15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

Perhaps no one is interested in this issue except me, but I have been struck by the parallels between the imagery of the Sola-Busca pips, c. 1491, and a 4th century Greek text known as the Theologoumena Arithmeticae (translated into English by Robin Waterfield as Theology of Arithmetic). In fact, I was so struck that I devoted a rather long series of posts in the Unicorn Terrace to these parallels, which seem to me consistent and thoroughgoing.

i was operating under the unspoken assumption that this text was actually available in 1480s Venice. But at the time I was too busy expounding my theory--before I forgot it--to examine the question. I am not one to let the absence of facts stand in the way of my theorizing!

Now, however, my theory is posted and I have researched the question: how accessible was the Theology of Arithmetic in Northeastern Italy of the late 15th century? Since others (on ATF and elsewhere) have applied the Theology to the tarot pips as well--although not as far back as 1491--this research may be of relevance to more than the Sola-Busca.

The 1988 English translation gives absolutely no information about the history of the manuscripts on which the Greek text it used was based. So I looked mightily for references by 15th or 16th century writers. I found none, but I did see a mention in Christiane Joost-Gaugier's Pythagoras and Renaissance Europe: Finding Heaven. She says,
Bessarion owned a Theology of Arithmetic, possibly that today associated with Iamblichus. (p. 246)

In a footnote she correctly notes that the author is normally cited as "Pseudo-Iamblichus." And
Though this text is preserved in the corpus of works of the famous Pythagorean Iamblichus, its author is not known.(p. 300).

Bessarion, she observes, willed his library to the Republic of Venice, which made inventories of it in 1468, 1474, and again in 1526. (The library was shipped in two installments, one before and one after his November 1472 death.) But was this the Theology of Arithmetic that I wanted? And would it have been accessible to designers of tarot cards? I needed to dig further. Joost-Gauthier gives three references: Henri Omont, "Inventaire des manuscrits grec et latins donnes a Saint Marc de Venise par le Cardinal Bessarion," Revue des Bibliotheques, IV, 1894, 129-187; Elpidia Mioni, "Bessarione bibliofilio e fililogio," Revista di Studi Bezantini e Neoellenici, n.s. 5 (XV), 1968, 61-83; and Lotte Lobowsky, Bessarion's Library and the Biblioteca Marciana: Six Early Inventories, Rome 1979. I decided to try Lobowsky, since it was in English.


Joost-Gauthier gives no page number for her Lobowsky citation. In Lobowsky's index, I found three listings for Iamblichus, all in the 1474 inventory
25. Iamblici in epistolam Porphrii, in permagamenis.
57. Iamblici de secta Pythagorae, in peramenis.
533. Iamblici de secta pythagorearum libri quatuor, et eiusdem in epistola Porphyrii, et expositio Hieroclei in carmina Pythagorae aurea, in pergameno.
None of these would seem to be the Theology of Arithmetic.

So I tried "arithmetic." There are two references to an "expositio in arithmeticam," by an "Esculapii Tralani" (61) or "Asclepi" (570), and nine for Nichomachus Gerasenus. The first one said:
26. Porphyrii dialogus in praedicamenta Aristotelis et dialogum et arithmeticam theoligicam, in pergamenis.
No mention of either Nichomachus or Iamblichus. But at least we have "arithmeticam theologicam." The others are
94. Rhetorica Hermogenis, arithmetica Nichomachi, geometriae libri sex, et geodesia, in papiris.
99. Cleomedis, tabulae persica, Criosine, arithmetica, et imagines Philostrati, in papiris.
115. Arithmetica Nichomachi, Arati fenomina, Cleomedis, et sex libri geometiae, in papiris.
116. Arithmetica Nicomachi in Philoponum, in papiris.
117. Clemedis cum expositione et arithmetica cum expositione Philoponi, in papiris.
681. Arithmetica Nicomachi, Sophiclis tragoedia una, in grammatia plurima, heroica Philostrati, et icones iusdem, Maximi philosophi orationes, Homeri duo libri priores cum expositione technologiae, et alia diversa, in papiro.
683. Magni Logotheti, et sintaxis Ptolomei, et arithmetica, in papiro.
978. Arithmetica Nicomachi, in papiro.
None of these looks promising, because there is no "theologicum" along with the "arithmetica." Nichomachus's Arithmetic is just that, a primer on arithmetic, or more properly, what today would be called number theory. But one never knows what someone might have called something for inventory purposes. Item 26 remains the most likely.


For my next attempt to track down the manuscript, I tried the printed edition of the work prepared by Victorius de Falco in 1922. Here I got an answer, I think; but it's in Latin, not a language I'm comfortable in. So I include a scan of the first two pages of de Falco's Preface at the end of this post, in case I have misunderstood.

Codex M, the first in de Falco's list, is "olim Bessarioneus"--formerly Bessarion's, "nunc in Biblitheca Veneta S. Marci 234, membr., saec XV in., ff. 162, cm. 18 5x12..." I.e., it is now in the Bibliotheca Veneta S. Marci, i.e. the Marciana. the library of which Bessarion's donation formed the initial nucleus; and the manuscript is of the 15th century.

