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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.

Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya

This is the official Spanish National pattern of the 18th century. Design and production was controlled from Madrid as a source of national or regional revenue. The factory was located in the town of Macharaviaya, in the province of Málaga.

Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya (Málaga)

Félix Solesio

detail from Félix Solesio, Spanish National pattern, 1786

Revenues from the sales of playing cards in Central and South America had been a state monopoly since 1552, in the reign of Felipe II, who had issued a decree setting out the terms by which it was to be regulated. Packs were to be sold in paper wrappers tied with string and officially stamped. Officers were appointed to be in charge of ensuring the business was run correctly. To begin with cards destined for the Americas were manufactured solely in Mexico but due to irregular production as well as illegal imports (probably Italian) new orders were given that they should be produced in Spain.

The Real Fábrica de Madrid had been in existence since at least 1755, but in 1776 a Royal Letters Patent was issued authorising Don Félix Solesio to establish the Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya to supply playing cards to the Americas and particularly to Mexico - “Para las Indias”. The new factory was quickly built and was of benefit to the local community in terms of employment opportunities, urban development and cultural enrichment. It is recorded that in September 1777 15,000 decks produced in Macharaviaya were shipped to Mexico. Solesio was a distinguished name in the playing card industry, and as it happens, Félix Solesio's brother Lorenzo had been appointed master craftsman in the Portuguese Real Fábrica de Cartas de Jogar in 1769.

Félix Solesio, Spanish National pattern, 1786
Félix Solesio, Spanish National pattern

Above: cards from a pack by Don Félix Solesio destined for Mexico or South America, dated 1786 on the Ace of Cups. The two of Coins has the legend “Para las Indias”; in other examples this might be “Para Caracas” or “Para La Havana” showing that the packs were destined for Spanish colonies in Central (‘West Indies’) or South America. This is the official Spanish National pattern of the 18th century. Design and production was controlled from Madrid as a source of national or regional revenue. The factory was located in the town of Macharaviaya, in the province of Málaga

Above: the former playing card factory at Macharaviaya. Photo credit: Marilo Marb.

Above: the former playing card factory at Macharaviaya. Photo credit: © 2017 Diputación de Málaga.

More Examples

Spanish National pattern, Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1809

Above: Spanish National pattern, Félix Solesio, Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1809. Taken from: “Pruebas de naipes de la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya (Málaga), para el tipo superfino”, Archivo General de Indias, MP-INGENIOS,210

The date of closure of the Macharaviaya factory is reckoned to be 1815 [See here].

Several derivatives of this design have survived in various parts of the world, such as French ‘Aluette’ cards, ‘Parisian’ Spanish pattern (used in Uruguay) and cards used in North Africa.   See also: Phelippe AyetBaraja MoriscaSeville 17th CenturySpanish National PatternNavarra 17th CenturyPedro Bosio and ‘Money Bag’ pattern • Portuguese Playing CardsRotxotxo Workshop InventoryJoan BarbotGandarillasNaipes Artiguistas

REFERENCES

Ferro Torrelles, Víctor: “Real Cédula aprobando el establecimiento de la Fábrica de Naipes de Macharaviaya” in La Sota Nº 16, Asescoin, Madrid, March 1997, pp.67-75

Pérez González, Alberto: “A Todos Alumbra”, facsimile of Baraja Carlos IV, Punto Verde, Benalmádena, 2006.   See more

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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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