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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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CARDS.

The origin of cards is as doubtful as that of dice. All that we
know for certain is that they were first used in the East. Some
think that the figures at first used on them were of moral
import: the Hindoo and Chinese cards are certainly emblematic in
a very high degree; the former illustrate the ten avatars, or
incarnations of the deity Vishnu; and the so-called 'paper-
tickets' of the Chinese typify the stars, the human virtues, and,
indeed, every variety of subject. Sir William Jones was
convinced that the Hindoo game of Chaturaji--that is, 'the Four
Rajahs or Kings'--a species of highly-complicated chess--was the
first germ of that parti-coloured pasteboard, which has been the
ruin of so many modern fortunes. A pack of Hindoostani cards, in
the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society, and presented to
Captain Cromline Smith in 1815, by a high caste Brahman, was
declared by the donor to be actually 1000 years old: 'Nor,' said
the Brahman, 'can any of us now play at them, for they are not
like our modern cards at all.' Neither, indeed, do they bear any
remarkable resemblance to our own--the pack consisting of no less
than eight sorts of divers colours, the kings being mounted upon
elephants, and viziers, or second honours, upon horses, tigers,
and bulls. Moreover, there are other marks distinguishing the
respective value of the common cards, which would puzzle our
club-quidnuncs not a little--such as 'a pine-apple in a shallow
cup,' and a something like a parasol without a handle, and with
two broken ribs sticking through the top. The Chinese cards have
the advantage over those of Hindoostan by being oblong instead of
circular.

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