Discourse on Erdnase


A notable book on S.W. Erdnase and The Expert at the Card Table is The Man Who Was Erdnase, a 1991 publication by Bart Whaley, Jeff Busby and Martin Gardner. This volume is the primary literary “champion” of Gardner’s theory that Erdnase was Milton Franklin Andrews, a card cheat and murderer who committed suicide in 1905. Although modern scholars have largely discredited this theory, the book remains an important source of information on all things Erdnase. This publication exists in two variants, regular cloth and as a deluxe version, which is signed and numbered. (Thank you to Potter & Potter Auctions for the images of the deluxe version.)

Previously, in 1931, English conjuror Graham Adams presented a special lecture to the Magic Circle on “Mr. S.W. Erdnase. His Book.” Thanks to the Conjuring Arts Research Center, Mr. William Kalush and Carlo Ramirez, a few of these rare pages are available for viewing in this exhibition.

The Gardner-Smith Correspondence was issued as a limited, numbered edition by H & R Magic Books in 1999. This volume reprints the correspondence between Martin Gardner and Erdnase illustrator Marshall D[ennison] Smith of Chicago, along with Gardner’s contemporary notes of his encounters with Smith. A new introduction by Gardner places the work in its historical context.

Thomas Sawyer, an attorney from Santa Ana, California has released several items related to Erdnase. His largest contribution is called S.W. Erdnase: Another View. The first edition appeared in 1991 and a second, larger edition in 1997. Sawyer’s work takes issue with the Milton Franklin Andrews theory as well as other topics raised in The Man Who Was Erdnase.

In 2011, Magicana published Erdnase Unmasked (a special edition of Magicol No. 180), which focuses on the findings of Richard Hatch, the world’s preeminent authority on the subject, along with sleight-of-hand artist David Ben’s profile of the author drawn from the content of The Expert. Together, the pair make the case that one man—E. S. Andrews—was the author of this seminal text. This publication also contains Hurt McDermott’s illuminating analysis of why The Expert at the Card Table, and books of its ilk, was published anonymously, and in Chicago. The special edition publication also contains the contents of this exhibition in Jason England’s article "Variations on a Theme" and, as a bonus, Martin Gardner’s original “Editions of Erdnase” article in Magicol No. 2 Vol. 1, 1951 (which also appears in this exhibition).






NEXT: Erdnase Ephemera