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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.

Art in Playing Cards, page 4



Playing Cards by the South German Engraver

The earliest known engraved pictures all came from German-speaking regions, north of the Alps, starting around c.1400. Copper-engraved playing cards were also produced, employing the skills of the engraver and goldsmith, with great detail in the designs. At this time the German card makers were also indulging in a lot of experimentation with different suit systems.

See also: Tarocchi di Mantegna
The Book of Trades


By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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