2006 Bevington Award for Best New Book

David Bevington Award
Award Year: 

Winner: Butterworth, Philip. Magic on the Early English Stage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Philip Butterworth's Magic on the Early English Stage will be as indispensible for scholars in the field as his earlier book Theatre of Fire. No one else in the field has Butterworth's wealth of specialized knowledge about stage tricks of all kinds. The book might better have been called Illusion of the Early English Stage because it goes beyond what a modern reader might think of as 'magic' to include juggling, sleight of hand, acrobatic activities such as tumbling, dancing on ropes and vaulting, mechanical illusions such as automata and puppets, sound effects and how disappearances were contrived. In his final chapter he takes on the tricky task of attempting to sort out the terminology to distinguish performative magic from alchemy and witchcraft. Fully documented with charming contemporary illustrations, this fascinating book presents truly new and exciting material that helps explain references in both texts and external documentation that many of us have found opaque in the past. It will be useful to students and scholars alike illuminating arcane practices that round out our understanding of early stage practice. It is a book we will all be referring to in the future.