Help us solve the mystery of the disappearing magician

Tuesday 19 October 2021

The State Library is calling on the public to help uncover the secrets of one of the earliest and most comprehensive magic collections in Australia, as part of its new exhibition How’s Tricks? Magic in the Golden Age. The Robbins Magic Collection, purchased by the State Library 50 years ago, contains more than 900 books and magic memorabilia owned by Sydney’s ‘Man of Magic’, Bob ‘Merlini’ Robbins. The collection holds some closely guarded trade secrets known only to professional magicians.

According to State Library curator Margot Riley: “The Robbins collection gives a rare insight into the types of material a magician working in the mid-20th century would have used to research and develop their act. But there’s a lot we don’t know about how and when the collection was put together, and we’re keen to hear from surviving family members.”

Bob Robbins’ career was cut short by his sudden death at the age of 37, but he had some incredible achievements — he was the youngest magician to perform at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney at age 14 and the first hypnotist to perform “live” on Australian TV in 1957.

Names like The Great Levante, Magic Murray and The Amazing Mr Rooklyn were among Australia’s first celebrity performers, dominating the Australian and international entertainment scenes in the mid-20th century, following magic’s golden age from 1880 to 1920. 

These stars of yesteryear will take centre stage once more when parts of the State Library’s marvellous magic collection go on public display for the first time.  

How’s Tricks? Magic in the Golden Age is a free exhibition at the State Library until 27 March 2022.

PDF icon Download the full media release