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conjurors he also saved handbills for tripe-    Intrigued by the history and development of
dressers, a new product called Vaseline and     magic and conjuring over the centuries, Henry
even the Model hand-press which became          Evans spent many thousands of hours in the
available in the mid-1870s. As an iƟnerant      Reading Room of the BriƟsh Library. The origin
performer his work took him around              of his mysƟcal art was a source of fascinaƟon
the country and in the 1860s and 70s he         to him, but he cannot have imagined just how
entertained not only the BriƟsh public but      important it would become in his twilight
also the crowned heads of Europe. He was        years.

a successful conjuror and illusionist for over  In 1904 the Hungarian-American illusionist
a quarter of a century, but his career was      Harry Houdini toured the UK. Henry Evans,
in decline by the 1890s. By 1895 work was       then aged 72, wrote to him and as a result
becoming hard to find and Evanion (he legally    of the correspondence a meeƟng between
adopted the name in the 1860s) and his wife     the two men took place. Evans’ original
Mary were surviving on the meagre earnings      leƩer stated that he had “a very first-class
from their confecƟonery shop in Kennington      collecƟon of Bills, Cuts and other items
Road. When even this limited source of          relaƟng to Legerdemain and Conjuring
income dried up the couple ended their days     over a period of nearly 200 years.” Houdini
in a succession of cramped rented rooms.        was immediately hooked. As another keen
                                                historian of magical history, he wanted to see

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