All the card games I’ve shared on this site at this point were games I speculated to have actually exist during the medieval times. I don’t think they really existed, but I did want to know what combat-oriented card games similar to Magic: the Gathering could have been like if they were originally made in the medieval times, around the time playing cards and tarot cards were introduced to Europe in almost exactly the same form they exist in now. Even though Tarot Combat II is based on a tarot deck, the cards greatly resemble cards from “collectible card games.” The cards all feature colorful artwork and tell you what the card does on it.
The main reason I decided to create this website is precisely so that I could share Tarot Combat II with the world, and one reason that I decided to share that game with the world is because I was able to find medieval artwork for it that’s now in the public domain in the USA. This is only possible now that museums, universities, and libraries are sharing high resolution medieval artwork. A lot of the artwork used for this game were from illustrated medieval manuscripts that can be found on those websites. The illustrations found in medieval manuscripts are called “miniatures.” I thought this artwork would be more appropriate for cards because they were literally painted by hand and tended to be quite small. They tend to be simpler than other paintings from the time period.
One popular type of medieval manuscript that was helpful in particular were medieval bestiaries. These are books about animals, but the people of the time thought that the manticore, unicorn, cockatrice, and other mythological beings could be real. I will show off a few of the images here, and let you know where they are from.
Manticores are animals with the body of a lion, the head of a human, and a scorpion tail that shoots deadly spikes. They were featured in just about every bestiary. This image is from the Royal MS 12. The whole thing can be viewed in a special viewer here. I don’t see a way to download the images on the site, but you can look around for them.
The African python was thought to be a dragon that strangles elephants. It is true that pythons could strangle large animals, but this is clearly an exaggeration. This image is from the Ashmole Bestiary. I don’t see a good place to download all the high resolution images of this manuscript at this time, but you can search for them.
A similar bestiary is called the Aberdeen Bestiary. The entire Aberdeen bestiary has been translated, but high quality scans have to be found elsewhere. A discussion about how they are related can be found here.
Alexander vs Dragons
There is a wonderful manuscript called Le Livre de la Conqueste du Roy Alexandre about Alexander the Great fighting all kinds of monsters. The particular images are from “Royal 20 B XX.” All the images are available in high resolution here.
- The Medieval Bestiary: Animals of the Middle Ages — A website with several images from several different manuscripts.
- Bodleian Library Gallery of Medieval Manuscript Images (download using the export button)
- Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts from the British Library (many high resolution images are there)