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Pierre Marechal

Pierre Marechal, Rouen, c.1567

After the development of the printing industry at the end of the 15th century, Rouen became an important centre for card-making whose influence extended far afield. The cards of Rouen are significant because many were produced for export to Britain and they became the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved.

An archaic pack of cards made by Pierre Marechal c.1567 preserved in the museum at Rouen represents the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved. When England banned the importation of cards in 1628, English printers used Rouen court cards as inspiration for their own packs. The style of the costumes on English playing cards is late medieval, being descended from the Rouen models.

Above: four cards showing how modern anglo-american playing cards evolved from late fifteenth century French cards. The so-called 'Suicide King' originally held an axe.

The cards made in Rouen at that time were an eclectic mixture of features from cards made for various foreign markets, hence the origins of what became the "English" pattern are not one precise source, but a mixture of several earlier regional patterns.

Other examples of early Anglo-French cards also show details which appear in English cards. See also: cards discovered inside the covers of a book, from around 1450-75.

facsimile of playing cards by Pierre Marechal, Rouen c.1567, published by Rose & Pentagram Design, 2006

Above: facsimile based on playing cards by Pierre Marechal of Rouen, c.1567 which are the ancestors of the English pattern. The original Jacks of Hearts and Diamonds were missing but have been replaced with two similar cards also from Rouen. Published by Rose & Pentagram Design, 2006. Images courtesy Rod Starling.

Packs of playing cards reached England from Rouen.

Some early English playing cards can be seen at:

Above: a different facsimile with the Jacks of Hearts and Diamonds taken from different sources.

Last Updated September 02, 2016 at 03:17pm


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