S.W Erdnase?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MidnightCoffee, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. I want to know more about Erdnase (the person) so any information Would be appreciated.
    and please dont just give me one answer and thats the end of it.
  2. We don't know who he was. That is like asking about D.B. Cooper. We only has theories and speculations.
  3. You can read about it in I believe "The Man Who Was Erdnase".
  4. i wanted to know other peoples opinions and theories about him
  5. #6 TeeDee, Aug 23, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2013
    OK, there are a few things we can glean from the evidence in the text.

    He tells us that he's instructed "certain players" in his description of the "Four Card Stock", he tells us "beginners invariably imagine their hands are either too small or too large", and he says that a beginner "can be taught a blind in five minutes that will nonplus the sharpest of his friends". I think we can accept this as evidence that, even if he wasn't a card sharp himself, he'd taught people some of his ideas, and therefore probably was known in the crooked gambling world. Just another point on that that I've noticed, the big man of Chicago gambling houses around this time was John "Mushmouth" Johnson, who started his career as "a colored attendant of a 'club-room'". I don't know if that has any significance, but I just thought I'd throw that in.

    The fact that he was associated with sharps is also attested to by his description of the false deals. He doesn't claim them as his own, as he specifically does with other moves, so he must have learned them from someone else. As descriptions of these deals don't appear in the literature prior to Erdnase, he must have got them from sessioning with other card handlers. In other words, someone was performing Erdnase-style deals before Erdnase.

    And, although he clearly associated with sharps, I don't think he was a "professional" himself. Even though he was clearly trying to assume the character of one in his writing, the terms "performer" and "spectator" slip into the "Card Table Artifice" section which are not terms that really apply to a gambler and his opponent. In the Preface he says that the book should prove interesting to "lovers of card games" and, "as a basis for card entertainment it is practically inexhaustible", under "Acquiring the Art" he talks about attaining proficiency "quite sufficient for the purpose of entertainment or amusement" and he talks about Three Card Monte in terms of entertainment even though I think he was probably familiar with it as a con game. I read this as evidence that Erdnase was sharing his moves as much for entertainment purposes as for nefarious ones.

    Erdnase also implies that he's learned from "the exhibitions and literature of conjurers", and, in fact, that he's studied "the whole category" of works on conjuring. I don't think this is quite accurate, though. Unusually for the late nineteenth century, I don't think he'd studied Modern Magic or More Magic, for example. The two magic books that I think he really owes a massive debt to are Edwin Sachs' Sleight of Hand and Ellis Stanyon's Card Tricks.

    I suppose we could find significance in the fact that both of these authors' initials are "ES", but when you start looking for patterns and anagrams in the title page of Erdnase you can very quickly descend into madness. Somewhere in it, you can find suggestions of virtually every magician's name from that era. I wouldn't be surprised if you could find some pattern in there that showed convincingly that I must be Erdnase. So let's leave that for now.

    I should probably mention a couple of other books, namely August Roterberg's New Era Card Tricks, and PT Selbit's The Magician's Handbook, because they often get cited as influences on Erdnase, and I don't think they were.

    As far as I can see, the only real connection between Selbit and Erdnase, apart from the name-reversal thing, is the "Transformation Two Hands, First Method", or, the "Houdini Change" as people tend to call it. Erdnase describes a different handling for the change from the one that Selbit describes, so in the interim between The Magician's Handbook coming out in 1901, and the following winter, Erdnase would have had to have learned the move, worked out his own handling and consider himself sufficiently expert to have Marshall Smith illustrate his execution of it. For someone who seems as fastidious about artistry and expertise as Erdnase, I think that's not enough time. If Houdini did invent it, or had picked it up from somewhere else and was teaching it to people, then Erdnase could easily have learned it from another magician. August Roterberg lived in Chicago, we know he was being given moves by Dr Elliott and William Robinson, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he knew Erdnase and sessioned with him.

