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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.

Lenormand Cartomancy

Mlle Lenormand Cartomancy deck made by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890.

Detail from Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890

Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards

Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890s. The pack has 36 cards. Identical cards were produced by V.S.S. into the 20th century. The centre of the trademark on the seven of clubs shows the coat-of-arms of Stralsund (see: wikipedia.org/wiki/Stralsund). V.S.S. used several trademarks over the time. The explanation leaflet accompanying the pack describes it as “The pack of the famous fortune-teller Mlle Lenormand in Paris”, and it is written by ‘Philippe, the heir of Mlle. Lenormand’. Packs like this (or with verses) were made by most German playing-card makers; probably best known are the two Dondorf packs.

Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890 Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890 Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890 Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890

Above & Left: Mlle Lenormand Fortune Telling cards manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Stralsund, c.1890. This deck has square corners, later editions had rounded corners  (see example here →).   Cards illustrated from the collection of Peter Endebrock.

Note: Mary Greer has shown that the earliest forerunner of the Lenormand cards is a 1796 book in English. See Mary K. Greer's Tarot Blog

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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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