Rhineland pattern, 1st edition, 2 different versions.

Of all the Braun catalogues Band 4 is solely dedicated to the Dondorf company. All the Dondorf decks are represented there, complete with extensive information about the deck and in some cases the different versions. The Rhineland pattern was created as the Dondorf standard factory pattern and first published around 1870. It was published by Dondorf until 1933. In 1928 the playing card division of Dondorf was taken over by Flemming & Wiskott AG from Glogau, but that company kept the Dondorf name for the Dondorf decks. In 1933 Flemming & Wiskott was incorporated in the VASS, the Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken AG. The name Dondorf was kept for a couple of years in a few decks, maybe because of the quality that the name Dondorf represented, but maybe just because they were still in stock. The Rhineland pattern was one of them.
I have no idea when this Dondorf standard factory pattern was first called Rhineland (in German: "Rheinisches Bild"), but apparently it was a successful pattern. And when a certain pattern becomes popular, then other playing card manufacturers will copy it. In this case not only German makers, but it transgressed borders and was also produced by makers like Piatnik (in Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia) and Belgian makers from Turnhout, such as Van Genechten and Mesmaekers. It was a popular pattern in the Nordic countries and in The Netherlands from the 1920's - 60's.

In his Dondorf catalogue Franz Braun distinguishes 4 variations.

These are based on the accompanying aces or the (rare) special design of the clubs suit as swastika's (var. 4). Variation 1 has plain aces, variation 2 historic aces and variation 3 has Dutch scenic aces. Within Variation 1 Braun distinguishes 6 different versions (A-F), based on the back designs, and he gives different periods of publication, based on the number and size of the used indices. So there's no distinction made in the way the face cards are designed. Maybe that's because basically the design of the pattern didn't really change. However, there's a main difference in the way they were presented.

Variation 2

Variation 3


Braun shows these 3 versions of Variation 1.

 index 2mm: 1890 - 1900 index 4mm: 1900 - 1919 index 6 mm: 1919 - 1933

Decks without indices were dated by Braun as ca. 1870 - 1890. So both my decks can be placed in that period.
But Braun doesn't show the JC of a deck without indices. Instead he shows the KC, QD, JS and AH. Although the pictured cards in the catalogue are in b/w it's easy to see that on the QD the yellow fabric lacks the red embellishments.
Schultz & Stolzenburg show a picture of that QD in color.
So there are at least 2 versions of the version without index. The QD without embellished garment and round corners probably dates from around 1890.

Schultz & Stolzenburg show all the courts of an "embellished" version with rounded corners and a JC with square corners. All cards, the JC included, are similar to my deck with round corners. However, there are a few differences between that version and the one with square corners. Here below are 2 cards from each deck to illustrate them.


The first thing that caught my eye was that the printing wasn't of the high quality that we would expect from B. Dondorf. Apparently calibrating the different colors wasn't easy in those days or maybe it wasn't done with the same attention as for the special or luxury decks. The Rhineland pattern was created as a standard factory pattern, probably for daily use by players and sold in the lower price range. Maybe that's also why the coloring of the square cornered deck looks a bit cruder.
There are a few differences between these editions, of which the use of a different color is the least. On the flower a red brown overprint and a completely different colored sleeve. The most significant difference is the shadowing at the jaw. In the square cornered, earliest version it's heavier than in the other version. So either a new drawing on a new stone was made or the drawing on the original stone was adapted. I tend to believe the latter, as most of the other lines seem to be the same.
Another difference is the blush on the cheeks. It's used on all the courts of the version with the round corners. These same blushes are even more prominent in the deck that is shown by Schultz & Stolzenburg in their book.

The KC basically shows the same flaws and differences. Here the most apparent differences are the adapted beard and the thick lined and somewhat different embellishment of the cape. The latter adds to the idea that the square cornered deck probably is the earliest version and the crude execution a basis for refinements in later editions. It would date the square cornered deck as around 1870 and the other as between the later 1870's and late 1880's.


Both back designs were used in the oldest versions (Braun: A).

62x91 mm

61x90 mm


In all his catalogues Franz Braun usually distinguishes variations by differences in design or execution. Ever since we had found our first "embellished" deck I have been wondering why Braun didn't mention this apparent difference, neither in the text nor in the pictured cards. It isn't mentioned in the later additions to the catalogue that I have, but I'm not sure if I have all of them. Anyway, we'll never know the answer, as Franz has sadly passed away some years ago. 
So in addition it's good to now know that within the indexless variation there are at least 3 different versions to distinguish: one without embellished fabrics and the two here above.