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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.

Le Destin Antique

Le Jeu du Destin Antique, originally published by Grimaud in XIX c., republished many times since...

Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986

Le Destin Antique was first published in Paris in 1868 by Eugène D’Auriac as a booklet titled “Le Destin Antique rétabli d’après les anciens manuscrits Chaldaïques, Syriaques et autres avec une introduction historique sur le jeu de cartes”, accompanied by a 32-card cartomantic deck printed lithographically by Grimaud and hand-coloured, titled: “Le Destin Antique” with plain pink backs.

The originals may be viewed on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France website here and here whence it can be seen that all later editions of the deck, including other 19th and 20th century ones, like the one shown here published by Piatnik in 1986, are based on this original version, inspired by Eugène D’Auriac’s study of ancient divinatory sciences  more

I love the little vignettes in the top RH corner. Each card is numbered and has a miniature playing card in the corner, but no title. The small vignettes provide additional nuances to the cartomantic interpretation.

Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986 Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986 Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986 Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986
Le Jeu du Destin Antique published by Piatnik, 1986

Above: Le Jeu du Destin Antique fortune-telling cards published by Piatnik in 1986, based on 19th century originals by Grimaud. 32 cards + booklet in box.

Card games in general and tarot/cartomancy cards in particular, like children’s and adult games, make a particularly strong appeal to the symbolic imagination. Whereas the standard pack of cards has been able to serve as a tool for divination mainly by combining the interpretation of signs with chance procedures, cartomancy cards have added to this function the desire to tap the secrets of the gods, by including a system of references and symbolic connections of an esoteric type, correlated with the planets and the cosmic hierarchies. Jean-Pierre Laurant: Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism.

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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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