hist-games: Playing Cards

Loud Creek Books & Bindery loudcreek at worldnet.att.net
Wed Dec 20 05:33:43 PST 2000

While I truly dislike getting into over the internet "discussions" about the
accuracy of information I feel I need to respond to the following:

In response to T. Depaulis,

>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.
Incorrect. Examining half a dozen texts form Denning, Hoffmann, Fournier and
Rosenfeld. Complete and partial decks prior to 1500 number over thirty,
decks from 1500 to 1700 I quit counting when I reached 100. Admittedly over
half the decks in the period covered were incomplete but to indicate "almost
nothing form Italy, some uncolored sheets from Germany" is simply not
correct. And this count in hardly complete as it covers only 6 or 7 of the
100+ books available on the subject (early playing cards).
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.

Also incorrect. While you have to expand beyond the very short list of
titles indicated and yes you need to expand beyond English there are many
hundreds of images available in German, French, Swiss, Italian, Spanish and
a variety of other sources. If you include the large number of museum
catalogs printed since 1950 the number of images is very large. Their
availability is indicated by the fact that in the last year alone I have
sold over 1000+ volumes of 300+ titles in this area. If you expand to
journal articles and texts on printing history (often a very valuable
resource in this area most including some type of illustration) the
available numbers go into the 1000's. Good University libraries make the
availability of these titles even larger.

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
It is Franco-Flemish hand-painted pack of oval (!) playing cards, the only
15th-century complete pack!

This pack is indeed is most likely Flemish. But hunting packs were a common
theme of the period especially in Germany. Other suit signs in Germany also
included herons, geese, pomegranates, frogs, dogs, rabbits, etc. etc.  I
will apologize for seeming to indicate the pack was German. I selected it
because I find the example charming and images of this deck are available in
several printed sources (Hoffmann: Gemalte Spielkarten & and the Sotheby
catalog of their sale in 1983) and on the web.

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

While the original D'Allegmagne is indeed hard to find there are several
nice reprints available (we have one of the original and three or four of
the later)
The Hargrave and Hoffmann are readily available. We have 2 of the 1930
Hargrave's and 24 or so of the reprint. Hoffman we have 8 of them. A quick
scan of other web sources indicated at least 14 Hoffmann's' in English and
well over 50 copies of the Hargrave in both the Dover edition (reasonably
priced) and the original and much superior hardback (can be very pricey).
There was also an indication that the Dover reprint MAY be available from
the publisher still though I can not confirm that.

Kurt Klappenbach
Loud Creek Books & Bindery
<<<Specializing in Books on>>>
<<<Playing Cards>>>
 <<<Card Games>>>
P.O. Box 8120
Bangor, ME   04402-8120
loudcreek at att.net

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