Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

January 28, 2012

Wondering? Here’s how cards began


Just in the last few years, I have become quite the cardplayer .My father would be amazed, because he would not allow me or my brothers to play cards (with the regular cardfaces) when we were growing up. We were, however, allowed to play other games that had cards of their own, like Touring and Flinch.
I have to be amused sometimes at the way my father’s ideas moderated through the years. In his later years he was known to play canasta and solitaire, and possibly even pinochle. I understand it totally, since my ideas have moderated too. As I grew older I began to realize that the world is more complex than simply separating pre-sorted behaviors into good or bad. But that’s another issue.
What we are dealing with here is playing cards and their complex history, which I find quite interesting, since I am a history buff. What I didn’t know was that historically you just don’t get playing cards before you get paper.
I had not thought of this before, but it would have been a problem carrying around a stone deck of cards. Not that our early ancestors had pockets in their parkas. And there seems to be no evidence of sheepskin playing cards or papyrus or vellum ones, either. So it seems obvious that cards as we know them followed the highway of ancient paper-making.
China, of course, no news here, was tops early on in papermaking, and, once it got started, paper-manufacture spread fairly quickly to India, Egypt, and Persia. And with it, of course, the gentle art of card-playing. Well, nothing was very gentle in those days, and card-playing, of course, has its own background of violence. It’s quite likely that card-playing spread from the East to the West through the Crusades, particularly in the 12th century.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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