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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.

Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

“Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of French Revolution deck originally published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793.

One achievement of the Revolution was the liberation of card makers from reproducing the official standard pattern. “Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” is a French Revolution pack originally printed from woodblocks and coloured with stencils and published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793. The traditional hierarchical royalty have been replaced with new humanist figures including rural activities and philosophers.

Five original cards can be viewed on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France website

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, PET FOL-KH-34 (A, 26).

A facsimile edition titled “Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” was published by Éditions Dusserre in 1988 (see below).

“Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of original deck published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1789-1799

Facsimile Edition

“Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of original deck published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793 “Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of original deck published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793

Above: “Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II”, facsimile published by Éditions Dusserre in 1988 of original deck published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793. 52 cards + 3 jokers + extra card in box. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

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By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

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I have adored playing cards since before I was seven years old, and was brought up on packs of Waddington's No 1. As a child I was fascinated by the pictures of the court cards.

Over the next fifty years I was seduced by the artwork in Piatnik's packs and became a collector of playing cards.

Seeking more information about various unidentified packs I discovered the World of Playing Cards website and became an enthusiastic contributor researching and documenting different packs of cards.

I describe my self as a playing card archaeologist, using detective work to identify and date obscure packs of cards discovered in old houses, flea markets and car boot sales.

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