A New Game of Hope

IMG_0036 New year, new edition of an old favourite. I’d hate to think I’m repeating myself here but there’s comfort to be had in reflecting on old favourites, undistracted by shinier, themed novelties. And heaven knows there are enough variations on a Lenormand theme coming out right now to entrap the unwary newbie or seasoned reader looking for something bright and gimmicky. You can’t really go wrong with this, or any, reproduction of Hechtel’s 1799 Game of Hope deck. So as one who much prefers duplicate copies of firm favourites rather than new-theme-for-the-sake-of-it releases, I decided to review it again. It’s a different edition, so a different deck, right? I first became aware of the Game of Hope Lenormand deck a few years ago via the Tarot Association’s edition in partnership with Ciro Marchetti which I reviewed here and whose green hue seems to throb darker with each passing year, but for which I nevertheless retain a fond affection. I also have Lauren Forestell’s edition and her mini version is one of my staple favourites for any Grand Tableau laid out in limited spaces. This latest version, by Alexander Glück (he of the lovely Wahrsagen à la Lenormand deck, reviewed here) is published by Konigsfurt /AGM Urania  – “by kind permission of the British Museum, London” – and belongs to that category which is slowly creeping in now of larger sized Lenormands. First there was the Lo Scarabeo Lenormand Oracle deck which feels very big indeed, then a few others have since come out published in a larger format, something I’m not always too keen on. Leave size to the Thoth, I say. But this one is a decent, useable size. Perhaps not ideal for a Grand Tableau on anything less than a dining table, but for those 3-card, 5-card, 7 and 9-card spreads which many do, including myself, this deck feels quite comfortable to work with. It feels, prior to actually measuring it, more or less the same size as a standard playing card deck, perhaps a little wider. It shuffles easily in the hand. In fact, for my hand size, I would say it is the perfect shuffleable size; 11 cm by 8 cm, that’s just under 4.5″ by just over 3″. That’s actually quite a bit bigger than a standard playing card deck; a Bicycle playing card box is slightly smaller than the card image. Then of course there are the borders. I have a wild theory that we might correlate ease of card shuffling and hand span with shoe size. There must be some connection and it would help in reviews if one could prove it. If I tell you my shoe size is 11 (U.S), 45 (Europe) and I can’t shuffle the Rohrig but can just about shuffle a large Thoth and that this deck (albeit with fewer cards) is very easy to shuffle, does that mean anything? Probably not. IMG_0045The cardstock is in the heavenly category – firm, with just enough “give” and it seems durable (though I don’t riffle shuffle; I’m not flashy by nature) and with the lightest of laminations, silky sheen rather than reflective gloss. Some might feel the size inappropriate – too big perhaps for the traditionalists, plus there is now the ingrained cult of the mini, so a deck produced this size feels as if it is going against the grain slightly. I have a selection of Lauren Forestell’s mini historical decks and quite frankly I cannot imagine better minis than these ones, and am happy with the ones I have so I’m quite open to a new size – ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a traditionalist and the more I shuffle this edition of The Game of Hope, the more I like it. The card backs feature a duplicated clover and scrollwork as can be seen below right.IMG_0041The deck comes in a sturdy two part box with a lightly linen surface texture (one feels it could perhaps have been 1 cm more compact as inside the box the cards rattle slightly) which is graphically stylish, depicting the Rider card and – with the gothick lettering and sepia wash – you know that this is old school Lenormand before you even open it. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t the Rider card from this deck superb? A crack of the whip then exit stage left. In the historic Lenormand decks, most symbols are two dimensional and frontal. The Rider here shoots off at an angle on a foreshortened horse – it really brings home the sense of speed and urgency. It would be a shame not to use the box as it is so beautifully produced. There is a LWB included; 59 pages but in English, French and German, so that must be an average of 19.666 recurring pages per language. The LWB tells the story behind the deck (and the history of its publication) largely from the gaming perspective, yet there is invariably something ambiguous for me in the leap from parlour game to divination. Not through any fault of the author, but the connection – in any of the literature – never feels fully convincing. Mary Greer’s theory of the Coffee Card symbols may well be the missing link but there is no mention of it here. I’m not sure what I think about the idea that some cards like these (or perhaps even these actual ones, as is implied) were found among Mme Lenormand’s possessions after her death. I have no contrary evidence to doubt this, but doubt it I do. The LWB then goes on to talk about the upsurge in the popularity of Lenormand cards since the year 2000 and includes a translation of the original instructions for how to play the Game of Hope “with a new figures’ card [sic] in illuminated 36 sheets”. The last four pages contain brief information about divination with the cards; a short introduction and card meanings. No details are given regarding the Grand Tableau or any other spread. I don’t know why this deck has not long been fast-tracked to undisputedly classic, indispensible status. This is the deck to which all other Lenormand decks are indebted. This is the starting point, the Visconti-Sforza of Lenormands, or as the cover of the LWB proclaims, The Primal Lenormand. All other Lenormands are variations of this grandfather deck – or rather, grandmother deck because Lenormand cartomancy always seems to be in the feminine. I think that part of the Lenormand craze is a sort of relief that we have found a female deck to counterbalance the old men of tarot, the Waites and Mathers and Crowleys. And yet this deck is sturdier, less frilly and rouged, than a lot of the other historic Lenormands. For whatever reason, there seems to be a subtle side-stepping of this deck in the Lenormand community which I don’t quite understand. The delicate, feminine, slightly grannified decks like the Piatnik seem more in line with the style we have come to expect from this branch of cartomancy and perhaps there’s something a trifle robust about the Game of Hope deck. This is all idle speculation – I really have no theories as to why this deck isn’t more championed or loved.  Editions of it come out, which we admire and know are important, then readers go back to the familiar Blue Owl. Yet there is so much charm, whimsy and sensitivity in this deck, but few seem to profess to publicly love it. I guess there are just too many other themes out there vying for attention. Readers might feel a duty to rate and respect these historical decks but in practice prefer something collaged and contemporary. These historic decks may just be considered too stark and dry for modern readers’ tastes. I’ll be honest, I think a deck such as this has much more character than a deck such as the Piatnik.IMG_0049I think this is a deck where the issue of card inserts is very admirably solved. You feel that some deck creators don’t quite know how to deal with something this asymmetrical – where can one put a single floating playing card? Here there are two card inserts on each card; the standard spades and clubs etc (French pattern? English pattern?) on the right-hand side and the German suits (acorns, bells etc) on the left-hand side, with the card number between the two. As a result, the upper part of the card balances well with the symbol in the lower part of the card and there isn’t that odd blankness, that cloudless sky with the single card insert floating like a hot air balloon. Instead, the inserts feel like little boxes, distinct divisions in the upper corners of the card. When you get two courts on a card they are like the harmonised figures in a cuckoo clock, waiting for the chimes in their respective compartments. I am intrigued by the compositional solutions found in this deck; some things enter into the sacred space between the playing card inserts – the Gentleman’s tricorn, the Lady’s tottering peruke, the flag of the ship – and yet others which could (like the top of the Cross, the top of the Anchor, the turret of the Tower) do not. No idea why I find myself reflecting on this, but it’s something I keep thinking about; the pictorial aspect of where things fit in these cards. This version of the Game of Hope is a truly beautiful deck in every single aspect; colouring, printing quality, durability, retained staining. Mr Glück has done an excellent job with this edition. I have nothing but praise and admiration.