So I have part of my answer. The Theology was there in Venice, from 1474 on, as part of Bessarion's donation.

It seems, from my reading of de Falco, that Bessarion's copy spawned six other extant manuscript copies. In the Laurentian Library, Florence, is the "Laurentianus gr. XXX pl. 71" (L), which contains annotations by Angelo Politiano, according to Bandinio. So apparently Politiano got a copy somehow, perhaps by way of Bessarion earlier. Another copy of M is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, the "Parisinus gr. 1943" (P). There are also two in Naples: "Neopolitanus gr. III C 8" (B), copied from L; and "Neapolitanus Gr. III C 7" (N), copied from an unknown manuscript that was similar to L. (See diagram below.) Another manuscript is "Magliabechianus gr. 14" (F), copied from N; the collection is named for a 17th century collector and is in Florence. Last is the "Codum Escurialensum Sigma III1" (Sigma), at the Escorial near Madrid, which de Falco did not examine because it was taken from the first print version, Paris 1543, based on P. (I get the manuscript names from de Falco; I get where these collections are located from the Internet.)

There are also two defective manuscripts not derived from Bessarion's at all, and which apparently date from the 14th century. These are the "Mutinensis 90 (III C 11)" (E), which I think is now part of the d'Este Library in Modena; and the "Ambrosianus gr. 780 (Et 157 sup.)" (A), in Milan. E and A are derived from a common source. Bessarion's manuscript is not derived from that one, however, but from an intermediary; E and A are derived from another intermediary. Here is what the relationships look like in diagram form (de Falco p. xii). Below that I have put de Falco's list of abbreviations for manuscripts he consulted, from just before the beginning of the Greek text. It gives all eight of the sources he used plus the previous printed versions and his abbreviations for combined sources.



As I have said, it appears that A and E are 14th century. M, L, and N are 15th century, while P and F are 16th century; and B is "XV ex. vel XVI in.," which I think means either 15th or 16th century. The dates 1543, 1817, and 1897 refer to printed versions; the 1543 was edited by Chrestien Wechel and published in Paris. It has Iamblichus as the author. The 1817 was edited by Friedrich Ast, and the 1897 by Ermenegildo Pistelli, both published in Leipzig (indicated by its Latin name, Lipsiae). I get these details from WorldCat. The de Falco 1922 is also Lipsiae/Leipzig.

So we know from de Falco that the manuscript was in Venice in the 1480s. Not only that, but good copies were in other places during the 15th century: with Politiano in Florence, and one in Naples. Now the question is, how accessible were these manuscripts? Well, I will stick to just Venice.


Labowsky gives usable information about how Bessarion's manuscripts were kept in those years, the 1480s, and their availability to scholars.

As a condition of the donation, Venice promised in writing to Bessarion that they would give them a special building and adequate funding to keep the manuscripts both safe and available to as many readers as possible (Labowsky p. 27).

After arriving, the chests of manuscripts were stacked up in the Sala Novissima of the Doge's palace, Labowsky says. A rudimentary system of identifying manuscripts by box number or letter was set up, although sometimes the number was just the number of manuscripts in that box. There was some sort of record of who checked out books; but the evidence today is just of books that could not subsequently be found, either because they weren't returned or because they were misfiled. Given the substantial number of such entries, Labowsky concludes that
Such as it is, the evidence shows that, almost immediately after the arrival of the consignment in 1474, books from it were taken out on loan--a sign that, at least in certain circles, there was a lively interest in the libri Nicaeni. (p. 57)
And so it went, until a "conflagration" in 1483 destroyed the old part of the Palazzo. The books were unharmed, but their quarters were now needed for the civil court. In what follows, bear in mind that we are talking about the greatest collection of Greek manuscripts ever seen in the West, along with one of the finest group of Latin ones.
...it was therefore decided in the Collegio that, under the supervision of the Procuratori, the boxes containing Bessario's donation should be placed at one end of the hall, "one on top of the other, fitted tightly and closely together, so as to take up as little room as possible", and that a strong wooden wall should partition off this space from the rest of the room in order to protect the Library from theft (footnote: Lobowsky document VI, p. 127). In these conditions the books were to remain for the next forty years.

