The Magic Café
[ Lost Password ]
  [ Forgot Username ]
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Hot off the Press! » » Cotta's Almanac #1 Transformation Playing Cards Reproduction! (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Steve Brooks
View Profile
Founder / Manager
Northern California - United States
4763 Posts

Profile of Steve Brooks
Hey gang,

Just a heads-up that my pal Will Roya at has got an awesome Kickstarter going right now.

If you are a collector of the pasteboards you do not want to miss this one!


Cotta's Almanac #1 TransformationPlaying Cards Reproduction 1805 'Joan of Arc' Deck 1 of 6 in a series

Precisely Hand-Recreated & Printed by USPCC - Limited Edition - 1,000 with Numbered Seals


Introducing a precisely digitally hand-recreated reproduction of the first published complete transformation playing card deck in the world!

The blue "Joan of Arc" deck
is the first in a series of six famous decks we plan to release in 2020...


The very first transformation deck issued by Cotta is from 1805. This deck is probably the most famous of all six, and is incredibly scarce.
Original illustrations were fiddling artworks done by hand, on copper plates that were manually engraved with stipple and etching, and the cards were printed on linen period stock that was 97 mm x 69 mm in size,
with blank card backs and squared corners at that time. Only the court cards were hand-colored, while the number cards used red stencils.

Cotta’s transformation cards were very successful and became a role model for later transformation decks from other publishers.
And since the card backs were blank, individual cards were sometimes used by the nobility as visit cards and for leaving messages, so these playing cards often became multi-purpose items.


There are many historical values in the series of decks! But if you are only interested in the deck details & images instead of history & backstory, then please skip about half way down.


The story behind these playing cards, which probably conceal the most of the world's playing card secrets, begins in Tübingen, a city in southwest Germany.


The atmosphere here is bursting with memories and experiences of the past. Visitors today can still enjoy the small stairs, narrow alleys, and pointed gables that shape the silhouette of old Tübingen on the way to its famous castle.
Tübingen is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities and even today combines the colorful bustle of an university town full of students with the flair of a restored medieval center and a touch of many ancient cultures.
The Romans already left some traces of their presence here in AD 85, but the city itself dates from the 6th or 7th century. Little wonder that this city attracted many eminent notables and artists, who found it inspirational for their work.


The idea behind the concept of Cotta's transformation decks was to create a series of six decks on an annual basis from 1805-1811. Each deck would focus on a different theme, with the first set based on Schiller's play Jeanne d'Arc,
which was about the famous historical figure Joan of Arc.

Forming a "Card Almanac" (Karten Almanach), each card in the deck would represent one of the 52 weeks in a calendar year.
At the time it was popular to print various almanacs, which were special pocket books for the new year, and often included a short poem or quote for each week of the calendar year. It was a logical move to connect each of these 52 weeks with a playing cards.


Johann Friedrich Cotta (*April 27, 1764 - December 29, 1832), publisher, industrial pioneer, and politician, the man at the helm of family publishing house J. G. Cotta
(founded yet in late 17th century by his grandfather Johann Georg Cotta *1631 - 1692) from Tübingen, Germany, around 1804 went on to produce a series of six playing card almanacs in successive years from 1805-1811,
with a new deck appearing in all but one of those years.


In addition to Johann Friedrich Cotta's high standing as a publisher, he was a man of great practical energy, which flowed into various fields of activity, he promoted even many reforms and supported talented individuals.
It is also noticeable that in such period of his life he published numerous works of his own literature, political materials, and also yearbooks.

Cotta did have the goal of replacing the "inelegant" designs of contemporary German playing cards with a more artistic high-quality deck. But these playing cards were not intended for playing games with in the first place,
but rather for stimulating discussion about the "themed" images on each of the cards. Each year the court cards were designed to represent another theme, while the number cards featured pictures that were largely independent
drawings without a common topic, since they were especially intended as conversation pieces and depicted happenings.


The Cotta's famous house was the place, where among other brilliant German authors of the time, the works of Schiller and later of Goethe were published there in its journal pages, as well as journal's major contributor was Heinrich Heine,
who with his early lyric poetry has inspired even composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert who set his works into music...

So the picture that emerges from this time in Cotta's life is that he was constantly engaged in thoughtful conversation with literary men, and enjoyed close friendships with leading figures of the day like Schiller,
Huber, Gottlieb Konrad Pfeffel, and others, many of whose works he published.


Johann Friedrich Cotta's long term friendship with the famous German poet, dramatist, philosopher, and historian Friedrich Schiller was well known. In 1795 Schiller and Cotta founded the Horen,
a periodical that became important for students of German literature. Schiller's goal was to use his work to infuse higher ideas into the common lives of men, by giving them a nobler human culture,
and “to reunite the divided political world under the banner of truth and beauty.” It was as a result of this relationship that Goethe became part of a close circle of friends with Cotta and Schiller.
Even today there is evidence at Cotta's house of Goethe having slept there.


