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Invention Of Playing Cards

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The invention of playing cards has been variously attributed to India, China, Arabia, and Egypt. There seems to be but little doubt that they originated in Asia, and were introduced into Europe by the Saracens about the close of the thirteenth century. There is historical mention of the game of cards in Germany in 1275, in Italy in 1299, but not in France until 1393. An active trade in cards sprung up in Germany as early as the fifteenth century, where they were manufactured for other portions of Europe. One hundred years later we find the manufacture of cards a flourishing business in England, and under Edward IV. their importation was for-bidden, thus protecting the home industry. Owing to their supposed immoral influences they were at times prohibited by various European governments. The marks upon the suits of cards are believed to have been chosen to represent symbolically the different classes of society. Thus, the hearts stood for the clergy, clubs for the soldiery, spades for the serfs, and diamonds for the merchants. In the early French cards the kings were pictures of David, Alexander, Caesar, and Charlemagne, representing the monarchies of the Jews. Greeks, Romans, and French; the queens were Argine, Esther, Judith, and Pallas. The number of the cards, the ace, and the knave, were probably based on similar ideas. The suits of the earliest German cards were designated by hearts, bells, leaves, and acorns. Italian cards had swords, batons, cups, and money. The court cards at first were the king, chevalier, and knave. The queen was first substituted for the chevalier by the Italians. The English cards in the seventeenth century were embellished with heraldic designs, the king of clubs bearing the coat-of-arms of the Pope of Rome, and those of hearts, diamonds, and spades being adorned respectively with the armorial device of the kings of England, Spain, and France. The club of modern cards de-rived its form from the trefoil, a French design. A pack of Hindustani cards in the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society of England is supposed to be fully 1,000 years old. It consists of eight suits of divers colors. The kings are mounted on elephants; the viziers, or second honors, upon horses, tigers, and bulls; and some of the common cards have such curious marks as a pineapple in a shallow cup, and a something like a parasol without a handle, and with two broken ribs sticking through the top.

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