Board and card games

Competition, gambling, education and fun.

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Good vision is essential for the proper enjoyment of games and leisure pursuits. Here we see some spectacle wearers enjoying themselves and some games specially designed for the visually impaired.

Playing Cards

The image gallery below shows images from our collection that feature card games:

1. Two Penny Whist (1796). A Hand-coloured print (etching), by James Gilray, of a card game involving a bespectacled Mrs. Hannah Humphrey, her Print Shop Assistant, Betty, as well as two male friends. Mrs Humphrey published many of the other prints in the museum collection and it is interesting to note that she was a spectacle wearer herself.

2. The Xmas Academics - A Combination Game at Whist, a print by J. Brotherton, 1772. One of the gentleman players wears a strange pair of spectacles, seemingly with no bridge.

3 (left). Playing cards were also used as sight tests in their own right. For near vision testing it is often considered appropriate to test a patient's ability to do everyday tasks such as read a phone directory or train timetable, thread a needle, fill in the crossword...or play cards, as with these Swann-Cole Vocational Tests from the 1950s.

3 (right). We even have historical playing cards in the collection. The six of diamonds features an image of  man using scissor spectacles.

4. If the patient could not manage to see an ordinary deck of cards, the 'Low Vision' pack of cards printed in Belgium in 1987 (with specially enlarged numbers and suit symbols) might have come in useful.

Board Games

The image gallery below shows images from our collection that feature board games:


Detail of 1860s board game

1. Hand-coloured print (etching) comprising a boardgame ('jeu amusant') depicting the four seasons and featuring on one square, slightly anachronistically, an early pair of nose spectacles. German. 19th c. (c.1860). The instructions on each square are in French and German. On the nose spectacles square it states: "Il faut porter les lunettes jusqu'un autre ameire ce nombre: / Tragt die Brille bis sie ein anderer abnimt" (The spectacles must be worn until someone else gets this number). That is to say the game was originally provided with a pair of spectacles which the unlucky player had to wear as a forfeit until another player landed on the same square.

2. A Bad Move. Satirical etching by Theodore Lane, 1822, featuring two men playing draughts. The left hand man, wearing spectacles with turnpin sides, leans on the table. His opponent's stool collapses and he falls to the floor, his wig and his spectacles with extended loop ends flying through the air. It's a useful reminder that spectacles are part of a metonymic group with ther prostheses such as dentures and hairpieces. The inference might be, perhaps, that when we wear them we are playing a game of deception.

3. Dominoes for the Blind: In this high-contrast white and blue tin box are 27 dominoes with raised high visibility dots (black on white) and textured reverse sides (mid 20th century).

Parlour Games

The image gallery below shows images from our collection that feature parlour games:

1. Deprivation of vision can add an extra dimension to some games. This depiction of blind man's buff comes from a set of stereoscopic cards used in orthoptic therapy.

2. As this pair of opera glasses reveals, the artistic representation of blind games has often been thought appropriate as a decorative motif for optical aids.