August 2016



It was a bit of a slow month. The second half brought us warm and sunny weather, so those days were rather spend outside than in front of a monitor. But we tried to follow the offer on  several Ebay sites and Marktplaats, a Dutch auction site, as much as possible. It only brought a small number of new decks. Two of them were older German decks with interesting sets of illustrated aces. Unfortunately the most promising one for this spot lacked the joker.
Joop didn't visit any local flea markets, but he did go browsing some 1500 stalls at a large brocante fair in Temploux, Belgium, on the 20th and brought home 5 decks. Although all were older decks, there was one that definitely qualified for this spot.

We already have several older or antique fortune telling decks in our collection. The only restriction is that the cards should show regular playing cards too. So Lenormand style decks will almost always qualify, but in our collection are also a number of antique French fortune telling decks with their own captions and card designs. However, these designs didn't look familiar.

Whenever we find a deck that is unknown, we search through our books about playing cards and of course the Cartorama catalogues. This time Jean Darquenne provided us with the first information, when we found pictures of similar designed cards (Cartorama # 57, deck 121). The deck was first published as "Le Petit Oracle des Dames ou Récréation du Curieux" by Pierre François Gueffier from Paris around 1803. But (much) later editions are known too. There are 4 mentioned in the Cary catalogues (France # 208, 209, 224 and 227). According to their descriptions and dimensions, our deck (91x58 mm) is probably # 209, which is dated by Cary as c1895. The deck is lithographically printed and hand- and stencil colored.

The deck didn't come with a box or an explicative leaf- or booklet, so there is not much we can tell about how to use the deck for fortune telling.

However, a few observations can be made. It's a bit unusual designed. Up to this point there have been cards with a single figure and double imaged cards. On the single imaged cards the titles above and beneath the design can only be read in one direction. So they can only be laid in one position. On the double imaged cards the titles and images are in opposite direction and these cards could probably be laid in two ways. The size of the images on the double imaged cards is not always about the same. Most seem to have a fifty-fifty division, but  card 12, 13 and 21 here below are the exceptions. Although there are dividing lines on cards 2 and 23, the cards should be seen as single imaged cards, as title and image are in the same direction. The first 4 cards show the elements, although the sequence is not really logical and the "feu" (fire) on card 2 is not in the most logical spot either.

Card 12 is one of the two cards that don't show a card value. The other is card 22, with is the "consultante/consultant" card, usually used for the man or woman asking for a reading. Here in the Netherlands 13 is believed to be the number that brings misfortune. In this deck it brings death too.

There are several cards that depict figures from the antique Roman mythology, but -and we are definitely no experts of tarot decks- there are also some other images that reminded us of cards from antique tarot decks, like card 7 or card 21.

At the top of this article we show details of 2 cards. The first one is card 34, with the ace of clubs on it. Not only did it remind us of the ace of clubs in another antique French fortune telling deck, but it's one of the cards, on which a bag with money is offered. Here at the money exchange bourse. The other card at the top of this article shows a detail from card 11 (shown upside down above) . The title of that card is "Le Riche Corrupteur". I guess that corruption is of all times. But there are other ways in which money changes hands. Card 30 shows (upside down again) how a man is being robbed by two thieves. On cards 38 and 39 (sorry, again upside down) wealth is shared and a bag of money is handed out.

The deck is complete with 42 cards. Two of the cards don't have small playing cards, but still all 52 cards from a regular deck can be found on the 40 cards. It's made possible by putting 2 small cards on several double imaged cards. The backs have a pattern that was often used in the last quarter of the 19th century. We have several regular playing cards decks from that era with the same kind of back design.