Gorgeous set of transformation playing cards made c.1992, with an accompanying 119-page book that includes a picture of each of the cards and the poem that inspired it. The cards are designed by artist Tony Meeuwissen, and he has called them “The Key to the Kingdom.”
Gunther Anderson has this to say about the deck at his website:
“Perhaps it's an enchanted deck, but it is certainly an enchanting deck. There is much to be found in this strange work of art, from poetry to riddles to subtle and crafty pictures, and it bears up well under close scrutiny. The $10,000 contest (long since over, I'm afraid) seems almost an excuse to remind the reader that there is something here worth studying. And even without the promise of a pot of gold, this rainbow would be well worth following.
“Conceived by Tony Meeuwissen, an artist and illustrator of some renown (among whose credits is the Italian Francobollo d'Oro, an award given to the maker of the best postage stamp in the world), this is first and foremost a modern transformation deck. Transformation decks, in which each card presents a picture with the normal pips for the card arranged in such a way as to be a part of it, were very popular throughout the 19th century, but fell out of vogue with the advent of industrial card-making processes. The artistry seemed to fade from the industry. But more than a simple transformation deck, this is one with a well-executed theme - each card illustrates a traditional rhyme or verse, with a delightful and subtle wit.
“And that alone would make this set, for it contains the deck and a book of the verses in a pretty little box, well worth owning, both for collectors of cards and people who merely like to surround themselves with beautiful things. But atop all this was laid a riddle, expressed in a poem of 17 lines, which identifies 14 cards. Within those cards you will find clues which, when ordered properly, reveal a secret phrase. To win, you must not only identify this phrase, but you further need to make a sentence from the letters of "Spades, Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds." The winner was whoever could make the most cunning and apt sentence, after solving the riddle. Alas, I'm not nearly skilled enough to do that sort of thing, and I've never even really tried to solve the riddle. The anagram I must confess I would probably have just fed to my computer.
“So this is a subtle, multi-faceted and multi-layered deck, intimidating at first glance. But if you let your glance linger just a little, you'll find it not so much work to merely sit and enjoy the images and the poetry.”
The deck has 52 suited cards, plus 2 Jokers. The cards are large and wide, measuring 100mm x 65mm, and the cards and book come in the original sleeve box.
The cards, book and box are “as new.” The cards are housed in a cardboard tray that slides into the sleeve box, and that tray, never sturdy, is developing a couple of tears at the corners.
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