The origin of playing cards is obscure, but it is almost certain that they began in China after the invention of paper. It is likely that the ancestors of modern cards arrived in Europe in the late 1300s, and spread rapidly. The earliest cards were created by hand, one at a time, and were thus very expensive. Woodcuts were used to produce cards on a slightly larger scale, before the advent of modern printing. The four suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs) now used in most of the world originated in France. German suits are hearts, bells, leaves, and acorns, while Spanish and Italian decks use clubs, coins, swords, and cups. [ more ... ]
The story of Card History and their evolution in different countries, popular card producers and the description of deck types.
- Chinese Origin Of Playing Cards
This article by W.H. Wilkinson, from the the January 1895 issue of The American Anthropologist, discusses playing card history in China.
- Collecting English Playing Cards
Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society, has written an excellent article on the origins of English playing cards.
- History of playing cards and card games
Origin of playing cards, cards arrive in Europe, games in the fifteenth century, etc. [Italian]
- History Of Playing-Cards
The International Playing-Card Society presents a brief history of playing cards during the past 600 years. Includes illustrations of historic cards from many countries.
- Medieval & Renaissance Games
A web site dedicated to information about really old games, with links to articles on playing card history and early card games.
- Playing Cards - History and Useful Information
This article from The Online Guide to Traditional Games discusses the origins and evolution of playing cards around the world.
- Playing Cards, Card Games and American Culture
Laura Munley's dissertation on playing cards, playing card history, the games that can be played with cards, and a general guide to the rules of play for card games.
- The Early History of Playing Cards
An article discussing the origins of playing cards, including Anglo, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese decks.
- The Introduction of Playing Cards to Europe
A brief summary of European playing-card history, from their introduction in the 1300's, with discussions of historical references to playing cards, their appearance, and evolution.
See also: Learn More About Playing Cards