B.P. GRIMAUD vs. CARD FABRIQUE COMPANY.

 

In the new Hochman Encyclopedia of Playing Cards the Boudoirs deck by the Card Fabrique Company (L17, page 27) is dated “ca. 1880”.
On the following page there is a reference to a quite similar designed Grimaud deck (L18a), that is dated as “ca. 1890”.
Although the text refers to possible links between the 2 manufacturers, by dating these decks in this way, it is suggested that the Grimaud deck would be a take-off from the deck by the Card Fabrique Company. However, there are indications that this would be the other way around. To illustrate this I have made detailed scans of the 2 significant cards in the Grimaud deck.

Figure 1

To start with the Ace of Spades in figure 1: the detailed scan in figure 2 of the spot between the Grimaud name and the small ornament at the bottom, shows “F.SIMON Ft”. The “Ft” is an abbreviation of the Latin word “fecit”, which means “he has made” and is a historically known method in art of claiming ownership of the design. 

Figure 2

The copy of the Card Fabrique’s Ace in figure 3 seems to hold the same words, but I cannot recognize it as such from this copy. Although I haven’t been able to find a direct link, it is a remarkable coincidence that the last name of the designer, F. Simon, is the same as the J.M. Simon from Nancy (France), who is -until today- the printer of decks, published by Grimaud.

 

 

Figure 3

The Grimaud Ace has an A and a small spade in each of the corners. The Card Fabrique’s Ace has only 2 indices. When looking at the top of the design, there is a strip of the clouds missing on the Card Farbrique’s Ace and both indices on the Card Fabrique’s Ace take away a tiny part of the design. In the bottom right corner, a few parts of the leaves had to give way. As it is easier to remove something from a design than to ad to it, there’s no doubt that the Grimaud Ace shows the original design. 

Then there’s the Joker in figure 1. The style of the design bears great resemblance to that of the Ace of Spades. But that is not surprising, as both were (de)signed by the same person, F. Simon. Figure 4 shows his name at the bottom of the Joker. 

  

Figure 4                                            Figure 5

Also the cupids that hold the banner with B.P. Grimaud on it, return to play a game of cards on the Ace of Spades. The name of Grimaud is mentioned twice on the Joker: it is on the banner, as shown in figure 5, and also on one of the medals, see figure 6. 

Figure 6

The whole design of the Joker refers to the World Exhibition of 1878 in Paris. The building in the background is probably characteristic for this exhibition (compare to building on joker of the P22 Royal Playing Cards deck). From the text about P22 we can learn how easy it is to misjudge the date of a deck.

The L18a Grimaud deck was probably dated in the Hochman Encyclopedia  as ”ca. 1890”, because of the tax stamp. We have a similar deck in our collection, with an 1890 stamp and an ornamented back-design (figure 7). The date on the tax stamp refers to the date that the law, by which tax had to be paid, was implemented. No tax stamps were used before 1890. From 1813 on tax indications were only to be found in the emblem of the Jack of Clubs in the French standard pattern. The last used indication is that of 1853. The 1890 tax stamp was in use until 1917. The tax stamp was put on the Ace of Clubs, when the decks became available to the general market.
It is not unusual that printers or publishers have a stock of (first layer) prints left after the first publication and sell that stock over the years. The Anglo-American pattern is not much used in France. As 99% of the produced decks had the standard French (or Parisian) pattern in those days, it’s not inconceivable that it has taken many years to sell the stock.

      

Figure 7                                       Figure 8

Only recently we found a second L18a Grimaud deck, no tax stamp and with a plain pink back (figure 8). These backs in plain pink or blue are usually older than the ornamented ones and were frequently used from ca. 1850 until ca. 1890. I don’t know how strong the dating is of the Card Fabrique L17 deck, but if that deck is correctly dated ca. 1880, then the Grimaud deck must have been published for the first time at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1878. Maybe as a special edition or presentation for the international guests and companies, it is the first known Anglo-American patterned deck by Grimaud anyway.

The small differences in the lay-out of the Ace, but not in the design itself, indicate that the Card Fabrique Company must have had original Grimaud plates to work with. So maybe there have been contacts (and contracts) between the two companies during the World Exhibition in Paris in 1878. And, if that is so, these contacts will have resulted in the making of the Card Fabrique Company L17 deck about 2 years later.
The originality of the Grimaud designs of the courts is questionable though. It bears great resemblance to earlier Goodall and De La Rue designs of the Anglo-American pattern. Some cards have been “mirrored”, slight changes in ornamentation and coloring were made. The Card Fabrique added gold coloring. But the design of the faces and poses of the K’s, Q’s and J’s is very close and the basic lines in the designs are the same.

Now there’s just one question left for me: why didn’t the Card Fabrique Company use that beautiful Grimaud Joker for the Boudoirs deck too??????? I think it will remain one of the many mysteries in playing card history.

Joop Muller - 12 September 2004

PS
About 10 years later - December 2014- we received the following images from our French fellow collector Maxime Heriaud. They show the same joker with different back designs, but more important the original wrapper for the decks with their factory number. Maxime found the images in the Georges Marteau collection in France, at the National Library in Paris.

Apparently the decks had a different factory number with each back. No. 70 for the plain pink back and No. 100 for the blue design. Both decks had square corners. The No. 79 deck had rounded corners and a drawing of flowers on the backs. 

Even on the original images it's hardly visible, but the wrappers show a prize winning medal from the "Exposition Universelle" (World Exhibition) in Paris 1878, two from the International Exhibition (first World's Fair on the southern hemisphere) in Sydney in 1879 and one from the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. It confirms that the deck was published for the first time in Paris in 1878. What these wrappers also confirm is that evidently these cards were produced for export to English speaking countries: they mention "playing cards".

On 5/4/2017 we received a picture of the original woodblock for the wrapper from Pascal Pette.



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