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Notable worksCharlier Cut

Charlier (?-?) was magician in the late 1800s. A specialist in card magic, he is best known for creating the Charlier Cut and a card-marking system using pin pricks.


Charlier is only reputed to have performed in public once on January 25th 1882, at the Neumayer Hall, Hart Street, London. Mostly he gave lessons and exhibitions of card magic at private homes.

Professor Hoffmann first met him in the mid 1870s from an introduction, possibly by Hellis. Hoffmann descibed this “Polish Gentleman” as one of the greatest of living card experts. The others who took lessons or were acquainted with this gentleman said that he was from Alsace, another pupil, Samuel Heilbut, was told he was Russian. The mysterious gentleman could pass as being from any number of countries as it was reported that he spoke nine to ten languages fluently. Most thought he was French as this was the language he frequented lapsed into when speaking English, but he did not appear to speak English with a French accent. By the same token some friends said that he had a fondness for using scraps of Turkish in conversation. In Britain he was known simply as Charlier; Trewey, a French illusionist recollected that he met someone very similar in appearance in Nice in 1874 called Monsieur Arelier, it was also noted that Henry Ridgley Evans was informed that a conjurer call St Jean appeared in San Francisco two years later performing under the name Carabaraba who also fitted the description.

The background of this man varied more than his name, some said that his was an illegitimate son of a Russian Grand Duke who was obliged to leave that country on account of trouble over card playing, others said that he was born in Jerusalem, his father being French and his mother an Armenian. Whatever his background he was consistently described as being very old, possibly being between 70 and 90 years old and although clean tended to be a bit shabby in his appearance. He had long, thin, grey hair almost touching the collar of his coat, the coat itself looked a size too big for him. His trousers were baggy and cut short to show a pair of scrupulously white stockings above his shoes. Although advancing in years he was sprightly and agile with a slight stoop in his very thin six foot frame. His face clean-shaven, long and thin with a large hooked nose above thin lips and having bright, mischievous eyes. Despite his poor appearance and hungry look, Charlier as he was known in Britain, never received money as a reward for his services, but would occasionally accept a meal.

Charlier developed a system of marking cards so that they could be distinguished by touch, Professor Hoffmann later described this in More Magic. He also created a one-handed pass, the Charlier pass and was attributed with the Charlier Shuffle.

Concerning Charlier, J. N. Maskelyne wrote in 1912, as follows: "I met Charlier soon after I opened in London. I paid him five guineas for a set of 32 marked cards, with an explanation of his system of working. He did not use a complete pack. I think he must have been a card sharper in his younger days, for he used many of the sleights of the gambler, especially 'counting down' which I explain in my book Sharps and Flats. He had exceedingly long fingers. I never saw anyone work the single-handed pass as he did, and he kept the skin at the end of his right thumb so sensitive that he could detect a projection upon the back of a card, quite invisible to sight and imperceptible to ordinary touch."