The manufacture of playing cards provided jobs and livelihood for large numbers of people (as well as entertainment to even larger numbers). Often taxes were raised from the industry for the benefit of the poor, orphans or widows. Before industrialisation cards were hand-made by apprentices and workers with diverse skills. Gradually these skills were replaced by machinery which was intended to make business more competitive and profitable. Innovations in printing technologies - woodcuts, engraving, lithography, offset, digitisation - have impacted the appearance of playing cards.
Amos Whitney Factory Inventory. What it was like inside an 18th century playing card factory...
Colour lithography was invented in 1798 by a Bavarian actor and playwright named Alois Senefelder (1771-1834). It is based on the principle that oil and water do not mix.
The design of a pack of playing cards involves a balance between utilitarian constraints and artistic possibilities.
Some alternative approaches to producing small, hand-made editions of playing cards
Printing of Playing Cards :: Letterpress printing. Some notes on the manufacture of playing cards taken from Thomas De la Rue's patent, 1831.
The manufacture of the cardboard used for playing cards contains a number of interesting processes including mingling, pasting and drying.
Article about Manufacture of Playing Cards, 1825: paper, pasting, stencilling, polishing, cutting, etc.
Pneumatic Playing Cards. The surface of the cards was slightly grooved by being rolled on prepared plates, so that there were little pockets of air between each card, which prevented them sticking together.
Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1800
Printing of Playing Cards :: Stencilling can usually be detected by observing the outlines of the coloured areas which are often irregular with brush strokes discernible in the coloured areas.
Around 1987 I decided to make a pack of playing cards from woodblocks and coloured with stencils. I imagined I was carrying out my 'apprenticeship'.