Skip Navigation Links The Library of Congress >> Researchers
Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room (Library of Congress)
  Home >> Digitized Materials >> Other

Magic Apparatus

The John J. and Hanna M. McManus and Morris N. and Chesley V. Young Collection

Explanatory commentary provided by Magic Christian, an Austrian Magician who has studied the life and magic tricks of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

The original owner of the magic apparatus was Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806–1875), an Austrian magician.  He is best known for his clever conjuring inventions and refined sleight of hand skills. He is called the Father of Card-Magic by the most prominent representatives of modern card-artistry. In his day, Hofzinser's talents were famous throughout Europe. From 1857 on, under the name of his wife Wilhemine, Hofzinser presented illusions in their apartment (Salon) for an elite audience of invited guests three or four times a week. They called these gatherings Eine Stunde der Täuschung or "An Hour of Deception" and charged a relatively high price for admission. In 1865 he went on tour with his show and was seen in Berlin, Munich and in most of the bigger cities in the Austrian Monarchy. Hofzinser is famous for his minimalist approach to performing his illusions. Rather than presenting large-scale effects to impress his audience, Hofzinser focused on a simple setting using small props to demonstrate his skills. Playing cards were one of Hofzinser's specialties and he was one of the earliest performers to demonstrate card tricks. He invented many card manipulations, some of which continue to be used by magicians today.

The Card Box [silver container] [magic apparatus]. 11 1/4 cm wide x 3 cm deep. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser. Monogram of J.H. impressed on silver with green leather container.

With the means of this box one can change a torn card three times.



Assortment of Different Cups

Cups and Bell [magic apparatus]. From the collection of McManus Young, via Fredo Marvelli and Otto Fischer.

Measurements: Smallest container: 12 x 6 cm. Second smallest container: 12 x 6 cm. Bell: 15 x 8 cm. Third smallest container: 7 x 18 1/2 cm. Largest container: 9 1/2 x 22 cm.

Object 1: Assortment of different cups to make different things vanish.

Object 2: To change grains to water or another liquid or object.

Object 3 through 5: under which the grains reappear it is for the same purpose as the previous images of cups and bell.

Object 4: The bell can be filled with grains and putting it on the table and by pressing the top knob secretly the grains will fall down to the bottom.

Object 5: This cup serves to change a little box for another one. A watch or ring is changed by this box, which is lifted by the cover. A spring lifts up the other box.

A small metal goblet (the size of an egg cup) is filled with millet, covered with a lid, and placed on a try for a spectator to hold. After ringing a metal bell, it is placed on a porcelain dish which is given to second spectator to hold. Upon the performer's command, the millet vanishes from the goblet and appears on the dish, under the bell.

Cups and Coins, (rattle cup). [magic apparatus]. 5 cm x 7 cm. Circular box made of brown leather with red velvet and white silk interior.From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

This item appears to be a kind of early rattle box. A coin is placed into the little vase, and still heard though it is vanished already. The rattle is produced with the little coin. The double bottom is pressed against the bottom of the vase to hinder the coin rattling. The double bottom can be placed on top of the middle of the tray and a coin put on top of it and vanishes. Most likely, the tray can be put into the box also.

The pictured 1/4 Kreuser (1851) was found under the bottom of the vase in April of 1997 by Magic Christian of Vienna Austria.






The last two images are supplied by magician Magic Christian and are not part of the McManus Young Collection. They are supplied to illustrate other examples of rattle cups.

The Forced Thought or Pre-determination of Thought, [fabric and silver trays] [magic apparatus]. 15 3/4 sq. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

The performer puts down one card. Any thought of a card by a spectator appears to be the put down card on the table.

Hofzinser would place a card face down on his table and then ask a spectator to merely think of a card. Under "test conditions" the card merely thought of by the spectator is shown to be the same card that Hofzinser had placed faced down on the table before the spectator had even been asked to think of a card.

The Grandpapa [wooden cones] [magic apparatus]. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Two different cone-sets for Hofzinser’s trick entitled the Grandpapa a big skittle is shown and changes place under a paper cone and a vase with an orange, at the end around six to eight little skittles are produced and placed around the large skittle like grandchildren around grandpa.


Hofzinser Card Rise Box: front Hofzinser Card Rise Box: right sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: back left side Hofzinser Card Rise Box: left sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: inside front Hofzinser Card Rise Box: inside right sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: inside back Hofzinser Card Rise Box

Hofzinser Card Rise Box [magic apparatus] From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser. 20 long x 14 wide x 15 deep cm. Cards: 9 x 6cm

This box contains a mechanism consisting of 32 steel levers, each of which lifts a specific card from a special deck. The levers are activated via the small metal buttons which ring the bottom of the box. The thirty two buttons that are movable each correspond to a single card which is fastened to the lever with a metal clip. The enclosed key is used to wind the spring mechanism which forces the desired card to rise through the slot seen on top of the box lid.

