Dondorf's varied range of playing cards and card games includes a Fortune-Telling set which is sometimes named after the French fortune teller Madame Lenormand. These iconic fortune-telling images were first devised for 19th century soothsayers, and are here re-drawn and printed in chromolithography by B. Dondorf. Two different versions exist. In one version (shown here) an explanatory verse is printed in German at the top of each card; the other version has a miniature playing card at the top.
The Lenormand cards in general have always been popular with card readers, especially in Europe, and lately in America the Tarot community has taken them up. They read in a very practical everyday way, gypsy-style. There's less room for interpretation, their reading style is very direct. There's no metaphysical or psychological layer, the way there is with Tarot. They are published today in a variety of languages and styles.
Above: cards from Dondorf's "Wahrsage-Karten" Madame Lenormand fortune-telling cards with an explanatory verse printed at the top of each card, first published in c.1878 with square corners, this set with rounded corners, c.1911-1933. The back design has the letters 'B.D.' 36 cards in box. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.
Note: Mary Greer has shown that the earliest forerunner of the Lenormand cards is a 1796 book in English. See her blog: Mary K. Greer's Tarot Blog→
Hoffmann, Detlef and Dietrich, Margot: "Die Dondorf'schen Luxus-Spielkarten", Harenberg, Dortmund 1983.