One of the pleasures of dealing with cards is that you get to enjoy their beauty. Cards have a history, and if we read them as signs, we can address those histories. How to balance between reading a context-based artifact and something universal, such as the recognition of patterns, the tension between colors, and the play of geometrical lines in a design is part of the pleasure of owning cards.

These days I’m being asked about my collection of cards. Knowing collectors of caliber I always say that I don’t have a collection. I have a few beautiful cards, some museum pieces, some interesting from a cultural point of view, and some quite sublime because of the craftsmanship that went into making them. So, I don’t consider myself a collector.

And yet. If I look at some of my Lenormand cards made by the Dondorf company in around 1880s, I want to swoon every time I look at what I call my Blue Dondorf. This is a set that I haven’t seen anywhere with anybody. Not even K. Frank Jensen has it, and as we all know, Frank has almost everything. So, I suppose I am a collector of sorts.

Here’s a small show-case of some of my exquisite Dondorfs, a sample of each of the 5 presented answering the following question:

What is beauty?

My pièce de résistance, the very unique and unknown Blue Dondorf (1880) says:

Beauty is flow in the hunt.



. . . . . .

The purple Dondorf (1880) says:

Beauty is wind in the sails, free fish and cultured fish.

purple dondorf lenormand camelia elias

. . . . . .

The Dondorf Frankfurt with a K says (1887):

Beauty is death.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 2.30.01 PM

. . . . . .

The Fortuneteller’s Dondorf Frankfurt (1887, string-bound booklet) says:

Beauty is a ride away from heavy chains.

camelia elias dondorf lenormand

. . . . . .

The French Dondorf (1910) says:

Beauty is symmetry of play and contemplation.

camelia elias french dondorf

. . . . . .

All 5 in a choir say:

Beauty is the unknown on the table, the slow movement of faith towards the familiar.

camelia elias dondorf lenormand

. . . . . .

camelia elias dondorf lenormand camelia elias dondorf lenormand

camelia elias dondorf lenormand

camelia elias dondorf lenormand


Note on the decks:

All Dondorf Lenormand cards created between 1880 and 1910.

My theory is that the Blue Dondorf is a test print. As you can notice, the classical initials on the back are missing, so not all the litographic plates used by Dondorf have been used here. The front, however, features the standard early Dondorf Francfort (with a c). The quality of the images is the best in this example. The litographic work of ‘rasterizing’ the image is absolutely top notch here. And the blue is sublime. Why have they not produced this deck? I’d love to hear from anyone who might know anything about this mysterious deck.


Looking for a Lenormand deck? Grab mine, sold as a talismanic object: A HELIUM POET LENORMAND. For a description of how I came to design one, read here.


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  1. George Koury says:

    Thanks Camellia for the terrific blog. Can you tell me where I can get a good reproduction or original of the Dundorf Lenormand with playing card inserts?

  2. Arwen says:

    There are some great reproductions of Lilac Dondorf on etsy. The seller “OldLenormandCards” has a bunch!! She has destroyed versions and touched up versions.

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