Broadside for the act of Richard Potter, the first successful stage magician born in the US, sold for $4500 (£3560) at Alexander Historical Auctions.

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Church records from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, list his father as George Simpson and his mother as Dinah, who was a slave on the Frankland estate.

Potter went to England to learn his act in c.1798 and returned to tour the East Coast of the US about three years later.

Alexander Historical Auctions’ (23% buyer’s premium) January 18-19 sale in Chesapeake City, Maryland, included a rare undated 8 x 13in (20 x 32cm) broadside advertising a Potter show.

His act included 100 Curious But Mysterious Experiments with Eggs, Money, Fruit, Boxes etc including The Enchanted Egg ‘that dances a hornpipe with all the appearance of life’. Potter ended his show with a ventriloquist act, which has ‘...never failed of exciting the surprise of the learned and well informed’.

Estimated at $140-200, the well-preserved broadside hammered for $4500 (£3560).

Prolific chronicler


Hocus Pocus Junior. The Anatomy of Legerdemain. Or, The Art of Juggling set forth in proper Colours, guided at $10,000-15,000 by Potter & Potter.

Staying with a theme of ‘Potter and magic’, Potter & Potter’s upcoming auction on February 24 in Chicago features lots from an important British figure in that world.

The Collection of Edwin A Dawes, Part I Sale includes 448 lots of magic-related lithographs, books, broadsides and apparatus from the 17th century to the present day.

Yorkshire-born Dawes (1925-2023) is described by the auction house as “the most prolific chronicler of conjuring history in the 20th century”. A biochemist by profession (he established the Biochemistry Department at the University of Hull), he was also an internationally recognised authority on the history of magic.

The highest-estimated lot is Hocus Pocus Junior. The Anatomy of Legerdemain. Or, The Art of Juggling set forth in proper Colours, guided at $10,000-15,000.

This tome was printed in London by G Dawson in 1663, and is noted as the sixth edition, “with many additions”. It features 32 unnumbered leaves, a woodcut frontispiece, and woodcuts in the text.

This is only one of two known examples of this exact edition, says Potter & Potter, and was purchased by Dr Dawes at a Sotheby’s auction in 1979.


The New London Conjuror; or, Art of Legerdemain. Shewing the Various Ways of Performing Tricks by Slight of Hand, Together with Many Surprising Deceptions, estimated at $8000-12,000 at Potter & Potter. It was in published in London and printed for S Carvalho, 18, West Place, Nelson Street, City Road, by Heming and Tallis, Stourbridge in 1817. The auction house states: “This book is extremely rare and the only copy Potter & Potter’s experts have encountered to date. It is also does not appear in Toole Stott [Bibliography of English Conjuring, 1581-1876, a definitive book on conjuring].”

Gabe Fajuri, president at Potter & Potter, adds: “There is no one in the magic collecting community whose name, accomplishments, and reputation commands more respect than Eddie Dawes.

“Perhaps more than anyone in the 20th century, he has contributed to a wider scholarly knowledge of magic history through his writing and scholarship.

“This is the first of several sales we will conduct from Eddie’s archives.”