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Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 12:56
by jmd
A detail in the B.N. 1650 Noblet is fascinating and leaves me pondering as to its explanation.

Firstly, unlike what is generally expected from Emperor cards, the Noblet faces to the right. In many ways, this is perhaps more apt, as profiles to the right would show the 'right' side of the face (though there are instances of the Holy Roman Emperor with semi-profile orientations to the left), the left-hand orientation of the card in TdMs in general has always fascinated me. Therefore, when I first looked at the Noblet, I was not surprised that here his orientation is more as to 'be expected'.

Yet here is the quite strange and at-odds detail - a detail I partially saw earlier, yet at first took to me more a 'shadow' effect.

Let's briefly look at the card as a whole first, and then at Robert's accentuation of the detail with Photoshop assistance:


Here it can be seen that there appears lines that nearly mirror the image towards the right of the card (no other card in the set do this, by the way). Accentuated, here are the details:


I'm not sure how to explain nor account for this. Presumably, the woodcut is made from a large block and a whole sheet printed. It's as if such occured, and then the image was 'washed' and a new imprint was made - an imprint that would have required a different and reversed woodblock to have been used.

Again, not sure even why this would have been the case - the only thing I can think of (in terms not of symbolic significance, but of practical workshop one) is that stencils had been prepared for the inverse image, and washing the Emperor and re-imprinting it afresh from a single woodblock may have saved having to redo a whole set of stencils.

In any case, a quite strange detail... and one worth further consideration!

Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 13:38
by R.A. Hendley
Why, I can almost hear the hooves of unicorns starting to rumble. :lol:


Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 14:39
by Yves Le Marseillais
Hi Jean Michel and all crew,

Ha ! ha ! you noticed a really interresting printing detail :!:

When I was lucky enough to examinate during my last Swiss sejourn Pierre Madenié 1709 deck; I also noticed same "ghost traces".
I discussed this with Jean Claude Flornoy and we thought that may be it was a question of ink duplication.

But be informed that contrary to Noblet Empereur card, sometime it is another card that apppears as "ghost trace".
It is normal regarding printing process.

Anyway this detail is really rich because it si very useful to confirms drawing lines in case colours spots hide original drawing line.
A sort of evidence of original drawing.

An interesting matter of discussion in case of reproduction in Fac Similé isn't it ?

For me there is mandatory two options:
A real Fac Similé with ghost traces added. Remindind us printing process and History of Technic.
A realistic interpretation of what card printer wanted to achieve: Without ghost traces so.


Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 15:15
by jmd
Except that 'ghost trails' are not such mirror images mildly offset as well, Yves.

That used to be my assumption with regards to this card until I examined it more closely.

Also, it is unique in the BN Noblet deck - something that would very likely otherwise also show in other cards. And furthermore, the lines in the background are extremely precise.

All this pointing to something other than the normal 'ghost' images at times left in the normal printing technique.

Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 15:27
by Yves Le Marseillais
You means that only THIS card (Empereur) shows this trails in Noblet BNF ?

You means also that trails differs from official card desingn (colored parts I means) ?

For Pierre Madenié I confirms that MANY cards have this trails.
And with another card trails in background.


Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 15:30
by jmd
Correct Yves. ONLY the Emperor has the additional markings that would otherwise be considered 'ghost trails'.

Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 15:46
by Yves Le Marseillais
I checked on Pierre Madenié some cards:

L'Ermite is in background of L'Etoile
L'amoureux is background of Le Mat
Queen of Sword is background of Bateleur

And all are reversed.

At this stage I can't say that details differs from original (i.e Ermite backgroud trails compared to Ermite original colored parts).

A Photoshop operation is necessary for all cards to check carefully.



PS: I suggest a Wide screen demonstration of this during Marseille International Tarot Conference :mrgreen:

Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 16:25
by Ross G. R. Caldwell
Is it possible that after impression but before colouring, a number of sheets were laid upon one another (thinking they were dry enough), and that occasionally some were *not* dry enough, and left a reverse image? (if placed accidentally face to face, instead of back to back)

Another possibility might be "bleed through", but I don't know if the paper in the TdMs is thin enough (i.e. if the sheet were printed, and then turned over and put on *top* of the wooden plate for some reason).

The discrepancies of reverse images Yves describes would be explained by the first scenario; but the Emperor getting his own reversed image would only be explained this way if he were the centre card of an uneven numbered horizontal line of the matrix (of 5, 7 images, for instance).


Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 16:36
by Yves Le Marseillais
Hi Ross,

Yes it is what I think at this stage.

I also thought (but I think I am wrong) that, as to save paper (expensive material at this time) some card makers did used reverse side of not yet colored cards.

I remind all (for new comers only of course ;) ) that cards were made of three or four sheets of paper:
A recto sheet, one or two other quality paper sheets and a verso/back sheet.

May be recto sheet was made of a scrap sheet as to save money...

A sort of second hypothesis.

Question: Should I open with a blade my original 1860 Conver deck as to check ??? !!!! :o :shock:

Yves 8-)

Re: Noblet Emperor's new clothes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008, 16:52
by Ross G. R. Caldwell
Yves Le Marseillais wrote: Question: Should I open with a blade my original 1860 Conver deck as to check ??? !!!! :o :shock:

Yves 8-)
I would advise against so drastic a measure. I think our speculations are satisfying enough.

I did peek at 16th century book bindings when they were broken open a little, to look for playing cards, and one time I found a beautiful red and black devotional print in a cover binding - scenes from the life of Jesus, crucifixion at the center. But I resisted the temptation to pry the binding open further. Maybe I was stupid...