Martinka & Co. has announced an upcoming 20 April auction offering items from the Milbourne Christopher Collection. A “sneak peak” of the books was posted on their website earlier this week, where you’ll find an Erdnase, a Pinchbeck, and 7 others. 250 lots of posters, books, and other memorablia will be up for the highest bidder.
This would be the third auction from the Christopher collection. The first auction took place on October 15, 1981, with Milbourne Christopher himself in attendance (see sidebar for advertisement).
Milbourne died June 17, 1984. In my opinion, the most heartfeld tribute to Milbourne can be found in pp 79-90 of Twelve Have Died.
- Robinson, Ben, White, Larry, Dawes, Edwin A. (ed.), and Booth, John N. (Ed.) Twelve Have Died: Bullet Catching – The Story & Secrets. Watertown: Ray Goulet’s Magic Art Book Co. 1986. 191 pp. Cover | Full Title
The second auction occurred on October 30, 1997.
- [Swann Galleries]. Magic: From the Collection of Milbourne Christopher. New York: Swann Galleries. 1997. Cover | Full Title | Full Text via Ask Alexander
From the frontispiece:
The catalogue for this auction includes rarities that the Christopher Collection acquired through British and American friends such as Roland Winder, Trevor Hall and Adrian Smith. Before Christopher’s death the collection was housed in New York and Baltimore. Both residences were decorated with hocus pocus posters, playbills and paintings.
More importantly, the collection served as a working library of Christopher’s many articles and columns, and as research material for his more than twenty books, as well as for books of countless other writers whom he unselfishly welcomed and often assisted despite his own demanding, multifaceted schedule of performing, writing, editing and inventing.
The Christopher Collection also provided inspiration and stage settings for his television and theatre shows. His favorite posters were likely to turn up on his specials on NBC, CBS, Westinghouse, or the BBC.
My husband had planned to have this second auction before his death on June 17, 1984. However, he sidetracked his own plans while he maneuvered to keep his friend John Mulholland’s Collection intact and in America after the Players Club had decided to sell it.
The 1981 Christopher sale at Swann Galleries set a record for a magic auction in America. The illusionist who had created the collection sat watching in the back of the crowded room with his wonderful smile lighting up the place.
James Hagy gives a 12-page review of this second sale in the magazine Perennial Mystics #13 (Full text via Ask Alexander), which does a great job of giving you describing the excitement and feel of the auction, including this gem:
An acknowledgement was also made of Maurine Christopher’s presence in the room, which was greeted with soft, appreciative applause by the audience. George Lowry added that “not only has she given you a h— of a sale, she has given you a h— of a chance to schmooze, something you all seem expert at.”
The entire collection was catalogued by George P. Hansen, and the 4,178 distinct entries (many with multiple copies) was published in these two books:
- Christopher, Maureen Brooks and Hansen, George P. The Milbourne Christopher Library: Magic, Mind Reading, Psychic Research, Spirtualism and the Occult, 1589-1900. Pasadena: Mike Caveney’s Magic Words. 1994. 160 pp. Cover | Full Title
- Christopher, Maureen Brooks and Hansen, George P. The Milbourne Christopher Library: Magic, Mind Reading, Psychic Research, Spirtualism and the Occult, 1901-1996. Pasadena: Mike Caveney’s Magic Words. 1998. 339 pp. Cover | Full Title
Indeed, one can find all 9 books in Martinka’s preview website listed in these volumes.
Finally, one of Martinka’s e-mail newsletters advertising the preview shows that the “History of Magic – Bronze Statue” will be up for sale. A detail of this statue graces the cover of my copy of Christopher’s Illustrated History of Magic.
- Christopher, Milbourne. The Illustrated History of Magic. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. 1973. 452 pp. Cover | Full Title