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Published April 10, 2023 Updated April 10, 2023

Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards

Shakespeare playing cards with illustrations by Sir John Gilbert RA, United Kingdom.

United Kingdom Cultzilla John Gilbert Literature Shakespeare Add to Collection

Each card features a Victorian black and white illustration and a quotation from 37 of the 39 plays known to have been written by Shakespeare. Since the bard never wrote 52 plays, 11 are necessarily represented twice, each with a different illustration and quotation, and 26 plays only once. The pack excludes two known works by Shakespeare: the late romance “The two noble kinsmen” and “Edward III” (neither of which appeared in the First Folio). There are four delicately drawn aces and two jokers. The pack was designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla. See the box

The illustrations are by Sir John Gilbert RA (1817–1897), an English artist, illustrator and engraver. Perhaps best known for the illustrations and wood-engravings he produced for the Illustrated London News, he also produced very many illustrations for books, including The Illustrated Library Shakespeare, published 1890, with almost 750 drawings.

Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla
Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla

Above: Shakespeare finely illustrated playing cards designed and manufactured in Cambridgeshire by Cultzilla.

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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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