As part of exploring what skills and reasoning are required to undertake magic, I have begun my training through practicing with written descriptions of tricks. A vast range of ‘How to…’magic books exist. As part of its extensive magic collection, Dover Publications printed eleven ‘self-working magic’ books by the prolific writer Karl Fulves. Published in 1976, Self-Working Card Tricks: 72 Foolproof Card Miracles for the Amateur Magician (1) was the first in this series, and contains tricks developed by Fulves and by other magicians. Although no set-out definition of ‘self-working’ is given within the book, Fulves describes the tricks presented as ‘easy to master’ and requiring ‘no skill’(2).

In the entries that follow, I describe the work I did in seeking to act in alignment with some of the instructions in Self-Working Card Tricks. As argued, while perhaps not that demanding in terms of manual dexterity, attempting to follow these instructions nonetheless raises many questions, such as: When we seek to follow instructions, what are we following? How are and could tricks be described? What counts as ‘good’ magic?

The linked pages contain accounts of how I worked through a few tricks and the questions that arose while doing so:

I have also produced some overall ‘Reflections’.

In terms of the reproductions of these tricks, it is my good faith determination that the inclusion of them constitutes ‘fair use’ for the following reasons in line with prevalent criteria:

  • The purpose here is non-profit and for university research, its ‘transformative’ in that it seeks to comment up a copyright work.
  • How much what is included in these instructions should be considered ‘factual’ versus ‘artistic’ is an interesting question that raises basic issues about what instructions do and do not provide as well as about the crux of tricks. Whatever this determination, the mechanisms for these specific tricks have a long lineage are not the sole the preserve of Fulves as the book's author.
  • Only two tricks are being reproduced in full detail of a possible seventy-two from Self-Working Card Tricks.
  • The pages covering these tricks are readily available from Google Books, and more easily located than on this web site. As such it is difficult to envision how the reproduction of these instructions would negatively affect the potential market for the book. Indeed, my hope is to encourage people into magic and thus seek to expand the readership for magic books. And I would encourage you to buy a copy of Self-Working Card Tricks as I have done. It’s a wonderful introduction into a fascinating world of possibilities.

[1] Fulves, K. (1976) Self-Working Card Tricks. Dover publications, pp. 128. ISBN: 9780486233345.

[2] Ibid., page v (introduction).