Traditional thinking always associates deck of cards with sin. Even if there is no official ban on gambling and deck of cards is considered to be a sin. This is the opinion not only of the strict moralists like religious personages. However, regardless the common opinion, deck of cards played an important role in culture and first of all in Education. Let’s look at the facts.
The deck of cards have been used for educational purposes virtually from the moment of their occurrence in Europe. The cards were used at the lessons of history and geography, logic and law, Latin and grammar, astronomy, mathematics and arts, heraldry and military tactics. These are classical examples of the so-called secondary target usage of cards carefully researched by specialists.
In 1507 Franciscan monk, bachelor of theology in Krakow, Thomas Murner published a book “Chartiludium logicae”, consisting of training cards used by the monk to teach Logic. Murner was so successful in Didactics, that he was even accused of witchcraft hardly avoid to be at stake. But his defence presented at the court the evidence of harmlessness of the methods applied by the Franciscan. They also proved that these methods were based on the well-known in the Middle Ages mnemonic techniques – memorizing with the help of the pictures and as the modern educators would call them “reference signals”.
Much earlier Murner applied the same principle to teaching the Code of Justinian. In 1502 he wrote to Geiler von Kaisersberg that his contribution to the teaching of the code was the most significant. In the other letter to the Strasbourg lawyer, Thomas Wolf, he says: “I confess, that for Kaisersberg constitution, as far as my weak abilities permit, I issued a card game as a commentary and in this way I have managed to facilitate memorizing the text of Code of Justinian using the visual images… In my intention to implant the love of reading I aspired to replace boring and stupid game by the fascinating and exciting one and I would be more than happy if I succeeded in substituting the bad with the good”.
Probably the methodology invented by Murner seemed very efficient to he European teachers if they willingly applied it to educate the monarchs, for example Louis XIV. It is known that the arch bishop of Paris Jardin de Perete, who was teaching the dauphin, used training cards; the engravings for them were done by the greatest engraver ever – Stefano della Bella. When Louis XIV was six years old he had four decks of cards: “kings of France”, “Famous Kingdoms”, “Geography” and “Metamorphoses”. The future The Sun King (in French Le Roi Soleil) in his early childhood learnt who was Karl the Great, the countries of the world and what fairy tales Lucius Apuleius and Publius Ovidius wrote. He learnt it and memorized it only due to the deck of cards.
If to consider thoroughly the educational function of the cards, we cannot do that without Japanese and Chinese cards back in XIth century. By that time there was formed a definite type of cards which is a predecessor of XVIII-XIX century cards. The image on the face side comprises two parts: on the top there is a “cherry picking” from some play; in the bottom there is a picture of the respective scene from the play. Toasts were also written on the cards: “give two glasses to the scholarly guest” or “let people sitting close to each other drink for one another’s health” or “treat the man with a just born son with the biggest glass of wine”.