A Motley Pack

A Christmas Annual titled “On The Cards” or “A Motley Pack” by the Australian writer, dramatist and publisher Garnet Walch (1843-1913, see biography) was published in Melbourne in 1875. The book contains 71 pages with 40 transformed playing cards illustrated by the Scottish born poet and man of letters George Gordon McCrae (1833-1927, see biography) which are relevant to the story in the book. McCrae’s drawing style could be described as “lively and competent sketches in pen and ink which aptly illustrate the scenes being described.” George McCrae also wrote novels, stories, poetry, travel sketches and illustrated books. Some of his sketches may have been inspired by his travels to Mauritius and the Seychelles, as well as by Aboriginal people.

Above: Unfortunately the ink of the pips has on some pages ‘bled’ through the paper, which can be seen in several images. There are actually no cards, just illustrations in the book. The designs were never made into a separate pack of cards. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

  • See title page from book.

    Title page from book

    Above: the order of the cards and suits in the book is totally random, following no specific order, just appearing as needed by the text. There are no court cards. There are a fair number of poems that mention the card on the same page, that are also part of the general story being told. There is never more than one card per page.

See also: Biography of Garnet Walch

George Gordon McCrae b. 29 May 1833

Facsimile edition of book and cards available from Guru Playing Card Company

Last Updated May 16, 2019 at 05:49pm


back to top