Page 1

THE no.

52

52 THE no.


Introduction

1

Playing cards have been around for thousands of years. They are widely used all over the world and almost everyone has come across a deck of cards. Although playing cards today are commonly used for games they contain a vast and interesting history which most people are completely unaware of.

Introduction

This book will take you through everything you need to know about the design of playing cards. It will go in detail about the history of playing cards and why and how certain design aspects were implemented into particular cards.


contents A

Brief History

pg 3

2

Suits

pg 6

3

Layout

pg 12

4

Court Cards

pg 24

5

Back Design

pg 38

6

Production

pg 42

Written and designed by Alex Smye-Rumsby

contents

2


brief history Brief History


china

4

china

The earliest cards in China were known as money cards and were made of four different suits, Strings of coins, coins, myriads of strings and tens of myriads of coins.1

These were represented with numbers between 2 and 9 in the first three suits and for the “tens of myriads� the numbers were between 1 and 9.1 Scholars believed that the cards appeared to have been related to the Chinese paper money of the time. People created the cards by copying paper money and then both played with and for these cards.2 A pack of Chinese cards were nothing like the common playing cards of today.

Playing cards first originated in China in the 9th century. The earliest cards that were used were believed to be played by friends and relatives. They called it a leaf game. Scholars from China in the 10th and 11th centuries claimed that several types of card games had existed during the Tang Dynasty in China.1


europe

Each card was individually painted and was only fit for the very rich. These original cards featured four suits of 14 cards each. The suits were, Cups, Swords, Coins and Batons. There was an additional card in each suit called the “Cavalier” or “Mounted Valet”; this was considered the lowest of the four court cards. These suits are still used today in most Latin countries such as Spain and Italy. Playing cards with suits of Spades, Clubs, Diamonds and Hearts first appeared in France in the late 15th century. They were supposedly invented by a famous knight by the name of Etienne Vignoles who went by the pseudonym of Lahire. He designed them to accompany his newly invented card game of Piquet.2 Playing cards haven’t evolved a lot since the 15th century. Although there are many different types, most of them still follow the traditional look.

europe

The earliest references to cards in Europe are mostly in France, the records of King Charles VI show that he bought 3 packs in 1392.3 The Mamelukes from Egypt are thought to be the ones to introduce modern playing cards into Europe in the late 14th century. The original decks used by the Mameluke had 52 cards that had four suits. The suits in their earlier decks were cups, swords, coins and polo sticks. Each of these suits had ten number cards and three court cards. These cards did not depict people but only names of officers and various designs.1 The introduction of playing cards into Europe is unclear. There have been many theories brought forward, although not conclusive the following theory is generally accepted by most historians.

5


suits suits


french suits

7

Later these were adopted by the British and so were used throughout the British Empire. This is also the reason why the United States and Canada use the French suits because both the British and the French settled in North America. So that particular suit pattern is now known as the “Anglo American� pattern.4

french suits

The French suits pip cards could be made by stencils or stamps, and only the court cards required woodcut illustrations.

Suits on cards began to appear in the late 14th century. The standardised suits used most commonly around the world are the French suits of Spades, Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds. These suits grew in popularity more and more in the late 16th and 17th centuries. The reason behind this is most likely because of the simplistic design, largely because cards using those suits were less expensive to manufacture. The traditional suits required a woodcut for each card, because those suits were much more complicated in design and used more than one colour.4


italian suits Since these cards first appeared in the late 14th century when each region in Italy was a separately ruled province, there is no official Italian pattern, but these particular suits are widely accepted. Unlike Anglo-American cards, some Italian cards do not have any numbers [or letters] identifying their value. Identifying the face card or counting the number of suit characters determines the cards’ value.5 The Spanish suit symbols are very similar to these ones, but they do contain some differences.

