| CARDS 2000|
(Not the year, the number)
by Mike Rogers
Two thousand different brands of playing cards! Is that possible? Indeed it is. Here’s the story.
In November 1999, while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, a taxi driver stated that, “Edinburgh may not be the most beautiful city in the world, but it certainly ranks in the top ten.” His statement required no serious thought, for I have to agree. Edinburgh is indeed one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main through fair, is lined on one side with neat modern shopping, as nice as you will find anywhere in the world. Among the many choices you can enjoy Jenners department store which is often referred to as the Herrods of Scotland. On the other side of the street you see Princes Street Gardens, a large beautiful park having lush foliage and winding paths. You leave modern shopping and join the Old World with the impressive Scott Monument honoring Sir Walter Scott. (Alas, I can still recite passages from Lady of the Lake, going back to my days in high school..) Looking beyond the monument, and across Princes street Gardens, your breath is taken away by a majestic backdrop having a high mountain topped by The Edinburgh Castle. This is a real castle, one over which battles have been fought. For hundreds of years it has reigned supreme over the city, offering an awesome view to be enjoyed by young and old.
A tour through Edinburgh will open the doors to museums, shops, galleries, and probably more pubs than ever observed (We highly recommended The Abbotsford pub in city centre). Crossing Princes Street looking towards the castle you enter a venue of Old World charm having had as its residents: royalty, poets, writers, painters, inventers, scholars, thugs, scoundrels, pick pockets, thieves, whores, and mudlarks. Along the Royal Mile you will discover Deacon Brodie’s Pub, some delightfully interesting shops, and R. Somerville Playing Cards. I was impressed with Deacon Brodie’s Pub because in my hometown of Lander, Wyoming there are several people from Scotland having the name Brodie. It pleases me to think that perhaps my Wyoming friends might be descendents of Edinburgh’s Deacon Brodie, one of Scotland’s most notorious shysters. Wait, what’s with R. Somerville Playing Cards? You’ll have to love it.
Though Edinburgh offers delights in every direction, the business having the name R. Somerville Playing Cards was high on my list of important places to visit. I’m glad I did. R. Somerville Playing Cards, located along the Royal Mile, is a specialty shop dealing in nothing but playing cards. For more than 22 years the establishment has been a vendor of nothing but playing cards, currently offering more than 2,000 varieties. Yes, I said 2,000. That number is not a misprint. The owner, Roderick Somerville, is a pleasant academia type having a Masters Degree in Art, a degree he admits to having never used. On this point I tend to disagree, for this gentleman is truly an artist in his own way. His clientele run the entire gamut from serious card collectors, to magicians, to the poker player needing a couple of new decks for the next game. Roderick knows his business and he knows about playing cards, the brands, the makers, the packaging, and the artists who might have designed the various backs and faces. For magicians he even carries the Fournier 505 brand of cards including the decks of various gimmicks. (Those unfamiliar with the 505 brand need only to check the DeKram back design marketed by Ken Fletcher’s Magic Masters in the U.S.) Through it all Roderick admits to being neither a magician nor a card player. He does, however, have a personal collection of neckties having a playing card motif. He told me there’s one for every day of the month.
Mr. Somerville’s venue is a quaint shop, somewhat disjointed and askew, having playing cards everywhere. The tables are stacked high with the many brands, and the walls are filled with posters and clear insert pages where an entire pack can be displayed both front and back. Adding to this he has notebook binders crammed full of clear plastic pages showing the many decks offered. On one of the days when I visited the shop a serious card collector from Japan was stocking up. I did a quick count and he must have picked at least 40 decks, and he was still going strong when I left. Some of these decks are quite expensive, and I was surprised to learn that there’s such extensive interest. I even dropped about fifty bucks, which is small potatoes compared to the collector from Japan.
A visit to R. Somerville Playing Cards is simply plain fun. You will find the shop at 82 Canongate, on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8BZ, Scotland. It’s within walking distance of all the sights. On the internet http://www.playing-cards.demon.co.uk/. E mail [email protected] . You won’t regret it. Call before visiting because in a year or so the location may move. He is currently located in the area being converted to buildings to house Scotland’s new Parliament. As a result many charming shops of the area are relocating.