New Acquisition! "The Magician" Comes to the Bentley Rare Book Museum

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 28, 2021

Curator JoyEllen Williams discusses one of the Bentley Rare Book Museum's exciting new acquisitions - "The Magician."

In April 2021, the Bentley Rare Book Museum joined the company of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. How? Through the acquisition of a unique and prized publication titled The Magician. For ten years, creator Chris Byrne conceptualized a work of art and literature – somewhere between graphic novel and artist’s book – that brings together opposing concepts and challenges traditional ideas of books. After ten years of vision and thematic creation, Chris Byrne partnered with Scott Newton and Paper Hammer Studios to physically manifest The Magician over a two-year period. It was published in 2013 by Marquand Editions.

Layout of "The Magician" courtesy of Marquand Editions.
The Magician is a set of twelve books contained in a facsimile magician’s box. Each book has a unique theme and format, playing upon quotidian aspects of life, such as using the restroom, making childhood art projects, or shuffling a deck of cards. To be frank, it is a difficult piece to describe, and according to Byrne, that is the point. “I wanted to make [The Magician] difficult to talk about,” says Byrne.

Page from "The Magician" courtesy of the Bentley Rare Book Museum.

Instead of having a typical storyline, the piece is series of visual puns leading the viewer/reader toward a narrative that isn’t perfectly scripted or laid out. Byrne says “There are different ways of connecting page to page or book to book” within the experience of The Magician.

Thanks to KSU English professor Sergio Figueiredo who inquired about The Magician in 2014, the Bentley Rare Book Museum became the eleventh institution in the United States to house this important piece. Chris Byrne and Scott Newton hand-delivered The Magician to the Bentley Rare Book Museum and participated in an interview with curator JoyEllen Williams. The interview was filmed and edited by Shane McDonald, Marketing and Communications Specialist in KSU’s School of Art and Design.

To learn more about The Magician, visit

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