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Published December 09, 2023 Updated December 09, 2023

Natural History Tarot

Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C.

1810 Germany G.M. Süss Tarot Zoology Tarock Add to Collection

An attractive Italian-suited tarot pack with 20 etched trump cards is illustrated with various animals, plus a flute-playing harlequin and a buffoon with a sausage. The trumps are of the German kind with natural history subjects, as though in a zoology text-book, instead of the traditional allegories. They are untitled with roman numerals in the panels at top and bottom. The pip cards have Italian suit symbols; but the court cards are double-ended with custom figures. The initials G.M. (Guillaume Mann ?, otherwise anonymous) appear on the 2 and 4 of coins and three of each set of court cards has the rank in French. There are no other inscriptions or titles.

Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: Natural History Tarot published by G M, Germany, early 19th C., 78 cards. Hand-coloured woodcut with etched court cards. Backs mottled blue and yellow. © The Trustees of the British Museum • Museum number 1896,0501.552


A similar pack with Italian suits was produced by Carl Gottlieb Süss, Stuttgart, with natural history trumps.

The 4 of coins bears the initials C.G.S. and the 2 of cups has the legend “Zu finden bey Carl Gottlieb Süss in Stuttgardt”.

Italian-suited natural history tarot pack produced by Carl Gottlieb Süss. © The Trustees of the British Museum Italian-suited natural history tarot pack produced by Carl Gottlieb Süss. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: cards from Italian-suited natural history tarot pack produced by Carl Gottlieb Süss, Stuttgart, late 18th century. Incomplete pack, no court cards have survived. Hand-coloured woodcut, backs mottled blue. © The Trustees of the British Museum • Museum number 1896,0501.204

NOTE: the French-suited animal tarot did not completely replace the Italian-suited pack, as some manufacturers continued to make both types. Both types spread from one place to another with different courts or order of trumps, or with new trump themes, different fool cards, etc.


References

Mann, Sylvia: All Cards on the Table, Jonas Verlag/Deutsches Spielkarten-Museum, Leinfelden-Echterdingen, 1990

O’Donoghue, Freeman M: Catalogue of the collection of playing cards bequeathed by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, (German 295 & 292), Trustees of the British Museum, London, 1901 [digital version here]

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder 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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