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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.

Rameses Fortune Telling

The Rameses Fortune Telling Cards were manufactured by Chas. Goodall & Son Ltd, London, c.1910, around the same time as Rameses The Egyptian Wonderworker, was performing.

Rameses Fortune Telling Cards, c.1910

Rameses Fortune Telling Cards were manufactured by Chas. Goodall & Son Ltd, Camden Works, London, c.1910, around the same time as Rameses The Egyptian Wonderworker, the successful magician illusionist (see image below), flourished. The cards have fortune-telling interpretations printed at the top and bottom of each card, and are presented in a mock snakeskin box which includes an instruction leaflet explaining how to shuffle and lay out the cards for readings, plus a rough outline of the meaning of each card. The back depicts a double-ended Egyptian scene.

Many fortune-telling packs share a repertoire of symbolic items such as clouds, a key, the sun, a coffin, and so on. Standard playing cards have been widely used for fortune-telling and over time the single cards in the pack have acquired certain fortune-telling meanings. In a number of cases these meanings are printed at the edges of the card, as in this example.

Rameses Fortune Telling Cards by Chas Goodall & Sons, c.1910

Above: The Rameses Fortune Telling Cards, manufactured by Chas. Goodall & Son Ltd, Camden Works, London, c.1910. 52 cards + extra 'Subject' card in box. The pack continued well into the 1920's after the tie-up with De La Rue.


Below: Rameses post-card, c.1910. It is not known whether the success and popularity of Rameses the Sensational Wonderworker had any influence on Goodall's pack of fortune-telling cards with the same name, but it is a curious coincidence. Rameses did in fact appear in Camden (possibly at the Bedford Theatre) in 1910. Image and information about Rameses the 'Sensational Wonder Worker' kindly supplied by Chris Woodward.

Rameses post-card, c.1910

See also:   Argentinean TaroccoBook of FateCartas BlancasCartas GitanasCartomancy & Divination CardsEdyta Gdek Tarot17th Century Fortune-Telling Cards72 Names CardsGeistliche Karten, 1718German Fortune Telling cards, c.1818Jason Ennis TarotMinchiateMlle Lenormand CartomancyNaipes Tu DestinoPicture Book of Ana CortezPicture Show Zodiac Fortune Telling CardsRamses II TarotSelf-Nurturing SolitaireTarocco BologneseTarocco PiemontesiTarot Egipcios KierWelsh TarotTarot

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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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