The Century of Deception

The Century of Deception

The Birth of the Hoax in Eighteenth-Century England

9781908906441 September 2021 Hardback 320pp 28 black and white satirical prints and illustrations

About the Book

In 1749, a newspaper advertisement appeared declaring that a man would climb inside a bottle on the stage of a London theatre. Although the crowds turned up in their hundreds to witness the trick, the performer didn’t. Over the following decades, elaborate pranks and fanciful tales would continue to bamboozle audiences across England.

In The Century of Deception, magician and historian Ian Keable tells the engrossing stories of these eighteenth-century hoaxes and those who were duped by them. The English public were hoodwinked time and time again, swallowing whole tales of rapping ghosts, a woman who gave birth to rabbits, a levitating Frenchman in a Chinese Temple and outrageous astrological predictions. Not only were the hoaxes widely influential, drawing in celebrities such as Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Swift, they also inflamed concerns about ‛English credulity’.

‘Fake news’ and ‛going viral’ may be modern terms, but as this entertaining, eye-opening book shows, these concepts have been with us for centuries.

About the Author

Ian Keable obtained a first-class degree from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, qualified as a chartered accountant and then became a professional magician. A member of The Magic Circle with gold star, he has won several awards for his unique brand of comedy magic and has made numerous appearances on television and presented programmes for BBC Radio. Keable is the author of three books for the general public as well as three works for professionals including Stand-Up: A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic and Charles Dickens Magician: Conjuring in Life, Letters and Literature.

→ Author Website


‘A fascinating, witty, comprehensive and beautifully-written book’
Matt Lucas

‘Utter joy! A delicious romp through the heyday of balderdash and grand-scale deception, penned by one of the country’s finest magical minds.’
Derren Brown

‘Keable’s mastery of the newspapers and pamphlets of the era is faultless … [This] pleasing and well-crafted book serves as a reminder that there is artistry in a good hoax, and learned men are often among the most credulous of mortals.’

‘Enjoyable … Keable, a professional magician, warmly appreciates the mechanics of deception.’
The Spectator

‘A masterful and fascinating journey into a hitherto hidden world of history, mystery and hoaxes.’
Richard Wiseman

‘Ian Keable’s brilliant book has opened my eyes to an incredible world of hoaxers and deceivers I didn’t know even existed. A cracking read filled with extraordinary stories.’
Andy Nyman