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J. B. Findlay Photos and Bibliography
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House of Deception Library: J(ames) B. Findlay Titles
Author Title Publication Year Publisher
Farelli, Victor; Findlay, James B. Magical Bibliographies: A Guide 1953 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Anderson and His Theatre 1967 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Bookishly Yours 1987 Magicana for Collectors, York, PA
Findlay, J. B. Charles Dickens and His Magic 1962 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Conjurer's Coins and Medals 1964 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Eighth Collector's Annual: International Guide to Posters and Playbills 1972 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Fifth Collectors Annual 1953 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. First Collectors Annual 1949 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Fourth Collectors Annual 1952 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. How's Your Library? 1958 Ireland Magic, Chicago
Findlay, J. B. Juggling Through Four Reigns 1945 Mac's Mysteries, Glascow
Findlay, J. B. Magic Coins of Czechoslovakia 1969 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Ninth Collector's Annual: A Catalogue of Books on Conjuring and the Allied Arts in the J. B. Findlay Collection 1975 D. W. Findlay, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Price One Penny 1967 F. William Kuethe: Glen Burnie, MD
Findlay, J. B. Scottish Conjuring Bibliography 1951 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Second Collectors Annual 1950 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Seventh Collectors Annual: Percy Naldrett A Memoir Together with a Checklist of His Publications 1969 Maxwell Clark, London
Findlay, J. B. Sixth Collectors Annual 1954 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. Tenth Collectors Annual 1994 R. Ricard, Pawtucket, RI
Findlay, J. B. The Travels of Testot 1965 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B. The Wee Books, The (Supplement #44 to The Magic Cauldron) 1972 Cauldron, Glen Burnie, MD
Findlay, J. B. Third Collectors Annual 1951 author, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Findlay, J. B.; Sawyer, Thomas A. Professor Hoffman: A Study 1977 Thomas A. Sawyer, Tustin, CA
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The House of Deception is a site for those who like to read about show business.

This page is a tribute to the late James B. (Jimmy) Findlay: celebrated reader, author, scholar, magician, collector, and dealer in all things regarding deception and the deceptive arts.

He was our friend and mentor--and the inspiration for The House of Deception.

Jimmy Findlay was greatly admired by readers worldwide.

His renowned motto was:

On Bookes for to Rede is my Delyte
On His Visit to David Price's Egyptian Hall Museum, October 1971:

"There is a chance that I may eventually see this great collection and admire the work that has been put into the forming, indexing and generally caring for each little piece. …When I do get to Egyptian Hall I expect to be blinded by the grandeur of the collection not just in quantity but more in quality. My motto has always been to add any item not already here to my collection be it book, pamphlet, poster, playbill, picture and so on with only price being the factor beyond the lack of the item. This way I have made a rather fine collection here and as one would expect the accent has been on the paperback. I should very much doubt if any other Craft or indeed Science or Art has been the means of bringing out so many paperback titles nor so many "author publications." It's generally admitted that to be a public performer of magic one has to have an ego and I suppose it's simply carrying it a bit further when we loom into print. Otherwise I suppose there might well have been no Collectors Annuals!! These are my honest views." (letter to Duff Johnson dated March 24, 1971)

"Have been reading most carefully all the writings of our Nashville friend re Egyptian Hall and there does appear a positive vista of wizardry in the form of Memorabilia or as Americans have it, "paper." I don't think there is any doubt in my mind that at Egyptian Hall there is housed the greatest collection of Posters, Playbills and the like anywhere. But so much more than this is that D.P. [David Price] knows what he has and knows about the history of the subjects and I am equally sure he will have all the data neatly tabulated or he could hardly write such authoritative stories of those GREAT and small." (letter to Duff Johnson dated June 19, 1971)

"The Nashville visit was an all round success insofar as I could gather and I am especially pleased that you deemed your trip worthwhile. I know you would have had a happy time without this writer's presence but a canny Scot perhaps did help to encourage you in your quest after magic history." (letter to Duff Johnson dated November 23, 1971)


On Collecting Magic Catalogs:

