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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.

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne playing cards with Celtic motifs and historic or legendary persons on the court cards. For example, Saint Tryphine appears on the Q♠ and Conomor (K♠) was a legendary villain in Breton culture. The K♣ features Erispoë, a historic king of Brittany, with Marmohec his wife who gave him two children: a son, Conan (J♣) and a daughter. The K♥ is Gradlon the Great, a semi-legendary 5th century “king” of Cornouaille who became the hero of many Breton folk stories. Each ace has of a "Celtic knot" design. See the Box

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne by 2 Hermines Production, c.1980s Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne by 2 Hermines Production, c.1980s

Above: Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne deck published by 2 Hermines Production, c.1980s (manufacturer unknown). 52 cards + 3 identical jokers 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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