If internet is a dustbin, then quite a civilized one: cultural phenomena of all times are dumped here. Let’s take card games – there are a lot of them in the net: on-line-casinos and on-line-clubs hold numerous on-line-draws and on-line-tournaments respectively. But playing cards are cultural heritage.
No matter we want that or not, but playing cards historically appeared to be an example of Vice. As stolen pleasures are the sweetest, than there is no person more interesting, than inveterate gambler or cardsharper. In France a passion for game climaxed at times of Louis XVI, monarch and grandees set an example themselves. Cardsharping prospered along with a game, including at the court. And it was despite strict laws against card-table games, issued and signed by the same monarch! One could be sentenced, fined for 3000 livres, disentitled of civil rights, banished from the town for gaming and maintaining of a den. According to them card debts and different obligations were not legal; parents had a right to recover money from those, their children lost some amount to. But exactly that was considered to be especially disgraceful among aristocracy – a card-table debt was a matter of honor, and should be paid for. Even in the case of bankruptcy the first debts to pay were card-table debts; failure to pay all the rest ones was not disgraceful spadegaming.
The passion for gaming also dominated in the epoch of French revolution. National Assembly in 1791 banned all gaming, setting strict punitive measures, thus not for players, but for the owners of gambling dens and even for the tenants, who would not inform of a gambling game taking place in a house. But every revolution is as cruel, as hypocritical – a republican government asked painter David to change the types of playing cards, existing in France from the XV century. Kings were replaced by war, trade, world, and arts geniuses wearing Phrygian caps. Ladies – by figures, representing freedom of religions, press, marriage and trades; the allegories of equality of the states, rights, duties and races replaced four jacks. Afterwards card-table manufacturers replaced kings by philosophers and writers, ladies by virtues, jacks by the famous republicans. A directory began to permit opening of gaming-houses, and then farming them out, thus from 1804 from tax-farmers 25 percents levied in behalf on poor.
In general playing cards looked different from what they are now. It is considered that they appeared in Europe in the XIV century from the Moslem world or, on other version, from gypsies, as a log of Tarot, then they were modified. Out of 22 Major Arcana of Tarot there remained only three figured cards: king replaced a pharaoh, lady – sibyl, and jack – rider. And in general out of 78 Tarot cards remained only 52 cards of ordinary log or 54 in a log with two jokers (but, the theory of Tarot cards origin is arguable, but Tarot – is a disputable topic in general, and that is why we will leave it). In the XIV century kings, ladies and jacks were represented as legendary heroes of antiquity: the king of hearts was Charles the Great, the king of spades was a biblical tsar David, the king of diamonds was Julius Caesar, and the king of clubs was Alexander Macedonian. At the beginning of the XVII century at Henry II they started to decorate a playing card cover with the small dotted ornament, trying to prevent marking them (but it did not help). Double-headed playing cards (with mirror images) appeared in Italy in the XVII century; however they came into common use only in the middle of the XIX century.
In the nineteenth century experiments with cards design continued: in 1813 cards, representing Napoleon’s wars, were created in France. There was a round medallion with the stages of battles and portrait busts of state and soldiery figures on every card (Marmont, Talleyrand etc.). For example the queen of hearts presented a battle for Moscow; seven of hearts – military bivouacs of French soldiers playing cards. The indignant allies printed the cards, where hearts presented Britain, diamonds – Prussia, clubs – Austria, spades – Russia, with the image of Alexander I and Barclay de Tolly.
Today, with widespread of online game, aesthetics and poetry of card-table game appeared under threat of complete disappearance. Where is that passion, that mad ardour, when the players were ready to lose estates, public money and wives? Where is that deep interest in bribes, fines, rubbers in the eyes of intellectual players? One cannot lose a wife on-line and see the eyes of the player! But, it maybe for the best – in fact when playing cards one needs to be careful and self-seeking (One might need a wife still!) but the age of fatal romantic losses has probably gone. However the popularity of cards games grows and one can guess the revival of gone culture there.