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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.

XVII Century Engraved Animal Cards

French suited German engraved cards c1610 to 1650,

Delightful set of early 17th century engraved and hand-coloured German playing cards with French suit signs by an unknown artist with monogram I.S. or S.I., c.1610 to 1650. A variety of comic or imaginary wildlife scenes have been illustrated between the suit symbols which are stencilled into the normal positions. The red suits have birds whilst the black suits have animals. Some animals derive from fables, such as a unicorn on the two of clubs. Orpheus plays the lyre on the four of spades as animals listen to his music. The 10 of spades depicts a cat fiddling as mice dance around his feet! The kings, queens and valets are debonair and gracious. The four of hearts bears an English “Stock in Hand” tax stamp of c.1712 which would have been applied on importation. The “Stock in Hand” stamp was levied prior to the introduction of the first red duty stamps and covered stock held at the time of the act as opposed to imports after the act. These cards would have been seen by John Lenthall as he followed the designs in his “Forest Cards”, often reversing the image.

French suited German engraved cards c1610-1650

REFERENCES and CREDITS

Images kindly contributed by John Sings - www.gamesetal.net

Hargrave, Catherine Perry: A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards and Gaming, Dover Publications, New York, 1966

Hoffmann, Detlef: The Playing Card, an illustrated history, Edition Leipzig, 1973, p.49.

Wayland, Virginia: IPCS Journal Volume XIII, No 1, August 1979.

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By Ann & John Sings

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