It is obvious that the manner in which the books were being stored, especially after 1485, made it impossible for the Library to be properly 'governed'. The room where they were being kept had no facilities for reading or copying manuscripts; the only method of consulting them was borrowing. To this inconvenience we have to add the drawbacks deriving from a lack of unified authority and any professional method of library administration. According to an unconfirmed tradition one of the procuratori was, in the early years of its existence, always supposed to be specially concerned with the libri Nicaeni as Bibliothecarius Sancti Marci, but there is no evidence that either of the two patricians said to have borne this title were actively engaged in the running of the Library (footnote to Lobowsky's Document VI; also Apostolo Zeno, Marci Antonii Coccii Sabellici Vita, 1718, and Morelli, loc. cit.cap. VII). Nor is there evidence that any administrative activity was exercised by their successor Marcantonio Cosso Sibellico, the distinguished humanist then resident in Venice, who was the first to combine the office of Librarian with the function of Historiographer of the Republic (footnote to Zeno and Morelli). Such evidence as we have shows that the Library was until 1516 the collective responsibility of the Procuratori di supra. We have noted above in some of the codices Marciani traces of a rudimentary system for the registration of loans, and the list of 'libri non restituidi', covering the period of 1474-1493, presupposes records from which it was excerpted. These were kept by the officials of the Cancelleria inferiore, who dealt with them among the other business of the Procuratia. (Footnote to books about the hierarchies of Venetian administration.)

The list of unreturned books also shows a flagrant disregard of the conditions laid down by Bessarion in the Act of Donation and sanctioned in the papal Bull attached to it: (1) With the authorization of the Signoria a codex was dispatched to a papal secretary in Rome, and (2) no deposit seems to have been taken for any of the books mentioned. (p. 59f)
I have not yet located in previous footnotes the book by Morelli. In 1530, Pietro Bembo was appointed librarian, and things started to change. In 1559-1565, the codices finally moved to their new, handsome quarters across the Piazza San Marco, and the terms of Bessarion's bequest were fulfilled.

So how easy would it have been in the 1480s to check the Theology out for an extended period of time? Lobowsky says
Both the complaints about the loss of books and the records of loans from the period before 1531, i.e. when the books were still being kept in their chests, are evidence, that at the end of the fifteenth century and during the first third of the sixteenth, Venetian noblemen and citizens, as well as teachers at the university of Padua and favoured foreign residents in Venice, were able to use Bessarion's books, though the ease and speed with which loans could be obtained probably varied very much in different cases (Footnote refers us to Lobowsky p. 100, which gives the book by Morelli). Foreign visitors who wished to browse among the collection evidently had difficulties in being allowed access to it, such as Politiano and Pico experienced during their visit to Venice in 1491, in spite of their excellent connections in the city and the efforts of their friends.(Lobowsky p. 62f)

For this last, she cites G. Presenti, "Diario Odeporico-Bibliogrifico ineditito del Poliziano" and Poliziano's letter to Lorenzo de' Medici from Venice, 20 June 1491. Politiano and Pico were denied access, Labowsky reports--perhaps more out of embarrassment and apprehension regarding how the books were being kept than anything else.

My tentative conclusion is that Bessarion's library did have a copy of the Theology of Arithmetic, arriving in Venice by 1474 and readily available to interested Greek-reading residents, one of whom might have created the program for the Sola-Busca pips. Also, if Politiano had a copy in Florence, there is an outside chance that he played a role.

It is also interesting that after a certain amount of high-level interest in the Theology, the bottom seems to have dropped out of the market. The first printed edition (in Greek) was in 1453 Paris. After that there was nothing, except for a manuscript copy made for the Escorial in 1469, until the next printed edition of 1817.

In any case, as a new ancient text acquired by Bessarion, the Theologoumena Arithmeticae evoked some interest, enough that a few people were willing to pay to have it copied. And since it was in Venice and readily obtainable on loan, I feel more confident now that it was the inspiration for the Sola-Busca pips. There remain the questions of (a) what we can infer from the 14th century manuscripts about the availability of the text before Bessarion, and (b) the text's influence on the interpretation of pip cards and on cartomancy after the Sola-Busca but before 1817. I will defer these issues.


If it is any help, here is my transcription of the first two pages of de Falco's Preface, minus the Greek and the footnotes. I will spare you Google's "translation." (If you want it, just ask.) The scans follow.
De Arithmeticae Theologoumenorum codicibus perbreviter H. Pistelli unus disseruit, qui praeter libros manu scriptos quinque, quos novit, alios quosdam exstare coniecit. Hi vero, quod sciam, novem sunt, de quibus disserendum nunc censeo.

Cod. olim Bessarioneus (f. 1v, 4...), nunc in Bibliotheca Veneta s. Marci 234, memb. saec. XV in., ff. 162, cm. 18, 5x12, y. continet: ... f.1, f.83, ff. 79v, 80-82, 132v, 157v-162 vacc. Codicem hunc, Laurentianum et Parisinum descripsit Ricardus Foerster.

Laurientanus gr. XXX pl 71 (cf. Bandini III 14 sq.), membr., ff. 174, in ff. 1r et 152 adnotatiunculas quae, Bandinio teste, Angeli Politiani sunt, exhibens, actatis paullo scripturae, eadem eodem ordine quae Marcianus ipse continet; ... f.2, ... f. 92, ... f. 145, ff. 1v 90-91, 174 vacc.

