New exhibition: 'Staging Magic - The Story Behind The Illusion' opens Jan 2019

Staging Magic at Senate House Library

Our new exhibition Staging Magic - The Story Behind The Illusion opens in January, celebrating the history of magical literature and revealing the world’s most loved magic tricks and stage illusions from 16th century to early 20th century. It’s free and open to the public from Monday 21 January until Saturday 15 June 2019 at Senate House Library, 4th floor of Senate House, part of the University of London.

The exhibition takes people on a journey of the world’s greatest magicians, such as Houdini, Harry Price and David Devant, and the magic books that influenced them. The exhibition explores the staging of classic tricks such as pulling rabbits out of hats, sawing women in half and dismembered talking heads, right through to cigarette box magic tricks and parlour magic. Discover how sleight of hand and illusions staged in top theatres have been used to create mystery and entertainment in society and how it transferred to the home and even to the Tommies fighting in the trenches of WWI.

Banner for the Staging Magic exhibition
The Staging Magic exhibition will be free and open to the public between 21 January and 15 June at Senate House Library.

Exhibition information

Through five interconnected themes, the exhibition explores how magic has remained a mainstay of popular culture in the western world, how its secrets have been kept and revealed, and how magicians have innovated to continue to surprise and enchant their audiences.  

  • Magic’s Spell on Society
  • Magic and innovation
  • Masters of Magic and their Influence
  • Harry Price and his Magical Library
  • Magic for All

Each theme features some of the most important books in the history of magic alongside lesser-known works celebrating a range of genres in magic publishing.  

The exhibition displays 60 items in Senate House Library’s ‘Harry Price Library of Magical Literature’, gifted by Harry Price himself, former Vice-President of the Magic Circle (and first Chair of the BFI), to the Library in 1936.

The accompanying events programme of talks and film screenings will be announced in the New Year - watch this space!