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Published July 05, 2023 Updated July 05, 2023

Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards

Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010.

2010 USA Prospero Art Arthur Rackham Music Add to Collection

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is best known for his four-opera cycle Der Ring des Niebelungen. This pack, published by Prospero Art in 2010, features 55 illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) depicting scenes from the operas. The pack summarises the storyline of the “Ring”, with each suit representing an opera; diamonds, Das Rheingold; spades, Die Walküre; hearts, Siegfried; and clubs, Die Götterdämmerung. Each illustration, originally created in 1911-1912, is described in the context of the relevant opera. There are two jokers, a card showing a painting of Richard Wagner by Jan Padover, and a double-sided card providing biographical information about Wagner on one side and Rackham on the other. See the information card

Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010 Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010 Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010
Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010

Above: Wagner’s “Ring” playing cards, with illustrations by Sir Arthur Rackham, published by Prospero Art, USA, 2010.

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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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