Italian suits

The Italian suits are very different to the well-known French suits, but if you look at them closely they do have their similarities. The different suits are, Swords, Cups, Clubs [sometimes referred to as batons] and Coins.6 These particular suits, along side any other non-French suit, were used in specific card games. For instance the deck that uses these suits consisted of 40 cards instead of the regular 52.5

8


german suits

9

german suits

East German players used the German deck primarily in the game Skat, while players in Western Germany mainly used the French deck. After the reunification a compromise deck was created for official Skat tournaments, with French symbols but German colours, so the Spades was turned green and the diamonds were turned yellow.5

The German suits have similarities with the French suit symbols but also some significant differences. The illustrations are similar to the Latin suit symbols, but the suits themselves are very different. These are, Leaves, Hearts, Acorns and Bells.4 The Leaves look very similar to the French Spades, but with an obviously different name. It’s believed that the French Spades got its appearance from the German Leaves, but derived its name from the Latin Swords, which means, “Spade� in Italian.5


spanish suits The design of the club in the Spanish deck is considered to look more “natural” than the Italian club4, the illustrations are more detailed in that respect; they have much more depth to them instead of a 2 dimensional look. The Spanish deck is also used for specific card games, and so only contains 40 cards; the 8s and 9s are removed from the deck.5

spanish suits

The Spanish suits are very similar to the Italian suit symbols. They also contain Swords, Cups, Clubs and Coins. Because these suits are so similar, playing card scholars have given them the collective name – the Latin suits.4

10


11

Hearts is basically the spade flipped upside down with the stem removed. The 2 circles are slightly closer together, and the point is much longer to match the length of the entire spade.

suit design

Clubs is easily made up from 4 circles with a stem. 3 of the circles are the exact same size while there is a smaller circle placed right in the middle. The stem is slightly wider than the spades’. Diamonds is the simplist design. It’s made up from 4 lines joined together to make a diamond shape, as the name suggests. The lines are also curved in slightly.

suit design

Spades is the most complicated suit to design out of the 4. You can see it’s made up from 2 circles with a stem inbetween. 2 lines are then made to make a point and are curved in slightly at the top.


layout layout


13

general layout

The only change that has been made to modern playing cards is the way the pips have been mirrored so you can view the card anyway up.

general layout

The general layout of a playing card, even to this day, still sticks to the original domino layout. Most of the pips (suits) are in the same position as the domino’s dots are.


pip cards

pip cards

14


pip cards

pip cards

15


16

7

poker card

7 Standard Width Standard Length

2.5 inches 3.5 inches

poker card

Poker Cards are the standard size in America. They’re mainly used in casinos and in professional poker tournaments. They’re wide width is also used for card tricks.


poker grid

poker grid

17


18

large index

Standard Width Standard Length

2.5 inches 3.5 inches

large index

Large Index cards are also used in casinos. They’re main use is in Stud Poker games, where being able to read cards from a distance is a benefit and where hand sizes are small. Stage magicians also use them for the same benefits.


large index grid

Large Index grid

19


20

bridge card

Standard Width Standard Length

2.25 inch 3.5 inches

bridge card

Bridge cards’ original use was in the game of Bridge, in which a large number of cards must be held concealed in a player’s hand. Because of their narrower size, bridge cards are generally cheaper to make.


Bridge grid

Bridge grid

21


22

round cards

Standard Diametre

3 inches

round cards

Round cards are quite uncommon, but it’s just to show that playing cards don’t always have to be retangular they can be any shape anyone wants them to be.


round grid

round grid

23


court cards court cards


Rouen design

The Rouen pattern was design by Pierre Maréchal in 1567.6 It’s the earliest known court card design for French playing cards. All of today’s modern designs have sought inspiration from these early patterns.

25

It’s hard to believe that modern day court card designs originally came from these cards, but hundreds of years of continuous bad copying has drastically changed the design over time. Only eight of the court cards remain today.

rouen design

6


De La Rue 1834

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

jack of spades

Hewson 1680

26

In the next pair of Jacks you can already see some notable changes. The unrecognisable object has changed once again into still something that’s unknown. This is because of continuous bad copying over the years7 and it has developed into what we see today. Also he has grown a moustache, while in the Hewson design he just appears to have a curved upper lip.

