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    Inscribed by Houdini to His Friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with Doyle's Ownership Signature

    [Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, association]. T. L. Nichols. A Biography of the Brothers Davenport. London: Saunders, Otley, and Co., 1865. Second edition. Association copy, with a warm inscription by Houdini to Doyle on the title-page: "Best wishes to my friend/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Houdini/May 10/22". Above this inscription, Doyle has signed ("Arthur Conan Doyle"). Octavo. viii, 360 pages. Publisher's full lavender cloth, covers elaborately stamped and ruled in blind, spine stamped in blind and lettered in gilt. Spine sunned, binding worn at extremities, joints cracked, small ink notation in an unknown hand on the front free endpaper, endleaves a bit wrinkled, some offsetting on title-page (not affecting Houdini's inscription or Doyle's signature). Skewed. Fair. Housed in custom-built quarter black morocco clamshell case. A superb association.
    The Davenport Brothers, Ira and William, were instrumental figures in building the spiritualist movement in America before the Civil War. The two brothers formed a popular stage illusionist act (featuring levitating objects and table rapping and the like) and later added escape artistry. The press hailed them as mediums, and the Davenports were happy to let them and their audiences believe what they wanted. Years later, the surviving brother, Ira, was befriended by Harry Houdini, and Ira showed Houdini many of his escapes, several of which Houdini would use in his act. Ira even told Houdini how he and William faked their spiritualist act (there is a photo of Houdini with Ira in Houdini's book, A Magician Among the Spirits, Harper, 1924). From the John McLaughlin/Book Sail Collection.

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    The inscription by Houdini to Doyle is an excellent association, because, although they were good friends for a time, Houdini and Doyle were on opposite sides of the spiritualism debate. Doyle was a fervent believer in spirits (especially after the death of his wife, his son Kingsley, and several other members of his family in the early twentieth-century), seeking solace in spiritualism to combat his great sense of loss. Houdini, however, was perhaps the most famous skeptic and debunker of phony mediums and psychics. So great the chasm between the two became, they eventually had a bitter falling out.

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    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    10th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
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