A pack of 52 cards and 2 Jokers, each card depicting a different matryoshka (nested doll). The pack contains an extra card describing the history of the Russian matryoshka. The first nested doll set was carved in 1890 by Vasilii Gvezdochkin (1876 - 1956) from a design by Sergei Maliutin (1859 – 1937) who was a folk crafts painter on the estate of the Russian industrialist and patron of the arts Savva Mamontov. In 1900 Mamontov’s wife presented the dolls at the World Exhibition in Paris and the toy earned a bronze medal. Soon after, matryoshka dolls were being made in several places in Russia. Today they not only portray traditional folk costume, but also animals, and political, comic and imaginary figures.
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I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.
Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.
Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.
KITAB playing cards with artwork by Abayneh Abebe, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Hotel Lena playing cards published by Bichik in Yakutsk in 2001.
Peterhof souvenir playing cards (Petergof suvenirnye igral’nye karty) published by Mednyi Vsadnik (Bronze Horseman), St. Petersburg.
Pack designed by M. Rydaeva celebrating the 200th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin’s birth.
Dolls Gallery / Galereia kukol : karty igral’nye / published by Varvara Skripkina, 2003.
Treasures of the Russian Museum / Russkii Muzei : suvenirnye igral’nye karty.
Rossiia / Municipal Coats-of-Arms of Russian Federation.
The first nested doll set was carved in 1890.
Palekh and Kholui lacquer miniatures.
Playing cards in Russian life - Karty v zhizni Rossii - published by Aleksandr Lutkovskii in 2004.
Spot the Difference playing cards published in "Razvlekatel’naia Gazetka" newspaper, 1998-1999.
Samye malen’kie v mire igral’nye karty / The world’s smallest playing cards
Hunting playing cards / “Okhotnich’i karty” with illustrations by the court artist Mihály Zichy.
Russian Emperors playing cards / “Rossiiskie imperatory karty igral’nye” produced and illustrated by Aleksei Orleanskii, 2006.
Russian Beer playing cards / “Russkoe pivo karty igral’nye” produced in 2006
Dead Souls, or “Mertvye dushi igral’nye karty” produced in 2006 by Aleksei Orleanskii.
Ukrains’ki karti gral’ni suvenirni / Ukrainian souvenir playing cards designed by Andrii Letn’ov, c.2012.
Nursery rhyme playing cards by Waddingtons, Leeds, UK, 1975.
Promotional pack for a Dutch Celtic folk band which performs Irish, Scottish and Dutch folk music, c.2004.
Playing cards featuring traditional folk costumes from Romania.
Folk Cards designed by Krystyna Gruchalska-Bunsch for Lot Polish Airlines, 1962.
Dutch costumes quartet game designed by Gerard Huijg, 1983.
Nederlands Stedenkwartet with heraldic needlepoint patterns by Permin, c.1970.
Österreichisches Trachten-quartett Nr.282 published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne.
Crocheter’s playing cards sent to subscribers of the Crochet Society box, 2021.
Norwegian Troll Cards published by Aune Forlag of Trondheim, c.2000.
Caperucita Roja card game published by H. Fournier, 1981.
Pulgarcito (Tom Thumb) card game published by H Fournier, 1981.
Sleeping Beauty card game published in France, c.1980s.
Fairy Tales quartet published by Heinrich Schwarz + Co for Dutch market, c.1970.
Fairy Tales quartet game by F.X. Schmid, Munich, 1960.
Märchen-Quartett (Fairy Tales) illustrated by J. P. Werth and published by J. W. Spear & Söhne, c.1915.
Fairy Tales quartet designed by Annemarie Gramberg, published by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken AG, 1955.
Fairy Legend Misfitz published by C W Faulkner & Co Ltd, c.1908.
“Renaissance” playing card designs by A I Charlemagne, 1862.
Matching game by Majora, Lisbon, c.1970, featuring figures in national dress from Portuguese provinces and colonies
“Naipes Criollos” Gaucho playing cards, 1995.
Naipes Cardón designed by Mario Luis Rivero depicting traditional Argentine culture and identity, 2002.
Naipes “Martín Fierro” based on the epic poem by José Hernandez.
Fairy Tales published by C.W. Faulkner & Co., c.1903.