Perfectly at home in your waistcoat pocket, or scattered about your gaming table, these playing cards published by Harry Margary are a real talking point. Each card in each themed deck bears a different image taken from an original period engraving. Marvellous for distracting your competitors at piquet but just make sure you keep your own eyes on the game!
Each card measures approximately 3.9" x 2.5" (9.9cm x 6.4cm) (the Transformation cards are just a fraction bigger). Cards are made of thick white card, with image and characters on one side and blank white backs. Each deck of cards is supplied in its own handy white cardboard box.
In 1644 King Louis XIV of France issued a licence to print certain educational cards. The resulting cards sparked off a great fashion which spread to Holland, Germany and England, and the most popular subject soon emerged as Heraldry. Brianville's "Arms of the Sovereigns of Europe" (Lyons, 1659) was re-issued in tens of editions and was copied in five countries outside of France over a period of more than eighty years.
The English edition of Brianville may well have inspired the makers of the present pack to produce a domestic, rather than an international set of cards illustrating the arms of the peers of the United Kingdom. Although the cards are very rare, they must have achieved popularity as they are known in three different editions. The edition reproduced here was the third and published in 1688. Quite logically, the arrangement of the arms of the peers is made according to rank in each suit, the higher the rank, the higher the card value: archbishops and dukes are clearly superior to earls and barons, the arms of the latter being depicted on the lowest cards in all suits. The pack of cards reproduced here is from the Print Collection in Guildhall Library, London.