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Published July 29, 2022 Updated August 16, 2023

XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards

XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards with moorish influences

1460 Catalonia Spain Archaic Patterns Spanish Suited Add to Collection

Of relevance to the early origins in Spain of the 'Portuguese' suit-system are some archaic cards possibly made in Catalonia or Mallorca, currently preserved in the Spielkarten-Museum at Leinfelden.

The 22 surviving cards include an 8 and 9 of swords with straight intersecting swords (also nine of batons), which are also associated with later Portuguese and Italian Minchiate and Sicilian Tarot cards. The Portuguese-suited pack was being used in Spain intil quite late in the 16th century. The ace of swords is supported by 2 lions, a feature seen in some other early Catalan cards. Perhaps most noteworthy are the cavalier and king of swords who hold double-panelled Nasrid Saracenic shields, common in Muslim-occupied Spain at that time, with a kind of double tassel made of silk and feathers. This feature can be seen in another early Catalan pack

The cavalier of batons is a centaur, the baton being rather knobbly, and the ‘sota’ (male jack instead of a maid) is a wild man whose body is covered in hair. The king of batons is seated on a throne and is the only card carrying an inscription, which is in gothic lettering. Research by Jean-Pierre Garrigue (2015; p.65) points to a possible Mallorcan or Aragonese origin for this inscription. Some of the lower value numeral cards contain small animals as decoration. Overall these cards point to early Catalonian influence in the spread of playing cards due to their trading activities throughout the mediterranean basin, including near Eastern and moorish destinations during the Mamluk Sultanate.

XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards, Leinfelden Spielkartenmuseum Inv B-1288 XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards, Leinfelden Spielkartenmuseum Inv B-1288 XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards, Leinfelden Spielkartenmuseum Inv B-1288

Above: 22 archaic Spanish-suited playing cards, currently in the Leinfelden Spielkartenmuseum (Germany) Inv. Nr. B-1288. The museum describes the cards as “Provencalisch” and 16th century but further research suggests the cards may be Catalan or Mallorcan, late 15th century. Printed from woodblocks hand-coloured. The complete pack probably contained 48 cards, ie. numerals 1-9 with 3 court cards per suit (no 10s). Images from Jean-Pierre Garrigue, 2015.

Further References

Wikipedia: Nasrid dynasty

Wikipedia: Wild man

Garrigue, Jean-Pierre: Le Carte à Jouer en Catalogne XIV & XVI siècles, Les Presses Littéraires, 2015

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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