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Published July 03, 1996 Updated June 06, 2023

Transformation Playing Cards, 1811

Transformation playing cards, first published in 1811. Each card bears a picture in which the suit marks are concealed within the design. This artistic exercise began as a late 18th century pastime.

1811 United Kingdom Fuller Cowell Facsimiles & Replicas Transformation Victorian Add to Collection

‘Metastasis’ Transformation playing cards, first published in 1811, in which each card bears an intricate and artistic or burlesque design into which the suit marks have been incorporated. This set was printed by I L S Cowell but many were hand-drawn. The artistic exercise began as a late 18th century parlour game and became a popular pastime during the Victorian era when ordinary playing cards would be transformed by illustrating them in pen and paint.

Transformation Playing Cards printed by I L S Cowell, 1811. © The Trustees of the British Museum Transformation Playing Cards printed by I L S Cowell, 1811. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: 16 cards from Cowell's Transformation Cards, 1811. The complete set of five sheets is accompanied by a wrapper bearing the royal arms, with the title "Metastasis. Transformation of Playing Cards", and "Designed and Etched by I.L.S. Cowell". © The Trustees of the British Museum • Cowell's Transformation Cards

Transformation Playing Cards printed by I L S Cowell and published by S. and J. Fuller, at the Temple of Fancy, Rathbone Place, London, 1811. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: same as the above, coloured version, published September 1, 1811, by S. and J. Fuller, at the Temple of Fancy, Rathbone Place, London.. © The Trustees of the British Museum • Metastasis, Transformation of Cards

Reference

O’Donoghue, Freeman M: Catalogue of the collection of playing cards bequeathed by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, Trustees of the British Museum, London, 1901 (Sheets English 2 & English 72) [digital version here]


Facsimile edition

Above: cards from the facsimile edition published by Harry Margary.

A new facsimile is published by the EPCS.


A rough but lively study of a group of men in hats playing cards by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), 1819.

detail from Sketch by JMW Turner

Source: www.tate.org.uk/.../turner-sketches-at-genzano-including-notes-on-local-costume-and-a-group-of-men-playing-d15465

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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