Jack of spades

The Jack of Spades In the Hewson design appears to be holding a spear, also he is standing on his side facing to the right. The Jack is also allegedly supposed to depict Holger Danske who was a knight of Charlemagne5, but Court cards that depict real people are merely rumours spread over hundreds of years. You can already see vast changes with the second Jack. His spear has completely changed into something unrecognisable.


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

queen of spades

Rouen 1567

27

You can see in the third image she has lost her legs, and her dress has changed into a mass of pattern. Her sceptre has changed significantly, but her flower seems to be bending in a similar direction, although the stem has shortened once more. In the Texan design she is seen facing the opposite way, possibly because of the position of the pip.

queen of spades

The Queen of Spades is supposed to depict Pallas who was the goddess of civilisation in Ancient Greek Mythology.5 She is the only Queen that holds a sceptre7, which gradually started to change shape over time. All the Queens hold a flower in their hand. The second queen’s flower stem has shortened in length but she still seems to hold the same pose.


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

king of spades

Rouen 1567

28

The King in the Texan design is still holding his sword in his left hand, but his right hand has seemed to have disappeared over time. His proud stance has clearly completely vanished but he’s still facing the same way after all these years.

king of spades

The King of Spades is supposed to depict King David.5 The king here is standing with his sword in his left hand and his right hand is holding onto his robe. Apart from the proud stance he has in the Rouen design, which again is possibly due to bad copying, this King hasn’t changed much at all.


De La Rue 1834

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

jack of hearts

Hewson 1680

29

One clear difference in these two designs is the hilt he was holding before has now fully developed into a feather. Also he no longer holds the axe in his left hand so it gives the appearance that he’s about to be murdered.

jack of hearts

The Jack of Hearts is supposed to depict La Hire who was a comrade-in-arms to Joan of Arc, and member of Charles VII’s court.5 He is seen here holding an axe with his left hand and in his right hand he is holding something that originally was a long sword pointing down, but you can see here that the hilt has started to change shape and later influenced the modern design.7


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

queen of hearts

Rouen 1567

30

This Queen retained the little details, like the flower and her hand holding her robe for quite some time, until the Texan design. The only notable changes are the stem of the flower has shortened, and her hand in the Texan design has vanished completely

queen of hearts

The Queen of Hearts is supposed to depict Judith.5 The Queen is holding a flower similar to the Queen of Spades, except this flower is much longer and has more sets of leaves on the stem. Apart from perhaps the flower itself and the obvious pattern changes, this Queen doesn’t change that much.


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

king of hearts

Rouen 1567

31

The clear difference with these Kings is the weapon he’s holding. He no longer holds an axe but a sword, and the design strongly suggests that he’s stabbing himself in the head. For this reason this particular King has also been given the name, The Suicide King. Another small difference is that his moustache has vanished.

king of hearts

The King of Hearts is supposed to depict King Charles VII.5 This is definitely the most interesting King of them all. The original Rouen design is seen holding an axe behind his head, but the object the Hewson King is holding almost looks like it’s penetrating his head. Some could argue that he still has it behind, but the later copies suggest otherwise.


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

jack of clubs

Rouen 1567

32

The original arrow has started to change into a more abstract variation of it, almost unrecognisable without the comparison. He has maintained his feather which in the Texan design looks more and more like a leaf. The Jack also ends up facing the opposite direction, again most likely because of the position of the pip.

jack of clubs

The Jack of Clubs is supposed to depict Lancelot who was one of the Knights of the Round Table.5 He is seen here holding what appears to be an arrow. You can see in the Hewson design he has what looks like a leaf in his hat. Some early Rouen cards show the Jack with a fine feather in his cap, but over time has degraded into something that looks like a leaf.7


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

queen of clubs

Rouen 1567

33

The Queen in these designs has got her flower back, which in the third image has a stem that is sticking out through the bottom of her fist. Also once again the Texan design has got rid of her other hand and changed the way she is facing.

queen of clubs

The Queen of Clubs is supposed to depict Argea who was wife of Polybus and mother of Argus.5 In the Hewson design the Queen seems to be holding a squirrel. The reason for this is unknown because in the original Rouen design she is clearly holding a flower like the rest of the Queens.


