Houdini Publishes 'The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin'

"Memory," wrote Dr. Morris N. Young in 1961, "is the sum of what one can remember; the diary of the mind." In the great collections that they built and gave to the Library of Congress, Houdini, John J. McManus, Hanna M. McManus, Morris N. Young and Chesley V. Young preserved the memory of western magic as a legacy to inform the mind and perpetuate an ancient art. Houdini is shown here with a book best known as an attack upon his former hero Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. Yet, "The unmasking of Robert-Houdin," of which Houdini was proud to be the author if not in all senses the writer, was also a compelling history of magic.

Houdini lived surrounded by books. His library, like the McManus-Young Collection led from early witch mania and inquisition through modern spiritualism and the evolution of magic as a performance art free of confusion with the occult. In his introduction to "A magician among the spirits," Houdini wrote the following: "I have spent a goodly part of my life in study and research. During the last thirty years I have read every single piece of literature on the subject of Spiritualism that I could. I have accumulated one of the largest libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going back as far as 1489, and I doubt if anyone in the world has so complete a library on modern Spiritualism, but nothing I ever read concerning the so-called Spiritualistic phenomena has impressed me as being genuine."