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Published January 21, 2023 Updated January 23, 2023

Vanity Fair 1868-1914

Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995.

1995 United Kingdom Billy Bembo Caricatures Literature Satire Add to Collection

Vanity Fair was a British weekly magazine that was published from 1868 to 1914. Founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles in London, the magazine included articles on fashion, theatre, current events, but it is best known for its distinctive type of satirical caricatures of famous people of Victorian and Edwardian society. These were single, high quality chromolithographic prints, suitable for framing, which were supplied free with each issue. Over 2,300 caricatures were published.

1st edition

This pack is the first of two to be published by Billy Bembo, Essex in 1995 reproducing 54 caricatures of the great and the good, primarily from the political, legal, social and cultural fields. Each caricature shows the date of its appearance in the magazine and also a witty commentary or description beneath. Information about the magazine and the artists who produced many of the caricatures is provided on an explanatory card

Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (1st edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995 Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (1st edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995 Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (1st edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995

Above: Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (1st edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995.

2nd edition

Published by Billy Bembo, Essex in 1995, this is the second pack of caricatures reproduced from the magazine Vanity Fair, which ran between 1868 and 1914. While the 1st edition was wider in its selection of caricatures, this pack is devoted to caricatures of famous people of Victorian and Edwardian society from the science and medicine fields. Each caricature shows the date of its appearance in the magazine and also a witty commentary or description beneath. An explanatory card provides information about the magazine and the artists who provided many of the caricatures. See the explanatory card

Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (2nd edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995 Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (2nd edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995

Above: Vanity Fair 1868-1914 playing cards (2nd edition) published by Billy Bembo, United Kingdom, 1995.

See the boxes


NOTE: The National Portrait Gallery archive in London has a complete run of 2,387 Vanity Fair chromolithographs.

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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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