One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An early type of wheelchair which is propelled by the occupant turning two crank-handles fixed at the ends of the armrests, which turn the two small front wheels of the chair (a third wheel or castor being set in the back rail).
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Fanny Burney (1752–1840), writer. From the name of John Joseph Merlin, Flemish inventor and maker of musical instruments, who invented this kind of wheelchair + chair.
Merlin chair/ˈməːlɪn ˌtʃɛː/
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