In the 19th century numerous professional and amateur artists were engaged illustrating zoological, botanical and other scientific subjects. Interesting specimens were obtained from overseas and people had a passion for natural history. Zoology quartet games became popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and many fine lithographed sets of animal images were published to engage children’s imagination.
J. W. Spear and Sons’ Zoology quartet game is a lesson in animal identification, with a total of 60 different species illustrated and classified under fifteen headings: Apes, Beasts of Prey, Beetles, Birds, Cats, Cattle, Deer, Dogs, Fish, Lizards, Pachyderms, Rodents, Ruminants, Serpents and Ungulates. As in most quartet games the idea is to collect sets of the same type, or ‘family’, but at the same time educational benefits are imparted through learning to recognise the different types of animal.
German Zoology Game -
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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.
His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.
Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.
Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.
His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.
A five-suited set of playing cards published by Fleet and Case Games Ltd., Rainham, Kent, UK, c.1980.
52 selected views of Scotland by De La Rue (Waddingtons) for GlenAlan Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, c.1960s.
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Theatre programme in the form of a pack of cards. East Germany, c.1967.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Hunters, animals and birds feature on all but the Kings in this pack by Theodor Wegener, c.1863-70.
A few items used for advertising or displaying Dondorf playing card products.
A set of advertising poster stamps for C.L.Wüst playing cards.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Portuguese proverbs in combination with special courts and suit-signs published by Apenas Livros, Lisbon.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.
This miniature pack is very similar to one made by C.L.Wúst in c.1890.
Miniature playing cards, possibly for children, with a romantic theatrical theme. C.L. Wüst c.1890.
A pack of 53 temporary tattoo designs published by Wink, Riga, Latvia, c.2017.
An interesting pack of playing cards with illustrated Indian aces made "Specially for the Bombay Market", c.1915.
‘Aphorisms on the Kiss’ published by C. A. Solbrig, Leipzig, 1808.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
Hall & Son
Two Black Peter games by Willy Mayrl published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne, 1950s.
Wüst Spanish pattern c.1910 advertising Cuban ‘Tropical’ beer.
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
The maker is possibly Kaspar Traugott Knaut (1799-1881).
Schweizer Trachten No.174 (Costumes Suisses) by Dondorf.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith
We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).
Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.
The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts
Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany
Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.
Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.
The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.