Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cards. Playing-cards are of unknown origin and antiquity. Some consider them to have come from the East, others, as there is no direct evidence of their having been introduced from the East, think that they had an independent origin. But the idea once prevalent - that they were invented to amuse a mad French king, seems to have no stronger foundation than the fact that an entry of 1392 speaks of a payment made for painting cards for Charles VI. They seem to have been used by the Arabs and Saracens for divination, an application of them not altogether lost at the present day. They existed at Venice in the 15th century, and though at first they had only numerical values, at this date there were coat (court) cards, and atritti Fr. atouts (trumps). In Spain the pack, as now, consisted of 52, but only of numerical values. There were variations in France and Germany, and England seems to have borrowed from all sides. Of the four suits, the Italian cups became hearts in Germany, France, and England; money became bells in Germany, and diamonds in France and England; clubs became leaves in Germany, trefles in France, and clubs in England; swords (spades) became acorns in Germany, piques in France, and spades in England. The devices and dresses of the kings and other court cards date from the 15th century. But the old dresses and devices have been discarded in France, where often the court cards have different historical names assigned to them, and the aces have views of different towns. Cards are nowhere so solidly and carefully manufactured as in England. Among the many improvements, or at least changes, introduced are the double heads to the court cards, the rounded corners, and the index to the number of the pips and the suit of a card. Cards have added not a little to the revenue of Great Britain, and the tax, which was 6d. per pack in Queen Anne's reign, has fluctuated through 1s., 1s. 6d., 2s. 6d., 1s., to the present duty of 3d.