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Suit System:F
Recommended Name:  the English pattern.

Alternative names have placed varying emphasis on early origins or subsequent use, e.g. Rouen II, Anglo-American or International pattern.


Rouen was already exporting playing cards to the British Isles in 1480. Cards made by Valery F. (Valery Faucil, ante 1516) are in the British Museum (add. Willshire F. 42.7). They are the earliest evidence of the English pattern. For more than a century, Britain had been importing its playing cards from the continent, mainly from Rouen, but also from Antwerp. Cardmakers emerged in London only at the very end of the 16th Century. They soon stopped giving their names on the JC as their Rouen predecessors had constantly done. After 1700, English cardmakers were efficient enough to compete with foreign products. In the move, the English pattern lost some of its Rouen flavour and elegance and became more and more stylised. The figures took more space in the cards and many details were distorted.

Although the English pattern bears no names on its courts, it is stylistically very close to the early Paris pattern. Some courts have many features in common: the KD of both patterns, the English KC and the Paris KH have the same attributes. The queens, too, bear strong analogies. Resemblances are noticeable between the French JD and the English JS, or between the two JC. Other features are: KH wields an axe (now a sword), QS holds a heraldic mace (later changed into a heavy sceptre), JS grasps a pike, JC holds a big standing arrow (as in the 16th c. Paris pattern).

London cardmakers changed their pattern very slowly, and it was still very conservative into the 19th century. Unsuccessful trials were made to modernise it from c.1800 to c.1830; the courts finally went double-ended by c.1860. Indices appeared c.1880. Transplanted on the American continent, where it was merely copied on wider cards, the English pattern spread all over the world. It is now used almost in all countries, even when other types of cards are used.


The English pattern is mostly known in 52-card packs. However a 32-card composition did exist ("piquet cards") often with reduced courts and wider margins.

Some makers

Rouen: Pierre Maréchal (1540-67), Jehan Henault (c.1580?), Antoine Le Cornu (1580-1631), Guillemme Guérin (ante 1600), Richard Carpentier (c.1600), Pierre Leroux (1647-64), Nicolas Bénierès (1641-60).

London: Steven Bricket (late 16th c.?), Blanchard (c.1740-70), Gibson (c.1770-90), Gibson & Gisborne (late 18th c.), Hall (late 18th c.), Hunt, Hardy, Goodall, Reynolds, Wheeler, Whitaker, Creswick, Stopforth, De La Rue (all 19th Century) and many others.

Leeds: Waddington (20th c.).

USA: Milton (MA): Jazaniah Ford (c.1800-1832). Dorchester (Ma): Thomas Crehore (1801-1846). New York: L.I. Cohen, Samuel Hart, A. Dougherty. Cincinnati: Russell, Morgan & Co., then USPCC.

19th-century cardmakers of Bordeaux (Boisse), Nantes (Roiné), Paris (Arnoult, Thomas), Turnhout.

Due to its world-wide spread, the English pattern is now produced in many countries.

Sources of reference

BENHAM, W. Gurney: Playing cards: History of the pack and explanations of its many secrets, London, 1931 (reprint 1957).

DENNING, Trevor: Reconstructed English court cards c.1605, (IN) The Playing-Card, VI/2, 1977, pp.41-43 and pl. IV-VI.

DEPAULIS, Thierry: Portrait de Rouen no. 2 ou portrait anglais?, (IN) The Playing-Card, XXI/2, 1992, pp.29-40.

FLETCHER, W.M.: On some old playing cards found in Trinity College, (IN) Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, vol. XI (= n.s. vol. V), no.47, 1905-6, pp.454-464 + pl.; More old playing cards found in Cambridge, (IN) Ibid., vol. XVIII (= n.s. vol. XII), no.66, 1913-14, pp.14-25 + pl.

HARGRAVE, Catherine Perry: A history of playing cards and a bibliography of cards and gaming, New York, 1930 (reprint New York, 1966).

LODGE, Ken: The Standard English pattern, Norwich, 1991.

MANN, Sylvia: Collecting English playing cards, London, 1978, 1984.

MANN, Sylvia: Ancestry of a pack, (IN) Playing-Card World, no.42, 1985, pp.3-4 (I); no.44, 1986, pp.3-5 (II) [with contribution by T. Denning, (IN) no.43, 1986, pp.3-4].

MANN, Sylvia: Alle Karten auf den Tisch / All cards on the table, Leinfelden-Echterdingen and Marburg, 1990 (nos.181-189).

WILLSHIRE, William Hugues: A descriptive catalogue of playing and other cards in the British Museum, London, 1876 (reprint Amsterdam, 1975).

The English Pattern

Illustration of English pattern (jpg 959 x 689)
(Above) Hunt & Son, 1806.
(Below) Goodall & Son Ltd., c.1900 (Private coll.)

The International Playing-Card Society 7/1994 ThD

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