- Museum number
A complete pack of fifty-two playing-cards depicting the counties of England and Wales, with eight introductory cards; the regular cards, numbered from I to XIII, each depict a county with textual description; the four suits are distinguished by pattern of the inner frame surrounding image, region of England and Wales depicted, and colouring of frame around text; the eight introductory cards depict the royal arms of Elizabeth I, a portrait of Elizabeth, a map of England and Wales, and a bird's-eye plan of London, and four cards with text only, concerning the history, governance and character of England, and a description of London. 1590
- Production date
Height: 95 millimetres
Width: 57 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to Hind and Skelton, this is the earliest known set of geographical cards by 70 years, and the earliest with English county maps by 85 years. They describe a bound set, in a private collection, with a title page, dated 1595, that provides a brief description of the pack, and the page is reproduced as a fold-out in Skelton. Much sundry information was added in this edition on separate sheets, such as a perpetual calendar, a table of the Sun's entry in the Signs of the Zodiac (both reminiscent of astronomical compendia), coats of arms, the trees of Vertue and Vice, etc. Only one other pack is known (lacking the suit with the map of England), and this belongs to the Royal Geographical Society, London.
Turner notes that the miniature county maps at the centre of the cards are copied, in so far as the size will allow, from Christopher Saxton's 'Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales' (London, 1579), for which Ryther cut the plates for four counties in addition to the map of the country.The letters and numbers are characteristic of Ryther's style of engraving.
Lit: G. L'E. Turner, Elizabethan Instrument Makers: the origins of the London trade in precision instrument making, Oxford 2000, 36.
G. L. King, 'Miniature Antique Maps', Map Collector Publications, Tring 1996, pp. 60-1.
R. A. Skelton, 'County Atlases of the British Isles, 1579-1850', Carta Press, London 1970, pp. 16-18
A. M. Hind, 'An Elizabethan pack of Playing-cards', British Museum Quarterly, XIII, 1939, p. 2
E. Heawood, 'English County Maps in the Collection of the Royal Geographical Society', R.G.S., London 1932, p. 13, plate 21.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012 London, BM, Shakespeare
2017 Sept 29-Nov 23 BM G90a Prints in Play
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This was lot 669 in the Sotheby book sale on 1 July 1938, where it was sold by N.G.Blaker Esq. It was purchased by Quaritch acting for the BM for £70.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Willshire E.178b