Name one thing that remains constant throughout the world. Need some clues? This particular thing has 52 units that are red and black. We are talking about the standard card deck, which is available across the world. The massive reach of this small object is mainly due to its versatility, its portability and the entertainment dose that comes with it.
Playing cards had a humble beginning. Starting out as mere leaves used for a game, they traveled around the world to become what they are today: a deck of 52 cards divided into four suits and two colors. While we have studied the evolution of playing cards, there are many unanswered questions about their colors.
Keep reading as we unravel the mystery surrounding the red and black colors of the modern-day card deck.
Ancient Card Decks
According to many manuscripts and books, playing cards existed during the Tang Dynasty and the first card game was played by Princess Tong Chang in the year 868. There are also a lot of theories that the cards were printed during their reign. By the 11th century, playing cards became widespread across the Asian continent.
Playing cards entered the European countries in the 14th century and became very popular. The European cards resembled the Mamluk deck, which was quite popular in Egypt. The deck had four different suits, namely cups, polo sticks, swords and coins.
By the 13th century, the playing cards reached Italy and Germany and the traditional Latin suits were replaced by leaves, bells, acorns and hearts. In 1480, a combination of Latin and German suit pictures formed the French suits, namely hearts, tiles, clovers and pikes.
The modern-day French suits have been derived from the German suits and they consist of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. While Mamluk, Latin and German card decks had three male cards, the French card deck dropped the knight and replaced it with a female card i.e. the queen. The most popular pattern on the French deck is the English pattern, which is also known as the Anglo-American pattern.
Four-Colored Card Deck
The modern-day card deck uses red for the suits of hearts and diamonds and black for the suits of clubs and spades. However, it can be difficult to identify these cards and there are high possibilities of playing the wrong card during a game. So to avoid such confusions, the four suits were allotted different colors to distinguish them from one another. There were several different systems. For example, one particular system uses red for hearts, blue for diamonds, black for spades and green for clubs. Another system inspired by the German suits has red hearts, yellow diamonds, black clubs and green spades.
Also known as no-revoke decks, four-colored decks were specially designed for trick-tracking games like call bridge, jass and whist. In the early 1900s, many card manufacturers developed these four-colored suit cards, especially for games like bridge and poker.
Significance of Black and Red Colors
The modern-day card decks were printed in black and red ink. As opposed to the blue and green inks, the other two were easily accessible and available at the cheapest rates. The black ink was made by mixing soot with linseed oil. On the other hand, the red ink was made using cinnabar with linseed oil. Both the inks were durable and did not fade away when exposed to sunlight. According to other theories, the red color was used since it looks prominent on a piece of white paper. The copper compounds required to prepare the blue and green inks were expensive at the time. Moreover, they were not oil soluble. As per some theories, the colors red and black are symbols for day and night.
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