Viceroys Playing Cards | Ian Cumpstey

Published by Alison Cross on

A while back I noticed a kickstarter project for a set of playing cards being created in the UK by Ian Cumpstey.  The intricate styling is very much based on the beautiful cards of the Islamic Mamluks.

As one might expect from Islamic art, there are no figurative representations in the Mamluk cards, only geometric shapes and abstracted floral/leaf images.  This has been translated into Cumpstey’s beautiful little deck – take a look, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s a standard playing card deck – Ace through ten with three court cards – Jack, Queen and King.  There are additional cards – a publisher’s card with Ian Cumpstey’s details, a title card called ‘Viceroys’ and two identically decorated cards that equate to a contemporary deck’s two jokers.

Here are the details:

52 poker-sized (2.5″ x 3.5″) playing cards

Double-ended back design

300 gsm card stock with linen finish

Custom tuck box

Printed by Cartamundi UK

The playing card tuck box is decorated on both sides with a blue-toned abstract floral similar to that on the ‘jokers’.

‘Joker’ image on left and card back geometric pattern on right

The Courts follow the same basic pattern as the Mamluk cards with inscriptions in a blue band at the top of the card and the card title in a blue band at the bottom of the card.  However, the suits are those of European playing cards, not the original Mamluk Cups, Swords, Polo Sticks and Coins.

The inscriptions for the courts on the original Mamluk cards are very charming and, in some cases, quite divinatory in nature.  For example (this is a translation) : “With the sword of happiness I shall redeem a beloved who will afterwards take my life”.


You don’t want that coming up in a reading too often, right?

So the aphorisms on Ian’s cards are different.

Jack: Joy appears as I strike with the sword of fortune
Queen: I am blossoming like the flowers in a dewy garden.
King: Rejoice and be glad, your dreams will be fulfilled.
Jack: Rejoice for your good fortune will continue.
Queen: I sparkle in your hand like jewels in a crown.
King:  Within my ornaments great wealth is found.
Jack:  My patterns are the work of an artist’s hand.
Queen: Neither gold nor rare crystal compares with me.
King:  May your luck last for another thousand years.
Jack:  I offer a cup filled with never-ending gladness.
Queen:  Be joyful and glad in heart for all I bring to you.
King:  Now is the time for roses to bloom, red as rubies.
If you are looking for a really pretty set of playing cards that respectfully nod back through time to an ancestor of our Tarot deck, then this is the deck for you.  At only Β£10.00 a pop (plus P&P), it’s well worth it.  Check out Ian’s website here.

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Inner Whispers · 26th April 2017 at 4:56 pm

The aphorisms are lovely! Not sure I could get on with the depictions, though, it would take a lot of getting used to – no person as the Jack, Queen or King. Though at least the Kings have a clear throne πŸ˜‰

Alison · 13th April 2017 at 9:44 am

These are lovely – takes me back to the time I spent working in the Middle East, surrounded by all that beautiful tiling!

    Alison Cross · 22nd April 2017 at 10:56 am

    They are really lovely cards – smooth as silk to shuffle too! If one was to try divining with 'ordinary' playing cards, this would be the deck to do it with!

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