Game of Tarot, a few chapters for those who can't get it

Tarot History related Books and Articles.

Game of Tarot, a few chapters for those who can't get it

Postby mikeh on 11 Mar 2017, 07:06

It seems to me that Dummett's 1980 book is absolutely basic to all our work, yet not easily obtainable, especially outside of North America. To remedy that and even the playing field I want to simply post a few chapters. The most urgent are chapters 4 and 20. The original is in two columns. I am not going to take the time to change the column width, which also might introduce errors. The chapter starts on p. 65. If any copyright holder of the work protests, I will remove the post.


When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented

It was formerly believed that, in Europe, the
Tarot pack is as old as the regular pack. Indeed,
some have thought that it is older: the assertion is
still to be met with that the regular pack was
originally derived from the Tarot pack by
subtraction. It is clear from our study of the
relations between European and Oriental cards
that this latter belief must be incorrect. The
regular pack came to Europe from the Islamic
world, but the Tarot pack is a European
invention: there is no trace of the existence in
Egypt, Persia, India or China of anything in the
least resembling the Tarot pack.(1) This naturally
leads us to expect the Tarot pack to have
appeared some time later than the introduction
of playing cards into Europe: as a variant on the
ordinary type of playing-card pack, it would
hardly have been devised until the novelty of the
latter had had time to wear off. One ground that
used to be advanced for the contrary hypothesis
was the belief that the word naibi referred to
Tarot cards, while carte, cartule, etc., referred to
cards of the regular pack: but this belief was
conclusively refuted in 1900 by Robert Steele,
who showed that Italian naibi, like Spanish
naipes, was used simply to mean 'playing cards',
Tarot cards being known in fifteenth-century
1. Once again, an exception should be made for the 'Chad'
cards of Mysore. These were devised by Krishnaraj Odeyar
(1794-1868) after his deposition in 1830 by the British from
the throne of Mysore. Although several of the special forms
of pack he devised are augmented packs, in the sense of
regular packs to which additional cards, not belonging to
any suit, have been added, it is obvious that so late an
addition to the repertoire of Indian playing-card packs has
no historical significance. See Rudolf von Leyden, Chad: the
Playing Cards of My sore (India)
, privately produced, 1973.

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Italian as trionfi. (2) More recently, Mr Jan
Bauwens has claimed that a pack of playing
cards recorded in the Register of Duke
Wenceslas of Brabant as having been bought for
the Duke and Duchess was a Tarot pack, on the
ground that it contained 78 cards;(3) but a
reference to the original entry reveals that neither
it nor any of the numerous later similar entries
contains any mention of the number of cards in
the packs bought or played with, nor anything
else to suggest that these were not
straightforward regular packs. (4)

Much more frequently met with as an
argument for an early date for the invention of
the Tarot pack is that relating to a famous
fragment of a fifteenth-century hand-painted
Tarot pack in the Bibliotheque Nationale in
Paris: this comprises seventeen cards, namely the
Jack of Swords, the Fool and all the usual
triumph cards except the Bagatto, the Popess,
the Empress, the Wheel, the Devil and the Star.
The Abbe Menestrier published in 1704 an entry
from the account-book of King Charles VI of
France recording the payment in 1392 of '56 sols
parisis' to the painter Jacquemin Gringonneur
for three packs of playing cards.(5) In 1842, M.C.
2. Robert Steele, 'A notice of the Ludus Triumphorum and
some early Italian card games', Archaeologia, vol. 57, 1900,
pp. 185-200. J
3. In a booklet accompanying a reproduction of the
Mamluk pack from Istanbul published in 1973 by S.A.R.L.
Aurelia Books, of Louvain and Brussels.
4. The entry is cited in A. Pinchart, Recherches sur les cartes a
jouer et leurfabrication en Belgique
, Brussels, 1870.
5. Menestrier, 'Des Principes des sciences et des arts
disposes en forme de jeux', Bibliotheque curieuse et instructive de
divers ouvrages anciens et modernes de litterature et des arts
, vol. II,
Trevoux, 1704, p. 174.

