hist-games: Period Playing cards

Thierry Depaulis thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr
Wed Dec 20 01:52:48 PST 2000

>At Tue, 19 Dec 2000 07:55:41 +0100, Thierry Depaulis
><thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr>
>>If by "medieval" you mean something before 1450, forget it! There are
>>four or five packs *only* that can be dated to this period. And none has
>>any picture on the net.
>>Playing cards arrived in Europe not earlier than 1350/60 (this we know
>>from written records), and no actual card is known to date before c.1430.

And Lillith commented:
>	I'd settle for anything before 1600 [1]... would you happen to have
>links for some post-1450 playing card images, or for construction tips (ie,
> paper weight to use, etc)?  I've been thinking of doing playing cards as
>my next crafting project, but seem to live in a land where libraries are
>devoid of good research books.
>[1] What a surprise, I'm in the SCA.  :)

What a surprise, I'm not...
Playing cards before 1700 are definitely rare, especially ordinary cards.
We have almost nothing from Italy, some uncoloured uncut sheets from
Germany, some loose cards from France, a little more from Spain. Nothing of
course from Britain where production started only around 1600 (and
17th-century cards are extremely rare).
These scarce items can be seen in 'paper books', not on the Net since they
belonged to museums and libraries which use to charge reproduction fees...

Kurt Klappenbach of Loud Creek Books & Bindery added:
>There are indeed a large number of images available in print. With a large
>number of German decks of the 15th and early 16 century widely available.

No: there ain't a "large number". There are a few pictures in some
specialised books. German cards of the 15th and early 16 century are not
"widely available". Unless you read German and have Wilhelm-Ludwig
Schreiber's book Die aeltesten Spielkarten (Strasbourg, 1937) -- a highly
recommendable book! -- or the recent catalogue of the Germanisches
Nationalmuseum Altdeutsche Spielkarten (Nuremberg and Leinfelden, 1993)
which does show many 16th and 17th-century playing cards.

> Suits such as hunting horns, nooses, dog collars etc not being uncommon.

These suits are exemplified in one pack only, a unique item with a hunting
theme, dated around 1470-80 and now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of
New York.
It is Franco-Flemish hand-painted pack of oval (!) playing cards, the only
15th-century complete pack!

Some good although not easily available books are:
Henri-René D'Allemagne, Les cartes à jouer du XIVe au XXe siècle, Paris,
1906 (2 vols.)
Catherine P. Hargrave, A history of playing cards, 1930 (and Dover reprint
Detlef Hoffmann, The Playing Card, Leipzig, 1972
Thierry Depaulis
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