Stuttgart playing cards/Kartenspiel ca. 1430

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) ūüėČ

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 Рbut 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 ūüôā


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: 


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