During the 19th century a system of fortune telling arose in Europe using unnumbered, pictorial cards depicting popular imagery with subtitles in several languages. These cards continue to be sold today under various names such as Sehr Feine Aufschlagkarten, Fortune Telling Cards, Gypsy Fortune Telling, Zigeuner or Biedermeier Cartomancy Cards. Many seem to have originated in Austria, but they also emanate from Germany and Hungary.
These oracle cards contain several images that were originally seen as vignettes in earlier divination games as well as cartomancy sets devised by Lenormand and her successors, but the whole repertoire has become a distinctive tradition with unique images and a format of its own. They are not the same as Le Jeu du Destin or the Parlour Sibyl. The cards are unnumbered and do not contain playing card insets as the Lenormand type do. The images, which may serve to facilitate clairvoyance or just for light-hearted readings, are allegorical and evocative, presented in a popular style: Hope is a woman with an anchor, Fidelity shows a dog by his master's grave. Inconstancy in the earlier sets, showing a man and a woman quarrelling, is replaced with Constancy, an all-seeing eye (Das Auge Gottes / Oko Boží) in editions by Piatnik published in Vienna and Budapest.
Hegenauer “Aufschlagkarten” Fortune Telling Cards
Piatnik “Sehr Feine Aufschlagkarten” Fortune Telling Cards Nr.1
Piatnik “Biedermeier” Fortune Telling Cards
The oldest of the unnumbered Austrian Cartomancy sets contain only 32 cards, like the 32-card decks used by the gypsys, but over time more cards were added reflecting more of life's situations or states of mind, so there are decks with 32, 36, and 52 cards. See also the Art-Deco Fortune Telling deck by Piatnik→
Hungarian Fortune Telling Cards
Piatnik “Zigeuner” Fortune Telling Cards
See also the Art-Deco Fortune Telling deck published by Piatnik→
German Fortune Telling Cards - a possible source
A 36-card deck of German-suited Fortune Telling cards published by Industrie Comptoir, Leipzig c.1818, has inscriptions in German and Polish. There are no miniature playing cards inside the design, but instead the German suit symbols. Similarly, another example was published in c.1830 (below). Although these cards have suit symbols and a court hierarchy, the vignettes on the numeral cards are in many instances forerunners of the fortune telling cards shown above. It is likely that the Lenormand type cards also share the same common ancestry and derive from late 18th century cards but have evolved into different styles.
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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.
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Playing cards are used for fortune-telling, predicting the future or even as a psychological adjunct to folk medicine and therapy.
Fortune Telling cards by Whitman Publishing Co., 1940.
La Sibylle des Salons facsimile of 19th century deck published by J M Simon, 1979.
Le Jeu du Destin Antique, originally published by Grimaud in XIX c., republished many times since...
Playtex - le jeu de la beauté et du destin, Grimaud, 1971.
“El Oráculo de la Bruja” fortune-telling cards, 2003.
Kinney Bros Transparent playing cards with hidden images and fortunes, c.1890.
Georgian Fortune Telling Cards, c.1800.
Black Cat Fortune Telling Cards published by Parker Bros, 1897
Wüst Lenormand deck, c.1860
The Cagliostro Tarot was first published in 1912 as “Il Destino Svelato Dal Tarocco”.
English Fortune Telling cards probably published c.1770.
“Le Grand Tarot Belline” after drawings by Edmond Billaudot (1829-1881).
Aleister Crowley Tarot - Crowley and Lady Freda Harris worked on the illustrations between 1938 and 1943
The designs of these fortune-telling cards are largely taken from nineteenth century Austrian "Rural Scenes" Tarock cards.
Nine Lives Tarot by Annette Abolins, 2013
The ‘Housewives Tarot’ designed by Paul Kepple & Jude Buffum, published by Quirk Books, 2004.
“Naipes Tu Destino” Cartomancy Cards from Peru will ease any stress in your interpersonal relationships c.1975.
The ‘Mystic’ Fortune Teller card game by Clifford Toys.
The Picture Book of Ana Cortez is an original work of art designed to facilitate Divination.
“Gipsy” fortune-telling cards with original artwork by Hylton Cock, published by Thomas de la Rue & Co Ltd., c.1910.
“Tarjetas de la Felicidad” containing positive mental affirmations by Lauro Trevisan, Buenos Aires (Argentina) c.2001
Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition - by Charles J. Freeman and Ana Cortez
Some examples of playing cards made in Catalonia from the collection of Iris Mundus, Barcelona.
During the 19th century a system of fortune telling arose in Europe using unnumbered, pictorial cards depicting popular imagery with subtitles in several languages.
Art Deco fortune telling deck published by Piatnik, 1936.
Fortune Tellers use the Hafez Cards by interpreting the Hāfez poems printed on the card backs when cards are selected randomly by their consultants.
A pack of 54 playing-cards for fortune-telling each card containing a number of zodiacal, classical and modern images with a miniature card of the conventional type at top left and a letter of the alphabet at top right.
A set of rather unusual and non-standard cartomancy cards from Argentina with religious connotations and imaginative artwork
The Kadar deck designed by Christopher J Gould aims to break the norms of playing card design. The vibrant and fun pack has drawn inspiration from travelling fortune tellers and gypsies.
The Fortune Teller’s Deck was published in 1995 in conjunction with a book written by Jane Lyle. The deck was designed by Neil Breeden and the court cards incorporate traditional symbolism.
Whilst the titles of the cards are in Italian, the Hebrew and Sanskrit letters on the Trump cards denote, respectively, associations with the Cabbala and Vedic metaphysics.
Ye Witches Fortune Telling Cards published by the United States Playing Card Co., 1896. 52 cards + Joker + extra card in box.
In this version an explanatory verse is printed at the top of each card.
Carreras Fortune Telling Cards, 1926
“Cartes Lenormand” published by H. P. Gibson & Sons Ltd, London, printed in Germany by B. Dondorf, 1920s.
Fortune Telling Cards - wondrous scientific divination poker cards.
Buena Suerte Cartomancy cards published by Difusora S.A., Argentina, c.1975
Buena Suerte Cartomancy leaflet.