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In Design
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By sue

antique tarot and playing cards

On 01, Jul 2011 | In Design, History, Selected Posts | By sue

I was searching for photos of a certain tarot card deck and I ended up on the World of Playing Cards site. It’s a treasure trove of images and information about playing cards through the ages (well, since they were invented in the 14th century).

From the site: “Playing cards give us understanding of characteristic features of periods, ideas, beliefs and experiences of people in the past, reflecting past eras and ways of life. They are a lesson in craftsmanship and the assembly and combination of components and materials. They have been a focus for design, advertising or invention… a little encyclopedia of social history!”

I definitely recommend checking out the site’s fascinating and well-researched articles on different types of playing cards and notable playing card creators. See below for some of the amazing decks I came across on the site.

15th-16th century Mamluk playing cards:

mamluk playing cards 15th-16th century

Flemish hunting deck, 1475-80:

flemish hunting deck 1475-80

Jaques’ Happy Families card game, with illustrations by John Tenniel (who later went on to do the famous illustrations for Alice in Wonderland), 1851:

jaques' happy families-john tenniel 1851

Chinese money cards, Zhejiang Wuyi United Printing Company:

chinese money cards-zhejiang wuyi united printing company

Deck from the liberation war against Napoleon, 1815. The different suits represent the different countries involved!

deck from the liberation war against napoleon.1815

Metastasis “transformation cards” by John Nixon, 1811. Transformation cards, where the symbols on a deck’s non-face cards were incorporated into an illustration or design, were popular in the 19th century. Nixon’s Metastasis was the first complete deck of transformed cards. I think this—the idea of transformation cards, not this specific deck—might be my favorite discovery on the site.

metastasis transformation cards-john nixon 1811 published by s&j fuller

Verkehrte Welt Tarock by Christian Theodor Sutor, 1850:

verkehrte welt tarock-christian theodor sutor, 1850

Mlle. Lenormand was a famous fortune teller, said to have once read for Napoleon. These beautiful cards, manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken in Straslund in the 1890s, are supposed to be a reproduction of the ones she used:

mlle lenormand fortune telling cards manufactured by vereinigte stralsunder- stralsund 1890s

Baraja Taurina deck for Chocolate Angelical, manufactured by Simeon Durá in Valencia, Spain in 1916. Promotional card decks used to be way cooler, apparently:

baraja taurina deck for chocolate angelical-manufactured by simeon durá-valencia, spain 1916

Victory deck by Friedrich Gotthelf Baumgärtner, 1815:

victory deck-friedrich gotthelf baumgärtner 1815

More transformation cards. These ones were manufactured by the United States Playing Card Company in 1895:

These ones were published by Ackermann in 1818-19:

the repository of arts, literature, fashion etc-published by ackermann 1818-19

{All photos via World of Playing Cards}

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  1. Are any of the tarot cards for sale? It is an impressive collection.