66 Part I: History and Mystery
Leber proposed that the cards in the
Bibliotheque Nationale came from one of the
packs painted by Gringonneur; (6) and this opinion
won such wide acceptance that the cards came to
be known as the 'Tarots de Charles VI'. If this
were correct, they would be by far the oldest
surviving Tarot cards; and, not only should we
have to say that the Tarot pack came into
existence within two decades of the arrival of
playing cards in Europe, but France would
appear to have a better claim to have been the
country of their origin than Italy. In fact,
however, there is no shred of evidence to connect
the Bibliotheque Nationale pack with
Gringonneur: Chatto, (7) Merlin (8) and
D'Allemagne (9) all ascribe the cards to Italian
workmanship. W.L. Schreiber is very specific,
assigning them to Ferrara in the third quarter of
the fifteenth century.(10)

Another piece of evidence cited in a great
many books and articles on playing cards was first
presented by Count Leopoldo Cicognara in his
book of 1831:(11) a portrait in Bologna, bearing the
inscription 'Francesco Antelminelli Castracani
Fibbia, Prince of Pisa, Montegiori and Pietra
Santa, and lord of Fusecchio, son of Giovanni, a
native of Castruccio, Duke of Lucca, Pistoia,
Pisa, having fled to Bologna and presented
himself to Bentivogli, was made Generalissimo of
the Bolognese armies, and was the first of this
family, which was called in Bologna "dalle
Fibbie". He married Francesca, daughter of
Giovanni Bentivogli. Inventor of the game of
Tarocchino in Bologna, he had from the XIV
Reformatories the privilege of placing the Fibbia
arms on the Queen of Batons and those of his
wife on the Queen of Coins. Born in the year
1360, he died in the year 1419.' On the strength
of this inscription, Count Cicognara named
Castracani Fibbia as the inventor of the game of
tarocchi. Commenting on this, Carlo Lozzi cited
6. M.C. Leber, Etudes historiques sur les cartes a jouer',
Memoires de la Societe des Antiquaires de France, new series, vol.
6, 1842, pp. 256-348.
7. William Andrew Chatto, Facts and Speculations on the
Origins and History of Playing Cards
, London, 1848.
8. R. Merlin, L'Origine des cartes ajouer: Recherches nouvelles
surlesnaibis, les tarots et sur les autres especes de cartes,
Paris, 1869.
9. Henri-Rene D'Allemagne, Les Cartes a jouer du XIVe au.
XXe siecle,
two volumes, Paris, 1906.
10. W.L. Schreiber, Die altesten Spielkarten, Strasbourg 1937,
p. 101.
11. Leopoldo Cicognara, Memorie Spettanti alia Storia della
, Prato, 1831.

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with approval an entirely just observation by L.
Zdekauer that the inscription does not attribute__
to Fibbia the invention of the game of tarocchi in
general, but only of that particular variety of it
known as tarocchino and peculiar to Bologna.(12) As
we shall see, the diminutive ending relates to the
use in this variant game of a shortened pack, in
which the 2 to 5 are omitted from every suit. Quite
evidently, such a shortened pack must be derived
from the full 78-card pack, and not the other way
around, so that, if Francescoo Fibbia really had
invented the tarocchino pack some time before his
death in 1419, the ordinary Tarot pack from
which it was derived must have been in existence
for a certain period before that: hence, if the
inscription is to be believed, the Tarot pack must
have been devised by 1400 at the very latest.

Doubt was cast upon the very existence of this
painting by Robert Steele in his article of 1900, (13)
and in this he was followed by Miss Gertrude
Moakley in her book.(14) However, in another
article written in the very next year, Steele
acknowledged its existence, speaking of 'the
famous inscription on the portrait of Castracani
Fibbia (and stating that 'the portrait is now in
the Palazzo Pallavicini in Bologna'.(15) It is not to
Steele's credit that, in this article, he did not
mention and withdraw his accusation against
Count Cicognara. The existence of the portrait
was confirmed by G.B. Cornelli in an article of
1909.(16) It is somewhat surprising that doubt
about a point so relatively easily investigated
should have been allowed to persist for so