It is probably this friendship that gave birth to the idea of creating a unique decks of transformation playing cards with the purposes of igniting discussion about the "themed" picture on each card.
This was after all a time when people were open to such ideas, and producing a series of playing cards as almanacs for a continuous period of years was a natural development.


With help from you the backers we plan to produce the entire 6 deck series! The color of each tuck box created by Azured Ox has been inspired by Goethe's experimental optic and color theory,
since Goethe was an important contemporary of Cotta, along with Schiller. (Goethe's deepest immersion into colors was during Cotta's decks issuing.)


Goethe’s spent years on his theory (built on wavelength theory of light broken into 7 colors demonstration after Newton), which became a personal obsession in his last years,
and which he considered more important than his literary works.

Goethe believed that colors arise from the interaction between light and darkness, light and dark edges along the spectrum; that colors are realities, phenomena of nature...
His color theory was intended to be a paradigmatic model for natural science in general, and Goethe was concerned with the psychological effects of each color, as well.

He believed that colors symbolize different values and that colors have a clear effect on the mind and feelings. Goethe had little use for concepts of divinity or for systematic thinking.
His theory formulated a psychological and philosophical account of the way we actually experience color as a phenomenon.



Much of historical happenings, influences and activities would later find a place in the Cotta decks, including events in the life of Cotta's own family and of notable figures like Schiller and Goethe.
Other important influences include the literature, art, history, politics (e.g. Napoleon's invasion), and religious reforms of the time, which all served as an important context to shape the art in the decks themselves.

For example, Schiller experienced a grave illness that led to his death, and this around as well as many more is even depicted in the playing cards from the Cotta decks.
In short, there is significant evidence of such connections between the artistic pictures and the immediate context that produced them.


It is especially significant for the way it displays meaningful and inspirational happenings from the time; in this first deck, such as Schiller on his death-bed (Six of Clubs) or sadness of Goethe
(probably depicted on Nine of Clubs), assumed depictions from life of noble families, etc..

First almanac deck: Jeanne d'Arc (Year 1805)

The images on the court cards are characters inspired by Schiller's play "Die Jungfrau von Orleans" ("Joan of Arc").


The central figure of Joan of Arc is depicted as the Queen of Spades, the Maid of Orleans who inspired the French army to victory, but was later burned at the stake.


  • Printed by USPCC on Classic Stock
  • Poker Size
  • Embossed Finish
  • 52 Cards + 2 Extra Jokers + 2 Extra Collectible Cards
  • Metallic Ink On Box & Backs
  • Custom Numbered Seals
  • Puzzle Image on all Tuck Spines of the Series
  • Digitally Hand-Recreated and Designed by Azured Ox
  • Produced By Will Roya


Cotta's first deck was designed by Countess Mary Day von Jennison-Walworth (sometimes spelled with a single `n'). Her maiden name was Beauclerk, and she was the wife of Count Francis Jenison Walworth (1764–1824).
She was an illegitimate (twin) child who led a very colorful life, and finally settled down somewhat after marrying Count Francis in 1797. (she was probably creating illustrations in Stuttgart.)



We are limiting this 1st deck to only 1,000 copies with numbered seals. We may print a small amount additional decks without seals to meet demand or for a special edition.





The entire 6 deck series is in many ways designed by Azured Ox to meet collector's demand (as "collection of historical books") and will be produced with the piece of puzzle image on each tuck spine
(left side of box) to create together nice display of the Tuebingen monument surroundings, where the idea for Cotta's decks was born.










The publisher's name was placed on the Ace of Clubs as follows: "A Tubinge chez J. G. Cotta, Libraire."






The court cards were designated with the words "Valet", "Dame", and "Roi", which are the French terms corresponding to the Jack, Queen, and King.

In the first deck, beside Joan of Arc depicted as the Queen of Spades, other individuals closely associated with Joan include Etienne de Vignolles or La Hire (Jack of Hearts), who helped Joan to victory in the battle of Patay in 1429;
and Raymond (Jack of Diamonds), a peasant who was Joan's page.

Key political leaders who figured prominently in the events surrounding Joan's life are also represented, including King Charles VII (King of Hearts), the French monarch who relied on Joan's help to reach the Rhiems,
the traditional place of coronation; Charles' mother Isabeau (Queen of Hearts), who was in league with Charles' enemy; Charles' mistress Agnes Sorel (Queen of Diamonds);
Charles' opponent Philippe the Good (King of Diamonds), an ally of England; and the king of Naples, René d'Anjou (King of Clubs), who lost the kingdom after defeat in battle.
General Talbot (King of Spades) was the English commander of the outpost of Orleans at Saint Loup, who was wounded in battle, captured, and was part of a prisoner exchange.

Both Joan's "sister" Louison (Queen of Clubs) and Montgomery (Jack of Clubs) are fictional creations of Schiller, while the fictional Lionel (Jack of Spades)
is the character who holds up Joan's sword in a location revealed by the voices that she supposedly heard telling her to help.


