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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 c.1830

An amazing difference can be seen between the early and the later Jacob Holmblad packs, covering a time span of only 17 years.

An amazing difference can be seen between the early and the later Jacob Holmblad packs, covering a time span of only 17 years. The earlier production was by stencil-coloured woodcut prints, but in around 1830 he adopted the newer techniques of lithography. Over the years Jacob Holmblad developed considerable workmanship and his playing cards became a success: already in 1823 he was advertising playing cards in ‘extra fine’ and ‘fine’ qualities. His advertisements also included Animal Tarots →

Fine quality cards by Jacob Holmblad, grand-father of Danish playing cards, Copenhagen, c.1830

Above: double-ended playing cards by Jacob Holmblad, later period, c.1830. The red over-stamp on the A♥ refers to Jacob Holmblad's royal licence to print playing-cards which had been granted in 1820. The Danish playing-card tax stamp has three lions and a crown. The J♣ has the manufacturer's name.

After Jacob Holmblad's death in 1837, playing-card production was continued by his son Lauritz Peter Holmblad (1815-1890)   see more →


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.

See earlier Jacob Holmblad decks →

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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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