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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.

Jacob Holmblad, 1820s

The Q♥ has a butterfly net in which she has caught four hearts. Many of Holmblad's designs were replaced or changed in different editions, but this design was not used again.

Jacob Holmblad produced various grades of fine and extra fine playing cards and tarots in his factory in Copenhagen, for sale at various prices. In this edition the designs are moving away from the traditional French style towards a Danish pattern. The Q♥ has a butterfly net in her hand in which she has caught four hearts. Many of Holmblad's designs were re-drawn, replaced or changed in different editions, but this particular card was not used again by Jacob Holmblad or his son. Similarly the Q♦, dressed for winter, was discarded. However, other figures (Q♣, J♠) re-appear in later, more refined versions by Lauritz P. Holmblad. The cards shown here appear to be produced in a lower grade of printing and quality which would have been sold at a lower price.

playing cards made by Jacob Holmblad, Copenhagen, 1820s

Above: playing cards made by Jacob Holmblad, Copenhagen, 1820s.


REFERENCES

Hinrup, Hans J.: The Holmblad Playing Card Patterns, in "The Playing-Card" vol.33 no.4, IPCS London, Apr-June 2005.

Jensen, K. Frank: French suited tarot packs in Denmark and the Jacob Holmblad Animal tarot, in "The Playing-Card" vol.36 no.3, IPCS London, Apr-June 2008.   [download here].

All images courtesy K. Frank Jensen.

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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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