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Playing Card Research Archives maintained by The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

Published June 13, 2024 Updated June 13, 2024

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards maintains an extensive archive of materials from notable playing card researchers, available for study by arrangement in Bicester.

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It is probably not widely known that the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards has archive materials from some of the most highly respected playing card researchers and writers: Sylvia Mann, John Berry, Mike Goodall, Virginia and Harold Wayland, George Hatton and Henry Charles Hutton. The Company would welcome anyone interested in these archives to arrange a visit to study them.

The archives were each given after the deaths of their contributor(s) and the Worshipful Company offers as near a permanent home as possible. The Company has not had the resources to organise the papers in great detail and the Company does not own any premises. A few years ago the materials were moved from a home at the St Bride printing library, which was finding it hard to remain open, and are now in permanent storage near the Clerk’s home in Bicester.

The consolidation of the archives in Bicester allowed us to make a working list of what there is. The rest of this article will set out the contents in more detail.

Above: Sylvia Mann: Pattern Sheet notes

Sylvia Mann was a leading 20th century expert in the collection and serious study of playing cards and was a founding member of the International Playing Card Society. She was the author of several books on playing cards, both popular and scholarly. Her most enduring work All the Cards on the Table 1990, is a comprehensive reference for playing cards of all eras and from all countries around the world.

Sylvia Mann’s archive is contained in four boxes - these are large plastic storage boxes roughly the size of typical cases for 12 bottles of wine. The first box contains notes for several pattern sheets mainly in middle European and Germanic areas. Then there is a catalogue of what seem to be her own cards (but the numbering differs from the numbers in All the Cards on the Table.) There are some correspondence files, particularly with William Penn and the Waylands. The remainder is a miscellany with 92 photographs from the USPC collection and conference notes, proceedings and keepsakes.

Above: completed card back.

Boxes two and three contain individual folders of notes arranged by country - around thirty in all. The last box contains a lot of mixed material including letters, specifically with Michael Dummett but also more generally, and a lot of general reseach such as magazine articles and news clippings.

John Berry (1929-2004) worked at the Royal Armaments R&D Establishment for 36 years. He was another founder of the IPCS. His work on taxation for English Cards (IPCS Papers No 3) is an essential for English collectors, enabling accurate dates to be allocated with ease for the first time. John was author of The World of Playing Cards, a catalogue of the WCMPC Collection and an exposition of the current state of knowledge.

Above: preparation in mono.

John Berry’s archive materials are extensive, taking sixteen boxes in all. Several of these are long runs of playing card periodicals. There is a lot of background research relating to his many articles, his larger work on English taxation and his cataloguing of the WCMPC Collection and the Waddington Collection including notes and other preparations for books.

There is correspondence that is under embargo until 2029, and we believe that he must have expressed some very frank opinions of others and their work!

There are extensive general research materials such as brochures, conference papers and so on, and there are boxes of presentation slides and also photographic slides of pictures from conferences. John Berry also belonged to a number of European playing card societies, and his archive includes materials relating to these.

Henry Charles Hutton was a pioneer in the use of photographic methods for producing playing cards. He worked with De La Rue & Co from the 1920’s, bringing in technology from Germany and possibly the USA. The archive contains examples of his research into printing and many samples of playing card backs – both actual cards and proof prints. The archive was donated by his son Keith Hutton, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company. After his death, Keith Hutton made a generous bequest toward the upkeep of the archives. The Hutton Archive is contained in one box.

Mike Goodall (1927-2022) was a direct descendant of card maker Charles Goodall. Initially interested in the family and the Goodall firm, Mike became an expert on English playing cards generally, producing 19 research books. He was Master of the Worshipful Company in 1996-97, Deputy Chairman of the IPCS and Chairman of the EPCS.

Above: preparation in a single colour test.

There are two boxes of folders in the archive and most of the material was collected in the course of the preparation for Mike’s many publications. The folders include working papers, so that they may go beyond the contents of the final books. There are original assembled images, for example for the book on tax wrappers, at original size for later scaling down to book-page size. There is a very good set of materials relating to Goodall, as one would expect, and finally there is a metal card file that presumably covers Mike’s own playing card collection.

Virginia and J Harold Wayland, from Pasadena California, had considerable general knowledge of playing cards and a particular interest in English cards by Lenthall. In the early C18th Lenthall reproduced many of the most popular pictorial cards from previous eras. The Waylands researched the English language Lenthall cards and published articles on all of them in the Journal of the Playing Card Society - the earlier forerunner of The Playing Card.

There is one box of the Waylands’ archive and it has the notes on Lenthall research and numerous images as one would expect. In addition there are some notes on playing cards from Africa.

George Hatton was a collector and authority on Oriental playing cards, particularly the playing cards of Japan. He has extensive original cards, wrappers, photocopies and photographs of Japanese cards accompanied by notes. He went to the extent of translating many of the several hundred Japanese poetry cards in the WCMPC collection, taking advice from a specialist translator.

George Hatton’s archive reflects his interest in cards from Japan in detail, with many photographs and with his translations. In addition there are files and papers covering European cards, mainly the eastern area including Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Prussia and some ASS pack images particularly where they reproduce older Dondorf designs

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By Paul Bostock

Member since May 07, 2024

Paul has been a collector of playing cards since his early teenage years, the mid 1970s. In the last 20 years or so he has specialised in standard English cards and their story. His collection, including many other English Standards, are featured on his website plainbacks.com. Paul is currently editor of Clear the Decks, the Journal of 52 Plus Joker, the American club for playing card collectors, and is a member of the IPCS Council, an EPCS member and a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing cards, a City of London livery company.


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