Mamluk Cards

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Mul¨k wanuwwÓb ľ the mother of European card decks

Mamluk cards are commonly accepted to be the link between earlier cards from Asia and the development of playing cards in Europe. They are named after their origin from the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt, 1250 to 1517. Some remarks on the role Mamluk cards played in the history of playing cards can be found in the History section.

Most of the knowledge about Mamluk cards derives from a lot of 48 remaining cards from a deck that is now located at the Topkapi museum in Istanbul, as well as from some privately owned single cards. The 48 cards from the Topkapi museum appear to have origninally belonged to three different card sets. See the Topkapi deck section for further discusson of the structure of the Topkapi deck. The remains of several physical decks plus the other single cards make it plausible that Mamluk cards follow a pattern that has been used for most of the 14th and 15th century.

The court cards from the Topkapi deck have arabic inscriptions with card titles on them. The titles are "king", "deputy" and "second deputy". For this reason the deck is also referred to as "Mul¨k wanuwwÓb" which roughly translates to "Kings and deputies". Further details about the arabic inscriptions on the Topkapi cards can be found in the Inscriptions section.

A Reconstruction of the Topkapi deck is planned to be completed before the summer holiday season this year (2018) and to be printed before the end of the year. Once this is all done the cards will be available from the Shop here on this site. If you would like to be informed about updates of this site, the progress of the reconstruction, and the printing you can write to trzes at spiorad dot net and you will be put on a mailing list.

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Contact: write to trzes at spiorad dot net.

Last change: 07-Feb-2018

Created: Sep 2015