The history of playing cards: when did playing cards appear

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The history of playing cards: when did playing cards appear
The history of playing cards: when did playing cards appear

The popularity of playing cards over the centuries is easily explained: with them you can have a good time with friends playing or card tricks, play complex solitaire alone, tell fortunes or build a house of cards. And all this with the help of a small deck that you can take with you to the beach or on a picnic.

The history of playing cards

The earliest mention of playing cards or dominoes - in China still the same word means both - is found in Chinese literature of the 10th century, but without indicating the markings of cards and games in which people played.

However, there are other opinions. Archaeologists of the same China believe that the history of the creation of playing cards dates back to the reign of the Tang Dynasty, that is, the cards were already known in the 7th-8th centuries. Only they were made not from paper, but from wood or ivory.

China? India? Who's next?

There is no exact information about where and when playing cards appeared. There is an Egyptian version according to whichcards are a carrier of information about the relationship of the universe, god and man. Encrypted original message of the priests of Ancient Egypt to future generations.

An equally beautiful legend associated with playing cards exists in India. The cards were an illustration of the various incarnations of the gods on Earth and their exploits.

Finding out the history of the origin of playing cards turned out to be impossible. References to games, more or less similar to card games, using sheets of paper with images, are found in documentary sources of the 10th-12th centuries by almost all the peoples of the East, including Korea and Japan.

collectible cards

Distribution in Europe

The history of the appearance of playing cards in Europe can be traced. Maps have been known here since the 1370s. Probably, they were brought to Italy or Spain by merchants from Egypt or crusader knights returning to their homeland, along with other captured trophies. The fact that maps were brought to Europe from an Islamic country is confirmed by the fact that there were no images of people, in accordance with the Islamic religious tradition.

Like the Chinese originals, the first European maps were hand-painted, making them luxury items for the we althy. In the account book of the French king Charles VI, a payment of 56 sous to the court jester Jacquemain Grangonner for painting a deck of cards for the king's entertainment is recorded. Based on this record, researchers of the history of the creation of playing cards for some time considered him the author of their invention, but then this misconception was refuted. new fungradually spread throughout Europe and during the fifteenth century became a favorite pastime of the upper classes.

the oldest deck

Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in the early 15th century greatly reduced the cost of production. In addition to this, in 1480 in France, by analogy with printing, the practice of coloring through stencils was introduced. The mass production of cards has expanded the social appeal of card games and increased their inherent advantages over traditional indoor games, and accelerated their spread across Europe.

If you track the century in which playing cards appeared in the context of countries, then in most cases it will be the second half of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Popularity of card games

The main reason for the passion for cards was the ability to play a different number of players. Prior to the advent of cards, the choice was limited to either two-player chess or the more versatile multiplayer dice game.

Card games are more varied and offer entertainment to players of different mindsets and temperaments, ranging from unskilled games of chance to more sophisticated and complex ones.

For some reason, playing cards attracted more ladies of high society. Associations between the card game and seduction are widespread in European literature and painting. This factor, along with the spread of gambling card games, led to frequent condemnation of card games by the church and even to a ban.individual games by civil authorities.

Players at the table

If you can try to restore the history of playing cards from the surviving documentary evidence, then with respect to card games everything is much more complicated. One can only assume that the first appeared simple games in which it was necessary to group cards according to drawings or suits. The second kind of such entertainment was solitaire. Among the nobility, it was popular to play for money, for their fortunes. And ordinary people played simple games to pass the time.

Replenishment of the treasury

Gambling card associations have prompted some governments to seek a stake in the business. The fiscal history of playing cards is also interesting. In 17th-century France, the finance minister of King Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin, replenished the royal treasury, in fact turning the Palace of Versailles into one huge card casino. Some countries have made the production of maps a state monopoly on pain of fines, imprisonment, and even the death pen alty for counterfeiting criminals. Less bloodthirsty limited themselves to the introduction of special taxes. Despite advances in printing and manufacturing and the relentless popularity of games, playing card manufacturing remains a highly specialized and competitive market. In the 20th century, many traditional suppliers went out of business or were taken over by larger companies.

National decks

The history of playing cards in Europe is the history of the evolution of images from the original Mamluk deck, somesamples of which have survived to this day, to national decks. Since Islam forbids depictions of a person, Mamluk cards were decorated with arabesques.

Spreading through the countries of Europe, in whose religion there were no such prohibitions, the cards changed their appearance. Each country's card makers have adapted them to their own national culture and symbols. On the cards of the major arcana, they began to draw people in costumes that corresponded to the modern fashion of the highest nobility. Eventually, several national decks were formed that are still used in the countries of origin.

The evolutionary process ended with the creation of an international deck.

card game

International deck

It is authentically known in what year playing cards appeared in their usual modern form. The last fundamental change in card design was made in 1830.

Human figures on playing cards were originally depicted in full growth. In the game of cribbage, there was a figurative expression for the position of a piece card: "one for his nose" and "two for his heels".

In other games, this image was a disadvantage. Observant players could identify the cards in their opponents' hands by the natural practice of turning the card upside down.

This issue has been fixed by displaying the figure's torso on both sides of the map's midline. This invention quickly spread to all regional decks.

