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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.

Dondorf Tarot

Dondorf's “Microscopique Tarock“ was first published in c.1870. The scenes portrayed at each end of the trump cards are marvels of miniature graphic artwork and printing.

Microscopique Tarock     1 • 23

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

Dondorf's “Microscopique Tarock“, the one and only tarot produced by Dondorf, was first published in c.1870 as a lithographic print hand-coloured using stencils and cut with square corners. Later editions had rounded corners and (as shown here) were printed by chromolithography. The trump cards were numbered, usually in Arabic numerals but in some versions Roman numerals are found. The scenes portrayed at each end of these trump cards are marvels of miniature graphic artwork and printing, at which this manufacturer excelled. After trump no. 1 (Juggler) the next four cards depict arts and crafts treasures from the four countries (Germany, Russia, France & England), which are again represented as typical occupations in the next four cards (6-9), then four noble women and men (10 to 13), four cards with scenes from society: family, hunting, gallantry (14 to 17), and finally four cards (18 to 21) with courtly scenes.   See also:  The Four AcesThe Court Cards.

Above: eight trump cards from chromolithographic edition of Dondorf's “Microscopique Tarock“, rounded corners, c.1905-33.   Below: the same cards reversed, showing the different scenes at each end. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

Above:  After No. 1 (Juggler) four cards follow depicting arts and crafts treasures from the four countries, which are again invoked in the next four cards (6-9), then four noble women and men (10 to 13), four cards with scenes from society: family, hunting, gallantry (14 to 17), and four cards (18 to 21) with courtly scenes.   See also:  The Four AcesThe Court Cards.

See also:  Dondorf Spanish PackDondorf Four Continents, c.1870Dondorf Whist No.192 / Shakespeare-SpielkarteDondorf Whist No.151 / Portuguese German-style deckDondorf Lenormand Cards for H.P. Gibson, LondonDondorf Poker No.140Dondorf 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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