History of Playing Cards: A Brief Excursion into History

History of Cards

As always – you only have to go deeper into a topic, and so many new and interesting things can be found at once! It would seem playing cards – what’s the big deal? But while I was specifying the rules for children’s card games on the Internet, I found so much about cards!

History Of Cards

In the middle of the 15th century, the cards came to France from Italy, where we had our own deck of cards with unusual suits (about suits see below), slightly different from region to region (62 cards from Bologna, 78 in Venice, 98 in Florence). The special feature of these maps was the 21 trumps, the “Senior Arcana”. Apparently, this is how Tarot cards appeared, which were playing until the 18th century, and only then they began to use the occultists).

Italian cards belong to the so-called “Latin” (Spanish, Portuguese) – this is the first European cards brought to the Apennines in the late 14th century by crusaders from the East.

The first written mention of playing cards in Europe is the 1367 decree banning card games in the city of Bern. In 1392, Jacques Gringonner, the jester of the mentally ill French king Charles VI, drew a card deck for his master’s entertainment. That deck was different from the modern one – it had only 32 cards (there were no ladies).
Further history of cards is lost in centuries. There are several versions of their origin.

One of them is borrowing cards from Persia through India. In the Persian sources there is the earliest mention of this game. In the “Chronicles of Egypt and Syria” there is a mention of what to know at court played the game “Kanjifah”, using cards of 8 suits of 12 cards. But under the influence of Muslims already in the mid 17th century, this game was forgotten.

In India, the cards took root, the local deck was called ganjifah. This word is first mentioned in 1527 in the diary of Emperor Babur, where he wrote that he sent the deck to his friend.

On Indian round, playing cards depicted the figure of four-armed Shiva, who held the cup, sword, coin, and rod. It is believed that these symbols of the four Indian estates and gave rise to the colors of the “Latin deck”.

Popular Version

Another popular version is Turkic. In the 12-13th centuries, Egyptian Mamelukes played a deck of 52 cards with values from 1 to 10, which had four suits (swords, clubs, bowls, and coins), “Malik” (Emir – king) and two of his assistants – “naib malik” and “Tani naib”.

It is very similar to the “Latin deck”, it also originally lacked ladies, and there were kings, jacks and cavaliers. Only sticks became ceremonial rods (or batons) in Europe. And the word “naib”, “assistant”, became the name of the card game. In 1939 L.A. Mayer in the Istanbul museum Topkapi found an incomplete deck of cards mamelukov.

There is a version that I think is just an attempt to mystify that the maps came to us from Egypt. It was first published in 1785 by the French occultist Etteila. Egyptian maps are 78 gold plates on which the priests wrote down all their knowledge. 56 of them – “Junior Arcans” – became ordinary playing cards, and with 22 “Senior Arcans” they made a deck of Tarot, used for divination. But no archaeological evidence of this version has been found by scientists.

Another version, which also does not cause me personally trust that the card game appeared in the 12th century in China. But though there were paper pictures with different images of flowers and birds, a bit like cards, but rules of the game are similar to dominoes.

Card Drawing

The most widespread design of playing cards in Russia – traditional “Atlas cards” – has been created in the middle of the 19th century by academicians of painting Adolf Joseph Charlemagne. Since then, the drawing has not changed, not counting the fact that the image of the coat of arms of the Russian Empire was removed from the card of a worm jack and a diamond ace.

But Charlemagne has not created a fundamentally new card style. In developing the drawings he relied on the tradition of “North German picture”, which came from the ancient folk French card deck.

The Anglo-American playing card template, now distributed all over the world, has evolved from a Rwandan (a kind of French) template.

The “Paris Pattern” cards were created in the mid-17th century on the basis of maps by the artist Hector de Troyes. Nowadays, the image of the “Paris Template” is most often found on playing cards for preference (a deck of 32 cards) produced in France.

The tradition of lavishly decorating the ace of spades came from the fact that during the reign of King James I of England (1566-1625), a decree was issued according to which the ace of spades (since this map was the first in the deck) required the printing of information about the manufacturer and his logo. The same ace was also stamped with a special stamp indicating that a special tax on maps had been paid.