"Back to catalogues: you say you picked up some years ago and I would esteem it a favour if you would list them briefly (names, pages) and send it on. Without boasting I believe I have the most general collection of catalogues ever gathered together. You know I went round all the main collectors (known to me) and in none of the collections did I see any large collection of these items. Most certainly John Henry Grossman had some fine examples as did David [Price] but none hundreds to show me for I asked. I believe this a most important facet of magic history and such a listing could be valuable." (letter to Duff Johnson dated February 10, 1973)


On Genuine Students of Magic History:

"David [Price] has a magnificent collection and is justly proud of it. He was happy with having two genuine and enthusiastic students with whom to display his treasures and that is a great thing. I know this only too well for it is seldom I have the similar type magicians here. Usually it is one at a time but the majority of passers-by never see my collection proper. Because of its size it is scattered rather but with method and the bloke who asks if I have "this week's Abra" sees very little." (letter to Duff Johnson dated November 23, 1971)


On Seemingly Unimportant Artifacts:

"Of course some items look of little importance when one is not too decided as to what one will collect specially and it is later on that the importance of odd items show up. An instance: around 40 years ago a troupe of Indian magicians came to a circus in Glasgow. They were very good and a little booklet was sold at the show for sixpence. I wonder how many of these now exist and why?, because amongst the performers was one KUDA BUX."

"I friend of mine whilst in the British Army in India had a visit from another Indian magician who wanted to be on F.N.S.A. An audition was arranged for him but this performer never did turn up. Who was he? - none other than the late Sorcar. Now the copy letter or any other correspondence AT THE TIME would be of no import but today..."

"And talk of the audience book: this is a specialist type of collecting which has interested me always and I do have rather a fine selection of this type of booklet including the Dante, Houdini (8 of these), Levante (7 different), Dr. Lynn, Anderson, Goldin, Lyle, Chung Ling Sen, Grimmond, to name only those I can recollect typing here at the machine. I have many others and together would make quite an imposing list yet not take up a foot of shelf space." (letter to Duff Johnson dated July 18, 1971)

"Good friend of mine in Glasgow was speaking to a man who was a sort of haker [hawker] and street trader and in the course of conversation he said he had a "bit of music with a conjurer on the front." Enough for my friend and they went to this man's store and there it was, a lovely example of coloured music cover with the music complete of THE DAVENPORT QUADRILLES. This came rather high and he had to stump up 6 cents in order to take this trifle home. Seek and ye shall find." (letter to Duff Johnson dated July 18, 1971)



On Small Libraries and Collections:

"I have always believed that the smallest collection may well have in it certain items that the seasoned collector has never even heard of let alone seen. And my greatest thrill is to actually handle such pieces though I must restrict this to books, booklets or pamphlets for it is the literature of conjuring which grips me most fervently. The nearest equal item is the poster or playbill with all the other fields or bypaths not quite reaching the heights of these two." (letter to Duff Johnson dated July 18, 1971)

"Collectors of experience know not to be surprised at what may turn up in what might be a very small library or collection. My greatest thrill as a collector is to handle a book which until that moment was completely new to me. Of course by that I mean a book or booklet of rare vintage and not one of the many pot-boilers that are published in such numbers. Here is one of such incidents as has come my way. Popping in casually to a bookseller with whom I was fairly well acquainted I came out with the usual "anything come in for me" piece. He told me he did have something but that it was not for sale. This puzzled me and I suggested that either he was a book seller or a collector but it was difficult to be both and what use was there in my hoping to purchase if that was his attitude. He then tempered a little and said he wanted to read or study the book first. That I suggested was reasonable enough so long as it was offered for sale later. Up till now I had the courage NOT to ask to see the book. But now I felt was time to make this overture and when he produced the tome it took me all my time and my stoic Scot's instinct to stifle surprise for there was "Second Sight for Amateurs" a really rare book with perhaps the number still extant being around half a dozen. See Harry Price Catalogue and his introduction: originally only 25 copies published in 1888 you may well conjecture as to how many have survived three wars. To cut a delightful story short I had to wait a further two weeks before my next visit but then I didn't leave the shop until I had made a certain joyful purchase. This can happen to anyone who searches." (letter to Duff Johnson dated June 19, 1971)

