The cards were all published by London bookseller and stationer Charles Hodges, and were issued at a time when pictorial playing cards featuring educational and other subjects were popular.
Printed by Stopforth & Sons, c.1827, these sets were also to a certain extent interchangeable, some of the hand coloured engraved cards from one set being adapted for use in another.
Two sets of Astronomical Playing Cards, complete with instruction booklets and contained in morocco cases, that sold for £4200 and £4000 feature constellations on the pip cards and classical deities on the court cards.
The aim of the game was to obtain pairs of map and constellation cards from similar parts of the terrestrial and celestial globes.
A pack of Geographical Playing Cards of similar date sold at £3200. The aces feature maps of the four continents, while the court cards depict representative historical and other figures – George Washington on the King of Spades and George IV as King of Hearts, for example. The numeral cards show maps of countries or regions appropriate to their suit.
Sold for £3200 was an Astrophilogeon pack, a game of “science and amusement” comprising 30 celestial and 30 terrestrial cards, the latter re-issued from the geographical pack.
Elements of Astronomy
In a November 21 sale held by John Nicholson in Fernhurst an earlier card game called The Elements of Astronomy and Geography Explained made £2400. As the illustrations reproduced on this page show, this seems to have been an altogether more complex diversion.
Published in 1795 by John Wallis, a specialist in such things, it comprised 40 hand coloured engraved cards described as the work of an Abbé Paris. One card features a volvelle, or moveable section and another, though now lacking its pointer, retains the operating string.
A third was accompanied by a 'stand-up measure'.
All parts, along with the printed rules, were contained in the original slipcase with printed label.