While recovering from surgery, I carved and printed an English pattern pack of cards, intended to date around 1600. One of my objectives was playability, and indeed I can produce quite playable cards. In considering the playing interests of my friends, I realize many may want to play poker (possibly imported from Persia), So I felt the need to produce a joker for the pack.
Jokers are a sort of universal trump card, and appeared around the time of the American Civil War. Since they are so late in development, period reproduction packs are unrestrained in what they can put on it. I have seen characters that resemble Jacks, or sometimes the Fool from a tarot. I like these ideas, but they used it first. Time to make my own.
A little persona background…
** I had booked voyage East under the belief that I could get to the spice islands, looking for a competitive edge in my perfumes and waters. I didn’t know they were pirates, and worse yet, they were terrible navigators! I ended up washed ashore on a strange land, and the first human I saw was Kuji Kaoni Musashi. He fed and sheltered me, and eventually was able to help me return home. I sailed with the Portuguese, who play with lovely cards that have dragons on them!
Enamored as I am with their packs, I know that the few card makers in England have been using a French pattern for the lower cost, so a Dragon/ Portuguese pack may have to wait a while. Sigh.**
Kuji is a magician, and when I handed him my pack, he proceeded to show me tricks that could be performed with such a pack! combined with his colorful garb, I couldn’t think of a better subject for my joker.
I should note that the king of spades also looks like Kuji, which is completely random…
Since I have made a number of subsequent packs, I felt the need to make another joker; although this introduction is mid-19th century, I feel the need to provide one to allow for more versatile play. As the magician-subject is working well for me, I went with Dr Henry Best.