There is a broad consensus that business cards originated in China in the 15th century. At that time it was customary to make small bamboo cards bearing a person’s name. These cards were then placed in a window or in front of a door as a kind of proof that one was there or as a signal that one would come back. Even if members of the upper class or elite visited a city (or another elite), it was necessary to inform the population of their arrival.
The invention of the business card, as we know it today, can rather be dated to the time of the Sun King in France, Louis XIV (1638 – 1715).
Only when the ability to read and write increased in the upper classes at the end of the Middle Ages did a need for business cards arise. If a visitor did not find anyone in the house, the thought was obvious to leave behind a sign of his futile coming. Especially since the sometimes forgetful or negligent servants could not always be relied upon.
However, it is not certain how the appearance of these visiting cards should be imagined. Presumably they were by no means all engraved, but, as 60 French copies from 1759, handed over by envoys, agents and other Parisian visitors at the Electoral Court of Karl Theodor of the Palatinate at the Privy State Archives in Munich, testify, they consisted of strips of paper or cut and signed Tarot cards.