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Published July 14, 2014 Updated June 07, 2022

White Palekh

“White Palekh” was first published by the The Colour Printing Plant in St. Petersburg in 1982 with designs by Pavel Bazhenov.

Russia Colour Printing Plant Pavel Bazhenov Art & Design Palekh 1982

White Palekh - playing cards from Russia

These brightly coloured and poetic designs by Pavel Bazhenov were first published by the the Colour Printing Plant (1817-2004) in St. Petersburg in 1937 as “Black Palekh”, with black backgrounds, for the World Exhibition in 1937, and reprinted in 1967 for the 150th anniversary of the Leningrad/St. Petersburg playing-card factory. The “White Palekh” (Palekh = miniature painting, lacquer art) version shown here was first issued in 1982. It has gold overprinting which does not show up well in scans. The four Jacks are depicted as horsemen.

“White Palekh” Russian playing cards first issued in 1982
“White Palekh” playing cards

Above: “White Palekh” playing cards, modern edition published in 1995. A selection of alternative back designs are known. A “Palekh” miniature is a Russian folk handicraft of miniature painting, which is done with tempera paints on varnished articles made of papier-mâché (small boxes, cigarette and powder cases etc.)

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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