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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.

French Costumes

The French taste for elegant, well engraved costume playing cards started during the early 19th century. O. Gibert of Paris produced a series of such fashion packs, or packs depicting historical characters.

O. Gibert, Paris: French Costumes, c.1848

Elegant, romantic and sophisticated!

The French taste for elegant, well engraved costume playing cards started during the early 19th century. O. Gibert of Paris produced a series of such fashion packs, or packs depicting historical characters. Being hand coloured, there was no consistency from deck to deck. Each version surpasses the last one in exquisiteness, delicacy and charm.

French Costume playing cards published by O. Gibert, Paris, c.1848

Above: French Costume playing cards published by O. Gibert, Paris, c.1848. The cards measure approximately 2 1/4 X 3 1/2 inches. Because they were hand made, they are not all exactly the same size, some cards vary by just a tiny bit. The backs are overall plain pink or blue. Images courtesy Rod Starling.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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