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21: Belgian Makers: Brepols and Biermans

Brepols started making playing cards in 1826, although he had been in the printing trade since 1800. In 1833 the firm was called Brepols & Dierckx (the former's son-in-law). By 1858 it was called Brepols & Dierckx Zoon (BDZ), which lasted until 1911, when the simple designation became Brepols. The playing card division of the firm was sold to Carta Mundi in 1970, but it still survives today as a publishing house. Brepols is thus the only Turnhout maker to straddle the foundation of Belgium as a separate state in 1830. The firm produced a wide range of cards, but I don't know what the earliest cards were like. A version of the single-figure courts they produced, with purple added to the usual colours, is illustrated on page 18 of this blog.

They (along with Van Genechten) produced a set of double-ended courts which were designed to look like the contemporary continental court types of the period. Below are a few more courts of the kind illustrated on page 18.


These seem to have disappeared fairly soon (perhaps they were not popular with card-players), but they were replaced by more conventional-looking courts, sometimes of their own design but often copies of others'. The design below was used by all the Turnhout makers except Biermans, with different plates in each case.


Other designs that were copied were those of De La Rue (D4) and Reynolds (R1), of which they also did a double-ended version. The execution is much cruder than the originals.

TD4, copy of De La Rue's D4 design, c.1875

TR1, copy of Reynolds' R1 design, c.1875

It's possible that such copies, along with similar ones by Van Genechten, which I shall illustrate on a later page, have given rise to the suggestion that a Turnhout maker produced the later Reynolds cards for the English firm. This seems highly unlikely. Reynolds' cards are very consistent and are produced from the same plates; the Turnhout ones are clearly copies using different plates. The double-ended version from Van Genechten is made from two single-ended heads and quite different from Reynolds' own redrawing (R2). I haven't seen a double-ended version by Brepols.

Yet another copied design is of the Lawrence & Cohen US8, which is very like the courts of Whitaker (which were possibly made in Belgium, anyway). In this case the JS has been turned and redrawn.

Copy of Lawrence & Cohen courts, c.1875

From around the same time there is also a copy of Dougherty's Triplicates with both square and round corners.

Triplicates, c.1878

It's difficult to know why so many versions of one pattern were used concurrently; all the above courts are to be found in the same sample book from the 1870s.

Later, in the early 20th century, American designs were popular as models, as with the copy of New York Consolidated Card Co courts from c.1910.

Brepols used De La Rue's D9 design in the 1960s, long after it had ceased to be used in England (c.1927-30).

Biermans (1875-1970) was a relatively late arrival on the Turnhout playing card scene. For that reason he may not have produced any single-ended court cards; certainly I have never seen any examples that could be identified as his. But he did produce quite fancy designs for his courts. I give a selection below.

Great Moguls, c.1890

This design was copied in a very crudely made pack; whether by Biermans or another maker is difficult to determine, as the AS is anonymous.

He produced another fancy design with indices, c.1900 or a bit earlier.


In the 1930s the firm produced cards for Venezuela with Belgo-Venezolane on the AS, which was based on one of their standard designs of Punch balancing the globe on his foot. Note that the KH is actually the figure of the KD with altered clothing.

Belgo-Venezolane, c.1935

Later packs by Biermans had copies of USPCC designs. The firm became part of Carta Mundi in 1970.

For examples of the non-standard cards made by Biermans, see elsewhere on the wopc site.

See also pages 18, 22 & 23.

Last Updated February 12, 2016 at 03:39pm


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