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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.

Club Karte

There have been many variations in the design of “Club Karte” including the introduction of borders, corner indices and rounded corners, and variations in the inscriptions on the Aces over the years.

B. Dondorf: Club Karte

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

This pack can be assigned to Dondorf's popular “Four Continents” series which includes “Four Continents” and “Four Continents Patience”, and which were all French-suited and destined for export as well as for the home market. The earliest editions were produced from steel engravings, and there have been many variations in the design of “Club Karte” including the introduction of borders, corner indices and rounded corners, and variations in the inscriptions on the Aces over the years. This edition of Club Karte, with delicately chromo-lithographed flesh tones and colours, was produced by Dondorf during the period 1860-68. The four Aces each show two views of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The format and design of the cards very soon became widely used in the Netherlands, with new scenes introduced on the Aces.

The Four Aces

Above: the black band across the middle of the four Aces has the maker's name and the title of each scene printed above, slightly inside the image. In other editions only the name of the scene is printed on the band across the middle of the Aces.   See: another early example, c.1868.

The Four Aces ~ reversed

The 12 Court Cards

Above: the court cards, with very delicate flesh tones and chromo-lithographed colours on the clothing. The maker's name appears on each card. There are no borders or indices around the court cards. The complete pack contains 52 cards + 1 Joker. 59 x 90 mm. All images courtesy Barney Townshend.

Right: the back of the cards shows a cupid angel above a globe, accompanied by doves →

See also:  Dondorf HomepageDondorf Spanish PackDondorf Four Continents, c.1870Dondorf Four Continents PatienceDondorf Tarot Microscopique, c.1870Dondorf Whist No.80Dondorf Whist No.192 / Shakespeare-SpielkarteDondorf Whist No.151 / Portuguese German-style deckDondorf Lenormand Cards for H.P. Gibson, LondonDondorf Poker No.140Dondorf Kinder-KartePromotion deck for Saks & Company, New York, c.1930Dondorf English packDondorf 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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