"Another book story: as a youth of around 15 I worked in an office in Glasgow. One day I was sent an errand to a rather poor district and there I spotted a down at heel bookshop which was closed but whether it was early closing day or not I do not recollect. However there in the window I espied a copy of a book titled HAND SHADOWS TO BE CAST UPON THE WALL. Now the shop had an iron open rail gate across the entry and then inside about 5' forward was the door of the said shop. The iron gate was around 6' high but young Jimmy climbed over and pushed a note through the letterbox for the shopkeeper to hold on to the above book till "tomorrow." I was there BEFORE I went to work - still closed - back again at my lunch hour and heigh-ho open sesame: I walked in and came out with the little treasure which still holds a high place in my thoughts. I paid 4 cents for this and saw another copy sell at Sotheby's [insert Pound symbol]26-0-0. The variation in price is not the point it is that one may spot an unimportant looking item and let it go, though I trust not me." (letter to Duff Johnson dated July 18, 1971)


On R. Toole-Stott:

"My friend Toole-Stott of WORLD CIRCUS BIBLIO. fame insists that the best is always bought where there may be a choice with a few dollars showing the difference in quality, and his immaculate library bears this out. Incidentally it may not be generally known that he is also the authority on the works of Somerset Maugham and his Bibliography of this author's books is the standard work." (letter to Duff Johnson dated April 21, 1971)


On Francis White, President of the Magic Circle:

"Next week we have Francis White and his wife here for their usual annual stay. The Magic Circle Prexy has come here for the past twenty years or more and we always look forward to his company and that of Ann his wife. I suppose he will go down as one of the very best Secretaries of the M.C. and perhaps their best ever President. If this comes to pass then it is only as much as he deserves." (letter to Duff Johnson dated September 16, 1972)


On Parting with a Collection:

"Should you ever give up completely the collecting of magic history will you remember that I wrote you about this and the chance older collectors take when allowing youngsters to have desirable pieces too early. When the interest wanes and it can for various reasons, suddenly the erstwhile collector finds himself with a supply of exchangeable goods and in due time he has a Stamp collection, a Coin collection, or Butterflies, or Knives or Postcards or whatever and some not too serious collector has the magic material. This way the old vendor is angry, hurt and annoyed for he knows only too well that the casual collector can never have the feeling of his older brother who had to strive and search and search again for the treasures he has so lightly exchanged. This is not sentiment for it has happened to every old collector in his time." (letter to Duff Johnson dated December 20, 1970)

"Probably collectors think that their treasures are so more important [to] them that they could never be without them yet we find over the years that quite a number have managed to part with their collections and be none the worse for it. And this sort of thing is not confined to any country for it happened in a number of isolated instances in different parts of the globe. I have no fears however that either David Price or this writer will succumb to the blandishments that loom up as time goes by." (letter to Duff Johnson dated March 24, 1971)


"After so many years in the business of collecting I have seen a number of super-enthusiasts give up and this is rather sad for they have a sort of parallel with the practical performer who stops doing shows. The former is rather inclined to magnify his collection in retrospect and when he encounters a newer collector will be apt to say "he had that and that ..ad infinitum at one time. This can reduce for the young man his pride in what he has when he realises that oh so long ago someone else had all these pieces , whatever they may be."

