This article I want to dedicate to the result of collaboration between Vanishing Inc. Magic and Big Blind Media – Discoverie Deck [find it here or here]. There were several articles dedicated to BBM’s playing cards on pages of this site. But Vanishing Inc. Magic is a new guest on the site.
Founded by Joshua Jay and Andi Gladwin, Vanishing Inc. Magic is a magic website that presents different goods related to magic (magic tutorials, books, video lessons, small magic things, playing cards, etc.). These guys make use of their experience to select interesting magic products for their site. And they have enough experience as: a) Joshua Jay is an American performer, lecturer and columnist in MAGIC Magazine (his column – “Talk about Tricks”); b) Andi Gladwin is a UK-based entrepreneur and professional close-up magician. One of the main features of their site is a lot of video demonstrations of products they propose.
The deck is consecrated to The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot. The first edition was printed in 1584. It was one of the first books written in the English language which made serious mention of magic. The book showed a superstitious public that magicians were not witches, but entertainers with thought-out effects and methods. So Vanishing Inc. Magic and Big Blind Media decided to commemorate such moment in history of magic with these playing cards produced in 2013 (you will be able to commemorate 490 years of the book… but in 2014 ;) ).
The English artist Sam Hayles (DOSE Productions) who traditionally design decks for Big Blind Media had his hand in this deck of playing cards.
The Deck: 52 playing cards + 2 different Jokers + 1 information card + 1 illustrated card. Poker size. Playing cards were printed by USPCC on Bicycle Stock and have the Air-Cushion finish. Clickable pictures:
As you can see the tuck case is made in style of an old battle-scarred book with a leather cover traditional for 16th century. It should be reminiscent of the first edition of The Discoverie of Witchcraft. This tuck case is a cover which protects faded and yellowed pages of this book.
The last phrase on this card is poor charlatanism as you won’t find that tutorial ;)
Even more, you will be redirected to some unknown site selling the deck. I guess this is a question for producers. Anyway you can find that free download here as well as some additional information about this deck from Vanishing Inc. Magic
The Discoverie of Witchcraft was intended as an exposé of medieval witchcraft. Reginald Scot was an English country gentleman and Member of Parliament. He set himself to prove that the belief in witchcraft and magic was rejected by reason and by religion, that spiritualistic manifestations were wilful impostures or illusions due to mental disturbance in the observers. The book actually was entitled The Discoverie of Witchcraft, wherein the Lewde dealing of Witches and Witchmongers is notablie detected, in sixteen books… whereunto is added a Treatise upon the Nature and Substance of Spirits and Devils, 1584.
People’s belief in witchcraft, spirits and devils was strong in 16th century. Any person with strange abilities or skills could be classified as a Devil’s servant – sorcerer or witch… especially witch. The Inquisition didn’t sleep. There was a widespread hysteria that malevolent Satanic witches were operating as an organized threat to Christendom. So the Inquisition contributed a lot of efforts to witch hunts across early modern Europe and to some extent in the European colonies in North America. The bloody period of witch hunting between the 15th and 18th centuries resulted in an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 executions and real perversion of justice.
Due to his book Scot became a common target for believers in the persecution of witches. A lot of noble people of that time defended the contemporary beliefs on witches. When James I succeeded to the throne of England in 1603, he ordered all copies of the Discoverie of Witchcraft to be burned. Only a few copies of the original printing survived.
The book contains a section comprising stories of magicians with supernatural powers performing in front of courts of kings. Scott analyzes all those stories with intention to show how the public was fooled by charlatans :). That section is considered one of the first published materials on magic.
Scot’s work happened to be a reliable encyclopaedia of witchcraft as well as an early tutorial of magic tricks. Even William Shakespeare (the greatest poet and playwright in the English language) drew from his study of the Discoverie of Witchcraft hints for his picture of the witches in Macbeth. The book has textual explanations and illustrations of some magic tricks.