In fact, the portrait does exist, and tallies
completely with Count Cicognara's description
of it, including the inscription.. It is, however,
far from being contemporary with its subject;
by its style, it is to be assigned to the seven-
12. Carlo Lozzi, 'Le Antiche Carte da Giuoco', La
, vol. 1, 1899-1900, pp. 37-46.
13. R. Steele, op. cit.
14. Gertrude Moakley, The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio
Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family
, New York, 1966.
15. Robert Steele, 'Early playing cards, their design and
decoration', Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 49, 1900-
1901, pp. 317-23; see p. 319.
16. G.B. Cornelli, 'II Governo "Misto" in Bologna dal 1507
al 1797 e le Carte da Giaoco del can. Montieri', Atti e
Memorie delta Reale Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Provincie
delta Romagna
, series 3, vol. 27, 1909; see p. 3.
17 See M. Dummett, 'A note on Cicognara', Journal of the.
Playing-Card Society
, vol. II, no. 1, August 1973, pp. 14-17
(original issue), pp. 23-32 (reissue), and 'More about
Cicognara', ibid,, vol. V, no. 2; November 1976, pp. 26-34.

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 67
teenth century, and probably to the second half
of that century. As recorded by Count Cicognara,
it shows Prince Fibbia holding a pack of tarocco
cards, some of which are falling to
the floor: among them can be seen the Queen
of Batons, bearing the Fibbia arms, and the
Queen of Coins, bearing the Bentivoglio arms.
The inscription is as quoted by Cicognara;
but it appears that the original inscription was
painted over and a new version painted on top,
the original one having lacked the sentence
ascribing to Prince Fibbia the invention of
tarocchino and recording the privilege granted to
him of placing his arms and those of his wife on
the two Queens. The sentence may have been
added to explain the presence of the playing
cards in the picture.(18)

A tarocco bolognese pack in the British Museum,
18. The portrait can be seen at the palazzo Fibbia, 14, via
Galliera, Bologna. I am indebted for its location to the kind
help of Signor Giancarlo Roversi, an expert on the history of
the city. The palazzo was formerly known as the palazzo
Felicini-Calzolari; in Sandro Chierichetti, Bologna, Bologna,
n.d., p. I l l , it is stated to have been built in 1497. It was
referred to by Count Cicognara as the 'casa Fibbia', and
was said by Comelli in the article cited above to have passed
from the Fibbia to the Fabbri family, and from them to the
Pallavicini; the casual remark by Steele, cited in the text,
should not mislead anyone into looking for the painting at
the palazzo Pallavicini, 45, via S. Stefano. The owner of the
palazzo Fibbia kindly allowed my friend Signor
Marco Santambrogio, a lecturer in the Philosophy
Department at the University of Bologna, not only to
examine, but also to photograph, the painting; the great
hall in which it hangs is now occupied by the Associazione
Artigiani, who were also most co-operative. I owe- my
information about the painting entirely to the assiduous
work of Signor Santambrogio. In his The Encyclopedia of
(New York, 1978), p. 33, Stuart R. Kaplan cites my
article 'More about Cicognara', saying that I there describe
the 'rediscovery' of the portrait by Signor Santambrogio.
The quotation marks are Mr Kaplan's, and suggest a direct
quotation from my article, but in fact I did not use the word
'rediscovery', and claimed nothing so portentous on Signor
Santambrogio's behalf. The painting was never lost, but,
ever since Cicognara first described it, has remained
continuously just where he said it was. Robert Steele, in his
article of 1900, and, misled by him, Miss Moakley in 1966
expressed unjust doubts whether it existed; but, since
neither of them, at the time of writing, had actually looked
for it, this hardly counts as the painting's being lost. There
is in the British Museum a complete Tarocco Bolognese
pack by the maker who used the trade-name 'al Mondo'. In
this pack, Moors replace the Papi, so it must be dated after
1725 (see Chapter 16); it exemplifies the standard pattern,
in a single-ended form and without numerals on the trumps,
and is probably to be dated to about 1750. This pack
displays the feature mentioned in the inscription on the
Fibbia portrait: the Queen of Coins holds a shield with the

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probably dating between 1725 and 1750, bears
out the statement that, in some such packs, the
Queen of Batons bore the Fibbia arms and the
Queen of Coins those of the Bentivoglio family.
The portrait testifies to the existence, in the
seventeenth century, of a local tradition. But,
because of its late date, its evidential value is
slight; in view of the lack of any other evidence
for the existence of the shortened tarocco bolognese
pack before the sixteenth century, the tradition is
unlikely to be sound. As we have seen, it was not
until the sixteenth century that the practice of
playing various card games with shortened packs
came into fashion; it is therefore probable that it
was in that century that the shortened tarocco
pack used in Bologna was first devised. The most
likely explanation is that the reason for putting the
Fibbia arms on one of the cards had been
forgotten, and that the story about Francesco
Fibbia was invented as a hypothesis to account
for it.

