William Doerflinger, Author of “The Magic Catalogue” dead at 90

MagicTimes Spotlight News

Magic lost a notable champion in the death of William Main Doerflinger on December 23, 2000. He passed away at the Fellowship Village facility where he had resided since 1999. Born in Brooklyn, educated Magna Cum Laud at both Princeton and Harvard Universities, he was a long time resident of Convent Station New Jersey and a well respected member of the New York publishing community. He was 90 years old.

When we refer to Mr. Doerflinger as a champion of magic it is not in the sense of a FISM winner or box office icon. He was of the eclectic breed of magical hobbyist sometimes mentioned in the introductory chapter of a magic tome directed towards the general public that proselytizes what an excellent avocation legerdemain is. Typically such an introduction would note the broad spectrum of intellects and pillars of the community; doctors, judges, businessmen and professors who avidly embrace conjuring.

In magic history circles, Mr. Doerflinger was a noted collector and writer of insight and skill. Most conjuring enthusiasts will be familiar with his book, “The Magic Catalogue: A Comprehensive Guide To The Wonderful World Of Magic,” published by E.P. Dutton in 1977 and very few know that he and two of his friends put a magic show together and toured it in Canada and the US.

Mr. Doerflinger was a senior editor at Dutton for more than 20 years (before that, MacMillan). He worked there on projects with such disparate luminaries as Woody Guthrie and Sir Edmund Hillary. A man of great knowledge and outstanding intellect, he authored books on masks, quilts, and folk songs in addition to his editorial collaborations on the works of others.

Several years ago at a Magic Collectors Weekend in Chicago I mentioned to Bill my search for sea songs to use in my ocean themed act, “Neptune and Bubbles.” Bill told me about his book , “Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman.” I got a copy. Turns out, Bill was one of “the” foremost experts on American Folksongs. Also Corvette automobiles, Yes Corvettes, Zoom. There was a lot beneath the surface of this quite and mild appearing gentleman.
…Richard Cohn

Born of a distinguished old line family that included several Civil War Union generals, Mr. Doerflinger worked for military intelligence during WWII and later as a war correspondent before commencing his long career in publishing. In the words of Mario Carrandi, “Bill was a good talker, a smooth writer, an incredible researcher and a fountain of knowledge.”

“What has all this to do with magic?” Some might ask.

Read “The Magic Catalogue.” Not only does it share a rich treasure in a fashion to nurture interest and appreciation of the art and history of conjuring, but it also instructs and reveals. It reveals a student who read and researched deeply in the field of legerdemain. (His Hoffmann library was exceptional). It reveals an author of enthusiasm and erudition who crafted a book that not only sold well upon it’s initial release but which has proven of lasting quality.

In his love and respect for conjuring and its exponents Mr. Doerflinger left an enduring legacy in his authorship of “The Magic Catalogue.” In it’s creation he brightly burnished the sheen of magic by his example of a learned and cultured man who had high regard for the art of mystery and showed others how that enthusiasm could be an inspiration; an inspiration that will continue to illumine the paths of lovers of legerdemain for years to come.

A memorial is scheduled to be held on January 20 at 11am at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship at 21 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, New Jersey. For more information contact the Gallaway & Crane Funeral Home in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.


Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.

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