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Suit System:I
Recommended Name:  the Early Trappola, or, later, Silesian Trappola.

"... e cento trappole farò giocar" - Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
"Trappola = trick to make money: trappolare = to deceive" - Nuovo Dizionario Italiano-Francese, Nice, 1780.


Trappola was a popular game in Venice in the early 16th century but appears to have lost its appeal in the area by the end of that century and shifted north, most likely due to trading and troop movements. This early pattern existed until the first half of the 19th century in Austria, Bohemia, Slovakia, Moravia, Bavaria, Saxony and Silesia, although replaced in certain areas by local patterns (see [IPCS #41] ff).

Almost without doubt this was the first Trappola pattern. Characteristics are notably: the King of Batons has an animal carved on the throne, behind his legs; the King of Swords has a double-headed Sphinx, similarly placed; the Cavalier of Swords has a horse with reared head; the Cavalier of Coins sometimes has an accompanying dog; Jacks have shallow-crowned or flat caps with feathers (exceptions in later packs); a perching bird surmounts the Ace of Cups - in later packs replaced by a rampant heraldic eagle.

The earliest survivor of the pattern seems to be a part sheet in the Cary collection (AUS 5S). This shows the speckled frame to the designs which is rarely found outside Venice or Florence, and must be dated 16th Century. Several other anonymous fragments of slightly later date with plain edges, probably came from Austria and possibly from Hungary. The most complete version of this stage of the pattern (an uncut sheet of nine court cards) is illustrated in The Playing-Card, Vol.XVIII, No. l, p.21, and rests in the Iparmúvészeti Muzeum in Budapest. The Museum writes that there is no helpful watermark on the sheet. The Beinecke Library also reports no watermark on the Cary part sheet.

The first actual pack of cards with a maker's name so far discovered was by Michael Schmit of Buchholz, dated 1646 (Kümpel collection). Shortly after, in 1664, a pack was made in Prague with painter Augustin Z- and bearing the initials H.S.

The 1664 pack introduced a feature found in several later Empire packs, that of replacing the simple circular coins with rosettes (U.S.P.C.Co. collection: U.23). Daniel Püschel of Leipzig was the probable maker of a fine example of c.1698 pack with an early rampant eagle on the Ace of Cups. This feature was retained for the rest of the pattern's life.

It is clear that throughout the 17th to 19th centuries the game of Trappola was popular over a wide area stretching from Nürnberg and Leipzig to Graz and Budapest, but most of the 19th century examples were made in Breslau, the main change in detail being the deeper-crowned headgear.


Four Italian suits of nine cards: King, Cavalier, Jack, 10 - 7, 2, 1, making a 36-card pack.

Some Makers

(Other than those mentioned above): Franz Hessiner, Eger/Cheb (Bohemia), 1713; Enengel, Eger/Cheb, early 19th century; Jonas Backofen, Nürnberg, c.1750; anon. ?Wels, 1722; Leopold Buchhold, Breslau, 1784; Andreas Schiwell, Pressburg/Bratislava (Slovakia), c.1820, Ioseph Tiratschek, Breslau, 1823; Wilhelm Tiratschek, Breslau, c.1835.

Sources of Information

THE GAME OF TAROT: Michael Dummett, London, 1980.

SPIELKARTEN: Vienna, 1974.

BUBE, DAME, KÖNIG, Berlin, 1982.

ALL CARDS ON THE TABLE: Sylvia Mann, Leinfelden, 1981.


THE YALE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY GAZETTE, Vol.65, Nos. l - 2, Yale, 1990.

THE PLAYING-CARD (Journal of the I.P.C.S.), Vol.VI, No.l, p.l (rules of the game).

The Early or Silesian Trappola

Illustration of Early Trappola (jpg 603 x 685)
1 - 2 - 3 - 4
5 - 6 - 7 - 8
1 and 2: typical early 17th-century cards, probably from Northern Italy or Austria.
3 and 4: the two styles of Aces of Cups.
5: King of Batons with animal on decoration on throne.
6: a Cavalier of Coins, with small animal under horse's hooves.
7 and 8: an early (1664) example of the horse with a rearing head and a second, later, in Breslau style (c.1790).
1 and 2: courtesy of the Deutsches Spielkarten Museum. 3 and 7: courtesy U.S.P.C. Co. Collection. 4, 6, 8: Mann collection. 5: Temperley collection.

The International Playing-Card Society 7/1993

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