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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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engraved

20 Articles

Illustrated Playing Cards, c.1740

Illustrated playing cards featuring comical engravings and rhymes about saints, c.1740.

Illustrated Playing Cards, c.1740

Baraja “Neoclásica”, Madrid, 1810

Baraja “Neoclásica” engraved by José Martínez de Castro, first published by Clemente Roxas, Madrid, 1810.

Baraja “Neoclásica”, Madrid, 1810

Bubble Cards, 1720

Bubble Cards - known as “All the Bubbles”, c.1720.

Bubble Cards, 1720

Joseph Losch

French-suited pack with full-length courts by Joseph Losch, c.1800.

Joseph Losch

I.M.F. Engraved Cards

Playing cards had been made as precious objects for wealthy clients since the late 14th century. They were made to look at, admire and to keep in curiosity cabinets, or perhaps to entertain ladies or educate children rather than to play with.

I.M.F. Engraved Cards

Master PW Circular Cards

Master PW Circular Playing Cards: roses, columbines, carnations, parrots and hares... everyday objects evoking life and fertility.

Master PW Circular Cards

Forster

Deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century in the Paris pattern.

Forster

Backofen

Deck manufactured by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg c.1800.

Backofen

F. d’Alphonse Arnoult

Finely engraved deck by F. d’Alphonse Arnoult (Paris), c.1860. 52 cards.

F. d’Alphonse Arnoult

José Martínez de Castro, page 2

The most noteworthy feature of its history is that this design has since been adopted for use in Sardinia, where it is now regarded as the standard local pattern.b

José Martínez de Castro, page 2

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

During the second half of the fifteenth century, with printing technology commercially established and playing cards already a mass-produced commodity, a succession of masterly German engravers practised their art and decorative playing cards reached a zenith.

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

South German Engraver

Conforming to an archaic format of 52 cards with banner 10s, female 'Sotas', horsemen and kings, the pack is of interest on account of a number of other packs with similar characteristics surviving elsewhere, suggesting an archaic variant of the Spanish-suited pack.

South German Engraver