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Irish Playing Cards

Heroic playing-cardsHeroic playing-cards

Right: Irish 'Heroic' playing cards, Belfast, 1919   more

Not a lot is known about the early history of playing cards in Ireland, but during the nineteenth century playing cards were being produced in Dublin (John Young), Cork and Limerick. From the surviving specimens these were crudely drawn and the court cards often turned the wrong way for no apparent reason. During the twentieth century the Irish Playing Card Manufacturing Company (Cork) and The Ormond Printing Co. Ltd (Dublin) were producing cards for the Irish market, and subsequently there have been advertising, tourist souvenir packs and also art and design packs manufactured in Ireland and abroad.

It is enjoyable to recognise traces of Celtic decorative patterns in Irish playing card designs. Formerly the Celts inhabited central and western Europe long before the Christian era but ultimately they were confined to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Brittany.

Above: a) Commemorating the establishment of the Irish Free State by treaty with England in December 1921, design by Edward Cunningham of Goodall & Son, 1922.   b) Aer Lingus compliments pack.   c) Joker from Irish Souvenir deck.   d) Joker from Irish ‘Heroic’ set, 1919.   e-f) 2 cards from Irish ‘Historic’ set, c.1920.

The Celts loved personal splendour and self-display as well as fighting. Surviving examples of their art include shields, swords, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, poetry and literature. Irish playing card designers often take their inspiration from these sources.

Irish playing cards

Above: Playing card designs based on motifs from early Irish manuscripts and metalwork   See more →

Irish Historic Playing Cards, 1920

Above: Irish Historic Playing Cards, 1920.

box by Ormond Printing Co., c.1935-50
Irish Tourist Association Souvenir playing cards

Above: Souvenir playing cards published by C. T. Co. Ltd, Dublin, c.1950s. Several editions of these cards are known, with either green or orange coloured backs.

“Cultúrlán” Celtic myth playing cards

Above: “Cultúrlán” Celtic myth playing cards.

See also:  Irish Playing Card Mfg Co.Irish ‘Heroic’ packIrish ‘Historic’ packOrmond Printing CoIrish SouvenirViews of IrelandCatherine KellyGuinness PostersIrish Hospice packCeltic JourneyQuantum“Cultúrlán” Celtic mythology

Last Updated December 26, 2020 at 04:04pm


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Playing cards have enormous educational value, with a long history and many diverse types and graphical styles from around the world... View More →

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