JF Ptak Science Books Post 2234
Is this an image of a librarian carefully reaching for a carefully placed book, carefully arranged in a carefully-odd Borgesian-style library housing only books of the same height and thickness? Or is this a librarian in a Library of the Same Book, housing thousands of copies of copies of the same book, climbing the ladder to make sure that he had a copy of just the copy that was requested (“a copy held at least 5 feet from the ground, near a side window though not touching a vertical piece of wood”)?
Neither. These are shelves filled with nothing but uncut sheets of playing cards, housed for the playing card factory somewhere in Paris (?) “during the reign of Louis XIV”. Playing cards, which were introduced to Europe via Marco Polo from China or traders coming from the Middle East or etc., are much older in Europe than one would think, I think, and by the time this print was made, playing cards were already quite popular there for two centuries.
I can’t identify all of the activities of all of the twelve tables of card preparation here, though some seem pretty obvious: the trimmer working near the pressman, the sorters and assemblers of decks of cards at the lower left corner, the paper preparer (?) just to the right of the man on the ladder, the pair of men preparing the type trays at middle-bottom, and that’s about it. I’m not sure what everyone else was doing. I’m not even so sure what’s going on with the sheets of cards on the bookshelves, the target of this post—it can’t be for drying purposes, as the sheets are too close together…perhaps it is just for storage of different sheets of cards for different decks.
In any event I'm right or I'm wrong on this guess, about the same odds as being dealt "nothing" in a game of five-card poker (almost 1:1 odds), but that's fine: I just like the composition of the print.