Robert Robbins was born in Sydney in 1929, and at the age of 14 was the youngest magician to perform at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney. Throughout his brief but magical career he went by the stage name of ‘Robert Merlini’. Robbins believed that 'if you wanted something new, you’ll find it in an old book’. The Robbins Collection of Stage Magic contains over 900 books, trade catalogues, pamphlets and serials, dating from 1799 to 1962. A slim volume, Magic and pretended miracles and remarkable natural phenomena, published in 1799 is the oldest item in the collection. The collection also includes news cuttings, notes on magic tricks, performance programs and signed photographs of many of the world’s greatest magicians.
The collection is one of the few of its kind in the world, as it represents a rare example of a working magician’s collection. Many of the items to be found in it are of great rarity, as conjurers’ tricks were amongst the most closely guarded of trade secrets. Some of the material was sold only to professional magicians.
Items in the R. B. Robbins collection of stage magic and conjuring can be found through a special catalogue in the State Library of New South Wales, Macquarie Street, Sydney.