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Pierre Marechal

Rouen became an important centre for card-making whose influence extended far afield. Cards from Rouen are significant because they became the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved.

Pierre Marechal, Rouen, c.1567

After the development of the printing industry at the end of the 15th century, Rouen became an important centre for card-making whose influence extended far afield. The cards of Rouen are significant because many were produced for export to Britain and they became the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved.

two cards by Pierre Marechal, Rouen c.1567

Above: two cards by Pierre Marechal, Rouen c.1567 (click image to zoom).

An archaic pack of cards made by Pierre Marechal c.1567 preserved in the archives at Rouen represents the model from which our English pack subsequently evolved. When England banned the importation of cards in 1628, English printers used Rouen court cards as inspiration for their own packs. The style of the costumes on English playing cards is late medieval, being descended from the Rouen models.

Above: four cards showing how modern anglo-american playing cards evolved from late fifteenth century French cards. The so-called 'Suicide King' originally held an axe.

The cards made in Rouen at that time were an eclectic mixture of features from cards made for various foreign markets, hence the origins of what became the "English" pattern are not one precise source, but a mixture of several earlier regional patterns.

Other examples of early Anglo-French cards also show details which appear in English cards. See also: Rick Davidson's Origins Playing Cards


Facsimile editions

facsimile of playing cards by Pierre Marechal, Rouen c.1567, published by Rose & Pentagram Design, 2006

Above: recreation of Pierre Marechal of Rouen, c.1567 pack illustratied by Gurney Benham's in his 19030 book. The original Jacks of Hearts and Diamonds were missing but have been replaced with two similar cards also from Rouen. Published by Rose & Pentagram Design, 2006, read the review here. www.historicgames.com. Images courtesy Rod Starling.

Packs of playing cards reached England from Rouen.

Some early English playing cards can be seen at: www.plainbacks.com

Above: a different facsimile with the Jacks of Hearts and Diamonds taken from different sources.

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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. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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