Magic & magicians

Find out about magic, magicians and conjuring using magic resources from the W G Alma Conjuring Collection and other sources

About magicians


To find books or pictures of magicians, enter their stage name in the Library catalogue search box. You then have the option of retrieving different types of materials from the search results.

Look at this example of a search on Robert Houdin.  Note the 'Refine results by' options.

These offer suggestions for viewing records for types of resources, for instance books, dvds and pictures; suggest different relevant subject terms; offer options for selecting publications from a specific date range.

These books will be from the WG Alma Conjuring Collection.  Alma books need to be ordered through staff (as per the message on the catalogue record), who will also book a time in the Heritage Collections Reading Room.

Magician files

These research files were compiled by Will Alma and are included in his collection. They contain ephemera and information about individual magicians.

To see the range of magician files we have search for "magic file"

If you search for a magician, the magic file will have an availability message advising how to order the material. The same conditions apply as to the books.

Images of magicians

The Alma Collection contains over 300 posters and over 2000 photographs.

Nearly all of these images have been digitised and can be viewed online using the Library catalogue.

Many of these images are photographic copies made by Will Alma from original images in newspapers, magazines or publicity so the quality is variable.

To see examples of images, see the 'Robert Houdin' search above. For information on ordering copies of images, click on the Images & posters tab above.


MagicPedia (website)

This free online encyclopedia is dedicated to the techniques and history of magic. The site includes a vast number of informative, brief biographies of magicians. These include helpful references.

Performances, interviews & newspapers

If a magician is well known, aspects of their career may be covered in newspapers. Various performances by magicians could be followed through advertisements for shows and reviews. Sometimes there will be interviews or other news reports.

Below are some online newspaper and journal databases. The Library also holds a large range of Australian newspapers on microfilm.

Here are some examples of what you might find in historic newspapers. 

For more general information about performers and performances, use broader terms and narrow your search by date range or by adding additional terms.  For instance, using the Historic Australian Newspapers database you could search under terms such as magician, conjuror, illusionist, mesmerist. You can then add additional terms to narrow your search, or select a date range, or a specific newspaper. 

Searches in newspapers will enable you to identify or discover performances by particular magicians or at particular venues. The Historic Australian Newspapers and Google News Archive databases are still being developed so vary search terms and try browsing options.

See the 'Online books and magazines' box at right for further sources.

Online newspapers


Rooklyn poster

The amazing Rooklyn internationally famous hypnotist ALMA 2010.6

Maurice Rooklyn (1905–1992), magician and illusionist, was born in Lancashire and arrived in Sydney with his family in 1912. He forged a very successful career in Australia and performed to acclaim in England.

Lion at large

Lion at large on Little Collins

Magician Gustave Fasola's act took a surprising turn when Wallace the Lion, on loan from Melbourne Zoo, decided to stroll off stage mid act.

Advertisement for Fasolo's lady and the lion trick

Poster advertising an act of the magician Gustave Fasola, c. 1911; P.68/NO.271

See our Lion at large on Little Collins blog post for the full story.

Chung Ling Soo

The life and death of master magician Chung Ling Soo

In the great days of vaudeville Chung Ling Soo achieved world fame and in 1909 embarked on a wildly successful tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Poster of Chung Ling Soo

Chung Ling Soo, the Marvellous Chinese Conjurer ALMA93.2/34

Read our blog about his amazing career and tragic death.

Online books and magazines

The Library subscribes to a range of magic databases which will include many articles and books on tricks. There will also be interviews and reviews.

See the list below for specific online resources, some of which are available outside the Library to registered Victorian users.