The Art of Memory

In her book, The Art of Memory, Elizabeth Yates describes the long history of the practice of memorization. Traced back to the ancient Greeks, the art of memory began, appropriately enough, with the arts. It was used for the recitation of poetry. Later it became of use to those practicing law, and then progressed into the arenas of religion and mysticism. Here we still see its influence in that descendant of mysticism, the performing art of magic.

David M. Roth‘s Roth Memory Course and books like it (e.g. Card memory : a simple system of memorizing playing cards) have a home in the John H. Percival Magic Collection because they provide the magician with skills that are outside of the realm of normal knowledge. Today it is impossible, magical, that someone could know the card randomly drawn from a deck, but as David M. Roth says: “Your memory is actually the most wonderful instrument in the world. You need only to know how to use it to do things that appear marvelous. “

Like the printed word and other information-managing technologies that have come since, our various digital helpers may have done away with the everyday need for the mental memory, but there are worlds where the art of memory still has its use.



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