A rare set of 337-year-old playing cards, including one of the first to mention Sheffield, is set to fetch up to £4,500 at an auction next Tuesday.
The 53 cards – an explanatory card and 52 suit cards – were produced by cartographer and publisher Robert Morden in 1676.
Each depicts a different county – with Sheffield appearing on the Yorkshire card as ‘Sheifeld’. Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham – without the ‘m’ – are all inscribed too.
The Yorkshire card was issued as the King of Clubs, and the court cards all have the king depicted as Charles II in whose reign they were produced.
Auctioneers Sotheby’s said: “For many counties, the Morden playing card is the earliest separate printed county map to show any roads.”
Catherine Slowther, maps and atlas expert at Sotheby’s, said the subject matter is historically significant.
“As playing cards were normally a gambling device, one might not expect to find them adapted to educational uses,” she said.
“But the output of playing cards was seriously curtailed in Cromwellian times, when both cards and play were regarded as sinful.
“This puritanical attitude resulted in the wholesale destruction of many fine sets of cards, replaced by packs of an instructional or educational nature, embracing geography, history and similar subjects.”
The 1676 cards, of which the Sheffield card is one, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London next Tuesday, November 12.
They have been put up for sale following the death in January of the man who used to own them – Jaime ‘Jimmy’ Ortiz-Patino, who created the Valderrama golf course in Spain.
He was also president of the World Bridge Federation between 1976 and 1986 and owned one of the greatest collections of early playing cards in private hands.
Robert Morden, the 17th century cartographer who produced the items, kept his own cards close to his chest.
Little is known about his early life although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography confirms he was a ‘maker of maps and globes’ and ‘is first documented in 1668 having the foundations of a new building staked out on Cornhill in London after the Great Fire of London in 1666’.
“His family background remains untraced,” the entry adds.