Earliest order of the triumphs

#1
I have been persuaded by the material found primarily in Kaplan and Dummett that the earliest order of the Triumphs was likely that which the earliest extant evidence (in my eyes, at least) points to, as per below. Most tarot enthusiasts do not identify the tarot with this hierarchical order, found in the 15th century in the eastern Italian territories of Ferrara and Venice.

I would like to discuss historical evidence that points to the earliest order of the triumphs. I am not a card historian, and do not have access to the reference works needed to cite the documents that will be discussed here (I am currently in Wellington, New Zealand, which has limited library resources, and I personally have only a handful of books with me), but perhaps others are and do have.

Here is my boiled-down take on the subject:

The earliest recorded description to name the whole set of 22 cards is found in an anonymous sermon against gaming (Sermones de ludo cum aliis or Sermons of games with dice) written by a Dominican friar. The manuscript has been dated to between 1450 and 1480. Published by Robert Steele in 1900, it now resides at the Cincinnati Museum of Art. The 22 cards mentioned in the Friar’s description were listed in a precise order.

Of the 15th century cards in existence, two packs are numbered: the one in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in Budapest’s Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Rosenwald Collection deck residing in Washington’s National Gallery of Art. Both are woodblock sheets that are apparently difficult to precisely date. The Metropolitan deck is commonly dated circa 1500.

Two other decks from this time had numerals written on them after their printing. It is also quite possible that the Metropolitan Triumphs were copied from an original deck that had numbers later drawn on them. There also exist seven numbered Triumphs from a 16th century pack housed in the Leber Collection of the Bibliothèque Municipale at Rouen, France. The Rouen cards are numbered with Arabic numerals.

There remain extant several poems composed prior to 1600 detailing people of the court playing Tarocchi. From these, historians have made lists of the Triumphs’ names. Two of the poems list the Triumphs in an order. The earlier of the two dates from around 1550, the later from the second half of the same century. These are generally referred to respectively as the Bertoni and Susio poems. The Trionfi were also listed in a manuscript from the late 1500’s by Tomaso Garzoni entitled Piazza Universale.

This quick synopsis points to the fact there exist only a handful of early attestations informing us of the names and order of the original triumphs. Three out of the four early literary references, including by far the oldest – the Steele manuscript – list orders that correlate with the Metropolitan deck. The Rosenwald deck is evidently aligned with several non-standard decks appearing later in time. The order of those decks is not affirmed by any early literary source. It seems to me that it is quite possible, given the evidence, that the Rosenwald deck was created in the 16th century.

So cutting to the chase, I see three similar orders that evidently were the earliest (apologies for the lack of tabbed formatting...I can't seem to get it to work):

Steele MS Metro & Rouen Bertoni & Garzoni

21. World World World
20. Justice Justice Justice
19. Angel Angel Angel
18. Sun Sun Sun
17. Moon Moon Moon
16. Star Star Star
15. Tower Tower Tower
14. Devil Devil Devil
13. Death Death Death
12. Hanged Man Hanged Man Hanged Man
11. Hunchback Hunchback Hunchback
10. Wheel Wheel Wheel
9. Fortitude Fortitude Fortitude
8. Chariot Love Love
7. Love Chariot Chariot
6. Temperance Temperance Temperance
5. Pope Pope Pope
4. Popess Emperor Popess
3. Emperor Popess Emperor
2. Empress Empress Empress
1. Magician Magician Magician
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#2
Psykees wrote:The earliest recorded description to name the whole set of 22 cards is found in an anonymous sermon against gaming (Sermones de ludo cum aliis or Sermons of games with dice) written by a Dominican friar. The manuscript has been dated to between 1450 and 1480. Published by Robert Steele in 1900, it now resides at the Cincinnati Museum of Art. The 22 cards mentioned in the Friar’s description were listed in a precise order. ..

There remain extant several poems composed prior to 1600 detailing people of the court playing Tarocchi. From these, historians have made lists of the Triumphs’ names. Two of the poems list the Triumphs in an order. The earlier of the two dates from around 1550, the later from the second half of the same century. These are generally referred to respectively as the Bertoni and Susio poems. The Trionfi were also listed in a manuscript from the late 1500’s by Tomaso Garzoni entitled Piazza Universale.
Some related links:

http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Sermones ... _Cum_Aliis

http://www.tarock.info/bertoni.htm

http://www.tarothermit.com/ordering.htm

Ross also has some very interesting discussions on the ordering of the trumps over at Aeclectic.

SteveM
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#3
I would personally of course really welcome Ross Caldwell's comments on this as well!

As mentioned in various places including the tarothermit link previously given by Steve M., various minor differences arise in the ordering found.