"When the practical man gives up public performing he often slips quietly into the shade for he has nothing left on which to hold on to. He is inclined to pooh pooh what is being done today and compare it unfavourably with his own time. This in turn goes a long way towards making him unpopular with his club members and soon he is avoided. This is a great pity for as a practical worker he could do so much good amongst the youngsters. Of course had he been a collector in even a small way then his interest would remain stable and he bright. I can rattle off three instances that come immediately to mind and all your countrymen tho this is merely coincidence, who forsook the game when almost at the peak. One gave up altogether and this was probably on health reasons: another decided to limit his exertions to Bookplates only and since then has not been heard of in the usual channels. A third yes and a fourth simply gave up with no known reason offered. ...I have had such a long run myself and am still bubbling over with enthusiasm." (letter to Duff Johnson dated April 21, 1971)
Magic History Links
James B. (Jimmy) Findlay's
First Magical Collector's Week-End
May 6-8, 1955
Firbank Hotel
Shanklin, Isle of Wight, England
J B Findlay
Firbank Hotel
Shanklin, Isle of Wight
c.1970
"I have had such a long run myself and am still bubbling over with enthusiasm."
The J. B. Findlay bookplate, familiar worldwide to enthusiasts of theatrical deception
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All Rights Reserved
Copyright Duff Johnson 2004-2017
No text or image may be copied or
reproduced without written permission.
Below is a bibliography in book list format of Jimmy Findlay's best known works, followed by excerpts from his letters to Duff Johnson, dated from February, 1970 to shortly before his death.

The letters contain a wealth of sage advice from The Master on a variety of topics including magic collecting, maintaining a library, clubs and conventions, publishing, retirement and more.

We welcome correspondence from those who knew him.
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On Magicians and Collectors:

"I suppose I do get a bit worked up over the lack of enthusiasm for magic history on the part of the majority of magicians. As a lover of magic I find this difficult to comprehend but nevertheless have to face what is an ugly fact to me. On the other hand I know I am wrong for expecting the ratio of book-lovers to be much higher than it is for after all there has been quite an increase in numbers over the past 30 years. ...I have enjoyed every minute of time spent with my hobby and remained a semi-professional [magician] so that I did have extra time to employ myself in research. You will know that not too many professional magicians had time to spare on the delicate craft of collecting for they had to earn their livelihood by it and as you may well have read this world has come through some difficult periods." (letter to Duff Johnson dated August 13, 1970)


On Scottish Magic Collectors:

"A new society has reared itself in my native city of Glasgow. It is called THE SOCIETY OF MAGIQUARIANS and it has a monthly meeting when members bring along some item(s) for discussion and the furtherance of knowledge of said pieces. There are no particular rules apart from the idea that membership is only by invitation. Whilst it will probably never hit the headlines I am sure that were you living in or about that city you would be anxious to get an invite to join the small coterie. I know that by and large there are more collectors in Scotland than in any other area of same size. Would you say that this was because we are saddled with being "M'Taks and no M'Gies?" Translated meaning 'will take but not give.'" (letter to Duff Johnson dated November 13, 1972)


On Magician's Conventions:

"From general accounts by various magicians this Convention [1972 Pacific Coast Association of Magicians] was a success but the same apparently could not be said of others such as the Buffalo affair. My own opinion and that of others too is that there are now too many such gatherings taking place. My view is that the time has now well and truly arrived when the SPECIALIST convention should be tried out. Let all the card men go together and flummox each other with their superior finger-flinging subtleties and look at each other with awe and admiration at the individual prowess of each other. Then the MENTALISTS could also "reach" each other perhaps in a more round about way but meet nevertheless and watch each other being perplexed. And as we go down the scale or should it be up, come to the collector and here we could all indulge in silent envy, jealousy, and perhaps stronger feelings as we look upon the treasures of others.

You get the general idea and I do feel that we could get round to working on this notion." (letter to Duff Johnson dated September 16, 1972)


On Publishing The Eighth Collector's Annual: International Guide to Posters and Playbills:

"At the printers again this morning for the umpteenth time and at least they have ALMOST given me a delivery date. They say "end of month at latest." For months now it has been a case of "Live on old horse and you'll get corn." and I am very fed up with the corn dished out on TV without having corn from the printers. Just as soon as deliveries come to hand so will I be extremely busy getting orders out. I do hope you will like the finished article and I will be interested in your findings." (letter to Duff Johnson dated August 1, 1973)


On Retirement:

"It's been a very very busy time recently for this writer since the Margate affair [British Conjuring Convention]. Firstly an Australian visitor, Peter Rogers, then Tom Hawbacker and Victor Trask for a few days, followed immediately after by an English collector together with Mickey Hades. After their stay was up I had a French collector Jacques Voignier here for best part of a week. Only Sat. last have I been free to get on with the pressing work of galley-proof reading and keeping correspondence as up to date as possible. Now I am preparing for two lectures I will be giving next Sat. and Sunday respectively down in Devon and Cornwall. This is what is termed retirement!" (letter to Duff Johnson dated October 24, 1972)


