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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.

Dubois

Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.

Playing card wrapper, Fabrique de J T Dubois, c.1800-1825 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: J T Dubois operated at Rue Souverain-Pont No. 314, Liege. Detail from a wrapper, c.1800-1825. © The Trustees of the British Museum online here

Cardmakers by the name of J.B, J.T and J.J Dubois of Liège are known from the late-18th til mid-19th centuries.

J B Dubois had a workshop behind the Maison de Ville
J J Dubois was established at Haute-Sauvernière 352, or Rue de Stokis 188
J T Dubois operated at Rue Souverain-Pont No. 314.

They produced standard Belgian, Liège and Paris patterns, also Animal Tarots, children’s cards, a fantasy design with decorative aces and Gatteaux's Empire cards, in several qualities and sizes. Their businesses were eventually taken over by G. Gluck, also of Liège.

Paris pattern - J.T Dubois

Paris pattern manufactured by J.T Dubois, Liège, c.1810-1820

Above: double-ended Paris pattern piquet deck manufactured by J.T Dubois, Liège, c.1810-1820. Named courts. Stencil-coloured woodcut prints. The king of spades has the legend "J T DUBOIS" in the middle and the jack of clubs "A LIEGE". From the National Museum of the Playing Card collection, online here

Gatteaux's Empire cards published by J T Dubois, British Museum online collection

18th Century Animal Tarot published by J B Dubois, British Museum online collection

19th Century Animal Tarok published by J J Dubois, National Museum of the Playing Card online collection


Belgian pattern

Belgian pattern manufactured by Dubois, Liège, mid-19th century

Above: Belgian pattern manufactured by Dubois, Liège, mid-19th century. Based on the French Paris pattern, but unnamed courts and unconventional colour scheme. Stencil-coloured woodcut prints. The king of spades has the letters "DUB" in the middle and the jack of clubs "LIEGE".


Liège pattern - J.J Dubois

Liège pattern manufactured by J.J Dubois, Liège, 19th century © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: Liège pattern manufactured by J.J Dubois. Complete piquet pack of 32 playing-cards, hand-coloured woodcut, backs printed with a small black pattern, 19th century. The king of hearts holds a shield charged with an eagle, and that held by the king of clubs is charged with the fleur-de-lis of France. The king of spades holds a harp. The inscription on the knave of spades is "J. J. Dubois". © The Trustees of the British Museum online here

part of wrapper by J.J Dubois showing address at Rue de Stokis 188

Above: part of wrapper by J.J Dubois bearing the device "Aux trois Pigeons" and showing address at Rue de Stokis 188. © The Trustees of the British Museum online here


REFERENCES

Cremers, Filip: Kaartenmakers in Wallonië - Cartiers en Wallonie, Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart, Turnhout, 1994

Gatteaux's Empire cards published by J T Dubois, British Museum online collection

18th Century Animal Tarot published by J B Dubois, British Museum online collection

19th Century Animal Tarok published by J J Dubois, National Museum of the Playing Card online collection