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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Icelandic Chess playing cards

Innovative "Icelandic Chess" pack, designed by Tryggvi Magnússon and manufactured by Alf Cooke Ltd (Universal Playing Card Co., Leeds) in 1942.

Icelandic Chess playing cards by Alf Cooke, 1942

Icelandic Chess playing cards by Alf Cooke

Above: Innovative "Icelandic Chess" pack, designed by Tryggvi Magnússon and manufactured by Alf Cooke Ltd (Universal Playing Card Co., Leeds) in 1942. There is a companion pack with the same back printed in blue, but with different courts having a sloping dividing bar. Standard A, K, Q and J indices…


Napoleonic Chess set
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Icelandic Chess playing cards

Innovative "Icelandic Chess" pack, designed by Tryggvi Magnússon and manufactured by Alf Cooke Ltd (Universal Playing Card Co., Leeds) in 1942.