what’s their story?



as a member of the another. to keep costs down, the backs of the playing cards were left blank.” ah! I never new this. when i read his article i went through my playing card collection and found these two examples with writing on them. (of course i have a playing card collection! don’t you?) I remember buying them at a paper fair for their stark and simple beauty. mr. diggele tells a story of buying an old playing card at the paris flea market and complaining to the touchy dealer that it had writing on one side in order to obtain a better price—when in fact that was his main interest in buying the card. we all have our secrets. i have neither the knowledge nor mr. diggele’s passion but i do share the desire to discover. i am rewarded by the wonderful simplicity and beauty that these cards possess. i sent pictures of my cards to mr. diggele but never heard back. maybe you can help unravel my cards’ story?





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  1. to read your postings is a pure joy :)

    Comment by ieva jansone — 12/07/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  2. Dear James,
    Thank you very much for your kind words about me. I just found your blog by accident, and unfortunately I never received your e-mail. About 4 years ago I changed my e-mail address. My old and thus wrong e-mail address in in my book, but into each book there has to be a small note with corrections. Anyway, nice to meet you.
    The cards you have in your collection are really interesting. They are French and date from the second half of the 18th century. The French had developed a new system to educate language. On the reverse side of (used) playing cards words and parts of words were written (mostly done by way of stencil) and the object was to assemble cards that formed words and complete sentences. The cards were kept in some kind of cupboard, holding hundreds of cards. The educational system, officially approved by the French gouvernment, was in use for many years in -as far as I know- a large part of the country. Many cards did survive and they are not expensive. Some clever people re-assembled cards to full decks from the same maker, and those packs can be found for $ 500 up to $ 1000.
    If you can reply with your e-mail address I am more than happy to send you a picture of such a cupboard with similar playing cards as the ones you have.
    Best wishes,
    Gejus van Diggele

    Comment by Gejus van Diggele — 12/07/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  3. old cards! graphics ne plus ultra!

    Comment by David Neale — 13/07/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  4. Oh JP… what a happy accident!

    Comment by gina — 13/07/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

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