Praeter haec indicia consanguinitatis inter L et M, ambo in omnibus fere lectionibus its congruunt, ut dubitari non possit quin alter ab altero pendeat. Interdum tamen librarius codicis L vitiose verba transscripsit vel quod litterae in M nimis artae et obscurae sunt vel sua ipsius neglegentia; cf. e. gr. p. 9, 9 ... M (litterae ios tam stipatae ut facile iai lectori parum attento videantur) ...

Parisinus gr. 1943 olem CCCCCLII 484, 21127, chart, saec. XVI, ff. 256 continet:.... Codicem hunc Venetiis exaratum esse demonstravit R. Foerster. Plurimis locis Parisinus a Marciano dissentit, set semper, ut primo obtutu patet, merea neglegentia atque scribae ignorantia.

Alteram manum correcticem passus est hic codex, quem inspicere non potui, quod qui Bibliothecae Parisinae praesunt eum exportari vetnerunt; in usum meum contulit Henricus Lebegue, cui maximas gratias ago.

Neapolitanus gr. III C 8 (cf. Cyrill. II 352), chart., saec. XV ex. vel XVI in., cm 16, 4x11, 2, ff. 173 immo 174 nam fol. 40 bis num., in quaterniones divisus, continet:...


Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

hi Mike,

you did considerable, admirable work to clear this rather specific question, but ... why?

Number ideas connected to playing cards should have been present at the begin of playing card development, and likely also in connection to trump series, not only to number cards.
That these ideas became likely "refined" in the early time of book printing "generally" and especially by the raising influence of Spanish kabbala, is probably not doubted ... for instance we have the Mantegna Tarocchi as a specific example of an admiration of the system based on "10" ... which then likely is not really "Kabbala", but just also Christian number speculation.

I don't understand your reason, or better expressed, I would assume, as far the general topic "Tarot history" is concerned you're somehow "overconcentrated".
Somehow I feel, that you're a little lost in the world of the art research (not, that this is totally "wrong", I'm happy, that we have such a competent talking partner, and I admire and personally profit from your quality, that you've obviously access of a very art good history library and the patience and energy to work with it. Let's take an example:


You note to this cards:
In Batons, we see a corpulant, nude middle-aged man looking off into the distance. His batons form an X; this is a typical formation of batons in the Twos; but it also acts as a barrier keeping him from going further. He has separated from the One, the ideal, and feels the anguish of that separation, from which he cannot by his own efforts return. It is like Adam and Eve banished from Eden ...
I miss a word about the obvious and trivial observation, that this person has astronomical testicles and a very small penis. I actually have the suspicion, that you overlooked the testicles, somehow "drowned" in art history vocabulary and the things, which are allowed in these circles. Please correct me, if I'm wrong.

This Sola-Busca deck is - "a little bit" would be an understatement - sex-possessed and I would assume, for a good part homosexually inspired, just my humble opinion, whereby I respect the interpretation, that it is "hidden" or was intended to be "hidden", although we don't know to which degree this deck was "public" or "private". Homosexuality alias "sodomy" is definitely a factor in this time ... I would recommend the web writer Giovanni dall'Orto (see at "Google search-engine") on this topic.

"Private decks" with no sexual limitations had been always a dimension of playing cards, in the last century of the recent millennium, nowadays and earlier. The different productions are naturally not very well recorded. The fragmented Alessandro-Sforza version of the Charles-VI deck (I think, that one could call it so) might be such a deck.

A deck with a great philosophical context is definitely Thomas Murner's version to teach logic, but I wouldn't count the erotic Sola-Busca in this category.


Definitely the early Trionfi cards had a "games-for-ladies-dimension", but surely there was also an "only men" world of cards.

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

Thanks for engaging with me on the general issue of the Sola-Busca pips in relation to the "Theology of Arithmetic,"
Huck. I will think seriously about your comments.

I don't think my approach to the Sola-Busca is art-historical: it's philosophical--specifically, the philosophical perspective known as Neopythagoreanism, as spelled out in the Theology of Arithmetic. That's why finding out about the actual physical text was important.

To me the homo-eroticism or even generic eroticism of the Sola-Busca is incidental, for the purposes of tarot history. It is useful to know about the eroticism, so as to place it in a milieu, somewhere between Marco Zoppo's homo-eroticism and Giulio Romano's hetero-eroticism. If I were to emphasize the eroticism, that would be an over-emphasis on the art-historical aspect. I am not doing that at all, obviously. I am emphasizing the philosophical ideas that the SB happens to express in a homo-erotic and also "grotesque" way. It is the expression of those ideas in the tarot that interests me.

To me it is not necessary to comment on the testicles specifically. It is enough to say that he is corpulent (as I said in my next post, after Debra made your objection to my analysis, viewtopic.php?f=12&t=530&start=10#p7919). The philosophical idea being expressed is that the Two is the number of matter, in the Greek sense in which matter is opposed to form.

