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The History Of Dice And Cards

Volume I

The Gaming Table by Andrew Steinmetz, Volume II

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The History Of Dice And Cards

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'The manufacture of playing-cards comprises many interesting
processes. The cardboard employed for this purpose is formed of
several thicknesses of paper pasted together; there are usually
four such thicknesses; and the paper is so selected as to take
paste, paint, and polish equally well. The sheets of paper are
pasted with a brush, and are united by successive processes of
cold-drying, hot-drying, and hydraulic pressure. Each sheet is
large enough for forty cards. The outer surfaces of the outer
sheets are prepared with a kind of flinty coating, which gives
sharpness to the outline of the various coloured devices. Most
packs of cards are now made with coloured backs. The ground-tint
is laid on with a brush, and consists of dis-temper colour, or
pigments mixed with warm melted size. The device impressed on
this ground-tint is often very beautiful. Messrs De la Rue, the
leading firm in the manufacture, employ tasteful artists, and
invest a large amount of capital in the introduction of new
patterns. On cards sold at moderate prices, the colours at the
back are generally two--one for the ground, and one for the
device; but some of the choicer specimens display several
colours; and many of the designs are due to the pencil of Mr Owen
Jones. The printing of the design is done on the sheets of
paper, before the pasting to form cardboard. The pips or spots
on the faces of playing-cards are now spades, clubs, hearts, and
diamonds; but at different times, and in different countries,
there have been leaves, acorns, bells, cups, swords, fruit,
heads, parasols, and other objects similarly represented. In
English cards the colours are red and black; Messrs De la Rue
once introduced red, black, green, and blue for the four suits;
but the novelty was not encouraged by card-players. The same
makers have also endeavoured to supersede the clumsy devices of
kings, queens, and knaves, by something more artistic; but this,
too, failed commercially; for the old patterns, like the old
willow-pattern dinner-plates, are still preferred--simply because
the users have become accustomed to them. Until within the last
few years the printing of cards was generally done by
stencilling, the colour being applied through perforated devices
in a stencil-plate. The colour employed for this purpose is
mixed up with a kind of paste. When there is a device at the
back, the outline of the device is printed from an engraved wood-
block, and the rest filled in by stencilling. The stencilling of
the front and back can be done either before or after the pasting
of the sheets into cardboard. One great improvement in the
manufacture has been the substitution of oil colour for paste or
size colour; and another, the substitution of printing for
stencilling. Messrs De la Rue have expended large sums of money
on these novelties; for many experiments had to be made, to
determine how best to employ oil colour so that the spots or pips
may be equal-tinted, the outline clear and sharp, the pigment
well adherent to the surface, and the drying such as to admit of
polishing without stickiness. The plates for printing are
engraved on copper or brass, or are produced by electrotype, or
are built up with small pieces of metal or interlaced wire. The
printing is done in the usual way of colour-printing, with as
many plates as there are colours (usually five), and one for the
outlines; it is executed on the sheets of paper, before being
pasted into cardboard. When the printing, drying, and pasting
are all completed, a careful polish is effected by means of
brush-wheels, pasteboard wheels, heated plates, and heated
rollers; in such a way that the polish on the back may differ
from that on the face--since it is found that too equally
polished surfaces do not slide quite so readily over each other.
Formerly, every pack of cards made in England for home use paid a
duty of one shilling, which duty was levied on the ace of spades.

The maker engraved a plate for twenty aces of spades; the
printing was done by the government at Somerset House, and L1 was
paid by the maker for every sheet of aces so printed. The law is
now altered. Card sellers pay an annual license of 2s. 6d., and
to each pack of cards is affixed a three-pence stamp, across
which the seller must write or stamp his name, under a penalty of
L5 for the omission.

The cardboard, when all the printing is finished, is cut up into
cards; every card is minutely examined, and placed among the
'Moguls,' 'Harrys,' or 'Highlanders,' as they are technically
called, according to the degree in which they may be faultless or
slightly specked; and the cards are finally made up into
packs.'[64]

[64] Chambers's Cyclopaedia.

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