These intricately detailed playing cards were first engraved in 1588 by Jost Amman, one of the most prolific illustrators of the 16th century. The cards were not individual sheets, as in modern playing card decks, rather they were bound with a few other illustrations in book form, with facing pages having sayings and moral principles in both German and Latin.
This single-color facsimile reproduction deck by Il Meneghello was published in 1985 in a limited edition of 2000 decks, in individual card form. This reproduction (titled both as "Le Carte di Gioco di Jost Amman" & "Carte Tedesche XVI Sec.") has one of the additional Noble characters (singing Lady playing a Lute) from the original bound manuscript created as a single card, adhered to the package front, but she does not appear in the 52 card deck.
Just like modern playing card decks, it is divided into 4 suits of 13 cards each. Suit symbols are Books, Ink Pads, Wine-cups (round) and Drinking vessels (tall). The 3 Courts of each suit are typically German, and show an Unter Knabe, an Ober Knabe and a mounted King. German decks (like Spanish ones) do not generally contain Queens, however, the 10s of each suit show a Noble woman, with a Roman numeral X in a banner. All other pip cards (except the 2 of Wine-cups) have an Arabic numeral at the card top. There are no titles on any of the cards.
Numbered cards show a combination of pip symbols and scene illustrations (some of which are satirical) of everyday life. A floral theme unites each suit, with Cotton-flowers (or Roses) for Books, Iris or Lily-flowers flowers for Drinking vessels, Grapes for Wine-cups, and Cat-tails for Ink pads. Aces of each suit are either an illustrative scene and suit symbol, or a Heraldic cartouche and suit symbol.
Some cards have very interesting details or scenarios, such as a couple playing cards by candlelight on the 3 of Ink Pads, a couple brawling on 4 of Wine Cups, which also has a symbol on a jug that could be a printers' mark. The 6 of Wine Cups shows 2 men playing backgammon, while the 7 of Wine Cups shows a Fool roasting a pig. 2 men binding books is shown on the 2 of Books, while on the 3 of Books a Fox is teaching 4 Geese alphabet letters. Thieving, pooping monkeys make an appearance on the 5 of Books, stealing a sleeping man's pouch and books. On the 5 of Drinking Vessels, a pair of well-dressed men fight with swords, having discarded their shears and needles to the ground, in favor of more deadly weapons. On the 9 of Drinking vessels, Jost Amman's monogram IA is found, above a scene where a swan or crane has placed it's entire head inside a fox's mouth. In the Court cards, the king of Drinking vessels is a Turk wearing a turban; this character is common to the German regional playing card patterns, as well as to German Tarock games. Cream-colored card stock has no gloss finish or coating, and card backs are blank.
Includes a 2-sided, folded sheet in Italian that gives brief historical information about Jost Amman & Leonhardt Heussler. The back cover of the folded sheet contains the hand-written edition number of the deck, and the address of Il Meneghello in Italy.
2 11/16" x 4 1/4" x .015"
67 mm x 108 mm x .38 mm
NOTE: Photos and scans of loose cards were taken from a duplicate, opened deck. You will receive a brand new, un-opened deck if you win this auction. Package coloring may vary from photos shown above.