The City of Prague Museum

Playing Cards

Playing Cards

Main Building

12. 3. 2013 – 10. 6. 2013

Object of the Season

The playing cards collection of the City of Prague Museum includes cards produced in Prague between the 16th and 20th centuries, and some items are presented for the first time in history.

Gambling is one of the earliest kinds of human vice out of which the playing cards, referred to as "devil's pictures", were most frequent. The playing cards were favoured not only by the noble and rich but also by common people.

Although the production of playing cards has changed, the spirit of the game has survived. People are willing to gamble and lose all they have and sometimes even more. Over time, card games have become more complex and the fashion of the time also played an important role. However, wits, foresight and the art of tactics remain. There are four basic kinds of playing cards: German, Italian, French and Tarot cards. The latter ones are a special group. Although their origins and purpose remain unclear it is generally assumed that they were used for reading. They also use different symbols.

Only few packs of playing cards have survived in Czech collections. The largest are found in the National Museum and the City of Prague Museum' the latter one owns the oldest playing cards. The National Archives, National Library, Research Library in Olomouc, Silesian Museum in Opava, Strahov Monastery and others also have some collections of playing cards. In addition, private collectors own packs of historic playing cards as well. In 2009, a huge treasure, a collection of playing cards, was discovered under the floor of the Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle.


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