Observations on the Topkapi deck

Research continues. I managed to get thumbnail images of the cards from the Topkapi museum. They are unwilling/unable to take new photographs as I requested and suggested that I come to Istanbul to examine the cards in person. I'm working on ways to make this financially possible for me to do. The thumbnails contain some interesting information. The appearance of the card borders has changed since the photographs taken in 1970 for the 1971 publication of Ettinghausen and Kurz's article. I compared the new images to old images, courtesy of Tor Gjerde's website.

I am now convinced the borders on the face of the cards was a dyed 'pink' paper and part of the original construction of the core deck. This paper wrapped around from the back of the cards. It may be the Topkapi cards had pink backs. But there's another option. I've spoken to Dr. Soucek, the academic who arranged for the 1970 photographs to be taken, and she remembers the card backs as being blank. Possibly colored. And she thinks the paper used to make the border on the faces of the cards also formed a border on the backs rather than forming the complete back. She's checking to see if she kept any notes on the cards.

She was able to add another very important data point to our knowledge: the cards are thick and inflexible.

These details point to a construction methodology found in the more opulent Italian tarot decks and open some interesting avenues for research and speculation. The Michaelides card and one of the Keir/de Unger fragments *might* have had a similar wrap around border and some of the de Unger fragments *might* have used a multi-layer construction that used recycled paper for the core layers of the cards.

I am attempting to locate the 1970 photographs so we might better see some of these details. I have located the working papers of Dr. Richard Ettinghausen and requested access to them. I hope to be granted access and be able to travel to examine them. It's likely they do not contain any photos or negatives but I might turn up a nugget or two.

Re: Observations on the Topkapi deck

Thanks for the update on your research, VV. It sounds like you have the makings of a monograph on these cards, a much needed update and perhaps better photographs.

About the rigidity of the Italian luxury cards. I have not handled them, but I have seen a few. The Visconti-Sforza type, like at Yale, are fairly flat; I noticed no particular curvature. But when I saw the Brambilla cards at the Brera in Milan (in 2008), I was shocked at how curved they were. They had curved inward, concave on the images. Perhaps it is a matter of how they were stored, the humidity and temperature, or something in their history.

I look very much forward to anything you find out and publish.

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