Digital Commonwealth

Magic Posters

Boston Public Library

The world of magic has entertained and mystified humans since the first known performance of conjuring by the magician Dedi in ancient Egypt. The first book of magic tricks appeared in 1584. During the 1600s, many similar books were published that described magic tricks. Until the 18th century, magic shows were a common source of entertainment at fairs. Towards the end of the 1800s, large magic shows permanently staged at big theatre venues were the norm.

The magic posters and broadsides in the Print Department date to the 20th century. Some magicians are often referred to by names reflecting the type of magic effects they perform, such as prestidigitators, conjurors, hypnotists, mentalists, or escapologists. Among the Library's magic posters are advertisements for mind reading and psychic demonstrations, an invitation to go behind the scenes with a medium to see how crooks fool their victims, the greatest mystery extravaganza of all time, and many colorful and exotic posters featuring individual magicians.