A restoration of the 15th century Cloisters deck in the collection of the Met Museum, resized to fit on modern poker sized cards.

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About this project

The Cloisters Deck by Experts at the Craft Table is part restoration project, part reimagining of the 15th century Cloisters deck held in the collection of the Met Museum. The original deck, although complete has a number of cards in a poor state, with faded paint/ink and patches of colour missing. Using cutting edge digital image restoration software the card images have been restored to what they conceivably would have looked like 500 years ago. 

The Kings of Collars, Horns, Leashes and Nooses
The original cards used to create the restoration above

The original deck was oval shaped, however for the convenience of modern playing card enthusiasts, medieval enthusiasts/SCA people and rennaissance faire magicians, they have been resized to fit on modern poker sized playing cards. This means that they will handle the same as a regular deck of cards and can be used for card games and magic tricks like any other deck. Additionally, by putting the images on a wider card there is more free space so that the cards look less cramped and are more aesthetically pleasing.

Technical information

The decks will be printed in the UK by Ivory Graphics on Sure Slip Air 310gsm playing card stock. Sure Slip 310 Is a layered card this is produced by putting two of sheets of card together and laminating them into one sheet. The laminate makes the playing card much stronger and more durable than normal paper and card. Sure Slip 310 is opaque which means it has black glue in the middle of the two white sheets to make sure there is no possibility of any show through. This playing card material has a unique textured finish. This helps the playing cards move more evenly so the user can control the playing cards with ease and make slight of hand tricks a breeze.

We have chosen to use Ivory Graphics due to their fast turnaround and commitment to environmental issues. Ivory Graphics are registered with the Forest Stewardship CouncilĀ® and are registered under ISO 14001 Environmental Awareness. You can read more about Ivory Graphics at ivory.co.uk/about-us.

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Alas, I cannot back thine project, for I require a more historically accurate deck!

For those that would still like oval shaped cards similar to the originals, you can trim these yourself by marking a 25mm border radius (e.g. by drawing around a 50mm metal washer) in the corners and cutting them to shape with a sharp pair of scissors.

For people requiring more strict standards of historical accuracy (UK medieval reenactors for instance), we are offering up the digital files for the deck, along with instructions to make a reasonably historically accurate facsimile of the original deck minus the toxic paints and actual gold leaf. These will be included for anyone buying one or more decks of cards, or if you just want the digital files they are available separately. The files also include a PDF document with cards sized the same as the original deck, but using the restored images. These files are for personal use only, if you need them for commercial purposes please get in contact before backing the project.

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Making historically accurate cards is time consuming, but it is by no means difficult and the instructions provided will give you a number of options depending on just how historically accurate you need your cards to be. If you need further help beyond the included instructions I’m always willing to have a chat about making medieval things, so I’ll ensure that you can make a set if you want to, no matter your skill level.

My first ever attempt at making historically accurate cards. Made using 4 layers of parchment paper and wheat flour glue. Very simple but very time consuming.

Why this deck?

Whilst it would be great to say that a lot of thought went into selecting this deck, in reality someone posted it in a magic group and I thought it looked cool. As a late medieval reenactor I wanted a version of it for myself so I cleaned up and restored the images in order to print a version that didn’t have 500 years of ageing. The hunting themed suits provide an interesting talking point and the images on the cards provide a great alternative to tarot cards for late medieval card tricks and games. For those that use tarot for cartomancy, there is no reason you couldn’t use these for similar purposes, since cartomancy predates tarot cards.

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Add-on Items

Leather Drawstring Pouch

These pouches are made from vegetable tanned calfskin and are hand stitched with linen thread, making them perfect for carrying medieval things such as a deck of medieval cards! They also make great dice bags for RPG games or could be used to hold all manner of other things. The pouches measure 4.5″ x 6.5″ (11.4 x 16.5 cm) when open.

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Tracked Shipping

To keep prices as low as possible for backers, decks are sent untracked by Royal Mail First Class or standard Airmail for orders outside the UK. We strongly suggest upgrading to tracked delivery for international backers in coutries where the postal service is less than reliable, but we are leaving it up to backers to add tracking if they want it, rather than imposing tracked shipping costs on backers that are happy not to have it.