Professor Louis Hoffmann, whom Houdini described as the Brightest Star in the Firmament of Magical Literature, wrote nearly all of his dozens of books and scores of magazine articles under a pseudonym. His real name was Angelo John Lewis and he was, by profession, a barrister (lawyer). Angelo Lewis was born in London on July 23, 1839, and first became interested in magic at the age of ten, when he witnessed the performance of Professor James Taylor. (It was the custom of magicians in those days to refer to themselves as Professor, just as some years later, in the era of vaudeville and the music halls, many magicians prefaced their name with the appellation The Great.)
Professor Hoffmanns classic first book (1876) Modern Magic, remains a cornerstone of the conjurers art. Admittedly, some of the trappings of the magician have changed quite a bit since Hoffmann wrote his Victorian magic textbook (though some critics might feel they have not changed enough), and a few methods have become virtually obsolete; but many of the great magical effects predate the publication of this textbook by hundreds or, in some cases, even thousands of years. Professor Hoffmann's instructions on how to perform those classics are as valid for the performer of today as they were for the aspiring magician of long ago.
Why was Modern Magic such a sensation? Perhaps the key lies in an observation made by Hoffmann in the first chapter: There is a vast difference between telling how a trick is done and teaching how to do it. Modern Magic was the first book in English to really explain how to do the classic effects of magic.
Excerpts taken from the preface to the 1976 centennial edition of Modern Magic, written by Charles Reynolds.