I look forward to seeing the development of the significance Psykees makes of the ordering from the Steele MS. Of course, in most places, the Tarot de Marseille replicates the same order, yet it is in those significant differences that insights may be gained, and questions arise as to why, for example, the Bolognese and Tarot de Marseille patterns vary from it.

In Psykees's list, the missing card of Fou is, of course, placed before the World in the Steele Sermon ('before' as in the table ordering, ie, as 22nd, though numbered '0').

The interchanges of Popess and Empress may be variously explained. I suppose, however, that it is in the placement of Temperance as sixth; Force as ninth; Hermit as eleventh, and Justice as twentieth that far more interesting commentary may arise.

... and so look forward to seeing what is to be made of this order.
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association.tarotstudies.org

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#4
Psykees, thanks for bringing up this topic!

I think this might prove very interesting because I think we would now have advocates for each of the different orders.

In the past, Michael has expressed a design elegance to the Tarot de Marseille that has inclined him to consider it particularly interesting.

Last I checked, both Ross and I liked the Southern pattern. I'm fond of having the Virtues grouped together.

I find the Eastern pattern hard because of the placement of Justice so close to the end. Certainly, Archangel Michael comes to mind when I consider the placement of the card here. It's pretty common to have him associated with the weighing of souls at the last judgement, which puts him in the right place for that type of thinking. Yet, Justice is always a woman that I can think of, a Virtue rather than an Archangel.

I don't have much to offer this conversation, but certainly look forward to exploring the ideas with everyone.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#5
Excellent links, Steve. Two aspects I find most interesting regarding the Steele MS:

a. the game of cards is separated from the game of triumphs
b. the impassioned monk refers to the Divine or Golden Ladder (as it was known since Homer's time), but declares that it reaches into Hell: The 21 triumphs are in fact the 21 steps of a ladder that take one to the depths below.

Given Franciscan embrace of Neoplatonism compared to the Dominicans' historical position
(http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/3q.htm), the monk's referencing of the Divine Ladder (made famous by Eastern Christiandom's most popular non-biblical book, John Climacus' Ladder of Divine Ascent), one imagines that the monk was either a Dominican sarcastically remarking on a fad of the time carrying Franciscan intellectual underpinnings or was a Franciscan upset with its sacred theosophy being seriously misappropriated.

I note that the monk wasn't compelled to decry the inclusion of a Popess along with his mention of other triumphs being mis-placed or wrongfully included in this hierarchical 'game system.' The monk comments, parenthetically, O wretches, she who denies Christian Faith following the listing of the Papessa. I would suggest that either the concept of the Pope having a comparably respected female partner was sufficiently 'accepted ' even if criticized by this otherwise orthodox Italian monk or the monk was aware that the triumphs conceptually referred to the Eastern Papessa, partner of the head bishop of the Greek Church. The latter seems more likely, and I will offer reasons for that as I have opportunity to post further (preferably in a more appropriate topic, however).

Back to the order, it seems to me that documented evidence points to the Ferrara/Venice order as a good foundation to build a body of research regarding possible influences upon the triumphs names and hierarchy.

Based upon that evidence, I think it of interest to explore the relationship between Ferrara and Venice during a period when Venice was warring with Milan in Northern Italy and Milan was trying to intercourse with the Ferranese court. Tied to this is Venetian involvement with playing card printing and imports from Alexandria, Ferrara's hosting of the East-West ecumenical council of churches in 1438, and Venice's long-time relationship with Byzantium.
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#6
Hi everybody, nice to meet you Dai.

The Steele Sermon is certainly Franciscan. Ronald Decker wrote us on LTarot in 2004 that the volume of sermons, all written in the same hand, contains one on the Stigmata of St. Francis, which convinced him the author was a Franciscan.

Subsequently, Thierry Depaulis discovered what appears to a source for the Dice part of the Steele Sermon, among sermons by the Franciscan St. James of the Marches (c. 1460). The Steele Sermon author has added the second and third games - on cards, and triumphs. St. James does not mention the "ladder to hell" in his dice part, but Steele's author does, and in fact draws a parallel between the 21 steps of the dice and triumphs. He says of points of the die that "These 21 points are indeed the steps of one ladder going down to hell" (Qui quidem puncti 21 sunt gradus unius scale descendentis in inferum). Of triumphs he says "These are the 21 triumphs which are another 21 steps on a ladder sending into the depths of Hell "(Sunt enim 21 triumphi qui 21 gradus alterius scale in profundum inferi mittentis). (I have emphasized "one...another" (unius... alterius) to make the point.)
(for more on this with the text of James' sermon in parallel columns with the Steele Sermon, see Thierry Depaulis, "Early Italian Lists of Tarot Trumps" in The Playing Card, vol. 36 no. 1 (July-Sept 2007), pp. 39-50)