On Meeting Unknown Collectors and the Importance of Careful Listening:

"I am sure the meeting up with other collectors would help to make the long trips you made worth while. This is one of the great things about this collecting game - no matter with whom you speak on the subject generally, you can learn something so long as the other person is also an addict to our happy craze. I may have recounted the story earlier to you but if so remember that I am an oldster now and I suppose may be allowed a little repetition. Doing a lecture at B.R. [British Ring] convention, after it was over and I was in the midst of packing up a young man came up and (I thought he said) I have a De Vere coin which if you wish I will send you. I stopped and with a few words of acceptance and thanks forgot all about it. A few days later in came the coin which turned out to be a DE BIERE example and one then quite new to me. So you see Duff it behoves one to listen." (letter to Duff Johnson dated June 12, 1972)


On Book Collecting and the Harry Price, David Price and George Jenness Libraries:

"I have examined very very closely the photos you sent of Dave Price and his wife and also the various magical exhibits. Fascinating as you said in your earlier epistle and one's appetite is further whetted by what is not seen but what one may visualize forms this noted collection. Dave has always made it clear that the nucleus was formed originally by W.W. Durbin but I feel confident that that gentleman would now not recognize The Egyptian Hall Museum as it now stands. I suppose in part, this must also be the position regarding the Harry Price Collection of 1935 (its latest listing) and what might well have been added in the interim. For that matter I may state that I regarded the H.P. catalogue as my conjuring bible and my aim as a young man was to get as many of the titles as were in his catalogue. This was in 1929 when the catalogue first appeared. Later I began to be a trifle more selective and kept away from strictly Spiritualistic works (pseudo-genuine) apart from what may be considered reference or standard type titles. Then a further weeding out of titles which in my GREAT judgement (without sight of many of them) books I considered extraneous. Next came the separating of as many of the titles which were in fact NOT books at all but simply magazine articles. Here one can only work from experience and happily I was an avid collector of such items. This way I got and still get so much more pleasure from the reading of this particular catalogue that it and such others as it are my bedside books. Mr. [Harry] Price I met a couple of times and he was very nice to me. The first time we met however was rather fun for after the intros. I said "I have brought you a book." Now for a young man in his twenties to say such a thing to The Master Collector of his time (in this country) was bordering on the cheeky if not actually impertinent. His brows went up and I saw a slightly amused look on his face. And with all respect he was a little disappointed when he discovered that the book was indeed a new one to him. Naturally I was a bit diligent in making a selection from my then small store but this incident was one from which I learned something tremendously important. When you look at a small collection or library it is probably a certainty that there you will find something quite new to you or an item though known yet not in your own collections. I admit to believing mine is a large library yet I was stumped a few months ago by George Jenness. Looking through his books I was astounded to find a copy of PRACTICAL MAGIC by Guy Austin with boards binding. Until then and collecting for more than fifty years I had never seen this edition. Conversely and even more strange was the admission by Geo. that he had never known any other edition but this. Now a dozen and more of the paperback editions had passed through my hands yet the other completely unknown. This then is the thrill or one of the thrills of collecting books and posters. This sort of experience also cuts one down to size - not that I am very tall - which brings me to my own motto 'No-one knows it all and no-one has it all.'" (letter to Duff Johnson dated October 30, 1970)
Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Findlay
Firbank Hotel
Shanklin, Isle of Wight, England
Chrismas Card cover (c. 1950s undated)
The Wit and Wisdom of James B. (Jimmy) Findlay
Excerpts from Letters to Duff Johnson
February 1970-October 1973
Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Findlay
Firbank Hotel
Shanklin, Isle of Wight, England
Chrismas Card (c. 1950s undated)
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4 1/2"x3" greeting card given to Duff Johnson by Jimmy and Elsie Findlay, October 5, 1971 at David Price's Egyptian Hall Museum, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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