But perhaps now I can say more: the separating of form from matter, matter's losing of form, is what results in the grotesque. I have just begun to think of the SB in terms of the late 15th-16th century grotesque (thanks to your posting of the Torrechiara images!). For example, are the even numbered (feminine) cards more grotesque than the odd (masculine) ones? (I haven't looked; I am merely extending the example). If so, that might be an expression of homo-eroticism (or misogyny); but it also might be an expression of a philosophical idea, stemming from a certain Greek (perhaps misogynist) conception of the cosmos. It is the latter, in its specifically Neopythagorean form, that interests me, as someone engaged in tarot history, because I see it expressed in the tarot across centuries: e.g. the SB, the "Etteilla" word-lists, and the contribution of number-symbolism to the "Marseille" trumps . Even the tiny penis (or penis hidden in the folds of fat) is interesting mainly as an expression of a philosophical idea: without the penis, the sexual apparatus is an expression of twoness. It is as an expression of philosophical ideas, reflected in other tarot phenomena, that the Sola-Busca has its main interest, apart from being an odd deck for a specialized clientele.

And then--and here the testicles come back again--we can look to a psychological bias that might lurk behind the philosophical idea: a misogyny that conceives of the female as something in need of limits from the male, and as an incomplete male (e.g. Freud). So we can look at the fat hiding the penis operating as a kind of reverse dildo for homo-erotic purposes, since it is the reduction to twoness that changes the masculine three (and One, in Christian imagery) to the feminine two. Whether going that far, while fodder for the art historian, serves the purposes of tarot history, I do not know. Perhaps so. But it is only once the philosophical context has been articulated that the testicles have a place in that history, that I can see.

Or maybe you have something else to say about the testicles, from a tarot-history point of view. I am all ears.

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

mikeh wrote: To me it is not necessary to comment on the testicles specifically. It is enough to say that he is corpulent (as I said in my next post, after Debra made your objection to my analysis, viewtopic.php?f=12&t=530&start=10#p7919). The philosophical idea being expressed is that the Two is the number of matter, in the Greek sense in which matter is opposed to form.
Sorry, I overlooked this earlier written statement. You've written a lot in this topic ...
Or maybe you have something else to say about the testicles, from a tarot-history point of view. I am all ears.
No, I've not .... :-) ... I prefer to see your Sola-Busca exploration with some distance.

Let me state my confidence, that it's VERY useful in research, when persons with different background and different strong talents (naturally also different weaknesses) work together and cooperate, so it's somehow a basic law to accept the other in his different conditions ... the result will be progress for both sides.
My focus is definitely not very much on iconography or art history, but more on structural elements of games and on general biography of connected persons and a strong observation of time (I've a strong sense for numbers, for instance numbers of years in combination with events ... well, not naturally in the sense of a "theology of arithmetic" as you understand it).

Alright, the Sola-Busca ... did you read, what I wrote some time ago at ...

http://tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t= ... ail+helmet

... especially the last post?

This comes to the conclusion, that Sola-Busca in Ferrara is correct, in 1491, likely accompanying the wedding of Alfonso d'Este and Anna Sforza. After the wedding there was a journey to Venice, which possibly produced the detail of the year 1491, which appears only at colored cards, not the engravings itself.
It doesn't really look like a wedding deck, of course.
It looks like something, which accompanied the Ferrarese festivity culture of the years 1487-93 "in the background".

At the territory of Venice we find three allowances of Trionfi cards in 1488, 1489 and 1491. I think, that Trionfi cards before were NOT in Venice and its territory (beside the few events initiated by Iacopo Antonio Marcello). Venice had in the critical "reception" time war with Milan till 1454, then war with the Osmans 1463-79 and war with Ferrara 1482-84. War and Trionfi cards and Trionfi habits (public celebrations) were not suitable for the Venetian republic. The Venetian idea of the world was, that the ruler (the Doge) stayed under control of the community, no single triumphator was desired (that's what one might conclude from it, not really proven fact; proven fact is only, that one cannot point to Venetian Trionfi cards and Trionfi habits before a specific time ... around 1485/1488). Possibly the talks between Ercole d'Este and Venetian officials in 1485 and later opened the Venetian behavior.

Ercole d'Este got tremendous effects by producing theater shows in a desperate financial situation after the war.

Theater was made by male actors, also for female roles. The situation naturally generated some homosexual erotic (naturally: under the surface). Before theater had been already manifested in Rome, which already in 1469 had its partly homosexual scandal around the habits in the Accademia Romana. These many male priests in Rome, which weren't allowed to marry ... knowing something about life and sexuality, one has only to count with three fingers.

1. Rome, ca. 1474/75, production of the copperplate engraving Mantegna Tarocchi
2. Ferrara 1491, production of the Sola Busca, another copperplate engraving

It seems clear, that copperplate engravings had better chances to survive than playing cards. From both "decks" we have much than only one example, very much from Mantegna Tarocchi, from which it was never found as a deck, and a few of the Sola Busca (btw. from the deck of the Master of the playing cards there is, as I've read, only one playing card ... but it doubtless are "playing cards"; so actually the known condition of the Mantegna Tarocchi stays simply at the point, that "a use as playing cards couldn't been proven" ::: :-)).

