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Alessandro Cagliostro was the alias for the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo (also called Joseph Balsamo), an Italian adventurer. The history of Cagliostro is shrouded in rumour, propaganda and mysticism. Some effort was expended to ascertain his true identity when he was arrested because of his possible participation in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. Cagliostro claimed to be the son of the Prince and Princess of the Anatolian Christian Kingdom of Trebizond, orphaned and reared by the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta and, for several years, in the household of the Sheriff of Medina (who brought him up as a Christian.)
The Turk was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was explained in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax. It was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
A journey round my skull. Great blog.
Unhealthy book fetishism from a reader, collector, and amateur historian of forgotten literature.
My favorite art critic, Matthew Collings, has an archive of reviews and musings here.