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Published February 26, 2023 Updated February 26, 2023

Calliope: a Renaissance band

Facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by ‘Calliope’, a New York City-based band.

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facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by Calliope, a New York City-based band formed in 1975

Calliope is a New York City-based band formed in 1975 which plays Renaissance music and modern music using early musical instruments. Perhaps not surprisingly they have selected to produce a facsimile of a pack of cards printed c. 1535 by Wolfgang Rösch in Nuremberg. The woodcuts are attributed to Hans Schäufelein, c. 1480-1540. This pack is uncoloured (though the original was printed from woodblocks and then hand coloured), and the card backs are plain white.

A description of the original pack, part of which is shown below, can be found in the book by Timothy Husband, “The World in Play: Luxury Cards 1430–1540”, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 2015, pp. 96-101.

“It comprises a King, Upper and Under Knaves, and 10 through 1, for a total of fifty-two cards with the standard German suits: Acorns, Leafs, Hearts, and Bells. The lower zones of the cards are filled with vignettes all set at the front of the picture plane on a narrow strip of ground. A varied cast from all social classes—in vignettes of humorous folklore, bawdy tales, social parody, and moralizing exempla, occasionally erotic or often scatological—occupies the lower zones. The sources of the images included printed books, single leaf woodcuts, and other graphic works. A master of economy, Schäufelein created spare compositions with a taut line and narrative conciseness that convey the essence of each image with arresting directness”.

facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by Calliope, a New York City-based band formed in 1975 facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by Calliope, a New York City-based band formed in 1975 facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by Calliope, a New York City-based band formed in 1975 facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) produced by Calliope, a New York City-based band formed in 1975

Above: facsimile of cards attributed to Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540) and printed c. 1535 by Wolfgang Rösch in Nuremberg, reproduced by ‘Calliope’, a New York City-based band formed in 1975.


NOTES

Hans Schäufelein: British Museum website

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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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