GENERAL INTEREST

PUBLISHER
D.A.P.

BOOK FORMAT
Hardcover, 7 x 9.5 in. / 224 pgs / 165 color / 370 bw.

PUBLISHING STATUS
Pub Date
Active

DISTRIBUTION
D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: SPRING 2019 p. 13   

PRODUCT DETAILS
ISBN 9781942884378 TRADE
List Price: $35.00 CDN $49.95

AVAILABILITY
In stock

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE

London, UK
Wellcome Collection, 04/11/19–09/15/19

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D.A.P.

The Spectacle of Illusion

Deception, Magic and the Paranormal

By Matthew L. Tompkins.

Featured image, of magician William S. Marriott and three ominous materializations (1910), is reproduced from 'The Spectacle of Illusion.'

The tricks and props of magic and spiritualism: how magicians and psychics fooled the world—and what scientists can learn from them
In The Spectacle of Illusion, professional magician-turned experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins investigates the arts of deception as practised and popularised by mesmerists, magicians and psychics since the early 18th century. Organised thematically within a broadly chronological trajectory, this compelling book explores how illusions perpetuated by magicians and fraudulent mystics can not only deceive our senses but also teach us about the inner workings of our minds. Indeed, modern scientists are increasingly turning to magic tricks to develop new techniques to examine human perception, memory and belief. Beginning by discussing mesmerism and spiritualism, the book moves on to consider how professional magicians such as John Nevil Maskelyne and Harry Houdini engaged with these movements – particularly how they set out to challenge and debunk paranormal claims. It also relates the interactions between magicians, mystics and scientists over the past 200 years, and reveals how the researchers who attempted to investigate magical and paranormal phenomena were themselves deceived, and what this can teach us about deception. Highly illustrated throughout with entertaining and bizarre drawings, double-exposure spirit photographs and photographs of spoon-bending from hitherto inaccessible and un-mined archives, including the Wellcome Collection, the Harry Price Library, the Society for Physical Research, and last but not least, the Magic Circle’s closely guarded collection, the book also features newly commissioned photography of planchettes, rapping boards, tilting tables, ectoplasm, automata and illusion boxes. Concluding with a modern-day analysis of the science of magic and illusion, analysing surprisingly weird phenomena such as ideomotor action, sleep paralysis, choice blindness and the psychology of misdirection, this unnerving volume highlights how unreliable our minds can be, and how complicit they can be in the perpetuation of illusions.


Featured image, of magician William S. Marriott and three ominous materializations (1910), is reproduced from 'The Spectacle of Illusion.'

PRAISE AND REVIEWS

Andy Nyman

‘Spectacle of Illusion’ is a remarkable book. Even if you didn't read a single word of this book, the remarkable images, seem to lift a lid on the Magic world. This book both reveals the inner workings of the extraordinary and yet seems to keep all it’s secrets too. It’s wonderful.

Daily Mail

The Spectacle Of Illusion is populated by clairvoyants, telepaths and ghost-hunters, materialised using imagery drawn from the archives of the Wellcome Collection. The pictures are thrilling.

Buzzfeed

Gabriel H. Sanchez

The Spectacle of Illusion, offers a comprehensive examination of paranormal illusions since the 1800s.

Publishers Weekly

Anne Kniggendorf

For those who prefer to trust their own eyes, ears, and memories, the presentation of an optical illusion or a claim of communication with the spirit realm tends to draw skepticism.

Paris Review

The magician and psychologist Matthew L. Tompkins’s new book, The Spectacle of Illusion, chronicles the struggles of the scientific community to understand—and sometimes debunk—the illusions and mysteries that have so captivated the general public since the eighteenth century.

Bookforum

Albert Mobilio

For The Spectacle of Illusion, Matthew L. Tompkins has compiled a trove of posters, photos, and illustrations from magical, psychic, and spir­itualist practices over the past two centuries that evidences both the strong lure of enchant­ments and the meticulousness of their decep­tions. The assemblage also proves intriguing as it unintentionally suggests a kinship between some portion of twentieth-century art and magic and the occult.

Science Magazine

Clive Wilkins

The Spectacle of Illusion is a delightful and informative roller coaster that explores our fascination with magic, the paranormal, and the psychology of cognitive illusions.

