Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Brief Timeline of the Medieval Playing Card

By THL Colyne Stewart (MKA Todd Fischer)

1000 C. E. A type of thin playing card, much like dominoes, appear in China. Suits are variations of coins.

1200 C. E. Playing cards now established in the Middle West. The Islamic suits were Coins, Swords, Cups and Polosticks. There were also three court cards, called the Commander, Lt. Commander and Second Lt.

1350 C. E. Islamic cards introduced to southern Europe. The suit of Polosticks was changed to Scepters, Batons or Cudgels, and Europeans experimented with the court cards, sometimes having as many as six (King, Queen, Knight, Lady, Valet and Maid). Germans changed the suits to Leaves, Hearts, Acorns and Hawk Bells; they also disposed of the Queen card.

1420 C. E. The Italian game Tarocco appears, using four court cards (King, Queen, Knight and Valet) and introducing a wild card (the Fool). The deck expanded from 52 to 97 cards, and the name changed to Tarot. (It was not until the 1780s that these playing cards began being used for divination.)

1470 C. E. The French create our current suits of Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds (though the French called them Hearts, Spearheads, Trefoils and Squares). These cards were originally handmade and hand painted, and were owned by the wealthy only. Soon, woodblocks were used to mass-produce them on cardboard.

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