November 2022

This month I only acquired one deck, it was part of an exchange with a Belgian collector. I also bought three decks in a French auction on November 26, but they are still in the process of deliverance. So I have already found my new Deck of the Month for December, but you'll have to wait for a month to see which of the three decks will be the happy one.

The deck was printed by Mesmaekers Frères from Turnhout, Belgium, and published as "Cartes Imperiales Extra Fines No 45". The pattern is well known among Belgian and Dutch collectors, but may not be as known in other parts of the world. It was published in Belgium since around 1875 by several different makers, usually with simple aces. But a few exceptions exist. Mesmaekers already published a deck with a set of Brazilian aces in Brazil around 1880. For the Dutch market, with a set of Dutch scenic aces, it was still published in the 1930's. 
In Belgium it was published with this set of special aces and this set was the only reason for acquiring it. My preference for scenic aces is well known, but I also have a soft spot for other illustrated aces. I've always liked this set, but never found the complete deck. A deck with this set of aces is rarely seen. So I couldn't resist the offer of a deck in unused, near mint condition, complete and with shiny gold corners in the original box, especially when it became part of an exchange.


To emphasize that they were the reason for buying the deck, here is that set of special aces, enlarged to 150%.

In the set of aces each suit has a theme, that brings both sides on the ace together. The spades are obviously about war and armory and is here staged in the Medieval times in green and in later times in light purple. The hearts combine legislation (in purple) and government. The diamonds suit is dedicated to country life, with the hunt in purple and farming in green. The clubs suit can be described as cultural, as it combines art with music.

Typical for the Mesmaekers version of the Cartes Imperiales is the harp of the King of Diamonds.

By now you must have noticed that I haven't mentioned a date for this deck. The reason is that in the reference books that I've used (Autenboer/Cremers: "Turnhoutse Speelkaarten" and Luc Biebouw: "Belgische Speelkaarten") and in the Cartorama catalogues no one mentions a date for this deck. Maybe that's because there's an oddity in the deck, that isn't shown here: all the pip cards have numbers and small pips in the 4 corners, while the courts and aces only have 2 indices and pips. Still, I'm willing to give it an educated shot and name a decade......... 1920's.


The deck consists of 52 cards and a joker. It came in the original box, with the same back as the cards.