Transformation Playing Cards 1811
- First Published: 1811
- Size: 3.9" x 2.5"
For the whole of the 19th century, plus a few years at either end, a minor but attractive social fashion flourished – the “transformation card”. This name is derived from the idea of “transforming” an ordinary pip card into a wider picture, it being one of the rules that the pips must form part of the overall design and also remain in their original position on the card.
Unquestionably one of the most amusing and ingenious packs ever devised was one designed and etched by I. L. S. Cowell and published in about 1811 or 1812. The original wrapper bore the title “Transformation of Cards. Metastasis”. Not only do many timeless social situations (audience at the theatre, congregation in church, greedy employer at table, etc.) receive suitably disrespectful treatment, but there are also glimpses of contemporary entertainment, particularly pantomimes (“Perouse” was produced in 1801 and “Obi” in 1800, for example.) A reference to “The Lady of the Lake” suggests a date for the pack as post 1810, Scott’s poem being published in that year. This pack also includes the 5 Clubs “Hottentot Venus”.
The publishers are indebted to the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards for permission to reproduce this pack of cards from the Phillips Collection at Guildhall Library and to Miss Sylvia Mann who prepared the Introductory Note.