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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 Court Cards

Dondorf Tarot Court Cards.

Dondorf Tarot Court Cards     12 • 3

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

The four suits are associated with four countries: Clubs = Germany, Diamonds = UK, Spades = Russia and Hearts = France. Whilst the four pictorial Aces show nationally symbolic buildings from each country, the court cards depict eminent persons.   See also:  The TrumpsThe Four Aces.

Above: sixteen court cards from Dondorf's Tarot Microscopique, chromolithography, c.1926. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.   See also:  The TrumpsThe Four Aces.

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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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71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.

68: Playing cards in glass

68: Playing cards in glass

My wife and I have recently commissioned a unique pair of stained glass windows for our home.

63: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 1

63: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 1

A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of them became local standards in their own right.

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.

Modern English Court

Modern English Court

Modern English court style by Games & Print Services Limited, c.1997.

Nine Lives Playing Cards

Nine Lives Playing Cards

Nine Lives Playing Cards designed by Annette Abolins, 2016

51: Some modern variation

51: Some modern variation

A brief survey of some of the current variation in the standard English pattern.

49: De La Rue in detail

49: De La Rue in detail

A detailed presentation of the variants of De La Rue's standard cards.

Sands & McDougall Court Cards

Sands & McDougall Court Cards

Sands & McDougall Court Cards

33: Functional Changes to Playing Cards

33: Functional Changes to Playing Cards

The emphasis throughout my collecting has been on the design of the courts cards, and it should be pointed out that there have been some functional changes to cards, which have affected the traditional designs, especially in the 19th century.

Rowley & Co - “Monarchs of Europe”

Rowley & Co - “Monarchs of Europe”

In around 1775 Rowley & Co attempted to reform the traditional court cards to portraits of the kings and queens of England, France, Spain and Russia.

Hycrest Modern Royalty

Hycrest Modern Royalty

Published by the Hycrest Playing Card Co., New York, c.1931. The large suit symbol behind each figure enhances the visual impact of the deck, as does the splendid back design & Joker.

Carnival Playing Cards, 1925

Carnival Playing Cards, 1925

The Carnival Playing Card deck designed by Harry D. Wallace (1892-1977) and first published in 1925.

20: English Card-Makers 1761-1905

20: English Card-Makers 1761-1905

An initial survey of 19th century playing-card production. More detailed information appears on other pages.

Dondorf Tarot Court Cards

Dondorf Tarot Court Cards

Dondorf Tarot Court Cards.

Dondorf Tarot Aces

Dondorf Tarot Aces

The four suits are associated with four countries: Clubs = Germany, Diamonds = UK, Spades = Russia and Hearts = France.

Dondorf Tarot

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.

6: Some Non-Standard Cards

6: Some Non-Standard Cards

I only collect the English standard, but I thought it would be a good idea to add some different types of card from time to time.

Tarot Microscopique

Tarot Microscopique

French-suited tarot cards made by B. Dondorf, c.1870.

Traditional English Court

Traditional English Court

Games & Print Services Ltd traditional English courts.

History of Court Cards

History of Court Cards

The court cards in English packs of playing cards derive from models produced by Pierre Marechal in Rouen around 1565. A pack of such cards is preserved in the museum at Rouen.

Pippoglyph

Pippoglyph

Pippoglyph Playing Cards by Ben Crenshaw © 2004