Castell's Pepys Playing Cards
Updated: Jan 19
All British, Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Red & Blue Backed Packs
First Published: c 1931, Castell Brothers Ld., Pepys Works, London, EC1
Contents: 52 Cards + 1 Joker
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Box Front
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Ace of Spades
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Red Back
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Blue Back
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Blue and Red backed boxes with attached cards.
These packs are the earliest known examples of playing cards produced by Castell Brothers and the first cards to bear "Pepys" branding.
They were produced as part of a range of "Contract, Auction & Bridge Requisites" by "The House of Castell - The House of Bridge" in 1931. This range was advertised in a supplement to "Complete Contract Bridge Simply Told" by H.J. Wheldon, published by Castell Brothers.
The image below is taken from that advertising supplement. It shows two packs of "Castell's Pepys Playing Cards" as part of a "Contract Bridge Casket".
The 609/59 casket is described as "Ruby Glazed Leatherette 9 x 2 ½ x 4. Containing 2 Packs Toned Playing Cards, Linen FInish and Book of Rules. Blocks printed Brown on Biscuit" It retailed at 5/9, hence the "59" at the end of the stock number.
Another casket appears to be a Brown Leather Auction Bridge version of 613/196.
You can read more about this casket and see more images of it here.
Two or four "Toned Packs" were supplied in Castell's other caskets except for the "De Luxe Casket" in which two packs of "Barribal Series (latest designs) Gold Edged Playing Cards" were included.
Both the Toned and the Barribal Series cards were produced by Waddington for Castell Brothers.
"The Pepys Works, Clerkenwell Road, London EC1" was 55 Clerkenwell Road. This property was occupied by Castell Brothers from at least 1918 until around 1932. The listing in one contemporary Trade Directory reads:
Castell Brothers Ltd. wholesale & export stationers, 55 Clerkenwell Rd. EC - T A [Trading As] "Castell Brothers" T N [Telephone Number] 972 Holborn
One of Castell's ranges of domestic stationery was named "Pepys". Extending this usage to Playing Cards seems to have developed from Castell's initial interest in supplying consumable Bridge Scoring Blocks or pads and "Win or Lose Cards". In 1931 Castell's were selling 12 different designs of Bridge Blocks but only these two packs of their own cards.
The image of Samuel Pepys is a mirror image engraving of the 1666 portrait by John Hayls in the National Portrait Gallery. The painting depicts Pepys as a young man of 33. When Pepys' portrait was used in later games images of him in later life were preferred.
The facsimile Pepys signature on the front of the box is similar to various examples of Samuel Pepys' actual signature. This signature would be further simplified over the decades becoming the established trademark on all subsequent Pepys games and other products.
The two packs featured here were part of Rex Pitts’ collection.
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Box Top
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Box Side Left
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Box Base
Castell's Pepys Playing Cards - Box Side Right
This side can be found with the text inverted on some packs.