English Playing Cards

Series 'P': Cards circa 1675 - 1765

plainbacks reference number and maker Date Estimate Notes
P1 "Hewson" c 1680

Early courts with less abstract appearance than the later standard. The naming (from the JC) is intriguing as Hewson is not otherwise known as a card maker. The cards were used to keep threads, a use which seems to have saved them.

These cards have belonged to well-known collectors and authors, and they therefore appear in several references (full details at the foot of the table). In Morley they are illustrated on p 132 and described on p133. In the Penn catalogue they are on p21, catalogue ref 1257M. In Sylvia Mann's All Cards on the Table, the cards are illustrated on page 200 as catalogue number 182. A different Hewson set belongong to the US Playing-Card Co. is shown in Hargrave, A History of Playing Cards.

P2 Unknown Maker made by 1680, probably earlier

Cards found with the Hewson pack above but clearly different in design.

These seem to have been kept with "P1" since the 17th century and are written up in the same books. In Morley, they are not separated from the "Hewson" cards. The William Penn Collection has them listed on p 23 catalogue ref 1258M. In Sylvia Mann's All Cards on the Table, the cards are illustrated on page 200 as catalogue number 183. Sylvia Mann believed that they belong to the early 17th century.

Jean Verame's Sublimes Cartes à Jouer shows a pack by Nicolas Bénières in the French Rouen pattern (page 32), which have a lot in common with "p2" - this Rouen pattern is the immediate predecessor of the English design.

P3 Unknown Maker 1745-1756

Rare example of a full deck from this era. Note hand stamp (faint red crown shape on AS)

The Fournier Collection has a pack from this era in the Section devoted to the British Isles, page 217 pack 42. Their pack 43 on the same page does not look so early -it is hard to be more precise from the information given.

P4 Unknown Maker (single card) 1720s

Single card, plain back used for a tree drawing.

P5 Unknown Maker c 1754

Selection of cards, backs used as an eductional game (which also gives clues as to date).

P6 Unknown 1750s

Selection of cards, used to store threads (as shown).

P7 "Hewson" (uncoloured sheet) c 1675

Court cards - these images electronically cut and pasted from an original uncoloured sheet which was possibly a proof for the wooden printing blocks. The narrower format of these courts suggests an earlier date than "P1."

See Original scan of uncut sheets

The British Museum has two sheets, at least one by Hewson, described but not illustrated in Willshire, and having reference numbers E167 and E168.

Sylvia Mann shows an uncoloured by Le Cornu on page 199, reference 181, for whom she gives dates of 1638 - 1695. This style from Rouen was the immediate predecessor of the English pattern. This same sheet (identifiable by a brief handwritten script added to it) is also very well illustrated on page 38 of Jean Verame's book. Verame gives earlier dates than Mann. From appearance it is older than the Hewson sheet P7 so early 17th century look likely.

P8 Jehan Faucil 1540-1555

Some very early Rouennais card fragments (mounted on card). These are in the Rouen export pattern that would have been used in the UK at that time, and which was to be adopted as the basis for the English standard pattern. The maker Jean Faucil is identified via the markings on the jacks. He is known to have been working in the period around 1540-1555.

P9 Unknown c 1526

A Single KH card fragment, very early, and according to the accompanying note, this was found inside a book, giving the approximate date

P10 Hart 1763

This Set has the GR cipher on the Ace of Spades. Its identification is described in some detail in THE PLAYING CARD, Vol 42 No 3. Jan -Mar 2014.

See also Wrappers

and Proof Aces


These are proofs of various makers' labels. The makers used distinctive brand naming to identify their cards. For some of the makers represented here, there are no known packs surviving so these proofs are one of the few remaining links with what they made.

Some of the names persisted for centuries after this period, particularly Christopher Blanchard's "Great Mogul" Brand which came to represent cards of the highest quality (and later, cards that wanted to represent themselves as such!), but also John Harts's Henry VIII Brand which became "Harrys", and his Merry Andrew Brand which became "Andrews".

Morley: H T Morley, Old and Curious Playing Cards, Bracken Books, London, 1989. Illustration p 132 and description p 133.

Penn: Sylvia Mann, The William Penn Collection of Playing Cards, Oxney Offset, Kent, 1966. p 21 catalogue ref 1257M. 3.

Mann: Sylvia Mann, All Cards on the Table (alle karten auf den Tisch), Deutches Spielkarten Mus. / Jonas Verlag 1990.

Hargrave: C P Hargrave, A History of Playing Cards, 1930 (page refs from Dover Edition, 2000): Cards by Hewson illustrated on p 176.from 24 cards total, estimated date 1678.

Willshire: W H Willshire, A Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and Other Cards in the British Museum, British Museum, 1876.  The sheets have catalogue references E167 and E168.

Verame: Jean Verame, Sublimes Cartes à Jouer, du Félin / Kiron, 2007.