Mint, sealed (cards, not box) twin decks of the “Ulysees a Vau-de Ville” cards made by Grimaud for Presage International c.1989, celebrating James Joyce. The cards were conceived by Joyce biographer Richard Ellman, and feature the superb artwork of R. Fanto. The cards are the second in a Presage series that included the 1986 Oscar Wilde deck. The faces of the cards can be seen at the World Web Playing Card Museum website (WWPCM #02824); I have elected not to break the wrapper on the cards. Each deck is available separately for $75; both are for sale for $150.
At his splendid website, Gunther Anderson has this to say about these cards:
“The deck is the creation of R. Fanto (also responsible for the artwork in the Oscar Wilde Playing Cards), copyrighted in 1989, with the collaboration of Richard Ellmann, a biographer of both Wilde and Joyce. Fanto did all the artwork and devised the overall scheme, with Ellmann offering suggestions and recommending directions. The "title card" from the deck . . . reads, "R. Fanto Presents A Vau-De-Ville Ulysses / The James Joyce Cards / i.m. Richard Ellmann." I take the last line to mean "in memoriam," which is a loss to the playing card world.
“The cards have the same artistic style as the Wilde cards (as you might expect), and yet the overall impact is evocative of Joyce's non-linear, streaming, almost dream-like work. The cards themselves all share the same background, a watercolor rainbow fragment. It's fascinating to see how the artist has brought that background into each drawing and made it so very different from its original form.
“From the introductory card in the deck:
‘The Vau-de-Ville of James Joyce's "Ulysses" encircles and condenses into a pictorial form the adventures of a single day, June 16, 1904. Each image is part of a puzzle in which past, present, future, naturalism, symbolism, reality, hallucination are superimposed ind interwoven. ‘Mock heroic exaggeration and pomposity explode into laughter through visions, fantasies and internal monologues. Hearts are emotional. Clubs are physical. Diamonds are spiritual. Spades are symbolical. R. Fanto created the drawings and devised the scheme based on many useful hints given by Richard Ellmann, Joyce's biographer.’
“As with the Wilde, there is also a paper insert in the deck which offers a much more detailed explication of the deck. But it's huge, and I apologize now for saying that the insert in the Wilde deck was long. It's merely a trifle by comparison. And by now you can guess that I can't include this insert here any more than I could the Wilde. If you really want to read all this fascinating material, seek out the deck. And like the other decks in this series, find it, buy it, cherish it. . . .
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“The cards progress chronologically through the story from Ace to Ten, focusing on events in the story appropriate to the suits, as described above. So we start, with the Ace of Hearts, with the emotional reverie surrounding the events on Howth Hill (where we eventually finish, symbolically, with the Ten of Spades, "Yes"), and move to the physical separation of Dedalus from Martello Tower in the Ace of Clubs, and so forth. The Jack, Queen and King are the characters analyzed, and the personifications of their motivating forces.
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“Now let me say that no mere deck of cards can compare to the swirling, kinetic, wondrous interweavings of Joyce's work. But this deck tries, and it's a deep and rewarding work. For the casual reader of Joyce, if there can be such a thing, it provides great illumination of the text, which might itself have seemed opaque or nonsensical at times. Having been produced by serious students of Joyce's work, this deck can quickly show the reader the large themes they may have missed, and point them towards finding their own path through Joyce's Dublin. And for the serious student, it's both an enjoyable diversion and a window on the power of a transmutation of Ulysses into other media. As I said about the Wilde deck, find it, buy it, cherish it.”
Each deck has 52 cards, plus 2 Jokers, plus 1 extra card introducing Joyce and the deck. The cards are accompanied by the paper insert mentioned by Anderson. The cards are bridge size, measuring 89mm x 58mm, and come in the original box.
As noted, the cards are mint and sealed. The box and paper insert are “as new.”
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