Cards from a pack of an early form of north Italian playing cards, with the swords back-to-back and curved outwards. Believed to be Venetian, dated 1462.
Uncoloured and uncut sheet of XV Century Catalan Playing Cards, featuring four female Sotas, four Aces and four cards from the suit of batons.
Spanish National pattern re-printed from original woodblocks which are preserved in the monastery at Valdemosa, Mallorca, c.1960
This pack of tarot cards appears to have have been made for Francesco Sforza about the time that he became Duke of Milan (1450). The pack comprises an ordinary pack of playing cards augmented by a Fool (Matto) and twenty-one unsuited trump cards (trionfi).
Belgian Tarot published by François-Jean Vandenborre, Brussels (1762-1803)
The double-ended version of the ‘Trevisane’ pattern originated in the early 19th century.
Torras y Sanmartí y Cía, Barcelona, 1830
Logica Memorativa Playing Cards by Thomas Murner, 1507
The 'Joker' is believed to have been invented by American Euchre players who, when modifying the rules sometime during the 1860s, decided that an extra trump card was required.
When playing cards have titles or legends these reference a written/literary tradition of some form. It connects the image to a wider cultural sphere, extending the visual impact.
The Beggars’ Opera Playing Cards were first published in 1728. The cards carry the words and music of the songs from Gay’s opera, which was intended as a parody of current Italian works. The music was taken from many popular tunes of the day.
The so-called Tarocchi di Mantegna is a set of 50 copper-engraved images (c.1465) which were probably a social pastime or instructional series for educated people. The cards are numbered consecutively from 1 to 50, divided into groups.
The King of Hearts, holding a sword behind his head, is sometimes nicknamed the “Suicide King”. He can be seen to derive from a late medieval design showing a King wielding a battle axe.
The luxury, hand-painted Stuttgart Cards (Stuttgarter Kartenspiel) dated c.1430, with suits of ducks, falcons, stags and hounds suggestive of the chase.
Probably originating in Spain in the seventeenth century or even earlier, this pattern became strongly established by the Catalan cardmakers Rotxotxo of Barcelona. It was also manufactured in France.
The South Sea Bubble Playing Cards were first published in London by Thomas Bowles in 1720. The cards bear satirical portrayals of the speculators involved in the South Sea Bubble of 1720, providing a unique contemporary record of the feverish atmosphere of the time, as well as the fashions of dress.
Conforming to an archaic format of 52 cards with banner 10s, female 'Sotas', horsemen and kings, the pack is of interest on account of a number of other packs with similar characteristics surviving elsewhere, suggesting an archaic 'prototype' for the Spanish-suited genre.
The example of Spanish-suited silver cards shown here is grotesquely embellished and enamelled. It came from a former Spanish Viceroy in Peru and is dated 1745.
In around 1775 Rowley & Co attempted to reform the traditional court cards to portraits of the kings and queens of England, France, Spain and Russia.
Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1800
The 52 Counties of England and Wales described as a pack of cards, containing a wealth of information about principal towns, roads, distances from London, hills and rivers, first published in London in 1676, might be regarded as the first pocket atlas.
William Warter's Proverbial Cards, which carry illustrations of old English proverbs, were first published in 1698
The 'Provence' pattern contains figures which go back to the fifteenth century.
The Princely Hunting Pack, c.1440/45, is attributed to Konrad Witz and his workshop in Basle.
19th century Portuguese pattern, re-printed from original woodblocks
After the development of printing at the end of the 15th century, Rouen became an important centre for card-making whose influence extended far afield. Cards from Rouen are significant because they became the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved.
Archaic, late medieval Spanish-suited playing cards printed by Phelippe Ayet, c.1574
49 assorted cards were found hidden in the lintel of a doorway, in an old building in Toledo, during demolition, and are now preserved in the the Museo de Santa Cruz de Toledo.
Seven cards from a satirical pack produced by Peter Flötner of Nuremberg, c.1545. The suit symbols are acorns, leaves, bells and hearts. The block-cutter and publisher was Franz Christoph Zell.
Standard Spanish National pattern by Pedro Rotxotxo, Barcelona, late 18th century
Cards of the Spanish National Pattern 'Money Bag' type manufactured by Pedro Bosio, Genova (Italy) probably during the 18th century and for export to Spain or South America.
Facsimile of 17th century Spanish-suited playing cards produced by Erregeak, Sormen S.A., Vitoria-Gasteiz (Alava), Spain, 1988.
Naipes Artiguistas were published in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Rios province (Argentina) in 1816, by Fray Solano García (1784-1845) at a special moment in Uruguayan history.
These two uncoloured, uncut sheets of early Moorish playing cards were formerly preserved in the Instituto Municipal de Historia in Barcelona. They were first brought to light by Simon Wintle in 1987.
Il Gioco di Passatempo contains 40 figurative playing cards depicting moral virtues and vices, dated 1690
17th century Minchiate cards reprinted from the original woodblocks
Mathematical Instruments playing cards forming an instrument maker's trade catalogue, Thomas Tuttell, c.1700
Master PW Circular Playing Cards: roses, columbines, carnations, parrots and hares... everyday objects evoking life and fertility.
Animal suited playing cards engraved by the Master of the Playing Cards, Germany, c.1455-60, probably intended as models for use in workshops.