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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.

Wüst Lenormand deck, c.1860

Wüst Lenormand deck, c.1860

This is probably the earliest Mademoiselle Lenormand deck produced by Wüst, stencil coloured and dating from about 1860. The reverse has a dotted pattern. The inset court cards are different to later Lenormand decks, but a chromo printed version also uses these court cards. A maṇḍala of 36 cards (perhaps representing 360° of space) depicting worldly appearances and revelatory symbols for exploring inner states through intuitive vision?

Wüst Lenormand cards, c.1860
Wüst Lenormand cards, c.1860

Above: Wüst Lenormand fortune telling cards, c.1860. 36 cards, size 76 x 43 mm, which is slightly smaller than later versions.

REFERENCES

Shaw, Martin & Symons, Paul: Playing cards from the factory C.L.Wüst, Frankfurt, Germany (1811-1927), Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart, Turnhout, Belgium, 23 September-31 December 2005.

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By Paul Symons

Member since February 01, 2016

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I'm British but I have now lived in the Netherlands for 50 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. I started collecting playing cards in the early 1980’s after speaking with my neighbour who was at that time a croupier in a casino. I started with just collecting jokers, but that soon led me to complete packs of cards and eventually to specialising in old and antique playing cards, particularly those of C.L. Wüst of Frankfurt, Germany. I am presently the Dutch representative of the I.P.C.S. and the auctioneer at the IPCS conventions.

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