To perform this trick the magician would shuffle a deck of cards which looks identical to the ones held by clips inside the box. He would then place the cards in the compartment which is accessed through the hinged door found on the top of the lid. The cards would appear to the audience to have been placed in the box but would actually rest in a small well in the lid. The audience would choose a card which the magician could make rise by manipulating the buttons on the outside of the box.

This famous apparatus, inscribed with Hofzinser's initials, J. H. was apparently used in an effect in which a chosen card was torn and restored not once, but three times in succession. Alas, Hofzinser's presentation and handling did not survive his death.

This legendary piece of apparatus was apparently constructed for Hofzinser by his Viennese mechanic, Kurz, in the early 1840's. (he mentions it in a letter to Carl von Pospischil in 1847). A shuffled deck of cards would be placed into the box and then any card called for by the audience would slowly and mysteriously rise through an opening in the top of the box.

The famous Card rise automaton of Hofzinser, where any named card out of a 32 card deck, rises out of the box after the deck is shuffled and put into the box.


Homeopathy, also known as Pearl Wonder [magic apparatus]. Green leather case with green silk interior. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Otto Fischer says that there were three identical pillboxes. Presumably, only two were apparent to the audience. Fischer speculated that the effect may be involved a one at a time transposition of the pearls from one pill box to the other (only three of the six pearls being apparent to the audience) but others including Dr. Stanley Jaks speculated that the effect may have involved the magical stringing of the pearls. In any case Otto Fischer laments "we may be certain that with this experiment we have lost a very beautiful idea."

For Hofzinser’s trick Homeopathy in which small pearls vanish from a small container and change their size in a glass cassette which hangs down from the ceiling. The glass cassette is probably in the collection of Ken Klostermann. The glass containers differ in size a little and the pearls vanish by exchanging one container with a smaller one . A second empty box is lifted up on top of the stem when the other box is lifted or picked up by the cover.

(Loose pearls string themselves.)


Magic Ink Ladle aka The Ink of the Enamored, (Die Tinte der Verliebten) [magic apparatus]. 37 x 9 cm. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Hofzinser developed this ladle for use in the effect, "The Ink of Enamored" in which a borrowed wedding ring would be dropped into a crystal vase filled with ink, ostensibly the same quantity of ink expended each second in the writing of love letters. The ink would instantaneously and visibly transform into water, in which several goldfish were seen to be swimming, on of which held the borrowed ring in his mouth.

With this ladle it is possible to pick up ink out of a glass cup which seems to be filled with ink. The ladle is opened at the end and filled with ink. by pressing the knob the ink is released by a fine hole into the spoon of the ladle.

Mirror and Cards [magic apparatus] Mirror: 10 x 4 1/2 cm. Circular box: 4/12 cm. Green leather box embossed with gold. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Mental effect with several discs and a mirror. The box is a changing box in both sides there are different discs. One is arranged beforehand and concealed in the underside. The other stack is shuffled by the spectator and put back from the top side. The lid is put back. The performer turns the box secretly when it is handed back to him and is able to tell the correct order of the discs. If the mirror plays a certain role in it is not known yet.

The Ring Case [magic apparatus]. Box: 3 1/2 Long x 3 wide x 3 1/2 cm deep. Tray: 13 x 12 cm. Red leather box with silver tray. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

A ring is borrowed form a spectator, placed in the ring box which is then placed on the tray where it remains in full view until the climax of the trick. The ring is show in the box one final time, then vanishes from the box and reappears instantaneously in another impossible location, such as the center of a ball of wool. Alas, only the apparatus has survived, not Hofzinser's presentation.

Silver Tray, (The Twenties) [magic aparatus]. 12 1/2 cm wide. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

The individual items belong to the silver tray. The cover fits the outer tray and can be picked up by the base's foot.

A probable coin effect called The Twenties. According to Otto Fischer, this was one of Hofzinser's favorite and most closely guarded effects and that it involved a transportation of some coins (or twenties) and a die. Little else is known about this effect.

With this cup it is possible to pick up a little cover from the tray. The Bottom of the cup has to be restored and soldered back to the cup. Otherwise it is not possible to use it.

Thread Trick [magic apparatus]

From the collection of McManus, via Fredo Marvelli and Otto Fischer.

The Skittle [magic apparatus]. Green leather box embossed with gold. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Wooden Cone: 6 cm 2 3/4 x cm wide; Red Ball 2 cm; Brown Ball 1 1/2 cm; Black Pedistool: 10 cm high; Dice: 3 cm; Cup 4 3/4 wide x 6 1/2 long; Metal Vases 2 1/2 cm long x 1 1/2 cm wide. Silk lined leather case

This prop belong to a early version of the Hofzinser trick called: The Skittle, in which a little skittle wanders through the table and changes place with several objects.



  Top of Page
Top of Page

  Home >> Digitized Materials >> Other
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  June 17, 2013
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian