Gnav cards were used in Denmark and Norway. It is not known exactly when the game first appeared. The earliest known Gnav-pack printed in Denmark is by Jacob Holmblad (1820-1837). Others are known by C. Steen and C. L. Keiblinger. Originally Gnav is believed to have been a gambling game but during the 19th century it changed into a children’s game played at Christmas. The game did not maintain popular appeal in Denmark after the 1920s.

Keiblinger Gnav

Gnav game made by C.L.Keiblinger, Copenhagen c.1860

Above: hand-coloured cards from an early 'Gnav' game with reversible figures, made by C.L.Keiblinger, Copenhagen c.1860. Image courtesy Hans J. Hinrup.

A Gnav deck consists of two of each of the following cards: the Cuckoo, the Horseman, the Cat, the Horse, the House, figure cards from 1-10 (or 1-12), the Garland (or zero), the Flowerpot, the Owl and the Fool. The Cuckoo is the highest card and the Owl the lowest.

Kort Gnavspil, C. Steen, c.1825-40

The box states "med nye figurer" (with new pictures/figures). Instead of the usual house card, where the manufacturer often shows their factory, Steen has used a well-known castle north of Copenhagen, the "Eremitage-slottet", a royal hunting castle. See the Box

Gnav game published by C. Steen c.1825-40

Above: very nice hand-coloured 'Gnav' game published by C. Steen, a prominent publisher and bookseller, whose address is given as 'on the corner of Pilestraede and Svaertegade', c.1825-40. Image courtesy Stephen Bohrer, extra research by Hans Jørgen Hinrup and Per Kristian Guntvedt.

Last Updated March 16, 2018 at 11:33am


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