The World of Playing Cards Logo

Early Anglo-French Cards

Cards produced in Rouen during the sixteenth century. It was cards like these which were imported to England and are the ancestors of the modern 'Anglo-American' pattern.

What we now know as ‘French’ suit signs - spades, diamonds, clubs and hearts - is the result of rationalisation of the manufacturing technique during the fifteenth century. Many early or archaic suit systems involved intricate motifs which were more time-consuming to reproduce in woodcuts, hence the French producers invented new ones which could be reproduced with the stroke of a brush over a stencil. The four shapes are easy to recognise - 2 red and 2 black. Some card makers were experimenting with a crescent moon as an alternative symbol, but this didn't catch on. This ‘French’ suit system is now found throughout the world.

Cards shown below were produced in Rouen during the sixteenth century. The cards made in Rouen at that time were an eclectic mixture of features from cards made for various foreign markets, hence the origins of what became the "English" pattern are not one precise source, but a mixture of several earlier regional patterns. It was cards like these which were imported to England and are the ancestors of the modern ‘Anglo-American’ pattern   learn more →

In the hands of English manufacturers the cards gradually became wider, losing their original slimness and liveliness, and the figures became chunky and geometrical. They remained full-length until the nineteenth century when double-ended courts were introduced as another innovation by Victorian manufacturers.

See also: BlanchardHuntEarly English CardsRick Davidson's Origins Playing Cards.

avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


Leave a Reply

Recommended

1930 Waddington’s “Silkette” Playing Cards

Waddington’s “Silkette” Playing Cards

Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.

2002 Highland Hospice

Highland Hospice

54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.

2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.

2010 Cape Wrath

Cape Wrath

Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.

Jeu de Tarot Pocket Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Jeu de Tarot Pocket Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Tarot game pack with fantasy sci-fi artwork on the trumps published by Pocket SF, France.

2014 Vesalius Anatomy Card Game

Vesalius Anatomy Card Game

Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.

Jeu de 54 cartes

Jeu de 54 cartes

Jeu de 54 cartes, completely anonymous, designed to resemble locally produced French packs.

2005 Team GB

Team GB

Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.

2015 David Kindersley Centenary

David Kindersley Centenary

Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.

1880 Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker

Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker

Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.

1850 Alphonse Arnoult Spanish-suited pack

Alphonse Arnoult Spanish-suited pack

Luxurious Spanish-suited pack made by Alphonse Arnoult, Paris, France, c.1850.

2003 Official England Rugby Playing Cards

Official England Rugby Playing Cards

Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.

2000 Martinique

Martinique

Original designs from the French overseas department of Martinique by local artist Martine Porry.

2016 Cartes Illustrées

Cartes Illustrées

Standard French designs adapted for children. Made by France Cartes for La Grande Récré, c.2016.

Beaujolais je t’aime …

Beaujolais je t’aime …

Pack promoting Beaujolais wine published by Editions du Nuton, France.

2000 Ergomia

Ergomia

Complete re-design of traditional pack into what the publishers considered to be ergonomically efficient.

1860 Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.

1705 Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.

Hall & Son

Hall & Son

Hall & Son

1850 Fortune-Telling Cards

Fortune-Telling Cards

Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.

1850 Comic Question & Answer cards

Comic Question & Answer cards

Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.

72: The Ace of Spades

72: The Ace of Spades

In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.

1824 Myriorama

Myriorama

Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.

Dubois

Dubois

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

1870 Transformation Cards for Christmas

Transformation Cards for Christmas

Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

A. Camoin & Cie

A. Camoin & Cie

This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.

Bone Playing Cards

Bone Playing Cards

My late mother found these miniature cards in a skip around 50 years ago.

Sergeant-Major

Sergeant-Major

Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith

Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.

Pepys Games

Pepys Games

The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts

J. W. Spear and Sons

J. W. Spear and Sons

Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.

1954 Ariel Productions Ltd

Ariel Productions Ltd

The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games MFG Co., Ltd, London S.E.11

Crazy People

Crazy People

Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.

1912 Panko

Panko

Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.

Snap

Snap

Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.