The Spectacle of Illusion

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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 7/13/2019

Magic Inc. presents 'The Spectacle of Illusion' author Matthew Tompkins & 'Experiencing the Impossible' author Gustav Kuhn in Chicago

Magic Inc. presents 'The Spectacle of Illusion' author Matthew Tompkins & 'Experiencing the Impossible' author Gustav Kuhn in Chicago

Saturday, July 13 at 5 PM, Magic Inc.—the oldest continuously family-run brick and mortar magic shop in North America—presents Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins, author of The Spectale of Illusion, in conversation with Gustav Kuhn, author of Experiencing the Impossible, followed by a book signing.
continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/13/2019

Seance vs. Science in 'The Spectacle of Illusion'

Seance vs. Science in 'The Spectacle of Illusion'

Featured image, of an early twentieth-century séance in progress, is reproduced from The Spectacle of Illusion, Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins' comprehensive and copiously illustrated new examination of paranormal illusions since the 1800s. "Magician William S. Marriott stands in the background, ostensibly witnessing the emergence of a female apparition carrying a 'spirit' bird and flowers," the caption reads. "This was one of many glass lantern slides used by psychic investigator Harry Price in his talks, to demonstrate the methods and equipment regularly used by fraudulent mediums at the time." continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 4/27/2019

In 'Spectacle of Illusion,' it doesn't stop being magic just because you've found out how it was done

In 'Spectacle of Illusion,' it doesn't stop being magic just because you've found out how it was done

Featured image, a poster produced around 1915 for magician Howard Thurston's traveling magic act, is reproduced from The Spectacle of Illusion, experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins' study of the psychological underpinnings that make magic, illusions and paranormal events possible in the human mind. A former professional magician, Tompkins somehow manages to discuss historical tricks and techniques of deception without giving any important trade secrets away. He concludes, "just because something is a trick or an illusion, does not mean it cannot be wonderful. A sense of wonder and a satisfying mechanistic explanation do not need to be mutually exclusive. Tricks can—and do—evoke extraordinary experiences, and clearer, truer comprehension of the natural mechanisms underpinning these can be beautiful, even when they are relatively simple. To paraphrase the writer Terry Pratchett: it doesn't stop being magic just because you've found out how it was done." continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 4/26/2019

'The Spectacle of Illusion' is a new release this week!

'The Spectacle of Illusion' is a new release this week!

We are proud to have published The Spectacle of Illusion, London-based professional magician-turned experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins' new investigation of the history of deception, magic and the paranormal. A brilliant study revealing the many ways that the human mind allows, even wills, itself to be tricked, this should be standard reading for anyone interested in aesthetics, human behavior or psychology. "Illusions are possible because, like any complex system, our minds exhibit certain structural eccentricities, which, in our day-to-day lives, are often adaptive or negligible," Tompkins writes. "Magic tricks and misdirection techniques exploit such eccentricities, and can be interpreted as benevolent entertainments, malevolent frauds and everything in between. Magic reminds us that everyone can be deceived, and that, in general, when something appears to fundamentally violate well-established laws of physics, you are probably experiencing it from a very particular angle…" Featured image is an 1866 double exposure photograph, by F.A. Dahlström, of German magician Jacoby-Harms "overcome at the sight of airborne instruments." continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 3/19/2019

Mind-unbending 'Spectacle of Illusion' excerpted in the 'Financial Times.' Pre-order now!

Mind-unbending 'Spectacle of Illusion' excerpted in the 'Financial Times.' Pre-order now!

This weekend, the Financial Times published a major excerpt from our forthcoming book, The Spectacle of Illusion, magician-turned-experimental-psychologist Matthew L. Tompkins's riveting investigation of deception, magic and the paranormal from the eighteenth-century until now. Mesmerism, hypnotism, seances, spirit photographs, trance drawings, automata, trick photography, sleight of hand, ghost hunting, levitation, ectoplasmic ejaculations, ESP and many other tricks and practices are discussed in this fascinating exposé of our will to be deceived. "While neither magicians nor scientists can ever really 'prove' that past testimonials of supernatural phenomena are fraudulent or mistaken, contemporary researchers regularly demonstrate how eccentricities of healthy human perception, memory and cognition can result in vivid and robust illusions," Tompkins writes. "In many cases, scientific explanations of how our minds can produce such illusions are at least as wondrous as the proposed supernatural explanations… Indeed, some scientists are increasingly turning to magic as a tool to explore how sane, intelligent individuals can experience remarkably weird illusory episodes." Featured image, of a young girl operating a planchette, is from the collection of magician William Marriott. continue to blog


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