We have successively rejected the years 1377
(on the naibi argument), 1379, 1392 and 1419 as
bounds for the date of the invention of the Tarot
pack: one that cannot be shaken is the year 1442.
In that year there is a reference in the Registro del
for the court of Ferrara to pare uno de carte
da trionfi
, and, in the Registro di Guardaroba, one to
the purchase of quattro paia di carticelle da trionfi.^
As was remarked above, the word trionfi, or the
phrase carte da trionfi, is the ordinary fifteenth-
century Italian term for Tarot cards, while, as
in early English sources, the word 'pair' (paro or
paio) was often used to mean 'pack'. Evidently,
then, by 1442, al; least in the d'Este court at
Ferrara, Tarot cards were well known and in
some demand.

That this was also so in Milan may be inferred
from a mural painting known as 'The Tarocchi
Players' in the Casa Borromeo in that city. It
forms one of a set of three, in the International
Gothic style, on the walls of a small ground-floor
room (-now used as an office), showing young
Bentivoglio arms and the Queen of Batons one with the
Fibbia arms. The pack is 1-37 in F.M. O'Donogiiue,
Catalogue of the Playing Cards bequeathed to the Trustees of the
British Museum by the late Lady Charlotte Schreiber
, London,
19. See G. Bertoni, 'Tarocchi versificati', Poesie leggende
costumanze del medio evo
, Modena, 1917, p. 218, fn. 3, and G.
Campori, 'Le carte da gioco dipinte per gli Estensi nel sec.
XV, Atti e Memorie delle Deputazioni di Storia Patria per le
Provincie modenesi eparmensi
, vol. 7, 1874, p. 126.

68 Part I: History and Mystery
men and women of the nobility engaged in
various games. There is no agreement over which
artist painted these delightful pictures, but they
are generally dated to the early 1440s. Every
writer on art who mentions these paintings refers
to the one in which we are interested as 'The
Tarocchi Players', so that this identification of its
subject must rest on a very firm tradition. There
is nothing in the paintings as it is now to show
whether the five people depicted are playing a
game with Tarot cards or with a regular pack;
one can see the pattern on the backs of the cards,
but although the faces of two of the cards must
originally have been shown, no details of these
can any longer be seen. It is evident, however,
that the condition of the painting has greatly
deteriorated during the present century. A black-
and-white photograph of it appears in a book of
1926, (20) and shows details that have now
vanished. As far as I can see from this
photograph, the card that has just been played
by the lady in the middle of the group is the 2 of
Coins, while the man on her right is playing the
Ace of Coins; this, of course, does not help us to
decide whether they are playing with Tarot cards
or not. However, it also looks from the
photograph as though the ladies at the two ends
of the group have each put a card face up in front
of them on the table, and that these are picture
cards: if so, all trace of these cards has since
disappeared from the painting. I have not been
able to identify these cards from the photograph;
but it is possible that, when the painting was in a
better state of preservation, one or other of them
could be seen to be a triumph card, the Matto or
a Queen, thus justifying the particularisation of
the game depicted as one played with Tarot
cards; if that were not so, it is difficult to see why
the painting should have acquired its name.
Signor Vito Arienti has informed me that there is
another fifteenth-century painting of players of
tarocchi in a castle in the Val d'Aosta. He may
have been referring to a painting in the castle of
Issogne, showing people playing various games,
including three playing cards, and dating from
1470. From the illustration I have seen, in Giulio
Brochard, Valle d'Aosta, ed. Renato Willien,
Novara, 1968, p. 76 (see also pp. 91-2), it is not
evident that the cards being used are Tarot cards;
in any case, it is too late to have any bearing on the
20 Raimond van Marie, The Development of the Italian Schools
of Painting
, vol. 7, the Hague, 1926, p. 145, fig. 91.

