I have wanted to make playing cards for using in camp when on reenactment adventures for a while, and finally this week got around to do it while hiding from a mountain of laundry from last weekends Hamar Middelalderfestival (Hamar Medieval Festival) 😉
This deck was an experiment, so let me just say it is not an attempt to be accurate up close. I just used materials I had available; like leftover watercolor paper. I am going to go by a specialist arts/paper shop next time I’m in town and find some more proper cardstock to layer into new cards, and some lacquer so I can get a more sturdy and accurate look. I still haven’t managed to find a picture of the back of this deck, which was painted red; but when I make a full scale deck I will figure something out. The deck I made was 8×5 cm – the original deck was 19,5×12 cm.
“In the paint layers of the Stuttgarter Kartenspiel an impressive range of pigments has been detected: white lead, chalk, lead-tin yellow, yellow lake, green basic copper sulphate hydrate, copper green, azurite, vermilion, red lake, minium, charcoal black, and lamp black. A considerable variety of different metal applications results in the splendid appearance of the playing cards: poliment twist-gold, unpolished silver and gold leaf on a white ground, mordant gilding, gilding with mosaic gold, and glazing of twist-gold and mosaic gold with red lake have been observed.” (WoPC, see link to article below)
The original deck is a beautiful work of art, and I can’t wait to make a set that really gives them their deserving credit, although I’ll likely not hand paint a set, when I take into consideration how much time it took to just print all the cards! An enormous effort must have gone in to them originally, and I think it’s fantastic that something like this has survived. Even better, there are several medieval decks that have made it!
Cutting out the deck by hand was a bit of a challenge – but I managed to keep within the range of +/- 1 mm. I luckily had a corner cutter, which saved me a lot of time and made for an even result. I am pretty impressed with the print quality my cheap HP printer can manage. I first marked with a pencil and then used a mat, rulers and a utility knife to cut them out. After a while I noticed that the ordinary 2B pencil was smudging the cards, so I cleaned them up and switched to a 4H which worked perfectly.
And here is where things get really anachronistic. First off, there are three missing cards, second there is no joker card. If I was going to make a deck of cards, I wanted to make a deck that you could play both modern and historical games with, so I added my own joker card. And since, well; I was doing something anachronistic anyway, well, I went with my all time favorite illustration of a medieval knight, even though it was made later in the 15th century. The Joker/fool illustration is from Jean Froissart’s “Chroniques, Vol. IV, part 1” (the ‘Harley Froissart); from the Netherlands made between 1470 and 1472.
In addition to the improvised joker cards, there were three cards missing: The knave of the falcon suite, 4 in the duck suite and 9 in the hound suite. Since I happened to lack a proper photo editing program on my computer right now I went with the KISS -method of Keep It Simple Stupid and edited them in Paint. It really is quite amazing what that little program can do. As you see here, I removed the falcon of the knight to make a knave and added to the 3 and 8 card. It’s a simple way of fixing it that leaves me with a full deck to play with.
The finished deck, ready to be used 🙂
My main source for good quality pictures of the cards was this page that contains all sorts of awesome historical playing cards, I recommend taking a look! :
More information about the Stuttgart Kartenspiel from WoPC:
Source manuscript of the “joker” illustration: