Aesop's Fables

I. Kirk, Cardmaker to King Henry the VIII

Tax Stamp[Wrapper]This deck is made specially for Colonial Williamsburg, a historical recreation community in Virginia (United States) where they have people displaying life in the 17th and 18th centuries in the American colonies. Sadly, I have no idea who actually makes this deck, but I do know that they have at least one other deck in this series, the I. Hardy, "Great Mogul" deck.

Much attention is paid in this deck to the style and laws of cardmaking in the period, and this should be a fairly accurate depiction of what playing cards were really like then, and probably for the century before. Shown here at left is the tax stamp, an embossed seal of paper wrapped around the deck which showed that the taxes on the pack had been paid. There is a whole branch of philately dedicated to tax stamps, including playing card stamps, which I know very little about. More information on tax stamps can be found in the materials listed in the playing-cards mailing list FAQ.

At right is the other side of the unopened deck. You can see the tax stamp peeking around the edges (and indeed tied there with a string), and underneath, the real wrapper of the deck showing the dedication to King Henry VIII along with the warning of severe legal repercussions to be visited on somebody who mishandles the cards. Presumably the taxes paid were specifically geared towards the destination port, and the deck might cost very differently in Britain and in the Colonies.

The deck itself is printed on uncoated heavy card stock, cut with square corners, and has no design on the back, which is what, I understand, real-people's cards were like until the 19th and 20th centuries. Coating, of course, wouldn't have existed as we know it at all until very recently, and back designs were an expensive and useless luxury (and an invitation to marking).

The deck itself is a collection of Aesop's fables, rendered in dense, six-line poems, four lines dedicated to the fable and two to the moral. Each fable is accompanied by a nicely made picture encapsulating the point of the story, and in the upper left corner is a small rendering of the normal card face. I have images of four of the cards, to give you a sense of the deck. All images are the property of the copyright holder, and are provided here only for scholarly analysis.

Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades

The Ant and the Fly

Seven of Hearts

Seven of Hearts

The Stag and the Fawn

The Jack of Diamonds

Jack of Diamonds

The Dog and the Piece of Flesh

Queen of Clubs

Queen of Clubs

The Nightingale and the Hawk

Return to cards page
Send me mail.