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Medieval Life playing cards

Published April 23, 2023 Updated April 23, 2023

‘Medium Aevum’ (Medieval Life) playing cards designed by Violeta Monreal, published by Heraclio Fournier c.1988.

1988 Spain Heraclio Fournier Violeta Monreal Illuminated Medieval Add to Collection

Published by Heraclio Fournier c. 1988 as a double pack, the 55 cards depict scenes of medieval life as portrayed by the beautiful and detailed designs of Violeta Monreal (b. 1963). Each suit represents a different aspect of the era: hearts depict the clergy, spades – the aristocracy and nobility, clubs – the common people, agriculture and crafts, and diamonds – magic and superstition. As if to highlight these distinctions the border of each suit is colour coded (spades – green; diamonds – blue; hearts – red; clubs – brown) which might be described as an unintended “no revoke” aspect. The pips in each suit are arranged in a semi-transformation style.

Each pack has 52 suited cards, plus 3 Jokers. In addition, the set as a whole is accompanied by a paper insert with a brief description of the medieval world in four languages – French, German, Spanish, and English. The cards come in a tray within a colourful sleeve. See the box

Medium aevum (Medieval Life) playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier c. 1988 Medium aevum (Medieval Life) playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier c. 1988 Medium aevum (Medieval Life) playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier c. 1988 Medium aevum (Medieval Life) playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier c. 1988

Above: ‘Medium Aevum’ (Medieval Life) playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier c.1988.

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

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.

Russian Playing Cards

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.


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