Hewson 1680

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

king of clubs

Rouen 1567

34

The King has kept his sword and the Imperial Orb. But the hand that was once holding the Orb has started to disappear and eventually became part of the decoration of his robe. Also the cross of Lorraine, which crowned the Orb, has turned into something that looks more like a wilted lettuce.7

king of clubs

The King of Clubs is supposed to depict Alexander the Great.5 The king here is holding a sword in his left hand and holding an Imperial Orb in his right.7 The Rouen design again shows the king in a proud pose. But the Hewson king seems to be hunched over, also the sword he’s holding is slightly bent to the right. Once again this is another example of bad copying.


De La Rue 1834

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

jack of diamonds

Hewson 1680

35

The only real changes to this Jack is the axe. Gradually it has changed into something that’s a lot less natural looking. The handle still surpasses over the blade though. The Texan design has also given him a moustache and changed the way he is facing, similar to some of the other cards.

jack of diamonds

The Jack of Diamonds is supposed to depict Hector who was a Trojan prince.5 Here he is seen holding an axe in his right hand, with a handle that surpasses over the blade. But in the second image the axe has already changed shape completely, it looks more like a pickaxe.


De La Rue 1834

Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

6

queen of diamonds

Hewson 1680

36

The most notable change is the flower; it’s turned into something that looks more similar to the rest of them. Once again she has lost one of her hands, and has been made to face the opposite way.

queen of diamonds

The Queen of Diamonds is supposed to depict Rachel who was supposedly Charles VII’s mistress.5 Here she is holding what looks like a rose in some form or another. The artist has painted the rose red in the middle with a yellow outline. The leaves are also a more natural colour compared to the rest of the Queens.


Dougherty 1865

Texan no. 45s 1889

king of diamonds

These Kings have maintained the generic hand gesture, and much like the Jack of Hearts he no longer holds the axe so it looks like he’s about to be murdered.

Hewson 1680

The problem with all the new designs is that the court cards have completely lost their personality. Even if the Rouen designs weren’t meant to depict real people they still seemed like believable characters.

king of diamonds

Rouen 1567

6

The King of Diamonds is supposed to depict Julius Caesar.5 Here the King is holding what looks like an axe in his right hand. In the Rouen design the king is making a very specific hand gesture with his other hand, but in the Hewson design his hand looks very generic.

37


back design back design


bicycle

The design itself is very floral and intricate, but if you look closely it can be relatively easy to achieve this. Only a quarter of the card has been designed and the rest has been mirrored, apart from a few small details. The birds for example and the wheel in the middle.

bicycle

Back design is property of the United States Playing Card Company.

Bicycle Ž cards are the most famous playing card brand in the world. Their Rider back design is their most popular back design they’ve made.

39


40

tally-ho

Back design is property of the United States Playing Card Company.

The circle in the middle is much more prominent, and the design overall isn’t as floral as the Bicycle ® design. It mainly consists of straight lines and with the large circle in the middle it works very well.

tally-ho

Tally-Ho ® cards are poker sized cards that are printed in the same way as Bicycle ® cards. The back design is similar in some ways, it uses similar patterns but to create a different result.


bee

From a distance the design looks very simple, the cross hatch effect is one of the easiest things to draw for a back design. But the great thing about this design is that it seems simple but actually contains great detail.

Bee

Back design is property of the United States Playing Card Company.

Bee 速 cards are also poker sized playing cards that are printed in the same way as Bicycle 速 cards, but with a very different back design.