Just to make it even more certain that it is a Franciscan writing, the sermon follows a scheme invented (it seems) by the Franciscan St. Bernardino of Siena, in which the sermon against games is prefaced by a story of how the Devil calls together his minions and tells them that he is going to undermine the Church's rites by inventing games that will parody them. The 21 points of the die are the 21 "points" in the missal of Christ (letters of the alphabet), the names of the points are games which are the names of demons, the three dice are the three liturgical books, cards are the pictures on the altar, the tavern is the church, etc. (with variations and amplifications). Bernardino scholars call this story "the Diabolic Liturgy."

While Bernardino seems to have invented this point-by-point liturgical-ludic comparison, both Franciscan and Dominicans later took it up and developed it differently. The Franciscans like James of the Marches and the Steele author stayed very close to Bernardino, giving names of games as names of demons which correspond to the points on each of the six sides of the die. The Dominicans, starting with Meister Ingold (1432) in Germany and St. Antonino of Florence (Archbishop) in the 1450s, used the 21 points as an alphabetic mnemonic for the sins of gaming, with the names of sins caused by games given in alphabetic order.

So two parallel streams developed from Bernardino's original formula, one in his own order and one in the Dominican order. The Steele Sermon fits the pattern of Franciscan sermons on games, so from this also it appears certain that it was written by a Franciscan.
(see my long Aecletic Tarot post "The number 21 and the Tarot Trumps" for a detailed presentation of the case -
http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php? ... ostcount=1 )

Sorry about all that... now maybe I can get around to talking about *my* opinion of the earliest trump order!

Ross
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Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#8
During the 13th-15th centuries, Franciscan involvement with diplomacy (in terms of religious beliefs, war, and cultural exchange) between Western and Eastern Churches was matched only by that of Venetians (whose involvement also included money and trade). How this bears upon the emergence of a triumphant game and the intellectual significance of an embedded hierarchy of archetypal [from Latin archetypum from Greek arkhetupon, from neuter of arkhetupos original arkhe-, arkhi- archi- tupos model, stamp], spiritual, and philosophical icons is a subject that imo warrants discussion. I'll start up a topic about the 1438 Council of Ferrara, which can serve as a focal point for that.

That may also have bearing upon what will no doubt be a compelling topic down the line: the philosophical differences and similarities between Neo-Platonism & Neo-Pythagoreanism.

Re variations in tarot orders as mentioned by jmd, it would appear that the placement of Justice singularly stands out. After addressing some of the history mentioned above, I will enjoy sharing some thoughts and research regarding that.
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#9
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:... now maybe I can get around to talking about *my* opinion of the earliest trump order!

Ross
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts Ross. I'm particularly interested in knowing if you think the Southern order is older, and also if you have thoughts that it might be from Florence (based on other discussions about Bologna)?
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Earliest order of the triumphs

#10
le pendu wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:... now maybe I can get around to talking about *my* opinion of the earliest trump order!

Ross
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts Ross. I'm particularly interested in knowing if you think the Southern order is older, and also if you have thoughts that it might be from Florence (based on other discussions about Bologna)?
I'll love to do it more fully later - today is May Day, so in much of Europe a big holiday and the official start of the vacation season - and most people are "making the bridge" (taking Friday off too) as well, so it's a four-day weekend... hence - I've a lot of socializing to do (sigh - I'd rather be a hermit, but for the grace of God go I).

Now, just before my first luncheon, I *do* think the A-southern types are the earliest, but which one? It depends on how I read the meaning of the Chariot, by its placement. If Bologna, it has to be like in Tarot de Marseille, just after Love. If Florence, it should be in one of two places - either just before the Wheel of Fortune, or just after. Each placement would change the meaning drastically - perhaps for the whole series.

If the first, just before the Wheel, I read it like "Pride (or even the most Virtuous/Just) goeth before a fall".
If the latter, then it might be "The most virtuous can even master Fortune" (but not Time, Treachery and Death, of course).

Both readings can be supported with literary evidence. So for me, the question can not be settled by the placement of the Chariot alone, but we have to argue historically as well as by interpreting the various sequences of this family.

I suppose I still waver occasionally between Milan, Florence and Bologna for the "Ur-Tarot" order. The more I contemplate Filippo Maria Visconti (personality, education), the more it seems like he could have designed this new game. But can this scenario explain the popularization of the game, which happened during the 1440s?

hmmm... sorry for the disorganized nature of these thoughts, but I gotta run!

Happy May Day!

Ross
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