17th century heraldic playing cards discovered

Friday 1 July 2011

Daryl Green

A full deck of rare 17th century heraldic playing cards, printed in Edinburgh, have been discovered by a Books Cataloguer at the University of St Andrews.

The discovery was made by Daryl Green who was working his way through collections of rare books stored in the University’s library. The set of fifty three cards (fifty two playing cards plus the title card), like a modern deck, contains all four suits with number and picture cards and each bear drawings of a number of heraldic shields relating to Scottish nobility. The title card of the deck displays the Edinburgh crest and states it was printed in 1691; it also bears the title “Phylarcharum Scotorum gentilicia insignia”, or “Family signs of the princes or Scotland”.

Playing card

Playing card

Since the discovery, Daryl has found it more difficult than normal to research the playing cards as they do not appear in the British Library record.  He has however been able to trace one other set of the cards in existence, to the library of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders.

Daryl commented “The cards have certainly been in the collection for probably the last 100 years or so. They were stored in our strong room, and I am working book by book through the catalogue”

The cards, which are printed on paper and were mounted in a book in the late 18th century, will be made available to researchers as part of the University of St Andrews Library Special Collections.


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Victoria Herd on 01334 462530 or email [email protected]

Additional information on the heraldic playing cards can be found on Daryl Green’s blog.

Category University news

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