41


production production


43

woodcut

printing

6

There were many problems with this type of method though. The wood itself had a limited life-span, some cards are found with gaps in the outlines where the relief design has worn away. Also, because such great pressure was needed for printing, the ink was usually pressed out leaving a thinner impression in the middle of the line and thicker at either side.8 When enough pressure had been applied the press was unscrewed and the printed paper hung to dry.

Printing

The earliest method for printing playing cards was relief printing with woodblocks. The method for this was that first, a piece of wood was taken and cut along the length, and the design was then drawn directly onto the piece of wood. The excess wood around the design was then cut away to a depth of 0.125 to 0.25 of an inch. The design was then coated with ink and printed. The printing process was achieved by placing the card onto the back of the inked woodblock and rubbed on the back. When presses were invented the inked plate was placed on a press and covered with the sheet of card, the press was then screwed down.8


intaglio

There were two basic types of copper engraving, they were: Drypoint, which used a strong needle to draw directly on to the plate, the drawn line had to be deep enough to hold the ink. As the needle was dragged through the metal, a “burr” was ploughed at the edges of the line which gave the print a rich, soft linear quality. Line-Engraving was a process that was perfected by the Germans and Italians and used a sharp burin with a cutting point at an angle of 40 degrees. Steel plates soon began to replace copper as they gave a finer design and did not wear as quickly. The plates were printed in a similar manner to woodblocks but on specially modified intaglio presses. 8

intaglio

To start off, the design would have been engraved onto a sheet of copper, leaving a groove. The copper was then inked and wiped clean, the print was made from the ink left in the grooves. The plate could be “etched” or “grooved” in many different ways to produce contrast, shades, tones etc. From slightly etched lines to deeply bitten lines.8 The principle of Intaglio printing is the exact reverse of woodblock printing. First of all instead of woodblocks, copper plates were used, they were known in Germany and Italy before 1450 and were used for high-quality playing cards by the end of the century.8

44


lithography

45

lithography

Because he didn’t have any paper handy he wrote the list with greasy ink on a piece of stone. Later he realised that natural affinity of grease and stone and that it was possible to damp the stone so that the ink would only take on the greasy drawing and leave the white parts of the design blank.

Aloys discovered lithography during his experiments to find a cheaper way to print his manuscripts. As copper was hard to come by at the time, he tried to etch on limestone. During one of his experiments his mother asked him to make a laundry list.8

Later on in the mid-19th century the stone was replaced by zinc plates and then moved on to aluminium.8

Lithography is the most common printing method, and is still used today. It was invented by Aloys Senefelder in 1796. The main difference between lithography and the other printing processes is that it is based on purely chemical properties, rather than mechanical.


today Cards are printed on large sheets that undergo a varnishing procedure in order to enhance the brightness and glow of the colours printed on the cards, this can also increase the durability of the cards. The sheets are then cut down and made into individual cards.

Today

There are some specific treatments that can be applied on the card surface, such as calendering, which is when one layer of the card is folded in half and passed under rollers at high temperatures and pressures. Another treatment is linen finishing.5

Cards are made from two types of materials, either Card Stock or Plastic. Card Stock is much cheaper to manufacture and is the desired choice, but Plastic is used in some cases for durability reasons. Another advantage of using Plastic is that the cards can be cleaned with water without damaging the card.5 Nowadays playing cards go through various different production techniques, but offset lithography is still used.

46


ace of sapdes

The Ace of Spades is also known as the Death Card. In the Vietnam War soldiers would put the card on dead Vietcong’s to scare the rest away. US troops believed that Vietnamese ancient traditions held the symbolism of the spade to mean death. This was thought to be so effective, that the US Playing Card Company was asked to supply crates of the Ace in bulk. The crates were often marked with “Bicycle Secret Weapon.”10

ace of spades

The modern design of the Ace of Spades originated in the 18th century, when particular duties on playing cards were exacted by the monarchy. Stamp duty was needed on playing cards in 1711 and this kind of taxation lasted until 1960. Only one of the cards had to be stamped and it was usually the Ace of Spades. Nowadays the Ace of Spades is used to show the card manufacturer’s information.9

