Thursday, August 28, 2008

Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser

Hofzinser, originally uploaded by Dai Vernon.

Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (June 19, 1806 – March 11, 1875) was a minor employee at the financial department of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy He was never a doctor of philosophy; there is no such title in his working descriptions. He used the name Dr. Hofzinser as a stage name after retiring in 1865. As a magician he was best known for his clever conjuring inventions and refined sleight of hand skills.

Hofzinser is called the Father of Card-Magic by the most prominent representatives of modern card-artistry; magician Dai Vernon often mentioned Hofzinser in his books. 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. 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 minimalistic 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.

FISCHER spread the story that his death in 1875, Hofzinser's wife destroyed many of his manuscripts to honor her husband's instructions though there is some dispute about this. Even so, many of his mechanical plans and card-handling methods may forever remain a secret. Several of Hofzinser's pupils preserved portions of their teacher's notes and instructions. There are still about 270 manuscripts and letters of his own and of his pupils in various collections.

What ws known about Hofzinser was mostly based on the work of Otokar Fischer (1873-1940) who published his findings in his books, Kartenkünste (1910) and Zauberkünste (1942) though many of Fischer's findings turned out to incorrect. In recent years, Austrian magician Magic Christian has discovered many new facts about the life and magic of Hofzinser, publishing them in his books Non Plus Ultra, currently available only in German

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