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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.

Löschenkohl’s Musical Playing Cards

Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807) produced a copper engraved deck of playing cards titled “Das Musikalische Kartenspiel” in 1806.

Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807) was a goldsmith and a popular Viennese engraver who had already been granted a royal privilege as a fan printer. In 1806 he produced a copper engraved and daintily hand coloured deck of playing cards titled “Das Musikalische Kartenspiel”. The cards were aimed at a bourgeois public who enjoyed graphic arts which were didactic in character. The pip cards are overlaid on sheets of music, some of which are songs and some, when properly laid out, are actual pieces by Mozart. It is quite a delightful deck with court cards rendered in colouring that is close to pastel. See the Box

Johann H. Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards, originally published in Vienna in 1806

Above: facsimile of Johann H. Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards, originally published in Vienna in 1806. Only one set is known to exist and it is housed in the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna. In 1981 Piatnik issued a numbered facsimile edition of the deck, Piatnik Edition no.2897. Images from that facsimile edition courtesy Rod Starling.

Johann H. Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards, originally published in Vienna in 1806

Above: numeral cards from facsimile of Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards, Piatnik Edition no.2897. The boxed set also contains a booklet: the cards are placed in 2 stacks side by side and the booklet on its own shelf beneath. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Johann H. Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards
Piatnik Edition no.2897

Above: back from facsimile edition.

Löschenkohl also produced a second copper engraved deck of Botanical Playing Cards