History of Playing Cards

Did you know?

 The deck of playing cards was invented in Ancient China, approximately in the 9th century by the Tang Dynasty. The first recording of them was in a book titled Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang, and was written by author Su E. The book described Princess Tongchang, the daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang, as playing the “Leaf Game”.

 Playing cards first entered Europe in the late 14th century, with suits of swords, staves, cups, and coins, similar to tarot cards.

 Since their creation in the 9th century, the deck of playing cards has spread all across the world. There’s documented evidence of their use when they were banned in 1367 in Bern, Switzerland. In 1929 Leo Mayer discovered a complete pack of Mameluke playing cards, in Istanbul’s Tapkapi palace. Playing cards really didn’t gain popularity though, until the 14th century when they spread like wildfire across Europe.

 Original playing cards were made by hand, and were sometimes engraved. It wasn’t until the 15th century when printed woodcut decks appeared.

 Different suits of playing cards have varied from country to country over the years. In the 15th century Europe’s suits were different depending on the individual places, though there usually only contained 4 or 5 suits. Italian and Spanish decks consisted of swords, batons (or wands), cups, and coins (or rings), and German suits for a deck of cards consisted of hearts, bells, leaves, and acorns. Those standard suits are still used today in East and Southeastern Germany.

 The suits that we see in our American decks (spades, hearts, etc.) originated in France in approximately 1480. It has also been said that in German suits, the idea of a trefle (club) probably derived from an acorn, and a pique (spade) from a leaf.

 Traditionally the king has always been placed as the highest card, but in German decks the Queen replaces the king as the highest card in 2 suits. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the Ace began it’s use, in some games, as the highest card, with the 2 taking it’s place as lowest.

Some speculate that the concept may have come the 18th century French Revolution, where games began playing “Ace High” as a symbol of lower class rising in power above royalty.

 The history of the Joker dates all the way back to the 1860’s, although because Poker and the German game Euchre both became popular in the United States at the same time, no one is sure which game the Joker derives from.

Scholars argue Euchre, because the term Joker and the Euchre game’s Juker are similar. Others say Poker, because of the 1875 book American Hoyle mentions the Joker.

 Over the centuries the Joker has taken many different names, and designs. It has been called things like Jolly Joker, and Best Bower, and has taken both the appearance of a court jester, and a clown.

 There are two different Jokers per pack of cards. The Black Joker corresponding to the Fool Card in a deck of Tarot cards, and the Red Joker corresponding to the Magician, otherwise known as the Juggler.

 Almost 2/3 of all cards made in Europe were made by Charles Goodall and Sons, one of the most well known card manufacturing companies in Europe. Some other well known European companies were Waddington’s; Thomas De La Rue; and “British Playing Cards” by Alf Cooke.

 There are many different kinds of cards, not just the playing cards we see in our everyday lives. There are Translucent cards, which are look completely normal until held up to a light, revealing a hidden image. There are the Simultane cards, which were first published in 1960, and are a “treat for the eyes with vivid colors and lyricism of design.” There is also the Silver Cards, which are hand painted on tortoise shells, seashells, palm leaves, etc. Silver cards can be found in museums in Madrid and Italy. It’s also possible though to get custom made Silver cards as a novelty gift for someone.

 Throughout the many centuries decks of cards have found themselves all over the world, playing all sorts of different games. From being dealt at a casino in Las Vegas, to playing a simple game of May I in our homes, even to goofing around and finding yourself having broken a record as Bryan Berg did by building the tallest skyscraper made of cards.

From China, to Japan, to Europe to America: I think it’s safe to say that the deck of cards has made its impact on the world.

Image can be found at http://cardshistory.com/