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Published December 01, 2023 Updated December 02, 2023

Branle playing cards

‘Branle’ playing cards inspired by a 12th-century dance, produced by Noir Arts, USA, 2015.

2015 Europe Russia USA Noir Arts Chesley Trem Kickstarter Music Add to Collection

The name of this Kickstarter pack was inspired by Branle, a 12th-century French chain dance adopted (c. 1450 - c. 1650) by European aristocrats, especially in France and in England, where the word “branle” became anglicized as “brawl.”

The pack was produced in a limited edition of 700 copies by Noir Arts (Roman Kotiv) in 2015, with the artwork created by “Chesley Trem”. This same artwork is almost identical to that used in an earlier Russian souvenir deck called “Sagulatus”. The artwork in this Russian pack is attributed to Vyacheslav Yastremsky (Вячеслав Ястремский), and it emerges that Chesley Trem is actually a pseudonym drawn from part of the artist’s name: vyaCHESLAV yasTREMsky.

Each Branle pack has a numbered custom seal (the pack shown here is no. 193/700). According to the publisher, the court cards portray history and culture of the 16-17th centuries, with each of the suits associated with a particular European country: the spades – Britain; hearts – France; clubs – Spain; and diamonds - Eastern Europe (Rzeczpospolita [Poland], Transylvania, Hungary). However, the associations are not linked to these countries directly, and are not obvious or easy to identify. The cards have large 4-corner indices, the pip cards are rather ornate, and the aces take the form of decorative swords. See the box

Branle playing cards by Noir Arts, USA, 2015 Branle playing cards by Noir Arts, USA, 2015 Branle playing cards by Noir Arts, USA, 2015

Above: Branle playing cards produced by Noir Arts, USA, 2015.


NOTE

The artwork in the ‘Branle’ deck was created by “Chesley Trem”. This same artwork is almost identical to that used in an earlier Russian souvenir deck called “Sagulatus”. They are identical to the Branle cards except for the wording around the waist belt / band which reads "Sagulatus" rather than "Branle". The artwork in this Russian pack is attributed to Vyacheslav Yastremsky (Вячеслав Ястремский), and it emerges that Chesley Trem is actually a pseudonym drawn from part of the artist’s name: vyaCHESLAV yasTREMsky.

“Sagulatus” playing card attributed to Vyacheslav Yastremsky (Вячеслав Ястремский)
“Sagulatus” playing card attributed to Vyacheslav Yastremsky (Вячеслав Ястремский)
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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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