I recently came upon a rare and unexpected discovery in one of my favorite rare book stores, a set of tarot-style playing cards issued as a bonus insert in the 1892 edition of the classic German Art Nouveau magazine Munchner Jugend.
The card set was designed by Julius Diez and features woodcut-style images with color highlights in red, green and gold. The style is reminiscent of 16th century woodcuts like the Dance of Death illustrations featured in one of the contemporary issues of the magazine. The images are certainly somewhat grotesque and intended to be comical, though to the modern viewer they appear rather disturbing, particularly the crippled Knight and Knave cards. There are also peculiarities, including numbers printed upside down, hand-stamped printers marks and various irregularities and quirks.
The card deck is adapted to playing trick-taking games with a customized deck based on the tarot deck, a popular trend of the 1890s. Although the card set resembles traditional tarot cards in many ways, it was likely not really intended for fortune telling. The complete deck consists of 36 cards in 3 9-card suits, including numbered cards 6 through 10 and four face cards, an Ace, a King, a Knight and a Knave. Each card contains unique imagery with small scenes on each of the numbered cards and larger individual figures on the face cards. The suits are variations of the standard suits, with bells (coins or diamonds), rods or clubs (wands), leaves or blades (spades or swords) and hearts. There is no trump suit as you would have in a true tarot deck.
This is somewhat of a novelty item and will ultimately be added to our Jugendstil Collection, but for now we're also making the cleaned up and print ready version of the card set available for purchase in digital form for just $7. It's a curiosity with some useful graphic elements.