In 2005 Denmark commemorated the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen, the country's greatest storyteller, who's fairy tales have been translated in many languages and are known worldwide. It must have been a coincidence, but only a month ago the second HCA deck was added to our collection of Danish decks. So we decided to participate in the festivities by telling Andersen's own story and showing the two decks, that were published to commemorate his 150th anniversary.

Who was this 185 cm tall, thin man, with a shoe size 47 and dark grey-blue eyes, set deeply in his face, who's hands were often busy cutting figures and silhouettes from paper with a large pair of scissors, that he always kept within reach, but...... also the man, who's fairy tales still know how to touch many hearts, young and old, ever since they were first published in 1837.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on 2 April 1805 in Odense, on the isle of Funen. His mother was Anne Marie Andersdatter. His father, Hans Andersen, was a shoe maker, who died in 1816.  Driven by poverty his mother had to take on a job, washing clothes for other people and the young Hans Christian, who wasn't attending any school at that moment, was send out to work.
In 1817 he was send to the charity school. About one year after his mother had re-married in 1818, a young and brave Andersen travels, as a stowaway, by wagon to Kopenhagen, with only a few pennies in his pocket and a letter of recommendation for Anne Margereth Schall, a ballet dancer at the Royal Theatre. His performance of a "grotesque ballet" (he danced in his stocking feet , used his hat as a tambourine and improvised melody and text of "The little Glass Slippers") fails to convince her and he's thrown out. Thanks to the director of the Royal Theatre singing school he gets private lessons in singing and meals. A year later this agreement ends and he changes to the Theatre's ballet school for dancing lessons. Later he gets private lessons in acting too, but also the advise to give up the dream of becoming an actor. He starts writing.
A first tragedy "The Forest Chapel" was shelved, just like his other two attempts to write a tragedy for the theatre. In 1822 his first book "Attempts from Youth" was published, but this wasn't a success either. Although not yet successful, his writing opened the doors to the prestigious "Latin school" (equivalent of a grammar school today) in Slagelse and he's taken in by Simon Meisling, the principal of the school, and his family. In 1826 he moves with them to the Latin School in Elsinore. Although he's not very successful at school, he gets acquainted with several writers, like Ingemann, who's contacts will help him in his future success.


The two decks were printed and published by Handa from Kopenhagen for export to the USA, probably as a set: both decks have the same backdesign.

Published in 1955 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of HCA.

In each deck only the courts and aces have a special design. The denominations of these cards are shown in two opposite corners, set against a background design, that represents a scene from one of Andersens famous tales. An older Danish pattern was used. The numbercards are regular.


After finishing Highschool and beginning literary success, he embarks on the steamship Dania for a first journey to Jutland in 1830. Among other towns, he visits Faaborg, and stays there with Christian Voigt, an old schoolfriend. During his stay he falls in love with Christian's sister Riborg, but she's already engaged and cannot answer to his love.

To overcome his broken heart, he makes his first journey outside Denmark in 1831. He visits Germany in May and June and publishes a travel journal afterwards. He obviously enjoys traveling and in 1833 he receives a travel grant and on the 22nd April leaves for Italy, where he will gather documentation for his first novel, "The  Improvisatore". The travels through Germany and from May 10 until August 15 he is in Paris, where he visits Victor Hugo. From Paris he goes to Genève and on September 15th he travels to Italy.


This first deck came without an accompanying explicative leaflet, so we can't describe all the tales that are represented here. Just the obvious ones, like  "The Little Mermaid" on the Queen of Diamonds or the "Wild Swans" on the King of Hearts.



The courts are made in simple black/white designs, that look as if they were made in block-print. The characters show no facial features; they are almost made to look like the silhouettes that HCA liked to cut out.


Passing through Florence he arrives in Rome on October 18 and he feels so much at home, that he remains there until February 1834, when he makes a short trip to Naples. Together with Henrik Hertz he climbs the active Vesuvius at Herculanum. He spends Easter in Rome again and leaves here on the 1st of April. He travels through Bologna, Padova and Venice to Munich, where he spends the complete

May month. Through Prague and Berlin, he travels back to Copenhagen, where he arrives on the 3rd of August 1834, full of new ideas and with enough material for several publications.
His mother had died on October 7th 1833, during his stay in Italy, and he is not informed of this until December 16th of that year. In reaction he writes to a friend: " has, however, affected me deeply. Now I really am quite alone, - no longer is any creature bound by nature to love me".


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