    And that brings us to New Era Card Tricks. Yes, there are some moves in there which are the same as moves in Erdnase. The question is, though, if Erdnase learned them out of the book, why, for example, didn't he know the proper name of the Excelsior Change, why did he only "presume", that Charlier invented his one-hand pass, and why was he unable to name William Robinson as the "individual of truly Machiavellian subtlety"? I think it's more likely that he picked up these moves from Roterberg or his contemporaries directly. And, by the way, I would suggest that the misspelling "Charlies" for Charlier, is consistent with having heard the name spoken and knowing it's a French name, but not having seen it written down. We can surmise that Erdnase wasn't completely au fait with French spelling from his mistake in accenting "bete noire".

    I think we can also be aided in our speculations about Erdnase by John Philip Quinn's book Fools of Fortune. In David Ben's biography of Dai Vernon, we learn that Quinn was far from being the reformed character that he portrayed himself. Quinn tells us that "the fact that he was contemplating issuing [Fools of Fortune] bcame known to some members of the 'profession' in Chicago" and describes the beef he had with them. This would square with Erdnase's reference to "the hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers". In fact, the title page of Fools of Fortune and The Expert at the Card Table share enough similarities that the latter could be considered as a direct rebuttal of Quinn's work. Quinn seeks to portray gamblers as talentless and reliant primarily on lax morals and gimmicks to steal money from their marks. Erdnase seeks to counteract this portrait by eschewing the description of gaffs in favour of emphasising the manipulative and misdirective skill involved in advantage play.

    For various reasons I think that the section of Erdnase entitled "The Player Without an Ally" was written as a self-contained piece well before the rest of the book. I think it's a resonable speculation that, shortly after Fools of Fortune was published, a few gamblers in Chicago got together and decided to write a rebuttal. Erdnase wrote "The Player Without an Ally" for this work which, for whatever reason, never saw the light of day. So, he sat on this and his notes on other techniques for a few years until something prompted him to revisit the book idea. As I say, though, this is just educated speculation!

    Anyway, hope there was something interesting in that. This subject is a passion of mine, so feel free to hit me up with any questions and I'll do my best to either answer them or point you in the direction of a resource that can.
  6. After all those years, investigations and speculations...who would have thought it was her!
  7. this is going to sound like a stupid question but how do we know s.w erdnase is a pseudonym and that there isnt a person with the name erdnase
  8. If you want to dig through the mounds of birth certificates within a generation trying to track such an individual down, be my guest. It's probably more fun not knowing though. I don't know who the members of Ghost are either, and I prefer to maintain that mystery.
  9. I don't have much of an opinion on this topic, because not knowing is part of the fun (much like magic, coincidence?) haha I just wanted to suggest the idea that Erdnase may have been a female. I am not saying that he was or I believe Erdnase was a girl, but I wanted to hear some opinions on this.
  10. It looks good but is is really worth 35 bucks for 85 pages
  11. Don't know, I dont own it, but if you really want to know..
  12. Drake (the publisher who held the rights to the text for several years) told a correspondent of Dai Vernon's, John Sprong, that the name was a pseudonym. Depending on which retelling of the story you listen to, Sprong was simply told that the name was an anagram, explicitly that it was a reversal or to "read it backwards" (which may mean something different again).

    The other bit of evidence we have that S W Erdnase is a pseudonym is that, in the seventy or so years of the search for the author, no-one has yet been found with that surname.
  13. the theory that he was a lady sounds interesting
  14. then again there isnt much evidence to support that
  15. If you wanted to build a case that Erdnase was written by a woman (or by several people, at least one of whom was a woman) then there are some details that could be interpreted that way. Nothing conclusive but enough to put together the foundations of an argument. I'll leave you to find them if you want to...
  16. in the book the author always refers to himself as we. suggesting multiple people
  17. That's a fairly typical style of nineteenth and early twentieth-century writing, even for a single writer. And it's still used today in a lot of academic papers. It's known as the "authorial 'we'". Although, there are many examples through history of groups combining to write under a shared pseudonym. The one that comes to mind is "Nicolas Bourbaki" which is the nom de plume of a group of French mathematicians. If you want to go down that road with your research, again, there are pieces of textual evidence that could suggest multiple authors but, again, not conclusive ones. The authorial 'we' is, I'm afraid, not a good piece of evidence either way though.
  18. Also, when Erdnase says 'we', he could also be talking about the community of sharps in general. If he wrote the book himself, then the term we probably is more general, and not necessarily mean multiple authors.

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