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date of origin of the game.

A great many playing cards have come down
to us from fifteenth-century Italy. Of these, many
are sumptuous hand-painted cards made for the
nobility. The surviving cards of this kind come
from about twenty different packs: it is difficult
to give a precise figure, since some cards in
different collections may originally have
belonged to the same pack. There are nine such
packs of which more than ten cards survive: the
surviving cards of eight of these nine packs include,
in each case, at least one triumph card and
at least one suit card, so that these eight packs
were certainly Tarot packs. The three most
complete of these packs are attributed, in the
unanimous opinion of present-day art historians,
to the Cremonese painter Bonifacio Bembo,
who was born about 1420 or a little earlier and
died in about 1480. Bembo is known to have
executed several important commissions for
Francesco Sforza, who became Duke of Milan in
1450 and died in 1466, and for his successor
Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who died in 1476. On the
strength of the heraldic emblems and mottoes
appearing on many of the cards of these three
packs, it is evident that they were made for
Francesco Sforza or, in the case of the first two,
for his predecessor Filippo Maria Visconti, who
died in 1447. They are as follows.

(1) The earliest is that usually known as the
Visconti di Modrone pack, from the name of its
former owner; it is now in the Beinecke Library at
Yale University. Sixty-seven cards survive, of which
eleven are triumph cards and fifty-six are suit cards.
In the Batons suit, the numeral cards show arrows
instead of the usual staves, although the court cards
show staves, in the usual form of polished staffs. On
the numeral cards, both the Batons and the Swords
intersect, but the Swords are straight. Because the
composition both of the court cards and of the
triumphs show certain unusual features, they will be
discussed in detail below.

(2) Probably the next in date is that known as the
Brambilla pack, also called after a former owner, now
in the Brera Gallery in Milan. Forty-eight cards
survive, of which only two - the Emperor and the
Wheel of Fortune - are triumphs, the remaining fortysix
being suit cards. Here the numeral cards show
ordinary Batons, while the court cards of that suit
have arrows: Batons and Swords both intersect on the
numeral cards, but the Swords are curved in the usual
Italian manner.

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 69
(3) The most complete of all the early hand-painted
packs is that usually called the Visconti-Sforza pack,
divided between the Pierpont Morgan Library in New
York, the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo and the
private collection of the Colleoni family in the same
city. Of this, as many as seventy-four cards survive
altogether, comprising the Fool, nineteen triumphs
and fifty-four suit cards. All the Batons are of the
usual type, and intersect, as do the Swords, which are,
however, straight, as in the Visconti di Modrone pack.
The subjects on the triumph cards are standard ones,
of which only the Devil and the Tower are missing.
Six of them, however - Temperance, Fortitude, the
Star, the Moon, the Sun and the World - are quite
obviously by a different artist, and are thought to have
been painted some twenty years later, by an unknown
artist of the Ferrarese school.(21) This particular pack,
or individual cards belonging to it, appears to have
served as a model for the painters of more than one
later pack.

The remaining six packs comprising more
than ten surviving cards are as follows.

(4) The most famous early Tarot pack of all is the
so-called Charles VI pack in the Bibliotheque
Nationale in Paris, already mentioned. This
comprises seventeen cards, of which only one, the
Jack of Swords, is a suit card: the rest consist of the
Fool and fifteen triumph cards, making up all the
standard subjects other than the Bagatto, the
Empress, the Popess, the Wheel of Fortune, the Devil
and the Star. The vivid, florid style differs completely
both from that of Bembo and from that' of the
unknown painter of the six later cards in the Visconti-
Sforza set; expert opinion, however, assigns the pack
to the same date and place as the latter, namely to
Ferrara in about 1470.

