Most of the dance cards I look at are physically rather boring: white or beige cardstock, folded or not, sometimes with extra pages inserted. The main variety is in the colors of the cords and tassels, or maybe the use of red or green ink instead of black. More interesting ones have beautiful color covers.
But sometimes I get lucky and find cards which are interesting objects in and of themselves: trimmed with feathers, carved into a piece of wood, or perhaps cut to the shape of some object. There are also surviving European cards which are exquisite and expensive works of art, but I don't generally get to see those in person.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise when a routine check of two ball cards in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto turned up not still more aging cardstock but instead these two miniature delights, each of which could fit into the palm of my hand with room to spare. I was particularly charmed by the tiny Bakelite(?) card, which immediately made me think of the dance week I spent on the Queen Mary a few years ago.
I was required to use their enormous book scanner rather than my camera to make these images. Their scanner was a big professional one, not a desktop model, and was sized for oversize books, with an overhead camera and big viewing screen. The cards looked so tiny and lost positioned in the middle of that giant scanner bed! I did take scans of the inside pages of each, but, given their size, only three or four dances appear on each leaf of paper and it took a dozen or so images to fully record each card. That is more images than I want to put into a fairly brief blog post.
I love the custom of including the names of the tunes used for each dance. So much sheet music from the early twentieth century survives that it would probably be possible to assemble all the pieces used and actually recreate each program, dance by dance.