Clubs: Montgomery, Louison (Joan's fictional sister), René d'Anjou (King of Sicily)


Diamonds: Raimond (villager), Agnes Sorel (Charles' mistress), Philippe de Bourgogne


Hearts: Etienne de Vignolles (La Hire), Isabeau de Baviere (Charles' mother), Charles VII (King of France)


Spades: Lionel (knight), Joan of Arc, Talbot


At last we came with an idea to reflect opposite of noble life and to bring closer to you even more of the unique artistic history placed on extra collectible playing cards...



Also we thought it could be interesting to put another illustrations from the far past on the additional extra cards, in respect to year almanacs,
we came with an idea of twelve calendar months in the series as exclusive collection of unique historical artworks...




An absolutely original playing card masterpiece to hang on your wall (double sided)


The end of funding period for this first "blue" deck of the series is symbolically set to:

Johann Friedrich Cotta's

(256th) Birthday on April 27, 2020

As of the launch of this campaign we have already submitted art to USPCC to prepare for print.
USPCC recently reported a 10 day shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak but we are confident we can deliver this project by the end of July if they are not shut down for more then 30 days.
If we do have a delay it will be communicated with backers in a speedy and transparent manner.


We have already put a significant amount of resources in making this deck possible. But if we can pass 20k in funding we will include something special for every backer or upgrade the deck in some way.


  • Max Playing Cards
  • Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards
  • World of Playing Cards
  • United Cardists
  • The Magic Café®
  • Kardify
  • Magic Orthodoxy
  • Gentleman Wake
  • Ender's Game Reviewer
  • The Card Club
  • Playing Card Collector's Club
  • Repeat Super Backers
  • Fellow Creators & Social Media Friends
  • My Family & Staff



By with a safe delivery guarantee and emailed tracking.
International customers are responsible for any custom fees and taxes.


Artwork has been pre-approved by USPCC. Some small design elements may be subject to change based on backer feedback and printer recommendations.
Besides being a super backer, I have successfully completed and delivered several of my own campaigns as well as helping & collaborating with other creators.

I really enjoy the process of creating decks with the artists and working with backers to bring the decks to life. I am in a fortunate situation to be able to cover
some of the costs of producing the decks but without the help of the Kickstarter community I would not be able to bring all of my projects to life.
Creating these decks is a significant investment of time and money and I am grateful for any and all support.

If there are delays or issues they will be communicated and dealt with in an open manner. As always, I appreciate any feedback.
You are welcome to reach out to me directly at any time and I will do my best to get back to you in a timely manner.

You can back this project with confidence! Smile

Thank you - Will Roya

"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
View Profile
Inner circle
Reviewer EndersGame
1772 Posts

Profile of EndersGame
This thread deserves a "bump", since this project closes on coming Monday.


1805 "Joan of Arc" Deck 1 of 6 in a series - Precisely Hand-Recreated & Printed by USPCC - Limited Edition - 1,000 with Numbered Seals

Cost: ~US$10 per deck
Current funding level: over 1000% of target!
Kickstarter ends: Monday April 27, 2020


Transformation playing cards involve cleverly incorporating the pips on the cards into a larger picture. The very first published and complete deck of transformation cards was created by Johann Freidrich Cotta in Tübingen, Germany, around 1804, and is the "Joan of Arc" deck pictured here. Cotta went on to produce a series of six such decks in successive years. The Cotta decks are extremely significant, given the many transformation decks they subsequently inspired, and the unique place they occupy in playing card history.

A special project is underway, spearheaded by Will Roya from PlayingCardDecks, to produce reproductions of these rare and historic decks. The first deck of the series is now up for crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Roya has engaged the assistance of graphic designer Azured Ox, who recreates the cards digitally. The plan is to produce all six Cotta decks individually, throughout the course of 2020.


As with the previous reproduction decks produced by Will Roya and PlayingCardDecks, the Cotta decks are being printed by United States Playing Card Company, makers of the well-known Bicycle brand. This means we can expect a quality product with good looks and good handling. Funding will come with the help of Kickstarter, and Will Roya is an experienced and respected creator with a proven track record. He has often used crowdfunding to produce his decks, typically with a fairly quick turnaround.

The Cotta transformation decks are extremely significant, given the many transformation decks they subsequently inspired, and the unique place they occupy in playing card history. To be able to enjoy them in a fine modern version that carefully reproduces these keystone decks is a real privilege, and I'm delighted that these classics are being brought to contemporary audiences with a quality edition!


See more information about these decks in my article here: The Famous J.G. Cotta Transformation Decks

Kickstarter link:
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Hot off the Press! » » Cotta's Almanac #1 Transformation Playing Cards Reproduction! (0 Likes)
[ Top of Page ]
All content & postings Copyright © 2001-2021 Steve Brooks. All Rights Reserved.
This page was created in 0.39 seconds requiring 5 database queries.
The views and comments expressed on The Magic Café
are not necessarily those of The Magic Café, Steve Brooks, or Steve Brooks Magic.
> Privacy Statement <

ROTFL Billions and billions served! ROTFL