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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.

Transformation c.1880

Transformation playing cards hand-drawn on a pack manufactured by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co Ltd c.1880

Hand-drawn Transformation c.1880

Transformation playing cards hand-drawn on a pack manufactured by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co Ltd c.1880, a very nice example of the full scope of what was a popular pastime 150 years ago. Transformed packs often contain original scenes and ideas, inspired by topics popular in their day. In this example many of the transformations consist of converting the suit pips into repeating objects, such as insects or flowers, but there are also some fully integrated scenes.

The artist appears to have made several similar packs, perhaps attempting to create a better version (see other example here). It is often the case that practice improves the artist’s hand who then reworks her ideas, returning to make the deck a second time at a later date. It can be seen that the artwork has not been completed in this instance as several cards are untouched.

Above: the original pack of cards was probably made by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co Ltd in c.1875 but transformed a few years later. All images courtesy Stuart McEwan.

It is often the case that practice improves the artist’s hand who then reworks her ideas, returning to make the deck a second time: see another example here

Thanks to Barney Townshend for additional notes.

REFERENCES

Goodall, Michael H: Minor British Playing Card Makers of the Nineteenth Century, (vol.3) Joseph Hunt & Sons, Woking, 1997

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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