A brief overview of the history of Antique Card Tables
The use of Games Tables in various forms has been evidenced for many centuries and it is believed that “cards” have been around since the Chinese Tang Dynasty of the 9th Century AD, with traditional playing cards arriving in Europe in the 14th Century. Whilst previously the preserve of the aristocracy, playing cards became accessible to all from the 15th century following advances in wood block printing. In addition to cards, other popular games that have been around for centuries include Backgammon (which was previously known as Tables) and Chess, which was an essential skill for the Tudor upper classes and those in the royal circle. “Gambling on dice” was a precursor to card games such as Pontoon and Blackjack and a board game called Goose is reminiscent of Snakes and Ladders as we know it today. All these games were played on tables.
Antique card or games tables have a rich history that spans several centuries, reflecting changes in design, fashion, and social customs. Card tables were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and were designed for playing card games or other games, which were a significant form of entertainment during those times.
1. 18th Century: The Rise of Card Playing
· In the 18th century, card playing became a popular pastime among the European aristocracy and upper classes.
· Card tables from this period were often made of high-quality wood, such as mahogany, and featured intricate inlays and carvings.
· The design typically included a folding top that could be opened to reveal a felt or baize playing surface.
2. Late 18th Century: Sheraton and Hepplewhite Style
· During the late 18th century, furniture designers like Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite became prominent.
· Their influence can be seen in the elegant and refined designs of card tables from this period, characterized by slender legs and delicate details.
3. Regency Period: Early 19th Century
· The Regency period (1811-1820) in Britain saw the continuation of elegant and classical designs in card tables.
· Mahogany continued to be a popular choice for crafting these tables, and designs often featured brass inlay and decorative elements.
4. Victorian Era: Mid to Late 19th Century and the Arts and Crafts Movement: Late 19th to Early 20th Century
· The Victorian era brought a shift in design aesthetics. Furniture from this period often featured more elaborate ornamentation and intricate carving.
· Walnut and rosewood were commonly used during the mid-19th century, and card tables might have had more complex mechanisms for folding and extending.
· Towards the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Arts and Crafts movement emerged as a reaction against mass-produced, overly ornate furniture.
· Some card tables from this period reflected a simpler, more functional design with an emphasis on craftsmanship.
6. 20th Century: Revival and Reproduction
· In the 20th century, there was a revival of interest in antique furniture styles, including card and chess tables.
· Many reproductions were made, and some incorporated modern materials while maintaining the traditional designs.
Today, antique card tables are valued not only for their functionality but also as pieces of art and history. Collectors and enthusiasts appreciate the craftsmanship and design of these tables, which often serve as a window into the social and cultural practices of the past.