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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 Rois de France

This beautifully engraved and pleasing deck designed in 1856 has French Kings and consorts as the Kings and Queens, with noble attendants as the Jacks, all dressed in magnificent period costumes.

“Jeu des Rois de France”, Grimaud, Paris, c.1856

Costume playing cards became very fashionable in France during the 19th century. This beautifully engraved and pleasing historical deck designed in 1856 has French Kings and consorts as the Kings and Queens, with court attendants as the Jacks, all dressed in magnificent period costumes from their respective eras.

Other cards with courts showing contemporary costumes were made by O. Gibert, also of Paris, around the same time.

“Jeu des Rois de France”, B.P.Grimaud, Paris, c.1856

Above: “Jeu des Rois de France”, engraved, hand-coloured, gilded corners, manufactured by B.P.Grimaud, Paris, c.1856 and reprinted c.1891. The manufacturer's name can be read on the Jack of Clubs. Modern reprints are also available. 82x50 mms. Images courtesy Rod Starling.

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By Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

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Rod Starling is one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He has written many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection still encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod has also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.

Also by Rod Starling

Download as Adobe PDF files:

"Playing Card Art Collectors Extraordinaire"

"Some Facts About Facsimiles"

"Something New and Topical"

"Tales From the Stage"

"Shuffling Along With History"

"Steamboat Cards and the Mississippi Mystique"

"Piatnik: High Quality & Longevity"

"Three Rare Playing Card Back Designs"

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