Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2018 Issue

Ricky Jay: the disappearing act

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Ricky Jay

Mr. Jay, a magician estimated to be 70 or 72 depending on who has been smoking what, and whose concept of life was literally boundless, is said to have passed away but those who have followed his career know better.  He was, at the time of his disappearance, living in Los Angeles from where, many believe, he could only move on to a better place.  His options included New York as well as some of the sunnier spots in Europe.  Expect to hear of sightings a la Carman Santiago.  Mr. Jay was known for his tricks.

 

The news, if not the reality, of his death has provided him with an opportunity to read his obituaries and he has to be pleased with the laudatory statements flowing from the proverbial pens of critics and pundits.  They all think he’s dead and have regaled us with his many achievements which is of course exactly what Mr. Jay wants. When he returns he's going to own them.

 

Mr. Jay is a book collector as well as a magician, actor, and writer.  He is probably most known for his acting because more people have seen him on the big screen than read his 11 books or saw his magic performances. He was also, in an earlier era, a frequent guest on television with Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien.

 

His credits include ‘House of Games,’ The Spanish Prisoner,” “Redbelt,” and “State and Main.”

 

His books include “Cards as Weapons,” “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women” and “Celebrations of Curious Characters.”

 

At birth Mr. Jay was not actually a Jay.  He was a Potash and through his parents the grandson of an accountant who was also an amateur magician.  Newspaper obituaries suggest his skills were passed down to him.  However received, they are remarkable.

 

When rare books on magic would come up at auction the auction house involved inevitably scrambled to find Mr. Jay to ensure his involvement.  He was considered a master collector although descriptions of his interest stress content over condition.  I’ll guess condition was secondary.  When he reads this brief piece he’ll be reminded that signing each book in his collection adds value so you can expect his signature to in time appear in many of them.  Think of it as financial levitation – itself a good trick.

 

An early test of Mr. Jay’s continuing interest in the field will be lot number 244 in Bonham’s Books and Manuscripts Sale on December 5th.  It includes a collection of 11 cast iron shackle and lock items from Houdini’s personal collection.  I’m hoping he’ll be bidding by phone if not actually in the room wearing a disguise. 

 

And I’m looking forward to his next book:  Gotcha!

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> MITCHELL, John (1711-1768). A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. Copperplate engraving with original hand color. London, 1755. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Brown Pelican (Standing), Plate 251. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $175,000 to $225,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London: 1827-1838. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> GONZALES DE MENDOZA, Juan (1545 - 1618). <i>The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China…</i> London, 1588. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623-1688). [World Map] Kun-Yu Ch'uan-Tu. Engraved twelve sheet map with vertical sections joined to form six sheets. Korea, Seoul, c. 1860. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> SANGGI, Chong (1678-1752). Korean Atlas. Manuscript map on mulberry bark paper. C. 1750-1790. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Plate 66. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AKERMAN, Anders (1721-1778). & AKREL, Frederik (1779-1868). Pair of Celestial and Terrestrial Globes. Stockholm, c. 1800. 23 inch diameter, each. $60,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> BENNETT, Lieut. William Pyt (d. in action, 1916). AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904. $60,000 to $80,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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