Due to the discoveries by L. A. Mayer and R. Ettinghausen of playing cards from Mamluk Egypt, it is now virtually certain that we have here the ancestors of the type of Western European playing cards most familiar to us. While for most of the cards a fifteenth-century date is assumed, R. Ettinghausen has
tentatively suggested that a card discovered by him is much earlier, possibly going back to late Fatimid times. We have no information how exactly those cards were used, but, as Ettinghausen has shown on the basis of information furnished by Laila Serageddin, we know that they were [start of p. 63] called kanjifah and that already in the early fifteenth century they were used for heavy gambling involving considerable sums of money. 264
The sixteenth-century Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentions kanjifah in connection with at-tāb wa-d-dukk. 265 The Arabian Nights refers to it in the story of the learned slave girl Tawaddud between chess and nard, but while Tawaddud then goes on to elaborate on the latter two games, nothing more is said about kanjifah. 266 The Persian dictionary lists ganjifah, ganjīfah “pack of cards, game of cards,” ganji/īfah-bāz “card player, trickster,” ganjifah-bāzī “card trick, sleight of hand,” and ganjīfah-sāz “manufacturer of cards.” Long ago the suggestion was made by K. Himly that the Persian word was of Chinese origin. 268
A note signed by a certain Muhammad Sa’id which appears in the chess manuscript published by F. M. Pareja Casañas speaks of “the well-known paper game” (li’b al-kāghid) as an example of a game of pure luck. 269 This may refer to playing cards. However, the writer of the note might possibly have lived as late as the eighteenth century, and his testimony is thus of very little use to us.
264. Cf. L. A. Mayer, Mamluk Playing Cards, ed. R. Ettinghausen and O. Kurz (Leiden 1971, The L. A. Mayer Memorial Studies I), and R. Ettinghausen, in Gatherings in Honor of D. E. Miner, 51-78 (Baltimore 1974). The word kanjifah appears on fig. 23 of Mayer's publication. The gambling story is reported in Ibn Taghrībirdī, Nujūm, anno 820/1417-8, cf. also W. Popper (Ibn Taghrī Birdī's) History of Egypt, Part III, 50 (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1957, University of California Publications in Semitic Philology 17).
265. See above, pp. 44 f. For a reference to card playing in 1527 from Bābur's Memoirs, cf. R. Caillois (ed.), Jeux et sports, 951 (Paris 1967).
266. Cf. Arabian Nights, ed. Macnaghten, II, 354 f., trans. Littmann, III 693 f. (460th to 461st nights).
267. Cf. F. Steingass, (Persian-English Dictionary,) 1098 f. (originally published in 1892). It would be very important to know the date of the earliest occurrence of ganjifah in Persian literature and to have references to passages clarifying its use. In the article cited (n. 264), R. Ettinghausen refers to Persian occurrence from the fifteenth century.
268. Cf. K. Himly, in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, XLIII (1889), 421 ff.
269. Cf. F. M. Pareja Casaflas, Libro del Ajedrez (de autor árabe desconocido) I, II, trans. II (Madrid and Granada 1935.
I complained to Franco that he left off the footnotes to to pp. 62-63 of Rosenthal's book (1975 edition), important because someone might want to read them for information relevant to the present purpose. I said I would run the page through an OCR program when I had the chance, at a local library; he replied that he happened to be by my library just after I wrote and sent me the notes. So here is Rosenthal again, with footnotes (he left me the job of putting in the diacritical markings. I don't know whether they help or hinder a web search for the works cited):