I am lucky enough to have in my own collection an incomplete pack of Robert Morden playing cards published circa 1676. Yes I am still lucky even if the pack is incomplete as these cards are now quite rare and I did read somewhere that there is only one complete set in existence. This information maybe out of date as things do sometimes unexpectedly turn up. The complete set contains 52 spot cards, an explanation card and a card showing England and Wales divided into counties. My set lacks the card showing England and Wales.
The numbers on the cards are shown as natural numbers and Roman numerals. Some of the natural numbers are hidden by the stencilled suit marks which have been added. In 1680 there was another edition with small changes including the naming of adjoining counties. The cards measure some 94 x 57 mm and are printed on thin but stout card. As mentioned in the explanation the small maps include roads. This was just a year after Ogilby's Britannia was published so for some counties these would be the first county maps to show roads. The early edition showed towns with a circle symbol. This was later changed to a square and to a pictorial symbol. Beneath each map is a panel displaying the Length, Breadth and Circumference of the county along with its Distance from London and its Latitude. My set is uncoloured but specimens with early outline hand colouring do exist.
The King cards each display a circular engraving of Charles II and the Queen cards show his wife Catherine of Braganza. The four Jack or Knave cards bear four different portraits.
THE EXPLANATION OF THESE CARDS
The four Suites are the 4 parts of England, the 13 Northern Counties are Clubs, the Western are Spades, the Eastern are Hearts, and the Southern are Diamonds, in each Card you have a Map of there County, with the chief Towns, and Rivers, a Compassions for the Bearings, and a Scale for Mensuration. there is also given the Length, Bredth, and Circumference of each County. the Latitude of the Chief Citty or Towns, and its Distance from London. First the Reputed and then the Measured Miles by Esqr. Ogilby with his leave we have Incerted. there is also the Road from London to each Citty or Towne, the great Roads are drawn with a double line, the other Roads a single line. as also the chief Hills and other Remarks The use of these Cards are the same with the Common Cards in all respects only using the Numbers in these instead of the spots in the Other
Some hundred years later Robert Morden's playing cards appeared in a pocket atlas A Brief Description of England and Wales Printed for H.Turpin, No. 104 St. John's Street, West Smithfield. The images are printed on small pieces of paper which are then stuck down to blank pages of the book. The suite marks are gone and the towns are now denoted by a pictorial symbol. It is possible by this time the plates had been melted down but Homan Turpin, a publisher and bookseller at 104 St. John's Street had acquired a stock of old printed sheets. The book is undated but thought to be in the early 1780's. An extremely rare later edition was published by Robert Bassam circa 1796 who had premises in the same street but at number 53.
I am illustrating the plates from a copy of the book in my own collection. The hand colouring is modern.
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I have been buying and selling antique maps since the early 1960's during which time I had a gallery in Watergate Street, Chester for 30 years. I am now able to offer through my websites a personal service to map and print collectors.