The Gutenberg Card Deck: A Playful Guide to Book History & Print Culture


Click on the image for an expanded view.

Designed by Paolo Granata, University of Toronto

Studying book history and print culture often requires a specialized terminology. Designed to honour the legacy of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, this 52-card deck is a guide to key terms, including illustrations and examples, used in printing history, bibliography, and textual scholarship. It’s also a deck of cards to play with – enjoy being the most bibliophilic poker player at the table! 

The Gutenberg Deck was designed by Professor Paolo Granata for the Elements of Material Bibliography and Print Culture course at St Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and for his students of the Book and Media Studies program. BMS program is an interdisciplinary and historical investigation of the role of printing, books, reading, and electronic and digital media in cultures past and present.

In supporting this program, St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto aims to retrieve the intellectual legacy of Marshall McLuhan who, from the heart of its campus, inspired young minds and engaged the public in probing the never-ending processes of the Gutenberg Galaxy.
The Gutenberg Deck will be available for sale in June 2018, that is, next month at the University of Toronto Bookstore (online and on site). See

Comment: The ever creative and scholarly Paolo Granata has followed up his The Medium board game, which also employs cards, with this new card deck which is an instructional medium for courses in bibliography, book publishing, or Gutenberg (print) culture. A deck of cards is a modest communication medium, but a medium nevertheless, most often used for entertainment, as in playing cards for bridge, poker or other card games. But they also have a use as personal instructional media for memorizing content such as dates, names and definitions or as flash cards for classroom drills. Paolo’s Gutenberg cards are both instructional and can be used as playing cards.

Paolo Granata designed this deck of playing cards to help students remember unique terms from Gutenberg (print) culture such as – recto, verso, plate, folio, quarto, etc – and the history of books and their publishing. Inspired by both flash cards and Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Card Deck (see, designed to stimulate problem-solving and thinking, in a manner that later came to be known as ‘thinking-outside-the-box’. The cards feature a picture of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of mechanical movable type, one side (recto) and a definition on the reverse (verso).

“Marginalia” appears on the 10 of diamonds, for example, and “codex” on the queen of spades. Gutenberg himself is the joker. Paolo gets students to correctly explain the words on the cards as they are played. This kind of experiential learning is a great way to get students to retain knowledge, as “repetitio est mater studiorum,” “repetition is the mother of learning. ” I strongly believe in the power of playfulness to inspire creativity and imagination,” says Paolo Granata.

Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Card Deck

4 Responses to “The Gutenberg Card Deck: A Playful Guide to Book History & Print Culture”

  1. 1 Paolo Granata



  2. 2 Paolo Granata

    Hi Alex,

    My fault, I meant to say June 2018 (not 2019).

    Can you fix it, please? Thanks Paolo


  3. 4 Harrison Barnes

    Well My brother loves to read these books Thanks for sharing your blog post I love to enjoy the post and now I am going for eBooks download online So my brother can read the books.


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