On the Production of Period Playing Cards

Love her endeavors in period playing card replication!

Lady Heather Hall

20130521_130649 Xylographing English playing cards in my kitchen

I am frequently inquired about production techniques. As I don’t really have short answers, I’ll try to fill in some of the history, as well as my own ‘anachronistic’ solutions.
The oldest evidence of playing cards comes from documents, but there are still production clues. 9th c. Tang Dynasty scribe Su E mentioned a princess who played a game of “leaves” with family, but specimens this far back do not survive. Being made of decomposable matter and intended to be handled, worn out packs were usually… discarded.
As the cards and their kin (dominoes, etc.) made their nebulous way across Asia, they could be found in the hands of nobility, and were often the product of a royal workshop. This system allows for exquisite miniature paintings, but rather limited production. In 14th century Europe, this all changed.
The Caliphate had been importing paper…

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