This article is intended to be a supplement to the History of Magic live lecture, and to provide references to those who wish to check the facts for themselves.
If you haven't seen the lecture live, the following information is still very interesting.
Although I created this lecture for Harry Potter Camp, the following material is true to the best of my research.
If he existed... and there's no proof that he did... the first magician would have been Djed-Sneferu in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu circa 2700 B.C.E. (almost 5000 years ago!)
According to the legend, Djed-Sneferu lived over 110 years and performed such fantastic feats as foretelling the future, commanding fierce lions, and re-attaching decapitated heads. 1
Because there is no proof that Djed existed, credit for the discovery of magic is given to the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster Circa 1700 B.C.E.
Zoroastrian Priests are called Magus. The Magus were so impressive to the ancient Greeks that they started to refer to anything that was amazing and un-explainable as 'Magus'- where we get the word Magic.
The oldest magic book in the world is the Tuhfat al-Ghraib (gift of wonder) by Muhammad ibn Ayyub Alhaseb Tabari in 1107 C.E.
Truly a fascinating book ahead of it's time, the Tuhfat promoted science over superstition. The Tuhfat did describe acts of conjuring, but much of it wasn’t even magic, only science that hadn’t been discovered yet.
Would you like to hear the oldest trick in the book? It's the trick soap that turns your hands black. (While the secret behind the trick soap was in the Tuhfat, this statement was intended to be humorous). 2
The first book describing conjuring tricks written in English was The Discoverie of Witchcraft written in 1584 by Reginald Scot.
Many historians agree that the purpose of Discoverie was to get people to stop executing other people for witchcraft. At the time, people were accused of witchcraft if they simply were unliked for any number of reasons. So don’t treat people badly because they’re different from you!
Scot included all of the information available to him about witchcraft, but what is more interesting is the chapter on Legerdemain. In an effort to dissuade the ignorant masses against superstition, Scot reveled many secrets of illusions and juggling (juggling was the 16th century term for 'sleight of hand').
The Magic Coloring Book, which is arguable the most popular children's magic show trick in the world today, is explained in Discoverie.
2. The oldest magic book in the world, Linking Ring mag March 2017 Dr. Reza Saberi