Exhibits come from just one of the library’s many collections: The Harry Price Library of Magical Literature made up of books, manuscripts, prints and ephemera amassed by psychical researcher Harry Price and given to the University of London in 1936. Intended as a resource for researchers of abnormal phenomena, it covers a huge range of subjects including magic, witchcraft, psychical research, parapsychology, the occult, the paranormal and much more. The book collection alone stands at more than 13,000 items and is one of the library’s most used special collections.
Featured in the exhibition are items exploring Price’s connections to the world of magic and his collecting, which started at aged eight with a copy of Professor Hoffmann’s Modern Magic (1876). They include the insignia he received in 1932 as vice-president of Will Goldston Magicians’ Club, a first edition of Modern Magic, and film footage from some of Price’s investigations of the 1930s. Compiled in 1935 by the National Film Library, the film provides a demonstration of the Indian rope trick, Price performing an experiment in occult ritual on the Brocken mountain peak to transform a goat into a man (the magician Horace Goldin purchased the same goat for an illusion recreating the experiment), and firewalking by Pakistani mystic and magician, Kuda Bux.