Present here is a very rare cartographic playing card (sold as a single, individual card only) featuring an engraved map of Tibet, being the ‘3 of Diamonds’, with three Diamonds stenciled over in yellow.
The background of the card features a map of Tibet, labeling major centres and rivers including the ‘Pagoda of the Grand Lama’ in ‘Lassa’ (Lhasa).
The present playing card comes from a once-complete set of The Court Game of Geography, which featured 52 cards with cartographic subjects, organized into 4 suits: Hearts (Red) represent Europe; Diamonds (Yellow) represent Asia; Spades (Blue) represent the Americas; and Clubs (Green) represent Africa. While most of the cards feature cartographic subjects, some cards feature portraits of important rulers from the respective continents.
The guide book which accompanied the once complete set of cards describes The Court Game of Geography, as follows:
“This is truly a Royal Game. The four suits represent the four quarters of the world, and each of the pip cards represents a nation. The arrangement of the different countries has been so made, that the suite designates their original position, and their relative importance corresponds with the numerical value of the card”.
“The Court Game of Geography is adapted for a party of five or six”. [The game unfolds that It appears that as one goes along, some players are compelled to gradually discard cards, which are progressively picked up by a successful player, until that player attains…] “The object of the game [which] is to get possession of the whole of the cards.”
“The mind is thus familiarized with the geographical position and relative importance of the different nations of the earth, and the instruction in the useful science of Geography combines with pleasing and elegant amusement.”
The game is very rare and there are thought to be only a handful of remaining complete sets of The Court Game of Geography in existence, with even the appearance of individual cards being very rare.
The Court Game of Geography was issued by the firm of William & Henry Rock of London, which billed itself as “Publishers of scientific games, manufacturers of stationary wholesale and for exportation only.” The Rock firm also published a very rare set of cards entitled The Court Game of Astronomy, featuring cards with engravings of the stellar constellations.
References (referring to the Complete Deck): OCLC: 3828817; Yale Center for British Art: Call Number: GV1199 C6.