Explanatory pictures from the book are also used for Jokers. On the first Joker you can see the illustration for Scot’s explanation of tricks with bodkins pinking a tongue or other parts of a body. On the second Joker you can see the illustration for Scot’s explanation of the trick with three balls which can be moved from the cord with edges kept by a spectator in his hands and the gimmick for drawing a cord through a nose.
This deck could be better without this USPCC’s seal or with a custom one made as a bookmark sticking up from the middle of the book and pressed to the back of its cover. Pictures are clickable:
The backgrounds of all playing cards have some calligraphic text. Perfectionism of the producers has its limits as the text on all backgrounds is the same (see tens and the Queen of Spades below). It is probably a page from the book. On the other hand the book was written in archaic Early Modern English and I doubt a lot of people will enjoy such reading :). Also the text is almost unreadable because of its small print. This text turns all playing cards into symbolic pages of this book. Stylish.
One interesting and funny detail – the text on all backgrounds happened to be flipped (I have to think so).
Aces develop the creative idea of pages from the book. Sam divided a part of one sentence between all four aces. So you should flip four aces (♠ – ♥ – ♣ – ♦) – four pages of the book – to read a wise advice “If you plaie among strangers, beware of him that seemes simple or drunken”.
This is an incomplete phrase from the 27th Chapter of the book called “of cards, with good cautions how to avoid cousenage therein: speciall rules to conveie and handle the cards, and the manner and order how to accomplish all difficult and strange things wrought with cards”. In this chapter, inter alia, Scot reasons how gamblers and dice players should avoid cheaters. The whole phrase (in modern English) is the following “If you play among strangers beware of anyone who seems simpleminded, or drunk, for when you think to take advantage of them, perhaps encouraged by their confederates who you take for your friends, you your self will be the one taken”.
As you can see indices and pips are of the same size and form as on Bicycle standard playing cards. While big “black” pips on aces are slightly scratched (by the way scratches are directly from backs of the cards) dark brown ones, small “black” pips on other cards are some mixture of orange, brown, black and grey colours. “Red” pips are some mixture of orange, red and brown colours – they are scratched the same way.
The Ten of Clubs: Discoverie Deck – Bicycle Standard Deck
The Nine of Clubs: Discoverie Deck – Bicycle Standard Deck
The playing cards of each suit numbered two and four have smaller woodcuts on them (there is the same picture from one of the Jokers on cards numbered two). On the cards numbered four you can see the illustration for Scot’s explanation of tricks with knives pinking a hand or cutting other parts of a body.
This is more European tradition for collectable playing cards than American (USPCC’s) one. So this underlines that the deck is dedicated to the European prominent book.
Court cards are converted Bicycle standard court cards. They as well as all pips, Jokers and the illustrated card imitate woodcuts (xylography) from the 16th-century books. Jokers and the illustrated card do that in classic way. Pictures on court cards and pips do that in creative way. Sam chose different tints of brown and red colours to create a visual difference between “black” and “red” suits. So “red” court cards have more different red tints and “black” court cards have more different brown tints. The text shows through pictures of court cards and pips which underlines the effect of woodcuts.
The King of Spades: Discoverie Deck – Bicycle Standard Deck
The Queen of hearts: Discoverie Deck – Bicycle Standard Deck
Woodcut is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood. Printing parts remain on the appropriate surface while the non-printing parts are removed. The surface is covered with ink by rolling over it with an ink-covered roller. Multiple colours can be printed by keying the paper to a frame around the woodblocks. In this case a different block is used for each colour.
Back design of these playing cards probably imitates the inside of the book cover and is noticeably one way. I guess the book happened to be in possession of some curious magician who couldn’t get over the first page of it ;). I almost can see his thumbprint on the left bottom corner of the “cover”.
On the other hand it can be the front of the book cover as such “enhanced” corners of book covers were popular that time.
Other decks by Big Blind Media: