One of the most extensive collections of playing cards ever assembled resides at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.


Known as the Cary Collection, it consists of over 2600 packs of cards, 460 sheets of uncut card papers, and 150 wood blocks for printing cards. The Collection contains standard cards from 16 European countries and 6 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as nonstan­dard cards from 23 European and 3 Western Hemisphere countries, and its content represents over 500 years of cardmaking.

The “nonstandard” cards include subjects like:  Advertisement, Carto­mancy, Education, History, Humor, and Souvenir types, many not intended to be played.



Visconti Tarot card ca. 1428-1447, from arguably the oldest tarot card deck still in existence












Here is an introduction to the collection  from Volume 1 of  the 4 volume catalogue of the Cary Collection of Playing Cards in the Yale University Library by William B. Keller. (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1981).















Link to the complete Cary Collection database

Previously on In the Stacks:
National Library of IrelandThe Astor Free Library at the NYPLWomen’s Travel Diaries at Duke UniversityCharles Darwin’s LibraryThe National ArchivesColumbia University, From Homer to Howl
Private Libraries at the Museum of the City of New YorkLos Angeles Public LibraryBoston Public Library\


One of the most extensive collections of playing cards ever assembled resides at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Known as the Cary Collection, it consists of over 2600 packs of cards, 460 sheets of uncut card papers, and 150 wood blocks for printing cards. The Collection contains standard cards from 16 European countries and 6 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as nonstan­dard cards from 23 European and 3 Western Hemisphere countries, and its content represents over 500 years of cardmaking.
The “nonstandard” cards include subjects like:  Advertisement, Carto­mancy, Education, History, Humor, and Souvenir types, many not intended to be played.
Visconti Tarot card ca. 1428-1447, from arguably the oldest tarot card deck still in existence

Here is an introduction to the collection  from Volume 1 of  the 4 volume catalogue of the Cary Collection of Playing Cards in the Yale University Library by William B. Keller. (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1981).

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