Also from the Master PW deck and others in Germany there is often more than one example. The chances, that we know a good part of such productions, is relative great, quite different to the chances, that playing cards survived.

Somehow this "seldom used feature" of copperplate engraving in objects similar to Trionfi cards connects both productions ... at least I researched a little bit this line, having the fantasy, that a person connected to Rome in the mid 1470's appeared in Ferrara at begin of the 1490's. I was triggered then by the appearance a Pamfilus near Lazzarelli, and the Panfilio at the Sola Busca card for the Magician.

Lazzarelli, "Fasti": a few poets of the Accademia Romana, which somehow had been in 1479 in Rome, contributed poems to the edition. This is a summary about one of them, "Pamphilus" is naturally a sort of preudonym.
Pamphilus: Temporis o nostri uates clarissime carmen/ Hoc nostrum expleto perlege iudicio/...Hinc tibi fama decus nummi noua gloria surget / Sic tu defunctus nomine uiuus eris. [10 verses]

I found a rather open homosexually oriented Panfilo Sassi (1455 - 1527) active in Ferrara in the 1490's, who likely had been in Rome before. This might have been Lazzarelli's "Pamphilus". Then man would have existed, who had experienced the use for of copperplate engraving for something "similar to playing cards" and might have brought the idea to Ferrara, somehow naturally combined with "art ideas" connected to his own theme of "eroticism".

The person Panfilo Sassi was difficult to research, as there seem to exist many writing forms of his name. I found mostly only snippets and became not wise about them. Currently I've only memories with "no guarantee" on this research longer time ago.
Then I detected, that at the wedding of Alfonso a theater play was given, in which the hero was a "Panfilo" (or similar ... I'm a little confused about the various writing forms, and I'm not interested to control all and everything for the moment).
Alas, here's the link to the play from Terence, so old Roman:

Then I detected, and this was recently, a few weeks ago, that there was a general Pamphilus influence, a Latin poem, which became popular already in 12th century, called "Pamphilus" or "De tribus puellis".


This I found, when I went after "Lanterloo" ....

... a game recently mentioned here by Al Craig in this thread ...
... somewhere.

"Pamphilus" is used as a specific function, reduced occasionally to "Pam"

Well, the latter both points are very interesting, but I'm not sure, what to do with them. It needs some reflection.

Before I'd assumed, that "Pamphilus" somehow was a "rare element", now this looks a little different.

This gives David Parlett to "Pam" ...

Ev'n mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew
And mow'd down armies in the fights of Lu.

The name Pam, denoting the club Jack in its capacity as permanent top trump in Five-Card Loo, represents a medieval comic-erotic character called Pamphilus (or Pamphile, in French), described by Eric Partridge as 'an old bawd'. (From it derives also 'pamphlet', originally a printed sheet containing a story about him. These educational interpolations come free of charge.) In the French game, lenterlu denotes a five-card flush containing Pamphile. An earlier form of the game, lacking Pam, was played under the name Mouche.

So it's a name for the Jack of Clubs, a card, which in France often carried the name of the card maker. "Permanent top trump", that signifies somehow also the Karnöffel (Karnöffel also was played with 5 cards per player ... perhaps not always). In the German most popular Skat, which exists since 1813, the Clubs Jack is ALSO highest trump.

So Sola Busca ... Pamphilus = Magician = (in Tarot smallest trump, but with high points

which is not so in the game of Lanterloo

Pam = Club of Jack = highest trump (which would be in Tarot the "World")

The preacher Geiler of Kaisersberg speaks in the same time (around 1490 -1500) of Karnöffel, and indicates, that recently playing card rules changed and now the lowest are taken as the highest, and he interprets the change as a a revolutionary scandal. Perhaps we meet here something, which relates to this theme.

Lanterloo is seen as a later development than Karnöffel.

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

Yes, we come with different strengths and weaknesses, with different interests, different backgrounds. I was just articulating my interests and background. Yours are very different. Much of the time when I read something of yours, I have to do some searching on the Internet to find out what you are talking about. It's good for me.

It seems to me that many hands were involved in the production of the Sola-Busca. It's like Durer's portrait of the Emperor surrounded by hieroglyphs, only more so. Pirckheimer, the humanist, did the program for the portrait, after first reading and translating Horapollo. Durer did the drawings; someone else, anonymous, did the cutting.

In the case of the Sola-Busca, Zucker says that at least two people were involved in designing the picture cards (as opposed to the "numerical cards")
Indeed the names of the characters and the images to which they apply give the impression of having been devised independently by two different men, to be joined together almost randomly and sometimes incongruously at an advanced stage in the execution of the project. (The Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 24 part 3, p. 64)

Zucker before this passage has already discussed the incongruities: e.g. Nero and Cato, depicted as warriors although they weren't; the wings on Natanabo, Ipeo, Sesto, and Venturio, as though they were mythological figures; and all the bizarre attributes in the trumps that seemingly have nothing to do with their subject.

Zucker goes on (p. 65):
It is even conceivable that as many as three distinct individuals were involved in some sort of association: a scholar or antiquarian who provided a list of names and other advice, a designer who invented the highly original images, and a craftsman who engraved the latter's designs.
I disagree that the scholar had to have provided only a list and advice; he might have written detailed programs that were sometimes ignored; or else their bizarre associations were deliberate, and we have not deciphered them. I would go even further: It seems to me that a different person might have written the program for the pips than for the trumps. I suspect that he wrote programs for other decks, too; perhaps he specialized in non-tarot decks.

The person who wrote the program (or list of names) for the trumps might well have been Ferrarese, by your "Panphilio" reasoning; and the person who wrote the program for the pips might have been Venetian, by my "Theology of Arithmetic" reasoning. I see no influence of the "Theology of Arithmetic" on the trumps. I haven't looked at the courts in detail; but I don't see much there, either.

As for the person who did the designs--for all the cards, I think--all I know is that they are a further development from the drawings that Zoppo did for his "Parchment Book." Zoppo may have done the "Parchment Book" while still in Bologna, but he spent his last years in Venice and had connections everywhere else. I disagree with Zucker that they are of an artist inferior to Zoppo; after 1480, the grotesque was in fashion.

Zoppo moved from Bologna (where I think the "Mantegna" might have been done) to Venice sometime 1465-1467. Zoppo is close in style to Tura, and closer in style to the SB than Tura-- certainly to the homo-eroticism found in both the "Parchment Book" and the SB. Ruhmer thought Zoppo actually did the Sola-Busca. Zoppo died in 1498. The only reason for excluding him is his better technique; but "better" is relative to the style being used, which changes; and Zoppo was getting old and sick.

Artists moved around a lot, so the producer of the drawings could have been anywhere in NE Italy (i.e. Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Bologna, Urbino, Mantua), for a patron in another city. Illuminators in Padua, for example, did work for patrons in Venice. I see nothing in the designs to stamp them as Ferrarese in particular. Even Zucker in one place merely localizes the SB to "northeastern Italy toward the end of the fifteenth century" (p. 66). If he favors Ferrara (as do many current art historians), it is because he sees an affinity with Tura and with the engraving style of "Mantegna," which he thinks was done there.

The drawings could have been done in Venice by 1485-1488, either at Ferrarese request or in time to show them to the Ferrarese, who could then have purchased them and commissioned the engravings, done sometime before 1491 (the date, 1070 since the founding of the city, i.e. 1491 or 1525, is painted, not engraved). Or the drawings could have been done in Ferrara, but the pips, at least, done to the specifications of a Venetian patron or scholar.

The engraver and printer could have been anywhere in NE Italy, too (I would think the same place, to control the product). As I have mentioned, Zucker and other historians are struck by the similarity of the Sola-Busca engraving-style with that of the "Mantegna": a reason for placing them in Ferrara. But the engraving-place of the "Mantegna" is uncertain.

The painter was painting for a Venetian audience, as you say. We know that from the letters painted on a few of the cards: Senatus Venetus and SPQV--and of course the date. You give a scenario for how that might have happened.

The Two of Coins shows a Caesar-type, as in the antique coins. Here, for example, is an Ace of Coins, by Nicoletto di Modena, c. 1525, from a deck of which some cards were reproduced by Cicognara and then by Hind, who must have thought they were genuine.
Admittedly, there is no beard here, unlike on the SB. Alfonso might well have had such a short beard, and also had one put on the card, so as to cast himself in the Caesar mold. But the symbolism, the program provided by the humanist, is more generic than that. The double portrait on the card shows an alliance, but between whom is rather vague. I am dubious that Alfonso wanted to show the Venetians his support for Savonarola, for example. I can't imagine that Savonarola would have been popular there. It is the alliance either between the nobility and the clergy or between the nobility and the merchants. The hat is more like a merchant's hat than a clerical one, but perhaps there were some in the clergy who wore such headgear. Savonarola was usually shown with a hood.

In short, I am not denying your scenario. Nor am I saying that it is irrelevant, and that you needn't have bothered. I am just saying it does not count against the SB pips' program being governed by the "Theology of Arithmetic," a program which then might have governed even non-tarot decks in Venice and elsewhere after 1485.

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

mikeh wrote: ...
In the case of the Sola-Busca, Zucker says that at least two people were involved in designing the picture cards (as opposed to the "numerical cards")
Indeed the names of the characters and the images to which they apply give the impression of having been devised independently by two different men, to be joined together almost randomly and sometimes incongruously at an advanced stage in the execution of the project. (The Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 24 part 3, p. 64)

Zucker before this passage has already discussed the incongruities: e.g. Nero and Cato, depicted as warriors although they weren't; the wings on Natanabo, Ipeo, Sesto, and Venturio, as though they were mythological figures; and all the bizarre attributes in the trumps that seemingly have nothing to do with their subject.
Hm, that's interesting ... did you realize, that the trump series has in sequence a left-right orientation ? 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 etc.









