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The History of Playing Cards

The History of Playing Cards

Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works of art which were expensive and affordable only by the wealthy. But as demand increased cheaper methods of production were discovered so that playing cards became available for everyone...

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Jeu de la Géographie 1644

Jeu de la Géographie

“Jeu de Géographie” educational playing cards etched by Stefano Della Bella and published in c.1644.

Jeu Mythologique

Jeu Mythologique

“Jeu Mythologique” facsimile 18th century pack by J M Simon, 1983.

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot, San Sebastian c.1765-1810.

Johannes Müller c.1840 1840

Johannes Müller c.1840

Facsimile edition of Swiss suited deck first published by Johannes Müller in c.1840.

John Llewellyn, playing card manufacturer, London, 1778-1785 1780

John Llewellyn, playing card manufacturer, London, 1778-1785

John Llewellyn, playing card manufacturer, London, 1778-1785

Joseph Losch 1800

Joseph Losch

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

Kriegs-Spiel by Peter Schencken, Amsterdam 1679

Kriegs-Spiel by Peter Schencken, Amsterdam

Peter Schencken of Amsterdam copied the "Jeu de la Guerre" or "Das Kriegs-Spiel" (with German captions) originated by Gilles de La Boissière and published by Mariette in 1668 in Paris.

Languedoc pattern

Languedoc pattern

The old Languedoc pattern was known at the beginning of the seventeenth century, if not before.

Le Jeu de la Guerre 1698

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

Le Monde Primitif Tarot 2021

Le Monde Primitif Tarot

Facsimile edition produced by Morena Poltronieri & Ernesto Fazioli of Museo Internazionale dei Tarocchi, 2021.

Logica Memorativa 1507

Logica Memorativa

Logica Memorativa playing cards by Thomas Murner, Brussels, 1507.

Lombardy (or Milanesi) pattern

Lombardy (or Milanesi) pattern

The origins of the Lombardy pattern probably lie in the early 19th century when it was a full-length design. It has some affinities with the French Provence and Lyons patterns which are now obsolete.

Lyon Pattern type iii

Lyon Pattern type iii

This pattern was used in various parts of eastern France but was ultimately replaced by the official ‘Paris’ pattern in c.1780.



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

Mamluk Playing Cards 1495

Mamluk Playing Cards

Nã'ib, the game of lieutenants... these cards are amongst the earliest Arabic playing cards extant.

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Spanish-suited playing cards made on rawhide and said to have been used by Chilean Mapuche Indians, XVI-XVII century

Master of the Banderoles 1470

Master of the Banderoles

Playing Cards by the Master of the Banderoles, one of the earliest professional printmakers, c.1470.

Master of the Playing Cards 1455

Master of the Playing Cards

Animal suited playing cards engraved by the Master of the Playing Cards, Germany, c.1455

Mathematical Instruments 1700

Mathematical Instruments

Mathematical Instruments playing cards forming an instrument maker's trade catalogue, Thomas Tuttell, c.1700.

Minchiate Fiorentine, 17th C.

Minchiate Fiorentine, 17th C.

17th century Minchiate cards reprinted from the original woodblocks.