hist-games: Card History Question

Michael McKay seaan at concentric.net
Thu Mar 11 09:06:14 PST 1999

I've cross-posted this question to both the playing-card and the historical
game lists.

How are the number cards printed in a French suited playing card pack in the
time of 1500-1700?  I've read in a number of places that using simple suit
pips allowed the French to produce cards more economically, but I have not
seen any details as to the actual method that was used.  This leads me to a
number of conjectures, and I'd like to know which methods were actually

1) They used ink on top of one or more stencils (paper or metal with
appropriate cut-outs).  They either had a single stencil for each suit (easy
to verify by measuring location of pips in decks by the same manufacturer),
or a stencil for each number card.

2) They used the principles of movable type (much like the small cards
introduced in the 19th century, mentioned by Daf on the playing-card list).

3) A hand-held stamp (one for each suit).

4) Still used wood/copper printing techniques, but it was much more simple
to produce the printing plates.

5) Others?

Michael McKay  (known in the SCA as Seaan McAy)

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