A


the joker

J

Joker from a Eurchre deck 11

the joker

One theory suggests that the Best Bower was alternatively called “The Euchre Card”. This could have been mispronounced as “Juker Card” and therefore eventually developed into “Joker Card”. The problem with this theory is that there is no evidence of a “Juker Card” or even a “Euchre Card” being printed.11

The Joker hadn’t started intentionally as a “Joker”; it was first introduced into the game of Euchre. The game itself consisted of 2 Jacks of the same colour being the most powerful cards. When the game was brought to the US they also brought some of the German terms, such as Bauer, which means Jack. Later on Americans added to the Euchre deck a card even higher than the 2 Jacks. It was called the Imperial Bower or the Best Bower. This card would soon become to be known as The Joker.11


the joker Standard Joker Card

the joker

Another example of how the Joker got its name is when the Americans started to include an extra card into other card games. The card was usually used as a wild card. The term “Joker” could have been used because the card could have been interpreted into something that changes character or pops up unexpectedly. Designers would have then tried to create some new imagery for this wild card. The decision for using a jester made sense because of his “wild” behaviour, also because he fits in with the court cards. In Europe, after all, the royal court really was home to jesters, jugglers and other entertainers.12

13

Early Joker cards didn’t depict jesters, clowns or pranksters to begin with. The Best Bowers and early Jokers normally depicted things like children, stage characters and animals.12

J


(pg A)

B Back Design Bee Bicycle Bridge Card Bridge Grid Brief History

(pg 3) (pg 41) (pg 39) (pg 20) (pg 21) (pg 38)

C China Court Cards

(pg 4) (pg 24)

D E Europe

(pg 5)

F French Suits

(pg 7)

G General Layout German Suits

(pg 13) (pg 9)

H I Intaglio Introduction Italian Suits

(pg 44) (pg 1) (pg 8)

J Jack of Clubs Jack of Diamonds Jack of Hearts Jack of Spades Joker, The

(pg 32) (pg 35) (pg 29) (pg 26) (pg J)

K King of Clubs King of Diamonds

(pg 34) (pg 37)

King of Hearts King of Spades

(pg 31) (pg 28)

L Large Index Card Large Index Grid Layout Lithography

(pg 18) (pg 19) (pg 12) (pg 45)

M N O P Pip Cards Poker Card Poker Grid Printing Production

(pg 14,15) (pg 16) (pg 17) (pg 43) (pg 42)

Q Queen of Clubs Queen of Diamonds Queen of Hearts Queen of Spades

(pg 33) (pg 36) (pg 30) (pg 27)

R Rouen Design Round Card Round Grid

(pg 25) (pg 22) (pg 23)

S Spanish Suits Suits Suit Design

(pg 10) (pg 6) (pg 11)

T Tally-Ho Today

(pg 40) (pg 46)

U V W X Y Z

47

index

index

A Ace of Spades


48

2. http://tradgames.org.uk/games/playing-cards.htm 3. Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton’s Teeth and Ovid’s Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.135. Simon & Schuster, New York. 4. http://gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca/ VirtualExhibits/Playing Cards/decks/index.html 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playing_card 6. http://whiteknucklecards.com/earlystandards 7. http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~daf/i-p-c-s.org/faq/ tmfaq2.php 8. Wowk, Kathleen (1983). Playing Cards of the World a Collector’s Guide, p.151-152. Lutterworth Press. 9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ace_of_spades 10. http://www.psywarrior.com/DeathCardsAce.html 11. http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~daf/i-p-c-s.org/faq/ history_10.php 12. http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~daf/i-p-c-s.org/faq/ history_11.php 13. http://media.giantbomb.com/ uploads/0/4615/443751-joker_card_large.jpg All websites last viewed on 25/05/2010

references

references

1. http://cardhistory.com/history.htm


52/52  

Book exploring the designed 52 card deck. Actually book is in 52 sheets, with rounded edges and bound by one single hing bolt on the left ha...

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