Re: New Images from the Keir Collection

Dear variantventures,

Thanks very much for sharing your article, your writing is friendly, detailed and I appreciate your honesty about what may and may not be known about these cards. I was especially interested in reading about the three of coins as I just spent some time working on a coin for the forum logo and appreciate the details and seeing such an old example.

Thanks again,
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: New Images from the Keir Collection

Thank you. I'm still working on getting images of the suspected playing card fragments in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The hold-up is entirely on me, the museum has been very gracious and quick to respond. I'm just having a hard time figuring out a way to send them the money for the images. I believe I'm making progress in getting new images of the Topkapi decks. And I was just pointed to another card in another collection by a very distinguished French researcher. I will wait on providing more details until more information is forthcoming and I'm able to speak to the researcher on the subject. Exciting stuff for me.

Re: New Images from the Keir Collection

Hi variantventures! I also want to say "thanks". The opportunity to see even images of these fragments was fantastic. I am just now beginning to reach beyond what is commonly written in books on Tarot about it's history, which is very little. Seeing something this old is ... well like I said; "fantastic".

I found that the fact that these were laminated paper to be surprising, but when I gave it some thought, it made sense. One would need to laminate it to make it practical for handling and use in games. I was also very interested to see that some of the colors were still apparent. The cards must have been beautiful.

A thought occurred to me about the first image. I'm no expert, but I've had an issue with a deck from the 60's of a card de-laminating. You didn't think that the item K.1.2014.1156 was a playing card, I wonder if it could have been a card back that de-laminated at some point, but was preserved? (Simply the ruminating of a curious observer.)

Would it be okay to post a link to your paper elsewhere?

Re: New Images from the Keir Collection


If K.1.2014.1156 is part of a playing card then it's entirely new to me. While the overall proportions of the fragment and the fact that it's two laminated sheets of paper support the idea of it being a playing card, the decorations on the face do not. They are, to begin with, entirely outside the body of other examples. The execution is particularly crude, there's no evidence of color being applied, the visible elements are not recognizable suit elements and they take up too much space on the card if they are decorative elements. I'm highly doubtful this was a card back because most early playing cards didn't use decorated backs. The manufacturing techniques of the time did not allow for the production of uniform backs. We have evidence of early cards with decorated backs, but they are a rarity. The general assumption in regards to Islamic playing cards has been that they had plain backs. I'm trying to gather more evidence but I suspect that I'm seeing evidence of painted or dyed backs on some of the cards I have looked at. But the sort of decoration we're seeing here? There's nothing like that complex in Europe until the 17th-18th Century. I'm open to the idea that this is a new type of playing card that we haven't seen before but I would require further examples and/or evidence to convince me of this. I think it more likely this was a frontispiece for book.

I should have been clear on the term lamination because it has modern connotations that I don't want to apply. Particularly in North America. I'm referring to the practice of gluing two or more sheets of paper together to form a thicker sheet. I am not referring to covering the card with any sort of material. We know that some European cards were polished and soaped to make them slick but I haven't seen any evidence of this yet and, frankly, I wouldn't know how to test for this short of doing destructive chemical analysis of some of the cards.

Please feel free to share the link to the article. Whenever possible I try to share information freely.

Re: New Images from the Keir Collection

Your thoughts on lamination did express the idea to me very well, but the clarification was helpful. The instance I was talking about with a modern deck had occurred during shuffling where on card actually split the face from the back of another card. But I digress ...

I hadn't given thought to how difficult it would be to produce cards with uniform art on the back when they were hand-made. And it is very interesting to know that this didn't begin occurring till the 17th Century or so. It does make me wonder if there were cards made which used 3 sheets of paper to attempt to make the cards more durable. It also makes me wonder when the idea of a surface coating was introduced to protect the cards. Ah ... so many questions! I'm going to have to do some reading now that I'm getting more interested ...

Thanks so much!

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