My Columba puzzle, a detective story

The British Museum has a partial deck of cards here : ... 0&partId=1
of which they say:
Incomplete tarot pack with 19 of 97 playing-cards for Minchiate of Florence. ... The backs of the cards are printed with the arms apparently of Cosmo de Medici the Third. The shield is surmounted by a ducal crown, and has below the motto "Colomba". / Hand-coloured woodcut / Circa 1675 / Height: 100 millimetres Width: 58 millimetres / Bibliography: Willshire 1876 Italian 257
The Bibliotheque nationale de France has a more complete deck of cards here :
of which they say:
Title : [Jeu de minchiate à enseignes italiennes dit "alla Colomba"] : [jeu de cartes, estampe] Publisher : [Angelo Marisi ?] (Bologne ?) Publication date : 1760 ... Format : 77 cartes à jouer : gravure sur bois coloriée au pochoir ; 10,1 x 5,9 cm ... Ancien possesseur : Merlin, Romain (1793-1871). Référence bibliographique : Depaulis, Tarot 1984, 87 ... Description : Appartient à l’ensemble documentaire
Here are the Hanged Man cards of the two decks:
two hangings.PNG
two hangings.PNG (751.42 KiB) Viewed 3396 times
And here are the backs
two backs.PNG
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So the two museums have different centuries, and different cities, for what seems to be the same cards

Of the two great national museums, I find the BnF highly reliable on the whole, especially when backed by the name Depaulis, and the BM somewhat less so, especially when they rely on Mr. Willshire. One example is in these two decks: the BM calls its deck "hand-coloured woodcut," while the BnF says it is "gravure sur bois coloriée au pochoir" A pochoir is a stencil, and I think these are stenciled. However, the BM is right about the main stuff, surely: the date is not 1750. I can't tell you that these are the arms of Cosimo III in particular, but they are Medici ducal arms, and there was no Medici duke after 1737. And Bologna? First of all these are minchiate decks, and if they come from Bologna, why would they have Medici arms on them? All the same, it was just possible that Bologna made Minchiate for export to Tuscany, and put the arms of a 50 years dead duke on them to please the locals. It was just possible that these two decks were made 85 years apart. But where did the BnF get the idea these cards were made by Angelo Marisi?

The name Angelo Marisi shows up elsewhere. He is in the catalog of the Museo Fournier de naipes. I can't link you directly to items at this museum, but click this link: ... va/museo-2
then enter "Tarot boloñés" into the search box, and then look for #42013 in the page of results. This museum only shows you six cards of the deck. They say of it:
Título: Tarot boloñés / Autoría: Marisi, Angelo (Bolonia, Italia) / Técnica: Coloreado con trepas ; Xilografía / Dimensiones: 122 x 55 mm / Descripción: Esquinas cuadradas, canto tipo minchiate / Anverso: 10 O: CARTE FINE ALLA COLOMBA / Reverso: Motivos vegetales entrelazados en negro, inscripción: Alla Colomba. / Fecha: 1750
The descripción means: square corners, minchiate-type edges. (not songs, although it took me a while to figure that out). If you don't like the Spanish, you have your choice of languages: your other choice is Basque.

Here is the Bagato from Angelo Marisi's "Alla Colomba", 1750, Bologna deck, and a Bagato from another Tarocco Bolognese deck, made in Bologna, with label "Alla Torre": The Alla Torre can be found here :
two conjurers.PNG
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So it seems that someone, perhaps the ancien possesseur Romain Merlin, had in front of him a deck with the label "Colomba," and it was a minchiate deck, and had the Medici arms on it, but despite these evidences of a Tuscan origin, a minchiate composition, and a pre-1737 date, he decided that these were the Tarocco Bolognese cards with label "Alla Columba," made by Angelo Marisi, in Bologna, in 1750! This mistake has ended up in the catalog description of the BnF, with indeed a question mark after Angelo Marisi and another one after Bologna, but with not even so much as a c. before the date of 1750.


Angelo Marisi shows up in one more place that I have found so far, another deck in the Museo Fournier de naipes. Again, click this link: ... va/museo-2
but this time enter "Tarot lombardo" in the search box, and hunt for #36815 in the results:

I'm not too familiar with the name "Tarot lombardo." Perhaps it is the same as tarocco Piemontese. Unlike the tarocco Bolognese deck, for this deck, the MFn gives us a back. Here it is, showing the "Motivos vegetales entrelazados en negro." I also put in a card that has Marisi's name on it:
Lombardo cards.PNG
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Re: My Columba puzzle, a detective story

This is a very nice puzzle, Sandy! I'm sorry I have nothing better to offer your fine detective work except to point out that Depaulis' remarks in Tarot: jeu et magie can be found at the BnF Gallica site too, at ... checontact
(page in their browser is "vue 113, page 107")

In 1984 he could only surmise that the arms generically indicated the Duchy itself, not necessarily the last Medici Duke, so he placed it only before 1850. Also he ascribes it to Florence, and correctly notes the form of the name "Colomba", not "alla Colomba" for Angelo Marisi in Bologna.
Tarot: jeu et magie n° 87 (p. 107)
(178.43 KiB) Not downloaded yet
I can't offer any more insight for the moment, except to say that the presence of the name "Colomba" means to me that the BM and BnF exemplars were produced by the same cardmaker, hence around the same time, whatever it was. If we had not the name of the cardmaker/cardseller on the back, we could still say they were close in time because of the quality of the woodcut; i.e. there is no deterioration between the copies, which would be the case if the blocks were used for a century or more, as we know from the famous Conver 1760.

Re: My Columba puzzle, a detective story

Thank you.

As I expected (but didn't bother to check) Depaulis was correct on each point. So now I suppose I really ought to write an email to the BnF. Scary.

I can put it off by trying to figure out where the BM got it's early date. I shall believe it, if it is in the descriptions of each item that came with the Lady Charlotte Schreiber donation ... u_djvu.txt
but that source does not always give the reasons for its claims.

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