The Mitchell Library Reading Room will be closed to the public on Monday 29 April. To access collections and services on this day, please visit the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.
What's in the collection
The Robbins Collection of Stage Magic contains around 900 books, trade catalogues, pamphlets, posters and serials. The collection is a rare example of a working magician’s reference collection. Many of the books are incredibly rare and include conjurers’ tricks that are closely guarded trade secrets. Some works, for example the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses: or Moses’ Magical Spirit Art (No 80), were only sold to members of the magic profession. For anyone interested in the history of magic this collection is extremely useful.
The story behind the collection
This collection was purchased in 1967, from the estate of magician R. B. (Bob) Robbins. Robert Robbins was born in Sydney in 1929. At the age of 14 he was the youngest magician to perform at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney. Throughout his brief career he used the stage name of ‘Robert Merlini’. In 1957 he was the first hypnotist to perform ‘live’ on Australian television. He also participated in many live broadcasts, including the 1960s television cabaret show Café Continental. ‘Merlini’ liked to work with animals, and his signature trick was ‘The Disappearing Ducks’.
Robbins acquired the magic collection from his teacher, the Great Levante (Leslie George Cole) in the early 1960s. Levante is considered Australia’s greatest ever stage magician. He was only the second man to be awarded the Gold Star, the highest honour in the magic circle. In 1939 he was elected the world’s number one magician and in March 1977 he was awarded a Masters Fellowship of the Academy of Magical Arts in a ceremony in Hollywood.
You can find more information on the Robbins Stage Magic Collection through our catalogue.