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history of card games and playing cards
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The exact origin of playing cards is subject to a great deal of speculation and misinformation. There are many divided opinions, theories, and contradictions in the historical research of playing cards. However, playing cards are most certainly not an invention of one person, but rather the result of a gradual development of games being played in may different countries throughout centuries. Another unquestionable fact is the claim that the first playing cards were hand-painted and that only the very wealthy could afford them; but with the invention of woodcuts in the 14th century, Europeans began mass-production and playing cards quickly found their way into households.
Most historians believe that the earliest playing cards have originated in (or before) the 9th century in Central Asia, probably China and Hindustan. China seems to be a good candidate for the origin of playing cards because it is the land where paper was invented (China has been making paper since A.D. 100; paper came to Europe only around A.D. 1000). However, for many years China was rejected as the origin of playing-cards because traditional Chinese playing cards are so unlike Western ones.
The documented history of card playing began in the 10th century, when the Chinese began using paper dominoes in an effort to develop new games. On New Year's Eve, 969, the Emperor Mu-tsung is reported to have played domino cards with his wife. Unlike the Western versions of Dominos, Chinese Dominos were not used in positional games, hence they were played much like cards.
In addition to domino cards, the Chinese have also used money cards, although which one of the two came first is not exactly clear. These money cards were in effect suited cards, and the earliest Chinese suits were those of coins and strings of coins. There is also some speculation to the effect that Chinese gamblers used to use actual paper money as cards and that they played with and for the money.
Even to this day some of the packs used in China have suits of coins and strings of coins - which Mah Jong players know as circles and bamboos (i.e. sticks).
How exactly playing cards found their way into Europe is unknown. One myth states that they were brought into Europe from India by fortune-telling gypsies, who made their way into Italy through Persia, and Arabia, and Egypt. However, this claim is contradicted by the fact that cards were present in Europe four decades before the first documented mention of gypsies. Furthermore, there is yet another theory in direct contradiction that favors the idea that cards were brought into India from Europe by gypsies.
Historians favor the theory that cards entered Europe from the Islamic empire, where cups and swords were added as suit symbols to the already existing coins and sticks. Another Islamic addition to the deck are non-figurative court cards. Unlike the cards we know today, those court cards were not represented pictorially because Islam strictly prohibits man to reproduce the image of living creatures; according to the Kuran this privilege is only reserved for God. However, these court cards bare written lower inscriptions.
According to some sources, cards first appeared in Italy by the late 1200s and then subsequently spread throughout the rest of Europe. The same source dates the first recorded evidence of the use of playing cards in Italy in 1299, but does not substantiate this claim by any historic evidence.
According to Luis Monreal, in his article Iconographia de la Baraja Espanola (Journal of the International Playing Card Society, February 1989), as well as according to Michael Dummett, the first known mention of playing cards in Europe occurred in Spain in 1371; in a Catalan document where they were mentioned as naip. The current Spanish spelling is naipes.
If cards were introduced to Europe prior to the 1370's, there are a number of places where we would expect to find some mention of them. Despite their strong interests in games; Petrarch (1307-74), Boccaccio (1313-75), and Chaucer (1343-1400) do not mention playing cards in their works. Guillaume de Machau's address to Charles V in 1364, which denounced gaming in general, and dice in particular, has no mention of playing cards. There are also ordinances controlling gaming from Paris (1369) and St. Gallen (1364) which don't mention playing cards.
In Italy, a Florentine city ordinance forbidding a newly introduced card game called naibbe is dated May 23, 1376.
By 1377 cards are described in detail in Switzerland by a monk in Basle named Johannes von Rheinfelden, "Thus it is that a certain game, called the game of cards, has reached us in the present year, namely A.D. 1377". His text describes a deck with 52 cards, 10 number cards (from 1 to 10), and 3 court cards (a King, and two Marshals), divided into 4 suits of 13 cards. There are further descriptions in the same manuscript, but these are believed to have been added around 1429. These describe 52-card decks with Queens instead of Kings, and 56-card deck with Queens added to the existing 3 court cards. The suits are not described except as "some of these signs being considered good but others signifying evil".
By 1380 playing cards are reported in such diverse places as Florence, Regensburg, Brabant, Paris, and Barcelona.
The city of Florence passed statute on Gambling in March 23, 1376 (1377 by current calendar), on a vote of 98 to 25 regulating the playing of "A certain game called naibbe, [which] has recently been introduced into these parts".
On July 23, 1378, a German ordinance in Regensburg declares various gambling games, including "spilen mit der quarten", punishable by a fine if played for stakes higher than permitted.
The first known Tarot deck appeared in Italy. This historical fact contradicts one of the popular beliefs that the Tarot deck preceded the now more common 52-card deck. The Tarot deck was in fact devised by expanding a regular deck from from 52 to 78 cards, by adding 4 additional court cards and 22 attuti (or trionfi) cards (permanent trump cards). In effect the Tarot deck consists of 22 major arcana cards, and 56 minor arcana cards. The minor arcana cards consist of 4 suits of 14 cards.
Another common misinformation surrounding the Tarot deck is that it evolved from the fortune-telling Tarot cards; this is not true, fortune-telling Tarot cards did not appear until the 18th century.
Although England probably knew of cards much earlier, solid references to playing cards in England don't occur until the mid 15th century. Edward IV's first parliament (Nov. 1461- May 1462) prohibits card playing (and dicing) except for the 12 days of Christmas. The earliest known English card games date around 1520, and the earliest surviving English deck (French suited) dates around 1590.
Throughout the years there was much experimentation with the composition of cards, suit symbols, and number of suits. National standards started to appear by the late 15th century. The traditional Swiss (Shields, Flowers, Bells, and Acorns) and German (Hearts, Leaves, Bells, Acorns) suits appear in complete packs around 1475 (individually from 1450). However, experimentations with a variety of other suit symbols, including wine pots, drinking cups, books, printers' pads, and animal suits, continued well into the 16th century and beyond.
France's national suits (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds) first appeared around 1480. The early English decks were probably Latin suited, but most surviving decks (c. 1590) are French suited.
On October 22nd 1628 Charles I granted the charter to the Company of the Mistery of Makers of Playing Cards of the City of London, and from December 1st 1628 all future importation of playing cards was forbidden. In return, a duty on playing-cards was demanded.
In 1685 playing cards became the first paper currency of Canada when the French governor, Jaques de Meulles, paid off some war debts with them.
The first known Swedish-produced cards date back to 1731. It is believed that cards were introduced to Sweden relatively late, probably in the 17th century, and they probably came from France and Belgium.
The first accurate compendiums of rules of card games were those of English writer Edmond Hoyle, in his treatise on whist in 1742. Today the phrase "According to Hoyle" means to "play by the rules".
The earliest known use of Tarot packs for fortune-telling was in Bologna, around 1750. Furthermore, the use of ordinary packs of playing-cards for fortune-telling does not date from much earlier than this.
Historians believe that cartomancy, fortune-telling with cards, became common after the 1760's with the development of solitaire. It should be noted that fortune-telling is not necessarily connected to the use of Tarot cards for these occult purposes, in fact fortune-tellers used, and continue to use, a variety of different cards for these readings.
The Austrian card maker Piatnik was founded in 1824 and began production of playing cards. To this day Piatnik is one of the strongest manufacturers of playing cards in Europe.
By 1827 double-headed court cards were in use in France. Britain did not adopt the practice until the 1850s; America did not follow suit until the 1870s.
Schneider József, a Master Card Painter at Pest, designs the first William Tell deck.
Baptiste Paul Grimaud set-up a playing card factory in France.
In England and America backs of playing cards were plain until the 1850s, when the English artist Owen Jones (artist for Thomas de la Rue, London card makers) began designing cards with ornate backs. However, in other countries patterned backs have been in use for far longer.
The first Joker was added to the 52-card deck around the 1860s. Some claim that it was not until 1863, or even 1865. However, it is believed that the Joker was added to the pack by American Euchre players who, when modifying Euchre rules sometime during that era, decided that an extra trump card was required. The Joker was first called the Best Bower. This card evolved into the Joker during the 1870s. The Joker arrived in Europe in the 1880s along with the game of Poker. It was gradually incorporated into French-suited packs with 52 cards.
Corner indices are an American addition dating from shortly before 1870. Most European countries copied the idea during the 1890s, though Austria, Spain and Italy have been resistant. The first American indexed cards were called Sqeezers because the players were able to hold them in fan position and read the indices.
Rounded corners were not known before c.1875, However, it should be noted that oval and round cards were in use in some regions far before the 19th century.
On June 28, 1881 the Russell, Morgan & Co., which later became the US Playing Card Co., printed their first deck of cards. About 20 employees started to manufacture 1600 packs per day, and in 1894 the playing card business had grown to such proportions that it was separated from the printing company, becoming the USPC. The USPC eventually became the biggest playing card manufacturer in the US.
Card games became a common recreation amongst all classes of people. Today's most commonly used cards were derived from French designs and are known as French-suited cards. Other cards that evolved in Europe and are still in use today are German-suited cards, Italian-suited cards, Swiss-suited cards and Spanish-suited cards. However, other standards were also known to exist, and some games were known to use cards with as much as ten suits.