of the two approaches just mentioned, or some other approach altogether — it was your way of initially narrowing the field. At that point, however, all you had accomplished was an initial narrowing of the field. And when you first found your candidate, you had proved nothing whatsoever — he was simply someone from your narrowed, but still very broad, field.

If you put together your best case for somebody — let’s say he self-published a few books, and his writing sounds exactly like Erdnase, and his name is E.S. Andrews, and he was great at card manipulation, THAT is when you could check to see if he worked for McKinney, or if he was a pal of Drake’s, or maybe if he lived in Chicago, or if he had some other connection, geographically or employment-wise or genetically, with known things in the Erdnase universe.

The sequence in which you work thus has some importance. Remember, I was able to make a pretty good case for the idea that my own daughter was Erdnase. Sometimes, I even wonder if I myself might be Erdnase! But these conclusions are based largely on the fact that my analysis is starting from the wrong place.

I am not knocking the foregoing approaches, really, but to make a convincing case, one really needs great evidence!

—Tom Sawyer

October 12, 2017

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