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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(July 13, 2005)

New Reproduction Playing Cards

By Ruby Powell, Furnishings

It is believed that playing cards originated in China and made their way to Europe in the early fifteenth century.[1]  Originally, cards were hand-painted and available only to the wealthy until they could be mass-produced via the printing process. 

The manufacturing of cards was one of the most heavily supervised industries because of its popularity and the tax benefits from which the crown could draw.  Many rules and regulations were imposed to keep track of card producers and their sales.  France was broken into regions and each card maker had a specific pattern to follow.  For example, cards fabricated in the Provence pattern were produced in Avignon, Aix, Marseille, Toulon, Nimes and Montpellier.[2]  Each card maker was required to display their region and their name on specific cards.  Our original deck features the Lionet family name on the King of Diamonds and the region of Montpellier in the foot banner of the Jack of Clubs. 

The most popular pattern in use in the 18th century was the Paris pattern and most likely would have been here at Louisbourg.  Other French patterns, like our Provence pattern, as well as cards from New England probably arrived in Louisbourg depending on the origin of the owner.

The reproduction cards are of the Provence pattern based on an original set of 52 cards in the Curatorial Collection.  Most patterns contained 52 cards with single end face cards and number cards from two to ten in symbols of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs.  Some decks contained 32 cards and used to play such games as Les Valets whereas La Bataille could be played with 32 or 52 cards. [3]

We have placed some decks of cards in various locations about the site in the past couple of days and more will follow.  They are smaller and more delicate than the English Williamsburg cards that are currently in use in the houses so they will add a little variety.

Until next time….


[1] Wowk, Kathleen.  Playing Cards of the World.   A Collectors Guide.  Hong Kong: Lutterworth Press, 1983, p83.  

[2] Marteau, Paul.  Le Jeu De Carte.  Paris, France :  Hermann, éditeurs des sciences et des arts, p.140.

[3] O’Neill, Anne.  Eighteenth Century French Playing Card Report.  December, 21, 1978.