By the middle of the 19th century, all the elements of a modern playingmaps were defined and circulated everywhere. Kings, queens and jacks are firmly established in the deck. Hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds were printed on cards issued in the Old and New Worlds. Angular lateral indices have appeared in the diametrical corners of the map.

These improvements seem minor, but it took hundreds of years to come up with them, implement them and combine them into one elegant package - a standard playing card.

The most successful and widely recognized deck is the one based on a set of 52 cards divided into four suits, each containing 13 ranks, so that each card is uniquely identified by suit and rank.

dogs and poker

Ace of Spades

The Ace of Spades is considered the emblem of the deck. It is traditionally used to display a manufacturer's logo or brand name as a mark of quality and identification.

This practice began in seventeenth century England, when King James I decreed a tax on local playing card makers. The ace of spades had to have the emblem of the printing house, so that the manufacturer could be identified from the deck, and the seal of the fiscal authority as proof of tax payment. The duty was abolished in the 1960s, but the practice of displaying the manufacturer's logo on the Ace of Spades remained.

Playing card attributes

Signs of the suit of the international, or standard, deck indicate two black and two red suits, namely spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds.

Where did the suits of playing cards come from? First time signswere used on Italian and Spanish decks. Soon after, nature-oriented badges graced German and Swiss decks. Simple stencil designs reduced the cost of producing playing cards in France, and French designs were slightly modified in England. This modified version of the French deck was recognized as international.

Playing cards with national suits are still common in some countries, but all international competitions use only international badges and suit names.

Ranks are indicated by numbers from 1 to 10 on "spot cards". The ranks of the highest cards are indicated by the symbols J, Q and K.

In most Western card games, the number 1 stands for the ace and is marked with the symbol A. In games based on the superiority of one rank over another, the ace is considered the most important card, superior to all others. On the other hand, in games based on a numerical value, it is usually considered to be one, as in cribbage, or it takes the value of eleven, as in blackjack. In games based on the ordering of cards or their series, the ace can take on the value of either the highest or lowest card, or simply take its place in the ring sequence of cards: Q-K-A-2-3.

Card deck


Standard international decks usually contain two or more additional cards called jokers, each representing a traditional court jester. Not all card games use them. In games with jokers, the latter are used in different ways. ATin some games they take an undefined value. The player may use the wild in place of any desired "natural" card.

Joker is a symbol of irony in the deck. Endowed with special powers of imperial power, he is the card that solves all problems and wins all tricks, just like in poker. A card that can be any card. In many cases, he is the invincible wizard of the deck. Yet despite this compelling and enviable role, the Joker lacks any real defining characteristics. A kind of indefinite and unexplored character of the Anglo-American deck.

Special design elements

The back of the card, originally plain, tended to take on random and sometimes deliberate decals. The creators of the cards sought to make them less noticeable by printing a pattern of small dots on the reverse side. Advances in color printing in the nineteenth century led to a wide range of card back designs.

Another invention of the 19th century was the practice of indexing the rank and suit of each card in diagonal corners. This allowed players to identify their cards without risking revealing them to opponents.

Card game

Russia and card games

Playing cards appeared in Russia in the seventeenth century. Where? Undoubtedly from Europe. From which country, one can only guess. At the beginning of the century, Russia was at war with the Poles, and from the middle it began to recruit mercenaries for military service in the regiments of the "German system". A deck of cards could very well be a trophyor the property of a reiter who served the king.

Russian playing cards: history and style

There is a lot of individuality in the first Russian cards, both in the design, reminiscent of embroidery on a tapestry, and in the attitude of royal power to the income from this business. In 1817, with the consent of Emperor Alexander I, the Imperial Card Factory was founded. The income of the monopoly was directed to the imperial educational homes, where some pupils were also employed. The ace was printed with a pelican raising its chicks.

In the nineteenth century, the English company De la Rue was the main exporter of playing cards to Russia. In October 1842, Thomas De La Roux's younger brother, Paul Bienvenue De La Roux, traveled to St. Petersburg, where he was appointed Superintendent of the Russian Card Monopoly by Tsar's favor.

A roller press was sent from London to St. Petersburg. Paints, paper and other equipment for making royal playing cards were supplied by De la Rue. The Russian establishment was an important customer for De la Rue if the firm opened its first foreign branch in the country.

His Imperial Majesty had reason to be satisfied with the results of cooperation. Pavel, as Paul was called in Russia, managed the affairs so skillfully that by 1847 the production of the royal monopoly had grown to four million decks of cards a year.


This review by no means exhausts the variety of hypotheses about the time and place of the origin of playing cards still used in Europe and America, not to mention otherscountries of the world and specialized decks of Jewish or Scandinavian cards, Tarot cards and others.

In a few decades, any study of the history of the emergence of playing cards will certainly be supplemented by a section on computer card games. But it will be possible to look into the depths of centuries and get to the bottom of the truth only with the help of a time machine.

The very fact of the emergence of almost identical sets of 52 pictures among different peoples may be associated not so much with the search for entertainment. Perhaps at some time they were used for magical rituals or divination. And fell into the hands of the enemy from the destroyed temples.

Maybe this is really a temptation of the devil sent to people, as the monks and rulers of the Middle Ages claimed, who fought against the spread of card games on pain of death?

This secret is hidden in the mists of time.

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