Tue. Sep 19th, 2023

The History of Playing Cards

The origins of playing cards are thought to be in China. Then later come to Persia and India . In Persia playing cards spread to Egypt. Then, they were likely to reach Europe via the Iberian and Italian peninsulas in the 14th century.

Playing Cards in The Middle Ages

Playing cards was a popular game in West European countries around 1375

Around 1370-1380, the history of Western civilization’s playing cards began. A cluster of early literature references (inventories, edicts, and city chronicles) points to the sudden appearance of playing cards. They were first found in Italy, Spain, Germany, and Belgium. Soon after, playing cards was banned.

We can also see contemporary examples of card-playing, in addition to the literary evidence. While dice and some board games have been around for a while, playing cards are a relatively new addition to the gaming world. Contrary to their Islamic predecessors, where depictions of the human face were forbidden for religious reasons, Western cards featured images of actual people on the court cards. These colorful images, their suit symbols, and players’ perceptions about the imagery of the pack and patterns of logic and thought all contributed to the rapid growth of a new economy of playing cards manufacture and consumption, as well as employment opportunities, entertainment options, and political and legal reactions.

The dishonesty and cheating that took place in less-respected gaming houses were also contributing factors to antisocial behavior. As preachers condemned the game, authorities created regulations to control the new craze. We also learn that the upper classes and nobility were fond of courtly games and enjoyed gambling without consequences.

Card playing and gambling were a magnet to antisocial behavior due to the dishonest characters and card-sharps. The gambling dens attracted a whole sub-class of professional swindlers and confidence tricksters, while the upper classes gentlemen and nobility enjoyed card playing as a pleasant pastime.

It all started in one way or another.

The arrival of playing cards in Europe

While a few early books mention the existence of playing cards (naibi), these documents cannot be verified and should be ignored. Possibly, accounts or rumors of cards may have come from other lands via soldiers, prisoners, merchants, travelers, soldiers, or Arabic sources. Helen Farley (2009)Lecturer in Studies in Religion and Esotericism lists several of them on, page 175.

Except for the one example of the Mamluk card, there are many early references to Moorish-type cards’ in Barcelona from the late 14th and early fifteenth centuries. The Moors occupied Spain from that time until 1492. There was Arabic literature published, and cards were used. There may have been an earlier continuity in using cards in Islamic countries before they arrived in Europe. In his Tratado de Hispa (a kind of good behavior guide, Seville in the early 12th century), Ibn Abdun wrote that gambling and other games were sinful and should be banned. However, many games and sports were enjoyed privately and were not subject to religious injunctions. These games were introduced to the Iberian peninsula by Arabs. These games are not considered the same as alcohol consumption by Ibn Abdun, an Almoravid devout Muslim. This was done to preserve law and order. Andalusian records have few references to games, while none to cards.

Prohibition This is the first reference to the prohibition of any subsequent regulation for card games.

It was a problem because, although card games were intended to be a social pastime and recreation, they could also lead to inactivity, uncivil behavior, or violence among the lower echelons of society. Card games had to be controlled and regulated. Roman law was the first to regulate games, but medieval legislation forbids gambling and games of chance. Despite this, the popularity of playing cards was not curtailed. Local authorities were undoubtedly tolerant of this habitual and persistent transgression. This meant that the law was applied arbitrarily depending on the situation. Fines could be imposed, and corruption or bribery might play a role. As a result, more laws and ordinances were passed against gambling. Monopolies and licenses were also created to generate revenues from the card and gaming industries.


Card-playing was popular in Germany in the early part of the fifteenth century. These regulations can be found in Burgher books from several German cities dating from 1400 to 1450. It is prohibited by the Augsburg council books, which date from 1400, 1403, and 1406 respectively. However, the exception that permits card-playing in the meeting-houses for trades was allowed in the latter year. It was banned at Nordlingen in 1426, 1436, and 1439. However, in their wisdom, the magistrates decided to allow card-playing in public houses in 1440. There are entries in the city books of the same town that show money spent on playing cards at the annual goose-feast of the magistrates or corporate dinner.

Card playing continued to thrive and spread across Europe despite religious moralizing against it and legal prohibitions against gambling.