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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.

Unknown Maker

Early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825

This very attractive engraved pack, albeit of a relatively simple design but with a great deal of intricate detail in the clothing and accoutrements, was made in Germany by an unknown maker c.1820-30 (possibly Bacher of Ulm). It is a fine example of the early cardmaker’s art and is hand-coloured using stencils with about 5 or 6 different colours. The double-ended courts are divided by a horizontal line and a double line serves as a border around each card. The ladies’ attire illustrates fashion from that period but they do not hold flowers or fans as is often the case. The aces are plain.

early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825
early German deck by unknown maker, c.1825

Above: from the collection of Klaus-Jürgen Schultz.

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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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