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The Limbless Magician of 18th Century London

Matthew Buchinger was born in Germany in 1674 with no hands or feet and only parts of his arms and legs, but he did not grow up as an invalid. Instead, he learned to walk, perform everyday tasks, and even fashioned his own devices to facilitate writing and other skills. Buchinger became an accomplished artist, calligrapher, magician, and musician. In 1716, he went to to England to meet the king, and began performing for audiences.  

At the time, England had a fierce appetite for "monsters," with dwarves and limbless attractions of all varieties drawing crowds. Buchinger appeared in multiple places in the London area and promised to demonstrate his mastery of 13 unique skills for one shilling per attendee. In addition to magic, he could deal cards and play dice; load and shoot a firearm; and play instruments, often with the addition of a device that modified it for his needs. Such adaptation was part of Buchinger’s appeal: his mind was innovative, and his physical limitations were circumvented by his intellect.

England was charmed: the shows were popular and there was even demand for him to make house calls for private performances.

Buchinger supplemented his performing income by selling artworks that included ships in bottles. Meanwhile, he married four times and fathered a slew of children. Read about his amazing life and see some of those artworks at mental_floss.


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