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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.

Cartes Comiques, 1870-1888

“Cartes Comiques”, published by B. Dondorf, printed by chromolithography, c.1870-1888.

B. Dondorf (1833-1933), Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Cartes Comiques is an early deck published by B. Dondorf, adorned with burlesque caricatures by an unidentified artist on all 52 cards. The Four Aces and Court cards each show full-length figures printed by chromolithography in six colours, along with the standard French suit symbols. There are no indices except on the Aces and numeral cards. The numeral cards 2 to 10 are illustrated in two tones with the suit symbols superimposed in black or red.

B. Dondorf: “Cartes Comiques”, 1870-1888

Above: the Four Aces and 12 Court cards from “Cartes Comiques”, published by B. Dondorf, 52 cards (no Joker), printed by chromolithography, square corners, 65mm x 94mm, c.1870-1888. The maker's name appears on the Jack of Clubs as "B. Dondorf, Frankfort a/M" and the cardboard case has the inscription "Cartes Comiques, Tarotè Rouge et Noir. Entières No. 361". Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

B. Dondorf: “Cartes Comiques” numeral cards, 1870-1888

Above: the numeral cards from “Cartes Comiques”, published by B. Dondorf, 52 cards (no Joker), printed by chromolithography, square corners, 65mm x 94mm, c.1870-1888. The reverse shows Cinderella and the Prince in a casement window, their faces forming a Heart and Diamond, with Club and Spade in vignettes below. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

Right: detail from the Ace of Hearts showing the tax stamps →

See also:  Dondorf HomepageDondorf Spanish PackFour Continents, c.1870Four Continents PatienceClub KarteTarot Microscopique, c.1870Gaigel-KartenWhist No.80Whist No.151 / Portuguese German-style deckWhist No.192 / Shakespeare-SpielkarteLenormand CardsPoker No.140Neue Klubkarte No.422Kinder-KarteDeutsches Luxusbild No.417Promotion deck for Saks & Company, New York, c.1930Superfine Playing Cards No.1101Dondorf patience book

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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