Geographical Playing Cards of 1590


Not quite Tarot, but in terms of an early playing card deck, I thought this might be of interest to other fans of card history.

I'm seeing cartography as having multiple layers of meaning applied to these cards.

As someone who loves maps, cartography, and cards... *swoon*

Dang this should be in History - dear mods, would you move it please?



Thanks for the info, 1590 is very early for geographical cards.

New Acquisition: The Bowes Playing cards of 1590

The Map Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of no less an item than the earliest recorded set of geographical playing cards, and the first playing cards to have been manufactured in England, engraved, printed and published in London in 1590.

... This treasure, purchased with the help of the Friends of the British Library, has now been catalogued and digitised (You may also have seen it on display recently in the Treasures of the British Library gallery). The set contains 53 cards without suit markings, each containing a tiny engraved map of an English or Welsh county, plus a general map of England and Wales. They are the second earliest engraved county maps after the maps of Christopher Saxton, whose atlas was published in 1579 and later. They were probably copied, in fact, from Saxton’s general map of England and Wales.

... the cards’ craftsman, the author is more shrouded in mystery. The imprint (on one of the text cards) reads ‘Englan: Famous Plac (which we take to mean London) : W.B. inuent,1590’. The identity of W.B. has long been debated, but it was discovered (by Mann and Kingsley) that a William Bowes is associated with a later pack of playing cards produced in 1605, who was the brother of a Ralph Bowes, who was granted a license to import playing cards in 1578.

Also reported at ...