Livre du Destin

detail from Livre du Destin or Book of Fate, printed by B.P.Grimaud, c.1900

France has issued a great number of fortune-telling packs, and these are usually identifiable by the language of the inscriptions and the presence of a miniature standard card in the corner of the design. The beginning of the fashion lay in the second half of the eighteenth century and during the the nineteenth century various types of fortune-telling, oracle, Lenormand, sybil and destiny cards became popular. Many decks such as the ones shown here were published in Paris.

The pictures on the cards readily suggest the influences of different types of people, such as young men, fair ladies, widows, soldiers, lawyers, as well as virtues such as hope, charity and so on so that the perplexed may hopefully find some consolation.

Livre du Destin

Livre du Destin or Book of Fate, printed by B.P.Grimaud, c.1900

Above: “Livre du Destin” or “Book of Fate” with titles in French and English, published by Chartier-Marteau & Boudin and printed by B.P.Grimaud, Paris, c.1900. 32 cards. The tax stamp is dated Apr 12, 1890. Images courtesy Gilles Daigle.   Download entire deck as large size images here  →.

Le Petit Cartomancien

Le Petit Cartomancien

Above: three cards and wrapper from "Le Petit Cartomancien" manufactured by B.P. Grimaud, Paris. The miniature playing cards in the top corners depict full-length 'Paris' type courts, whilst the rest of the cards contain divinatory interpretations and images of different personalities. The personalities depicted do not correspond in sequence to those in the top set.

Some early evidence of the use of playing cards for predicting the future dates from the 1480s in Ein Loszbuch ausz der Karten - a book of fate from the cards. The cards were shuffled, one was withdrawn from the deck and then the Book of Fate was consulted to shed light on the matter in question.


The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller, August Allebé, 1859

Above: The Fortune Teller by August Allebé, 1859. The traditional practice of card-reading involved using a so-called book of fate. Cards are drawn at random and their meaning is looked up in the book so that predictions are given using the text. Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart, Turnhout.

Last Updated December 15, 2021 at 07:00pm

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