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Published March 14, 2024 Updated March 14, 2024

Liber Ludorum

Liber Ludorum playing cards created by Ian Cumpstey in the insular style, United Kingdom, 2019.

2019 United Kingdom Cartamundi Ian Cumpstey Illuminated Kickstarter Medieval Add to Collection

Designed in 2019 by Cumbrian artist Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, Liber Ludorum is a deck of playing cards created in the insular art style, as seen in gospel books of medieval Ireland and Britain. The characteristic decorative patterns, calligraphic texts, and illustrative styles of these manuscripts are easily recognisable, and together make up what is now usually called the insular style. The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells are no doubt the most famous of the insular gospel books.

The Liber Ludorum playing cards are a set of cards drawn in the style of an insular gospel book, with aces resembling the so-called carpet pages, and the court cards inspired by evangelist portraits. See the box

The 2-10 pip cards are standard. The jacks and kings tend mainly to be engaged in play in one way or another, while the queens embody different forms of fate or fortune. The aces are full-card patterns reminiscent of the gospel carpet pages. Each of the suits has its own colour scheme, and each has a dominant pattern of knots, mazes, spirals, or birds, as well as a tiled pattern. The main source for the patterns was the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Liber Ludorum created by Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, 2019 Liber Ludorum created by Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, 2019 Liber Ludorum created by Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, 2019
Liber Ludorum created by Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, 2019

Above: Liber Ludorum created by Ian Cumpstey and published by crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter, 2019. Printed by Cartamundi, 52 poker-sized playing cards plus 4 bonus cards (2.5" x 3.5").

References

Kickstarter: Liber Ludorum playing cards

A “special edition” of this pack was produced in 2023. For a video of the artist describing the special edition please see here

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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