If you know Ricky Jay
at all, you will know his abiding passion for the wonderful characters that have graced the stage, the fairgrounds, the lecture
halls, the museums, the taverns, the streets - indeed any venue that
featured or sustained the exploits of modern ingenuity.
This is an informal history of
sensational, scientific, silly, satisfying and startling attractions
based on seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century broadsides
from Ricky Jay’s extraordinary collection. It includes
observations on the convention of promoting such appearances,
digressions on the manner and method of printing advertisements to
do so, and insights into the psychology employed to that end. All
are compiled in a monograph that is itself a shameless attempt to
entertain and elucidate.
It is the
contention of the author that neither the tongue of the most florid
orator, or pen of the most ingenious writer, can sufficiently
describe the elegance, symmetry, and prodigious accomplishments of
those who pass in review within these pages.
broadsides advertising: an armless dulcimer player, a ghost showman,
a singing mouse, a chess playing automaton, a cannon ball juggler,
an African hermaphrodite, a chicken incubating machine, a rabbi with
prodigious memory, a ventriloquist, a spirit medium, a glass blower,
a woman magician, a speaking machine, a mermaid, a bullet catcher, a
flea circus, & an equestrian bee keeper.