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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22 Responses to A New Game of Hope

  1. Erik C Dunne says:

    I have been wanting to learn more about Lenormand as of late, and much like you, would like something more “Traditional”, this looks like a GREAT place to start! Thank you my friend!

  2. fennario says:

    Actually there IS contrary evidence to the Mlle. Lenormand claim. The Lenormand suits are based in Alemannic cartomancy, hence Clubs as the trouble suit. It’s purely German, there’s nothing French or Parisian about it – compare it to the Parlour Sibyl, Livre du Destin or Grand Jeu and you’ll see what I mean. 😉

    This looks like a lovely edition. The larger size IS problematic (I’ve come to expect this kind of silliness from Lo Scarabeo, but not Königsfurt or Glück!) as well as pointless (no tiny details on this deck that would be lost with a bridge or mini). But it’s good to see a publisher picking up an authentic deck rather than an Empathic Celtic Inner Pagan Indigo Cat Lenormand. So I support it, and will probably snag a copy. 🙂

    • Le Fanu says:

      Interesting point you make there about the suits. I was unaware of this. In terms of size, I think it just about works. I think the size of Gluck’s other deck was just perfect and would have worked here but what is lovely about the proportions of this deck is seeing all the details of the playing card inserts. These playing card inserts, together, are about the same size as one of Lauren’s mini decks.

  3. fennario says:

    I can see that being a perk for many, not everyone has sharp close vision. But my ideal GoH would be about Glück-sized, as you say, cleaned up like these or Lauren’s, with Lauren’s linen stock and Ciro’s backs. It won’t happen, but it’s a nice thought. 😀

  4. Dearest friends,

    with great interest I have read the review and comments on this. Thank you very much. Maybe it became a good issue because my own ambition for editing this one was just to get a good copy of this game for my private collection. The only way to realize this was to go out and make the job.

    Second, I don’t think that one of these games would have been at the real M.me Lenormand. I pointed out that a tricky publisher in Koblenz (what has been under french occupation in former times) told this tale to make a better market success for his own re-edition ~1843.

    Third, concerning the size: My idea was to deliver the complete card on a suitable matrix. If it’s too large, it’s a nice job to cut the borders away, so you’ll get cards of very suitable dimensions with quasi-original edges. Who likes it this way, may do. Who does’t, is not urged to.

    Besides, I would have done it with plain single-coloured backs or with the print of handcrafted coloured paper as it has been used for bookbinding or furniture decoration. But the backs are decent and usable.

