Wow! A card of Charles Dickens! An old card of Charles Dickens! Just look how decrepit that card is! That's the hallmark of real agedness right there. You can't fake dirty, scuffed and rounded like this card. Beleive me, I've seen people try, it don't work. There's a certain softness and filthiness and griminess that permeates really old cards that is really hard to fake. Plus look at that engravery on the flourishes and cabbages and whatnot. That kind of stuff just isn't done today. Gank a picture online, whip it through a pirated copy of Photoshop and bang bang you're done. That's what passes for quality nowadays. This here is real live art on a bit of ephemera that outlasted all the chumps who tried to throw it out. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
So what the hell is it?
A good question. A damn good question. Hell if I know. I mean, I thought I knew, and then I didn't, and then I looked around and I got a little information on it, but not all that much. So now I kinda know what it is. But not as specifically as I'd like. Lemme start out with what I know. I found this card in the bizarre dollar box that had all that wild oddball crap in it like this and this. There was TONS of these cards in there. At least two or three dozen of 'em. All had a picture of an author on the front, a random letter and number and the author's name and the names of three books underneath. Most of the authors I had never heard of, and I got a degree in this crap. Somebody Thackeray? Colonel J. Whoozit? I wish I had written down some of the other names because it might help me immensely in dating this thing. After sloughing through a pile I finally found a card of Washington Irving, then one of Nathanial Hawthorne. Finally! Authors I've actually read! I had just about settled on Hawthorne when Chuck popped up. STAR CARD! Woooooooooooo! I looked through the rest in hopes of maybe finding Mark Twain, but it was not to be. Can't beat an old-ass card of Charles Dickens though so I snagged it for a buck. Here's the back of the card:
Looks like the back of a playing card. I had seen designs like this while scrounging though 19th century Tobacco cards so I thought it would be a cinch to find this extremely distinctive design in my Tobacco card book.
Nope. I didn't find anything even remotely like it. Well shucks. If you don't succeed, try, try again. I practiced my Google-fu and found... the same damn card on eBay. This guy didn't know when or who made it either. There was a mention of a card game called "Authors" although I'd never heard of it. Time to keep Googling.
I found this site offering some contemporary Authors card sets along with a subject list. There's that William Makepeace Thackeray dude! He wrote Vanity Fair which is probably why that name stuck in my head. That and Makepeace Thackeray is an awsome name. Pretty sure Louisa May Alcott wasn't on any of the cards I saw. And if I would have come across an Edgar Allen Poe, I would have pooped myself. So this one must be the updated version without the stiffs whose names I can't remember. and yes, I know the second I typed that sentence that someone would eventually identify the set and post a checklist resulting in complete embarrassment on how little the dork with the English degree actually knows about authors. HEY. I got my degree purely on my strength in writing a whole lot of bullshit about nothing of any importance You of all people should recognize that talent.
Ok, so this is a real game that people still play. Time for more Googling. Wikipedia is always a help. Apparently the game was first published in 1861 (!!!!!!) and Parker Bros. picked it up in 1897. Clicking a citation gives the rules of the game. Basically Go Fish for the Literati crowd. Now that I knew this was a game I had some more search terms to use and I found an old copy of the game from 1943 on eBay, a different game about Charles Dickens also on the Bay, and a really old copy of the game (but not as old looking as mine) on Etsy. no more information on my card though.
Wait... this is a game... duh. BOARD GAME GEEK. Not much more information in that link, but BoardGameGeek always has great image galleries. Maybe I can find my card in there!. Here's the 1897 Parker Brothers version. No roses on the back, just squirrels. Here's another version with some of the authors I don't know about and SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS. Ooooh, I want me an old Mark Twain Author card.Or maybe Edgar Allen. Droooool. Here's a version from 1893 that isn't my version. That's about it for the old author cards. If you scrounge through the gallery you'll see all manner of variations on this game from bugs to trolls, to jets, to Wall-E. I even saw Hitler in there. Didn't see my guy in there though.
So, I have an awesome old card of Charles Dickens from an old playing card game that goes back to Civil War times, but I can't quite date the thing. You don't know how much this is killing me, but I gotta post this tonight.
Maybe one more Google search... "1861 authors card game" click click click...
Meh. No pics of the cards. lots of images though... Hey, the portrait on this one kinda looks like the same style as the one on my card. Lemme search "Vignette Authors"...
Whooptie-doo, The American Blah-de-blah society has two copies of the game but no images. boooooring. Here's the Tokalon series but again, no card images. I guess the Tokalon series is for English majors who like a little smokey-smoke when they study. (do cards not drugs, folks) Ok, Somebody, Somewhere has to be selling one of these damn things. This is America, dammit! Capitalism and free market and all that claptrap! C'Mon sellers, Sell already!
Search search search... Wait! ETSY! YEEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!
That's the exact Washington Irving card I thought about buying! And there's Norwood! Who the hell is Norwood? Oh, that's the name of the book, not the author. Oops. BUT THIS IS THE SET! It's from 1874-ish. That's a good enough date for me! I got a card of Charles Dickens from 1874 for a BUCK! Heeeeee-WACK! I can sleep soundly tonight! Wait, I could get the whole set shipped for twenty bucks from that Etsy seller? Man, I got ripped off! Peace of mind isn't always peaceful I guess. Who cares, I gots mah Dickens. AND I KNOW WHAT IT IS NOW
Can't beat that.
Well nine other cards can I guess.
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