Magic Quotations (UNCLASSIFIED)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 00:14:28 UTC 2010

Thanks for the great cites for the classic phrase used in magic.

Here is an example in 1843 that concerns cheating at cards:

Cite: 1843, "Lady Singleton; Or The World As It Is" by Thomas Medwin,
Volume 3, Page 183, Cunningham & Mortimer, London. (Google Books full

The hand is said to be quicker than the eye, as is proved by some of
the most respectable clubs in London; a few years ago, certain
punctures, almost invisible, might be felt by very sensitive and
well-filed skins; ...

Here is an entertaining example from 1796 that follows the theme of
"hands quicker than the eye" but does not use the full phrase. Nor
does it involve a magician or a card cheat:

Cite: 1796 November, The European magazine: and London review,
"Desultory Remarks on the Study and Practice of Music, Addressed to a
Young Lady While Under the Tuition of an Eminent Master, Written in
the Years 1790 - 1 and 2."  Page 357, Philological Society, London.
(Google Books full view)

In the brilliant stile of play Celerio is recherche in the extreme,
and, as a flight-of-hand performer, au fait to a degree of luxuriance
which none have yet attained, and wherein no one can exceed him. From
the very lowest to the uppermost key, and back again, he is quicker
than the eye can follow him, or the ear catch the sounds produced in
this flight des les doigts.


On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 6:29 PM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC
<Bill.Mullins at> wrote:
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> Poster:       "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> Subject:      Magic Quotations (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: NONE
> Possibly of interest:
> "The hand is quicker than the eye"
> _The Visitor or Monthly Instructor for 1848. New Series._ London:  The
> Religious Tract Society, 1848 p. 286 col 1.
> "It shows very clearly that in one instance we may be deceived because
> the hand is quicker than the eye; in another because the deceiver has a
> confederate; and in a third because the table before him, on which he
> plays his tricks, is furnished with trap doors."
> Joseph Fernandez.  _Henry's Junior Dictation Lessons_ London:  Charles
> Bean, 1868
> p. 128
> "We are easily deceived by optical illusions; the hand is quicker than
> the eye, hence the success of many conjuring tricks which depend on
> optical illusions."
> Albert Merlin, "The Land of Humbug" _Mahatma_ vol 1 No VIII, Oct 1895 p.
> 8 col 1
> "It is an old saying, especially with magicians that the hand is quicker
> than the eyesight, but in this case it was demonstrated that the
> eyesight was quicker than the hand, a fact, I believe, not generally
> known. "
> Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: NONE
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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