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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.

Éditions Philibert

Éditions Philibert published an outstanding series of exotic, artistic playing cards in Paris from 1954 to 1960

Le Florentin designed by Paul-Émile Bécat Mémoires de Casanova designed by Paul-Émile Bécat
Cancan Edition Originale

Éditions Philibert, Paris, 1954-1960

After World War II the floodgates for imaginative card-making opened (once again). Éditions Philibert published an outstanding luxury series of artistic and sometimes risqué playing cards in Paris from 1954 to 1960, including: Les Mousquetaires, St Hubert's Bridge, Corsaires et Flibustiers, Proverbes, Pierres Precieuses, Paris Scenes, Sirenes, Veronique, Déesses, Can-Can, Le Florentin and Mémoires de Casanova. Cards were produced to a high standard of quality with gilded edges. Many of the decks involve photographs of life models or scenic views; others depict paintings with different scenes at each end.

Designers include Albert Dubout, Eugène Lelièpvre, Gabriel Garachon, Pierre Albarran and Paul-Émile Bécat who produced the artwork, photography or paintings that make these decks so extraordinary, elevating the status of playing cards to minor works of art. In the case of the cards designed by Bécat, their luxurious sensuality and tender intimacy have rarely been surpassed in any other playing cards. The decks were finely printed by Draeger Frères.

“Corsaires et Flibustiers” playing cards published by Éditions Philibert, c.1958

Above: “Corsaires et Flibustiers”, 1958  see more

St Hubert’s Bridge published by Éditions Philibert, c.1956

Above: “St Hubert’s Bridge”, c.1956  see more

“Paris Story” playing cards published by Éditions Philibert, c.1957

Above: Paris Scenes, 1957  see more

“France Souvenir” published by Éditions Philibert, 1957

Above: “France Souvenir” 1957.

“Déesses I Mythological Story” published by Éditions Philibert, 1960

Above: “Déesses I” Mythological Story, 1960.

“Déesses II Mythological Story” published by Éditions Philibert, 1960

Above: “Déesses II” Mythological Story, 1960.

“Sourires de France” published by Éditions Philibert, 1959

Above: “Sourires de France” 1959.

“Proverbes II” published by Éditions Philibert, 1960

Above: “Proverbes II” 1960.