About Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards

The Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards contains more than 6300 individual decks of playing cards as well as extensive ephemera and a library of reference books. The decks, ranging from the 16th through the 20th centuries, and across the world, are a rich vein of primary source material in popular imagery, costume, advertising, propaganda, as well as elite culture. Holdings are especially strong from early modern England, revolutionary France, the early American Republic, across a broad range of nineteenth-century national styles, and especially in transformation cards. Cards digitized in 2018 represent most of the pre-1801 cards, as mounted by scholar-collector Albert Field (1916-2003; CC '38). Decks (in their entirety or just the most interesting parts) were mounted onto 16" x 20" sheets of black paper, generally four suits across; including, if useful, samples of the backs, and/or pip cards, any instructions included with the deck; and noting interesting aspects such as makers' marks and tax stamps with yellow dots. These decks include historical representations of various cultural and ethnic groups in racist, sexist, or other ways that may be offensive or harmful. We endeavored to identify these in the descriptions of individual decks, but we welcome feedback at rbml@columbia.edu.

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