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GALLERY INDEX




~~ Gallery 5 ~~
The Tarot and other Early Cards
· page XVI ·

THE DECK BY JOST AMMAN
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GALLERY INDEX










other pages

page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VI
the Visconti
Tarots
page VII
the tarots
of Ferrara
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck




The cards shown in this page are samples of the deck engraved in 1588 by Jost Amman, whose monogram IA is found in a couple of subjects; the faithful replica is a limited edition by Il Meneghello (Italy).


detail of Jost Amman's monogram,
from the 9 of Drinking-cups

In the German city of Nuremberg, in the late 1500s, publisher Leonhardt Heussler had his best artist produce a set of 52 illustrations in the shape of a full deck of playing cards.
The cards were not printed as sheets, but as pages, bound together into a book. Besides the illustrations, these pages featured sayings and moral principles in German and Latin.
It is not clear whether the playing cards, whose details are very fancy and accurate, were only used as a pretext for describing the sayings, or were meant to be cut out by the reader, so to obtain a real deck of cards, more or less in the fashion of some modern picture books for making paper models, stencils, etc.
1 (ace) and 2 of Cups

1 (ace) and 2 of Ink-pads
Amman's cards belong to the rather numerous group of fancy patterns (mostly tarots) created during the 16th and 17th centuries, an age in which many artists used playing card illustrations for testing their skills, with the pretext of adding spice to a pastime already very popular, yet generally bound to the original schemes. Had they ever imagined that most playing card players dislike innovations, probably their efforts would have been turned towards a different source of inspiration; in fact, none of the fancy editions known ever managed to oust the local traditional patterns.



THE STRUCTURE OF THE DECK
This deck is made of 52 cards, classically divided into four suits of thirteen cards each, ten of which are pip cards and three are courts.
Although this composition matches non-German patterns (i.e. Italian, Spanish, French), we may still include these cards among the German-structured decks, for many reasons.
In first place, the three courts are typically German: a lower knave (Unter Knabe), an upper one (Ober Knabe) and a king, as still found in decks for playing Skat, Jass, etc.
10 of Cups and Books


1 (ace) of Books
In second place, the 10s of each suit do not feature the relevant number of pips, as the other nine cards do, but show a woman wearing rich clothes (above), with a small flag in the corner, featuring the roman numeral X.
In reduced scale, this is the same flag found in 10s belonging to the earliest hunting decks (right), and still present in the German-suited Swiss pattern (see the relevant gallery).

In third place, two aces of this deck feature a large crest, one of which vaguely reminiscent of the shape of a heart (ace of Ink-pads, previously shown): this is a further detail found among the contemporary German-suited Swiss cards.


10 of Hounds, from the
Ambraser Hofjagdspiel
(Germany, 15th century)

THE PATTERN
Certainly, what is most striking in looking at Amman's cards for the first time is the extraordinary beauty of the engravings, which the uncoloured reissue has fully preserved. The richness of these woodcuts clearly trascends the playing purpose, as the eye tends to linger on the hundreds of fancy details, almost distracting the player from each card's actual value.
The four suits are Books, Drinking vessels (or Drinking-cups, straight in shape), Cups (or Pots, rounded in shape, with decorative humps on the outer part), and Ink-pads (with a handle, for spreading ink on a printing plate, as shown in one of the subjects). All the pip cards (except the 10s) have signs variously arranged in the top part of the card, while in the lower part each subject has a different illustration, genre scenes whose theme in each of the four suits appears loosely related.

7 of Books

9 of Cups
Also the plants or flowers that entwine among the pips, almost forming a background texture for each subject, are related to the suits: roses for Books, iris flowers for Drinking vessels, grapes for Cups, and cattail for Ink-pads (probably because the shape of their flower is somewhat reminiscent of the pad).
In the top part of each pip card, a small western numeral acts as an index, while the 10s, as previously mentioned, have a small X on a flag.

The courts are indeed very similar to any contemporary German-suited deck. The lower knave features the suit sign below, on the ground, while the upper knave has it above, near his head. The king, instead, is the only mounted personage.


Each of the three courts is told by the aforesaid features, as no name nor index appears in any of them.
Curiously, the king of Drinking-cups is a Turk, wearing a turban, see below; an identical personage belongs to the German regional patterns (see this gallery), as well as to the German tarot (Tarock, see Regional Tarots, page 4).

The special way of representing 10s in early German cards, a feature that in the country's modern patterns is no longer found, but it still is in the German-suited Jass deck used in Switzerland, may be related in some way to the loss of this value in the Spanish pattern, in which 9s (with nine pips) are followed by the relevant knave.
Ober and Unter knaves of Ink-pads


ABOUT THE ARTIST
kings of Cups and Drinking-cups
Jost Amman is one of the most prolific illustrators of the 16th century.
Born in Zurich in 1539, he was the son of a teacher of a local renowned college, but preferred to follow his artistic inclination rather than becoming a scholar himself. His apprenticeship was carried out partly in Switzerland and, probably, in France too, as suggested by his early designs. In 1562 he settled in Nuremberg, where he worked for publisher L.Heussler. His works include portraits, illustrations for books on various themes, ornamental designs, stained glass windows, jewelry, and others, although some of his works were inspired by or copied from previous artists' works.

Despite his name gradually became well-known, he never made a fortune, and in his late years he actually lived in poverty. He died in Nuremberg in 1591, only three years after having finished this deck.

The work he is more often remembered for is the large set of woodcuts used as illustrations for the so-called Book of Trades (Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Staende auff Erden, 1568), which describes in detail over one hundred different craftsmen and their tools. From the sample shown on the right, the similarity with the set of cards appears evident.


the Book-printer



further reference to tarot decks can be found in Trionfi and in The Hermitage



page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VI
the Visconti
Tarots
page VII
the tarots
of Ferrara
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck



OTHER GALLERIES

non-standard patterns advertisement decks sizes, shapes and colours standard pattern variants non-suited cards Mercante in Fiera Uta Karuta, Iroha Karuta, Dôsai Karuta Âs nas
regional patterns: Italy regional patterns: Spain regional patterns: Germany regional patterns: Austria regional patterns: Switzerland regional patterns: France regional patterns: Sweden regional patterns: Portugal regional patterns: China regional patterns: South-Eastern Asia regional patterns: Japan regional patterns: India uncut sheets mottos and proverbs

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Introduction
INTRODUCTION
AND HISTORY

Multi-language Glossary
MULTI-LANGUAGE
GLOSSARY
the Fool and the Joker
THE FOOL &
THE JOKER
Index Table
INDEX
TABLE
Regional Games
REGIONAL
GAMES
Playing Card Links
PLAYING CARD
LINKS