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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.

Bartolo Borrego, Mexico

40-card Spanish-suited woodblock and stencil pack made in Mexico by Bartolo Borrego, 1836.

Bartolo Borrego, Mexico, 1836

...the old ‘Spanish National’ pattern

Borrego was manufacturing cards at least until the 1860s, and his packs were based on the old Spanish National pattern produced in Macharaviaya. The signature on the four of cups is believed to be related to some form of taxation or inspection regime similar to the system used in Spain.

40-card Spanish-suited woodblock and stencil pack made in Mexico by Bartolo Borrego, 1836

Above: 24 cards from a 40-card woodblock and stencil pack made in Mexico by Bartolo Borrego, 1836. Cards courtesy of Juan José Pérez-Castejón.

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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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