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Published February 10, 2013 Updated April 10, 2022

Pope Joan Trays

Some traditional Pope Joan boards comprise a circular tray, others are square, divided into sections labelled Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Intrigue and Matrimony. In the game, the Nine of Diamonds is “Pope Joan”.

United Kingdom Ephemera History

“Pope Joan” Game Trays

with gilt and painted panels

Pope Joan is a card game for three or more players in which the object is to win as many counters as possible by playing certain cards. The game was first recorded in Britain in 1732. It was popular in the 19th century and is mentioned in 'Pickwick Papers'. Some traditional Pope Joan boards comprise a circular tray, others are square, divided into sections labelled Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Intrigue and Matrimony. In the game, the Nine of Diamonds is “Pope Joan”.

Right: click the images to zoom →

The full-length playing card images in the trays are consistent with woodblock and stencil playing cards produced in England around c.1790-1820. The red and gold in the frames really brightens up the playing card images in this set.

Pope Joan game coins Pope Joan trays with old playing cards forming their base, early 19th century. Images courtesy Tim Paine Pope Joan trays with old playing cards forming their base, early 19th century. Images courtesy Tim Paine

Above: Pope Joan trays with old playing cards forming their base, early 19th century. Images courtesy Tim Paine.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator 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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