If you're a contract fiend or even if your tasters run only as far as Old Maid, you might be interested to know that there is a pack of Hindustani cards in the archives of Widener which was invented by a king's wife to make him stop pulling hairs out of his beard.
Or there's another Japanese pack of 200 cards which the women use to play a game of poets very popular with them. And then the Chinese pack with the caricatures of famous gamblers of old.
all these and more are to be found in the Whitney collection of playing cards which are cherished in the Widener tombs. They were all collected shortly after 1900 and seen after presented to Widener.
The Hindustani pack is composed of 96 round cards divided into eight suits. In the first four suits the values run from one to ten, with one the lowest. In the last four suits they run the opposite way with ten the lowest. A few of the more picturesque names of the suits are Ghulam, Slave; Chang, Harp; and Burart, Royal Diploma. The name of the pack is Gunja-Kha, which means "Relieving Scalp." They were invented to keep the hands of the king busy so that he would not scratch his head, or, as another version of the tale has it, so that he would not pull hairs out of his beard.
Favorites with the women of Japan are Japanese Poem Cards, 200 in a pack, which are divided into two equal parts. The first 100 each have the picture of a Japanese poet with two lines of a poem of his written below the picture. On each of the other 100 the poem is finished. In playing the game one person reads the poem, while the other tries to put her finger on the picture of the poet who wrote it.
Add to this the Chinese pack, each card of which stands for a certain amount of "each," the name of a Chinese coin. The most rudimentary of the packs is a Koreau set set of long, thin, oiled papers called playing sticks, which originated from arrows used for divinatory purpose, later developing into games.