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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.

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Archaic and Obsolete Patterns

23 Articles

Toledo, 1584

Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.

Toledo, 1584

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Naipes ‘La Criolla’ by Anabella Corsi

Inspired by an archaic Spanish pattern formerly used in Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Naipes ‘La Criolla’ by Anabella Corsi

Portuguese pattern

19th century Portuguese pattern, re-printed from original woodblocks.

Portuguese pattern

XV Century Catalan Playing Cards

Uncoloured and uncut sheet of XV Century Catalan Playing Cards, featuring four female Sotas, four Aces and four cards from the suit of batons.

XV Century Catalan Playing Cards

Malta

The so-called ‘Dragon Cards’, with winged monsters on the four Aces, are an enigmatic aspect of early playing card history.

Malta

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot, San Sebastian c.1765-1810.

Joan Barbot

Moorish playing cards

These two uncoloured, uncut sheets of early Moorish playing cards were formerly preserved in the Instituto Municipal de Historia in Barcelona.

Moorish playing cards

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.

Early Anglo-French Cards

Francisco Flores

Playing cards in this style have been discovered in various parts of the world, suggesting that they were exported or carried there by early explorers or merchants.

Francisco Flores

Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Archaic, late medieval Spanish-suited playing cards printed by Phelippe Ayet, c.1574.

Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Phelippe Ayet, 1574

49 assorted cards were found hidden in the lintel of a doorway, in an old building in Toledo, during demolition, and are now preserved in the the Museo de Santa Cruz de Toledo.

Phelippe Ayet, 1574

Baraja Morisca

Primitive Latin suited pack, possibly of Swiss or German origin for export to Spain, dated by paper analysis as early XV century, which makes this one of the earliest known surviving packs of playing cards.

Baraja Morisca

Spanish National Pattern

Probably originating in Spain in the seventeenth century or even earlier, this pattern became strongly established by the Catalan cardmakers Rotxotxo of Barcelona.

Spanish National Pattern

Antique Swiss Playing Cards, c.1530

The Swiss national suit system of shields, acorns, hawkbells and flowers originated sometime during the fifteenth century.

Antique Swiss Playing Cards, c.1530

Re-creation of Pierre Marechal playing-cards

English printers used Rouen court cards as inspiration for their own cruder, more stylized decks. The style of the costumes on English playing cards is late medieval, being descended from the Rouen models.

Re-creation of Pierre Marechal playing-cards