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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.

Forster

Deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century in the Paris pattern.

A deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century, copper engraved, hand-coloured with 10 colours.

The French “Paris pattern” was established as such around the middle of the seventeenth century (based, perhaps, on the cards of Hector of Troyes). The cards had single-figure courts until around 1830 when the double-ended version came into use. The court cards are usually named. French-suited cards arrived in Germany during the 18th century and many beautiful French-suited packs were produced in Germany, including some local variations derived from the Paris pattern. In some cases the manufacturers incorporated Austro-Hungarian eagles into the designs of this pattern, whilst others retained the fleur-de-lis as well as the French names on the courts. This pattern was superseded in Germany by the rise of the Hamburg pattern.

deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century back design from deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century

Above: twelve cards and back design from deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century. Paris pattern, copper engraved, hand-coloured. The manufacturer's name can be read on the Jack of Clubs, whose shield bears a unicorn motif.

See also:  similar decks by Johann Backofen   Joseph Losch.   Images from the collection of Klaus-Jürgen Schultz [https://spielkarten-sammlung.de].

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Forster

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