Playing cards history
The exact story of the emergence of playing cards is debated. Some historians believe that cards were developed in India and derived from the poker game of chess. Others suggest that they were developed as implements for magic and fortune telling in Egypt. The first written record of the use of playing cards comes from the Orient, dating back to the twelfth century. Playing cards were introduced to Europe during the thirteenth century from the Middle East. Evidence suggests that they first arrived in Italy or Spain and were quickly spread throughout the continent.
Some of these early playing cards were very similar to our modern day cards. They consisted of 52 cards with four suits including swords, cups, coins, and polo-sticks. They also had numerals from one to ten and face cards, which included a king, deputy king and second deputy king. When Europeans began to produce their own cards, they did not produce consistent designs and any number of suits or face cards would be made. In the latter part of the fifteenth cenwry, standardized versions of cards began to appear. The modern day system of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs first appeared in France around 1480.
The availability of cards became more wide-spread as production processes improved. The earliest decks of playing cards were hand-colored with stencils. Consequently, they were extremely expensive to produce and were owned almost exclusively by the very wealthy. Cheaper products were also produced, but it is likely that they deteriorated quickly with use. With the advent of new printing processes, production volumes of playing cards were increased. During the fifteenth century, a method of producing cards using wooden blocks as printing templates was introduced in Germany. These decks were quickly exported throughout Europe. The next significant advance in card manufacture was the replacement of wood blocking and hand coloring with copper plate engraving during the sixteenth century. When color lithography was developed in the early 1800s, the production of playing cards was revolutionized. New printing techniques promise to further improve the production of future decks of cards.
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