Review of “Karten-Almanach,”
Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1805) 2 (Thursday, 3 January 1805), 13–14 [*]
All aficionados of card-playing will profit from the meritorious service performed by Herr Cotta, who has brought to fruition an idea that is as well executed as it was brilliantly conceived. To wit, each card is supplied with a delicate secondary idea that the author of an accompanying commentary has quite appropriately called a “game with the game.”
The card figures, as king, queen, jack, have in part been borrowed from Schiller’s play The Maid of Orleans. The ladies are Agnes Sorel, Louison, Isabel, and Johanna herself. Charles VII is joined by the pious King René of Anjou, at whose feet the Sicilian crown lies and peaceful lambs graze, and by Talbot and Phillip of Burgundy. The jacks are Montgomery, Lionel, Raimont, and la Hire.
This wealth of delicate ideas that often quite naively and touchingly adorn the rest of the otherwise dry points of card designations cannot but delight anyone who beholds them. Usually these consist of charming pictures of family scenes or comical caricatures, though often the meaning is also quite serious.
It is, however, impossible to dispel the melancholy that cannot but accompany our recollection of him whose refined sensibility helped conceive these delicate ideas, and who with them took leave of this life. For it was Huber, and now he is dead. He died in the wee hours on Christmas Eve; on a day when thousands of families delight in their own children’s enjoyment of the wonderful celebration of childhood, this most tender, beloved father was torn away from his inconsolable family.
Barely two months earlier, he was in Leipzig, where he had so many friends, though no one at the time discerned in his external appearance the trace of imminent destruction. Only when he mentioned the profound pain that he experienced shortly before his departure, namely that of the swift, almost wondrous death of an interesting child [Adele Huber], which he himself compared to Goethe’s own Mignon, did his eyes betray an expression one might well call a yearning for that which had become his favorite, and which constituted the most moving contrast with the refined, conventional form of which he was otherwise such a master. He bore his friends’ fate in his heart as if it was his own. Many hoped in him; and he departed with love from them all. —
It is not without significance that we now return from these recollections to the previously mentioned play of fantasy, among whose examples so many portray images of the grave, of mourning children, or of lonely, solitary grief.
For who will be able to look upon these small groups without thinking of those whom Huber left behind?
[For the complete 52-card deck, click on the gallery below:]
[*] This Karten-Almanach: Karten-Almanach auf 1805 was the first (1804) of a series of six annual publications of playing cards in the Almanach format by Johann Friedrich Cotta in Tübingen. This edition featured scenes from domestic and daily life into which the value of each playing card was incorporated, with hearts and diamonds being featured in red illumination.
The “figures” on the cards were done in illuminated copper engravings by Victor Peter Heideloff and portray twelve characters from Schiller’s play Die Jungfrau von Orleans (Kalendar auf das Jahr 1802: Die Jungfrau von Orleans. eine romantische Tragödie [n.p. (Berlin) 1801]). The “simple” cards seem to have been designed by Countess Jennison Vallvort and engraved by Adam Ludwig D’Argent. The author is listed as Ludwig Ferdinand Huber. The distribution of characters was as follows (no illustrations were included in the original review):
Clubs: “Jack / Montgomery”; “Queen / Louison, sister of Joan of Arc”; “King / René of Anjou, the crown of Sicily at this feet”;
Spades: “Jack / Lionel, lifting the sword of Joan of Arc”; “Queen / Joan of Arc”; “King / Talbot, dying”;
Hearts: “Jack / La Hire”; “Queen / Isabel of Bavaria”; “King / Charles VII”;
Diamonds: “Jack / Raimond, villager”; “Queen / Agnes Sorel”; “King / Philip the Good of Burgundy.”
Information from Bernhard Fischer, Der Verleger Johann Friedrich Cotta: Chronologische Verlagsbibliographie 1787–1832; Aus den Quellen bearbeitet, vol. 1: 1787–1814 (Munich 2003), 543–44; illustrations from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Back.
Translation © 2017 Doug Stott