Note these are not the earliest cards, just the oldest extant complete deck. I’m not sure why they would be less fun than other cards.
Don’t show this to Frauenfelder; he’ll want to cut them into two smaller decks.
It seems designed to be not-fun. The suits appear to be something like manacles, a neck yoke, a cat 'o nine tails, and a hunting horn.
The Karnoffel link in the story 404s.
There are a couple of great public domain e-books on the history of playing cards that people who find this story interesting might want to look into.
For a good overview, you might check out The Devil’s Picture-Books, by Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer. (Quite a fascinating character was Mrs. Van Rensselaer, this NY Times article (PDF) suggests. How I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that Historical Society meeting!) She wrote a follow-up book, Prophetical, Educational, and Playing Cards, which is also interesting (though when it comes to Tarot cards, her fanciful theory that they’re a continuation of ancient Greek temple paintings has no evidence whatsoever to support it).
[insert ‘pretty good weekend in Vegas’ joke]
The oldest complete deck of cards in the world is from the distinctly-unhappy 15th century,
This is the universe punishing me for taking a break from grading history final exams.
That fine old children’s card game Bugger-My-Neighbor.
He and I joke about this all the time. Mark loves to gaffe/trick decks out and I think its a horrible crime.
My wife writes in books. It makes my skin crawl.
You probably don’t think of hunts as fun. But 15th century Flemish nobles certainly did.
The suit symbols, based on equipment associated with the hunt, are hunting horns, dog collars, hound tethers, and game nooses.
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