Help Yourself, a 1931 Book of Magic
In Special Collections, we often find gems that make us wonder, “How did this get here?” I may have wondered this when I came across Help Yourself by Frank Lane. Help Yourself, published in 1931, features 73 card tricks, gags, handkerchief tricks, general magic tricks, and examples of patter, which includes the jokes, commentary, and story that accompanies the magic tricks.
The book begins with an entertaining introduction, written by Lane, that includes his intention for writing this book, his first in hardcover.
“I don’t want anyone to write an introduction telling you how good I am and how long I have been associated with magic and a lot of hooey that doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to let the book speak for itself. If you like it, boost it, if you don’t, let me know, and I’ll refund your money at once, as I will on ANY of my books you buy from me.”
Following the brief introduction, Lane includes an over-the-top telling of his life story. It reads like the patter he may have included when performing a card trick.
“Suddenly, one night without warning of any kind, a bludgeon came down on my head, and if you were ever hit with a bludgeon, you can readily believe that I, at once, became unconscious. My mind was a total blank. Lots of you, I suppose, will think it is still blank, but I can’t help that. On the morning of the ninth day, after I was captured, I was pushed, head and all, into a large room where men without teeth were busily eating gum drops. Seated on a large platform, with his legs crossed, was Harry Cecil, the King of the starving Candy Manufacturers.”
Even though his book was published in 1931, Lane’s tricks are still referenced in message boards dedicated to magic. Lane, real name Morand Francis Caldwell, died in 1987 at 91.
To view this book, visit Special Collections in room 305 of McCain Library & Archives or contact Jennifer Brannock at Jennifer.Brannock@usm.edu or 601.266.4347.
Text by Jennifer Brannock, Curator of Rare Books & Mississippiana