    This edition is part of a something larger project. I must not talk too much, but please be aware that there is something else in preparation. Please consider that this game was meant as a parlour game, so it has to fit onto a table when it is laid as a square frame, and we are working on this. The missing link to an earlier version is mentioned in the text, also on this topic you may expect something else.

    Actually I am dealing with another part of cultural history, what will be finished until march. Also with figures and history, but more nutritious. After this I will reload the Lenormand topic with full energy.

    Thank you once again for your very kind opinion on my work. I appreciate this very much. If I can do something for you, please feel free to contact me (but I won’t cut off your cards!).

    Best regards,

    Alexander Glück

    • Le Fanu says:

      Dear Alexander, thank you for your visit and thank you for elaborating on your work. I hope you see my review as entirely positive because I genuinely think that this deck is a beautiful addition to the currently available Lenormand decks. As I wrote, I have nothing but praise. I look forward to the unveiling of the next installment of your project. You have ensured that a hugely significant deck is available through mass market channels. I had not thought of making the connection between the size and the idea of it being a sort of board game.

  5. Bom, eu não vivo exatamente no centro do mundo… Então, certas coisas que eu acho que são novidades já estão caindo de velhas. Encontrei agora um romance de Milorad Pavic chamado “The Last Love in Constantinople”. Esse autor escreveu também um livro chamado “O Dicionário Kazar”.
    “The Last Love in Constantinople” é um romance-tarot. Tem 78 capítulos e pode ser lido normalmente (do início para o fim) ou segundo A Cruz Celta e outras tiragens do Tarot. Estou tendo dificuldades de encontrar o romance por aqui (existe uma tradução em espanhol), mas não deve ser difícil de achar por aí. Fica então a sugestão… se é que não está caindo de velha!

  6. Marilyn D'Auria says:

    Thank you for this article. This is a very beautiful deck.
    I appreciate ‘primal’ decks and since I am just learning about Lenormand it is important to me to use such a deck.
    I have been reading tarot cards for forty years, and have only recently (through my tarot instagram feed and following RW) become fascinated by Lenormand.
    I’m looking to find this deck online as I suspect it is the only place I will find it.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Marilyn – if it helps – I bought mine off German amazon. Very easy service and everything is in exactly the same place as amazon.com, same log-in in details and everything. It’s worth it; this a very beautiful, classic deck and would be an excellent learning tool

  7. It may be an evidence that this game came out in 1798. The copy in London is, as the instruction inform us, a “new edition” — so this may be all right.

  8. Hello,

    additionally here is some new stuff for the Lenormand afficionados: Recently I discovered one original edition of the ultra-rare Hechtel-Edition with many game instructions, including the very first ever edition of the “Game of hope” instructions. It is calles “Beiträge zur geselligen Freude”, contains a heap of original games, oracles, magics and, to my opinion the most interesting: It shows Hechtels intentions concerning gaming, oracles, fortune-telling and religiosity. This is the hard core of the book, and this may boost the Hechtel research onto a very higher level.

    So, publishing this book in cooperation with a publishing house has failed. The reason was a) the high price of the original that should be come back with the re-edition, b) the fact that it’s written not only in german language but also in german letters. You see, the large publishers will just do the things that any goofy can understand at first sight — something more complex has no chance there.

    I come to the point: I did it by myself, scanned the whole book and produces an anastatic reprint edition. This is now for sale, together with a biographical and historical background of Hechtel. I am sure that it will bring something very new to you as I also found out something more about Hechtel’s family, his wife and his business.

    If interested, please drop me a line to glueckwien@gmx.at, the book counts 268 pages and costs 69 Euro plus shipping.

    Please visit me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/glueck.alexander

  9. Hi, I produced a reprint edition of this first Hechtel collection recently, it can be seen here:


    If someone wants to get his copy signed, please contact me directly, a.glueck@tele2.at.

  10. Robin Artisson says:

    Good Day! Forgive my uncertainty, but if this superb blog belongs to the “Le Fanu” who is responsible for the beautiful Stralsunder Lenormand being restored and re-issued, as well as the creation of the “Lilac Dondorf”, I would very much like to speak to you. Your online store seems to have gone away just a few days ago (quite distressing!) and in so doing, it disallowed me from contacting you there. A few words, please? Thank you for the treasures you bring to the world of cartomancy.

    Robin Artisson

    • Le Fanu says:

      Hi Robin, thank you for your comment. The online store you speak of is not mine – it sells reproductions of a couple of my decks. The Stralsunder is not one of them. Yiou might be confusing it with the Liclac Dondorf and the Destroyed Dondorf perhaps. I had no idea that the store had gone – are you sure about that? There were such beautiful decks there.

      • Tag Jorrit says:

        Just like the message says, “Taking a break, check back soon.” Not gone for good — yet.

      • Le Fanu says:

        Ah! From the horse’s mouth. There you go. Check back again soon… That’s where you’ll get the most beautiful, accessible Lenormands in the world!

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