At 16 the body is turned to the left, but the head is turned to the right



.... Matto (0) and the Nebukanezar (21) have a frontal orientation.


This gives the impression, that the pictures possibly were first used in a book, in which figures at opposing pages
look at each other, actually presented as "pairs".

This is precisely the same pair-building, which was also used in the Boiardo Tarocchi, 0-21, and 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 ...

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

Huck wrote,
This gives the impression, that the pictures possibly were first used in a book, in which figures at opposing pages
look at each other, actually presented as "pairs".

This is precisely the same pair-building, which was also used in the Boiardo Tarocchi, 0-21, and 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 ..
Yes, interesting. The kind of program-writing that I have in mind for the SB pips is something like the kind of detailed description that Boiardo gives in his poem. I meant to use him as an example of program-writing, actually. In his case, I never thought much about what the pictures would look like. And I can't imagine what the poem would have been to accompany the SB trumps. (Combining the attributes with the names: it's an interesting puzzle.) It might have been a popular thing to do, writing poems that were meant to be programs for enigmatic pictures. In Politiano's case, the poem that he wrote that supposedly inspired Botticelli's La Primavera might be another example. Boiardo and Politiano are both around the same time as we are thinking that the SB was put together. I of course am continuing to wonder if Politiano had something to do with the SB; his sexual orientation appears to have been right, as well as his interest in Roman history.

And then there is the correspondence between word and picture in the Hypnerotomachia. The words accompanying each woodcut comprise first a set of instructions of what to draw, and then an explanation of the bizarre imagery that results, showing how it all makes sense. Here is an example (p. 69 of Godwin translation):
On the right-hand side of my path I saw some noble Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting the following: an antique helmet crested with a dog's head, an ox skull with two fine-leafed branches tied to its horns, and an ancient lamp. I interpreted these hieroglyphs (apart from the branches, which I could only identify as fir, pine, larch, juniper, or something similar), as follows:

Like what I am imagining for the SB, the words comprise a program for understanding a bizarre combination and sequence of images.

Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

... .-) ...

I was still editing the post, but was detracted.

So I post the observation here, but it belongs to the earlier post

.... As above shown, in the Sola Busca Tarocchi the Nr. 6 is an exception, as it is turned to the front (instead turned to the left). In the Boiardo Tarocchi the trump 6 is also an exception, as it is not connected (as all the others) to a specific person and name.

This unusual parallel makes it plausible, that Boiardo Tarocchi poem and Sola Busca production were connected.

The parallel described with more content:

Boiardo poem (Fool = 0)

Mondo, da pazzi vanamente amato,
Portarti un fol su l'asino presume,
Ché i stolti sol confidano in tuo stato.

World, you are vainly loved by the mad,
And a fool thinks he can bring you on his donkey,
Because the stupid only trust your state.

Observed quality: it appear names of usual Tarot cards, World and Fool, the last and the first (this doesn't happen on the cards 1-20)

Boiardo poem (trump 6)

Gratia a secreti e savii non va a sorte,
Ma con ragion, ché con amore ha il vanto
Colui che asconde le passion piu forte.

Grace does not go by chance, but with reason,
To the discreet and wise, for in love can be proud
He that hides his strongest passion.

Observed quality: no personal name (all other - beside 0, 6 and 21 - have personal names). The original verse posibly addresses the 3 Graces also called Charites, which accompanied Venus.

Boiardo poem (trump 21)

Fortezza d'animo in Lucretia liete
Exequie fece: per purgar sua fama
Se uccise, e all'offensor tese atra rethe
Dando exempio a chi 'l nome e l'honore ama.

Inner strength made happy the death of
Lucretia: to clean her fame
She killed herself, and she prepared for the offender a dark net,
Giving an example to those who love their own name and honour

Observed quality: The verse contain names of known Tarot cards, Fortezza (which is more or less precisely the middle of the deck) and Fama (which was in Florence the highest card) and it contains the personal name of a heroine (Roman Lucrezia), which is identical to the name of the marrying girl in 1487: Lucrezia d'Este


The likely reason for the elevation of trump 6:
at a wedding the card "6, Love" naturally had some special attention


Observed quality Sola Busca:


The cards 0, 6 and 21 have a frontal orientation (all the other trump cards not)

:clapping I hope, that I got the idea very clear and understandable


Re: 15th century access to the "Theology of Arithmetic"

Great bibliographical research.

All research linked to the Byzantin's erudits is, from my point of view, welcomed.
Nicomaque de Gérase for example :-B is really , in my spirit, the "theorician" of pythagorean arithmology.
And I believe that the neo- pythagorean structure of the 78 cards is fully inspired by Nicomaque de Gerase arithmology.


http://www.sgdl-auteurs.org/alain-bouge ... Biographie

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