The Art of the Magic Book

From the mid-19th century changes in methods of book production lead to an increase in the number of books published while growing levels of literacy saw the demand for reading material surge. In this competitive market, books needed to stand out to catch the customer’s eye and pictorial bindings and printed paper covers and wraps became increasingly common. Magic books had their own visual language using images that are linked to conjuring in the popular imagination: cards and dice, doves and rabbits emerging from top hats, the performer in evening dress and mystical and occult symbols. The covers of these books were often colourful and elaborately illustrated. Here we have selected some of our favourite book covers dating from the 1850s to 1930s from the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature.