THE HISTORY OF PLAYING CARDS
The history of playing cards is a long and interesting one. From their origins to their travels to their fame, they have been a relatively large part of history.
There is some controversy on the origins of playing cards. Since paper was invented in China, most historians agree that they were first made there. There is documented evidence of “domino cards” played in that part of the world. The earliest reference to them stated that Emperor Mu-Tsung played cards on a balcony with his wife on New Year’s Eve of 969 A.D. But the domino cards were not very similar to the cards that we have today.
say that cards could have been first played in the Muslim world, and introduced
to Europe through travelers from that area. This would have happened in the
A cluster of early literary references refer to the game being introduced by ‘a Saracen’, ‘the Moorish Game’ etc. Etymological evidence also suggests that the Arabs introduced playing cards into Europe in the second half of the fourteenth century. (World Of Playing Cards)
Cards established themselves in the late 1370s in Italy, and from there, they spread out to the northeast, towards the rest of Europe. In this time, many laws and ordinances were posted against playing cards, as it had become a form of gambling. Between 1367 and 1378, there were at least three references to playing card bans in Europe.
By this time, the look of cards had started to change. Major suit systems had started to evolve, and there was a distinct difference between the symbols on them. These suit systems were French, Germanic and Latin. Each of the symbols reflected something about their cultures.
The look of cards did by no means stay the same between that era and now. From the 1400s to around the 19th century, people experimented with the look of their cards. In the Renaissance, when art was popular, artists began to paint the backs of the cards with pictures, whereas they were previously blank. This idea of putting pictures on the back of cards came from Tarot cards.
When cards arrived in the United States around the 1800s, their look was also changed due to their popularity. The Americans invented things such as the Joker, an extra card used in games that were invented there, and indexes (the small numbers and letters at the top-left and bottom-right of playing cards. These were invented to make it easier to sort through decks of cards.
When companies made playing cards around this era, often they printed cards that reflected political views of the times or supported a cause. An example of this is The Worshipful Company of Playing Cards. They controlled the printing and manufacture cards to raise money for the reign of King Charles the First. The Worshipful Company also started a tax on playing cards that lasted until 1920.
Many aspects of playing cards are still being shaped. Even now, major card printing companies are looking for new and innovative ways to make their products, including various forms of customization. The remarkable history of playing cards is sure to continue for quite some time.