Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Playing Card Illustration History

15th century French playing cards

The other day I got stuck on a reading tangent online about playing card history.  I had no idea they dated back to at least the 1300's, probably earlier, and how widespread they were around the world even by that time.  The weird thing is how similar the oldest cards look to the common ones we use today.

I can only speculate since I'm not a historian and if I was a time travelor I'd go forward in time to see all the cool stuff that will be invented.  But its interesting to think about the place in people's lives these little handheld illustrations played.  They're loaded with symbolism which I imagine was even more significant to the spread of ideas in the times before printing was easy and cheap. 

It also displays how connected the old world was even without phone or internet or radio.  In the 1400's clearly playing cards were all over Europe, but they might have started out in Persia or Egypt or even China.  Obviously you couldn't interact across the world in real time, but things still could spread long distances.

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