hist-games: More questions on playing-cards Card History

Thierry Depaulis depaulis at club-internet.fr
Sat Mar 13 11:28:56 PST 1999

On Thu, 11 Mar 1999
Michael McKay (aka Seaan McAy)
>Thanks for the responses to my "printing French number card" query.
>Here is more information, and some more questions.

>Thierry Depaulis [depaulis at club-internet.fr] replied to my question:
>>Cardboard stencils -- called 'patrons' ... or even 24
>24 cards to a sheet? Which were the duplicates?

2x12, i.e. two complete series of 12 courts. However, the most usual
arrangement was 20. So were printed the court: one sheet had 2x10 courts
(all except 'red' jacks), another sheet was used for the 'red' jacks
(10x2). This process saved one colour on the red-jack sheet: black was
useless (I don't mean for the drawing which was *printed* of course).
Of course the pips were also printed in sheets of 20: one sheet for each
suit with 2x10 pips (from ace to ten).

Michael wrote:
>>>3) A hand-held stamp (one for each suit).
>>No. This would have been much too slow.
>I brought this up, because it is currently believed that the Flemish
>Hunting Deck (oval cards in the Cloisters Museum) was made in this manner.

This may be true - I don't know actually - but the Hunting Deck is a
unicum: its size, its shape, its suits, everything is strange (so that
there are people who think it is a forgery...).

>That leads to another question: what was the typical production rate
>of a French card maker in this period?

Fffff! I did many calculations some years ago about this. Between 1500 and
1800 the production rate of the French cardmakers did not really change. An
average workshop with 3 people (the master cardmaker, one worker, one
apprentice) produced some 23,000 packs a year (i.e. an average of 8,700 to
9,000 per man).
As 'packs' I mean 32-card as well as 52-card packs. (There were also other
formats, like 28-, 40-, 48-card packs, for brelan, ombre or reversis).

>In Thierry Depaulis's pamphlet "Les cartes a jouer au portrait de Paris;
>avant 1701"
>I found figure 22 which shows a Paris card manufactures from 1683/84.
>I have not translated this book into English, so I'm not sure if Thierry
>has comments about this illustration in the pamphlet.

My comments are printed on the opposite page (p. 29). You guessed right:
stencils are being used in the center of the picture.

Not only did L'Encyclopedie (by Diderot & d'Alembert) describe the process
of stencilling the cards, but also Duhamel's du Montceau's book Art du
cartier (the Cardmaker's Art), Paris, 1762 with plates that are very
similar to L'Encyclopedie.
However, what Detlef Hoffman's "The Playing Card" (p. 8) shows is *not
taken* from L'Encyclopedie (by Diderot & d'Alembert), but from
L'Encyclopédie méthodique, Arts & Metiers mecaniques, Paris, 1783!

>I guess I'll just have to add Diderot's L'Encyclopedie to the list of
>books I'm trying to find.

Good. Only 17 text volumes and 11 plates volumes... And don't forget the
indispensable 5-volume Supplement and the 3-volume Table analytique! And
preferrably with a morocco leather binding... ;-)

Ten years ago I published (in English) a short article on these French
encyclopedias and their plates in Playing-Card World #56, May  1989
("Encyclopédie and Encyclopédie : eighteenth-century French encyclopedias",

At your service, Sir.
Your humble servant,

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