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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.

Georg Kapfler

Antique deck of old Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611.

Archaic German-suited playing cards manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611. The kings are seated on thrones while the upper and lower valets are standing. The designs are related to the so-called ‘Stukeley’ type cards from Nuremberg which were widely copied since the mid-15th century and are ancestors of several later patterns. Aces have been dropped and the two, or deuce, is the highest card, decorated with a shield or other device.

The two of acorns has a small shield or escutcheon (beneath the unicorn) bearing crossed hammers, suggesting mining or a miners’ guild (possibly the two of hearts had the same motif, now missing). The eight of hearts also has an impaled shield (divided into two equal parts by a straight line from the top to bottom) with crossed swords on the right-hand side and what look like Hungarian Árpád stripes on the left. Playing cards like these were being used during the 16th century silver rush by mine workers gambling during their spare time, on both sides of the Czech / German border.

From the collection of Pavel Langer.

Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611 Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611 Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611 Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611

Above: antique deck of primitive Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and dated 1611. Red and green hand colouring on woodcut outlines printed onto pasteboard. Total 48 cards (8 cards missing). Images courtesy Pavel Langer.

Details of restoration

Use Google Translation

Hrací karty, celkový počet 40 listů (8 listů chybí), jsou ve velmi dobrém stavu. Bylo na nich měřeno pH papírové podložky a odebrán vzorek papíru na zkoumání vlákninového složení. Nebylo nutné přistupovat k žádnému restaurátorskému zásahu. Karty byly pouze mechanicky očištěny pomocí jemného štětce a gumy. Vzhledem k nízkým hodnotám pH papírové podložky, 5,2, jsem přistoupila k odkyselení formou sendviče. (Mezi filtrační papíry, které byly předtím odkyseleny postřikem MMMK – Methoximagneziummethylkarbonát, jsem vložila jednotlivé listy karet a nechala takto proložené po dobu 2 týdnů). pH se tímto způsobem zvedlo na hodnoty 5,9.

Hrací karty byly uloženy a zároveň adjustovány pomocí tvrdých podložek – lepenek s neutrálním pH. Samotné hrací karty byly z estetických důvodů adjustovány pomocí restaurátorské papírové lepicí pásky, kterou je možné snadno odstranit bez poškození originálu. Do lepenky jsem vyřezala okýnka pro jednotlivé listy hracích karet a adjustovala hrací karty. Po celé adjustaci jsem hrací karty ještě překryla folií s UV ochranou. Vzhledem k požadavku na vystavení a charakteru materiálu. Celá pasparta se tedy skládala celkem ze čtyř částí. Zadní část pasparty, samotné hrací karty, folie s UV ochranou a lepenka s vyřezanými okny. Zadní a přední část pasparty je spojena samolepícím plátnem.

Restaurátorské a adjustační práce: BcA. Michaela Caranová (Středočeské muzeum v Roztokách u Prahy)

REFERENCES

Hoffmann, Detlef: The Playing Card, an illustrated history, Edition Leipzig, 1973

Sobota, Jan: The background and history of a deck of late Gothic playing cards, The Yale University Library Gazette, vol. 67, no. 1/2, 1992, pp. 27–31., www.jstor.org/stable/40859636

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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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