Arturo de Ascanio y Navaz (1926-1997), is regarded as the father of Spanish card magic. A lawyer by trade and an amateur magician, he devoted a good part of his life to magic and was one of the founders of the prestigious Escuela Mágica de Madrid.
The Structural Conception of Magic, which is the first volume of The Magic of Ascanio, is devoted to his theoretical thinking. Studies of Card Magic and More Studies of Card Magic include all of his card creations, while the fourth volume Knives and Color-Blindness is a treatise on magic with pocket knives.
Knives and Color-Blindness is not just a repertoire of sleights and routines. Above all, it encapsulates an extraordinary philosophy of magic, in which the love for detail, for naturalness and psychology alike, are given as much importance as technical skill. Ascanio's remarkable in-depth study of the psychological aspects of the "Paddle Move" and the "color change" with knives is a fundamental contribution to the magic of the color-changing knives. Arturo de Ascanio shows two specific qualities that very seldom go together: he is an extremely clear writer and also an excellent performer of sleight-of-hand. You will no doubt find that Ascanio is very good at writing about what he knows, and knows very well what he is writing about.
Foreword By Fu Manchu
In English, the word amateur is used to designate someone who loves an art. I prefer "amateur" over "hobbyist", as "amateur" conveys the idea of a love directed to a chosen art. Among my very few prized possessions I keep the following dedication by Dai Vernon: "To my very dear friend Dave, whom I consider one of the finest artists of this, our beloved art." Many were the nights that Dai and I spent in conversation about magic only to be suddenly interrupted by his wife Jean, inquiring if we would care for some breakfast. The sun was up already and hours had gone by without either of us noticing. Both professional magicians, the spirit of the amateur still lived in us, thank goodness. When that spirit is lost, the essence of magic is lost.
At the "Academy of the Art of Magic" (a very exclusive magic club of only twelve members, founded in the city of New York by Dai Vernon, Sam Horowitz, Al Baker, Cardini and the sorely-missed Nate Leipzig) I would spend hours on end discussing, arguing and fighting with my colleagues, always striving for perfection in magic, rejoicing in the beaming satisfaction of solving problems elegantly. Driven by an unwavering desire to learn, we would choose a topic, break it down and build it back up again. In the world of magic, that breed of "fanatic", or better perhaps, "perfectionist" is very rare indeed. Most amateurs know dozens of moves and sleights that they just use to show off their skill. Every once in a while a magician appears who blends all of those subtleties into a good, solid and magical routine. My good friend Arturo de Ascanio is one such magician, a top-class sleight-of-hand artist, a magician of detail and a charming gentleman to boot. He is one of those "rare souls" who loves magic and really puts to use his knowledge. In my humble opinion, Ascanio is at the highest level in modern magic. I have been told that Arturo is working on a book of original card magic1 that will make his fantastic brand of work available for the magic community to enjoy. If he decides to include some of the gems he has shown me, I am sure the book will become one of the most outstanding works on card magic published in recent years.1
Knives and Color-Blindness is just a small example of the amount of lavish detail that Ascanio puts into anything he conceives or writes. Even though most of the sleights explained in this book are not original with him, nonetheless original technical touches have been added that make them easier to perform, more natural, or more psychologically deceiving. If Ascanio has been fair in crediting the originators, it is only equally fair that we give him credit for his additions and innovations (which, only too often, prove to be the most important elements of any sleight).
The book you are now holding is not just a repertoire of sleights and routines. Above all, it encapsulates an extraordinary philosophy of magic, in which the love for detail, for naturalness and psychology alike, are given as much importance as technical skill. Ascanio's remarkable in-depth study of the psychological aspects of the "Paddle Move" and the "color change" with knives is a fundamental contribution to the magic of the color-changing knives.
Arturo de Ascanio shows two specific qualities that very seldom go together: he is an extremely clear writer and also an excellent performer of sleight-of-hand. You will no doubt find that Ascanio is very good at writing about what he knows, and knows very well what he is writing about. If he is so good at producing a book on a subject so specific and specialized as the color-changing knives, one can only imagine what he will be capable of doing when he finally gets to write about his own specialty, card magic!
This book is a complete treatise. The reader will not need to search other publications on magic for any required information, which is usually a troublesome task for amateurs who do not have access to vast libraries. As far as I know, this is the first book dealing exclusively with the magic of the color-changing knife, and it is my wish that this book will give a much-needed boost worldwide to this almost completely forgotten branch of sleight of hand. Magicians crying out for something new will find satisfaction here. Granted, sleight of hand with knives is not new, but the way in which Ascanio so refreshingly presents it will render meaningless any concerns about its antiquity. Anything that the eye sees for the first time is new.
It is my wish that Knives and Color-Blindness brings you at least as much pleasure as it brought me. To you who are reading these lines, my heart-felt greetings. From one amateur to another. To Arturo, a big fraternal hug on the occasion of his first book, one written with painstaking love and lavish detail by a true lover of art, of this blessed art we all love so much.
David Bamberg (Fu Manchu)
San Sebastián, España