(5) The most complete set other than the three by
Bembo is one in the Rothschild Collection in the
Louvre, consisting of thirty-one cards. It is generally
accepted that a single card, a Cavalier of Swords, in
the Museo Civico at Bassano also belongs to this
pack, bringing the total to thirty-two. Despite a slight
divergence in the measurements cited for this card
(190 x 90 mm. as against 188 x 90 for the Rothschild
ones), this identification can scarcely be doubted: not
only the general style, but the border design, the
overrunning of the border and the arches in the top
corners all resemble the Rothschild cards, while the
trappings of the horse tally exactly with those of the
Rothschild Cavalier of Batons, and the curious
tortoise-back shield with those on the Rothschild
King and Queen of Batons. In this set, however, only
21 See Ron Decker, 'Two Tarot studies related', part III,
Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. IV, no. 1, August 1975,
pp. 46-52
[Transcriber's note: the measurement of the Bassano card is given as 189x90 in the Nov. 2016 Catalog Giovanni dal Ponte, Galleria Accademia, Florence, where it is part of their exhibition.]

one triumph card survives, the Emperor; the rest are
suit cards. (In his The Encyclopedia of Tarot, New York,
1978, Stuart R. Kaplan suggests that another card,
shown by him at the top right of p. 121, is also a
triumph, the Pope, the Hermit or the World; it is,
however, surely the Jack of Coins, though admittedly
a bearded Jack is a rarity. Some writers have
questioned whether the twenty-three numeral cards,
whose measurements Detlef Hoffmann gives as 186 x
93 mm., belong with the other eight Rothschild cards,
which measure 185 x 90 mm. according to Hoffmann,
and it is true that their borders do not have the wavy
lines found on the court cards and the Emperor. The
measurement criterion would be conclusive, save that
discrepancies between measurements made by
different individuals are exceedingly common.) The
general treatment, though not the individual style, is
highly similar to the Charles VI cards, and the two
packs are probably to be assigned to the same milieu.
The Swords on the numeral cards are curved.

(6) Another pack, considerably smaller in
dimensions than those so far mentioned, appears also
to have originated from Ferrara and to have been
made for the d'Este family who were Dukes of that
city; it is now also in Beinecke Library at Yale. It
consists of sixteen cards, comprising eight court cards,
the Fool and seven triumphs - the Bagatto, the Pope,
Temperance, the Star, the Moon, the Sun and the
World. The d'Este arms appear on the Queens of
Batons and Swords and the Cavalier and Jack of
Batons (the King of that suit has not survived). The
arms of the King of Naples appear on the King and
Cavalier of Swords. The style again differs from any of
the preceding packs, but has more affinity with that of
the Charles VI cards than with those by Bembo.

(7) A pack consisting of fifteen cards is in the
Museo Civico of Catania, housed in the Castello
Ursino. Eleven of them are suit cards, including the 7
and 8 of Swords with curved intersecting Swords: the
remaining four consist of the Hermit, the Chariot, the
World and one whose identity is dubious. This last
shows a naked girl reclining on a stag, wearing a coral
necklace. In her left hand she holds an object which,
since it is painted in gold on a gold background, is
difficult to decipher; in her right hand, which is
suspended above the left one, she holds another
object, also painted gold against the gold background,
which, when I saw the cards, I took to be a fan. Mr
Ronald Decker has, however, suggested to me that
she is pouring from one vase into another, *which
would identify her as Temperance: this is the only
interpretation of this otherwise mysterious figure that
I have come across. The Hermit and World cards
closely resemble those of the Charles VI pack: the
latter shows a female figure standing on a globe
holding an orb in her left hand and swinging a censer
in her right; the corresponding card in the Charles VI

70 Part I: History and Mystery

set differs principally in that the female figure holds a
sceptre in place of a censer. It thus seems reasonable
to assign this pack also to Ferrara.

(8) A set of thirteen cards described and illustrated
in full in an article published in 1954 has since largely
disappeared from public view. They were at one time
all in the possession of Mr Piero Tozzi of New York:
one (Temperance) is now in the Museum of Fine Arts
in Montreal, and another (the Jack of Cups) was in
the F. Cleveland Morgan collection in the same city,
and is stated by Stuart R. Kaplan, op. cit, p. 100, to
have passed into the ownership of Mr Cleveland
Stewart-Patterson, presumably also of Montreal.
According to Kaplan, the remaining eleven were sold
in the early 1960s to a collector in Milan. The cards
were evidently made for some member of the Sforza
family, and all but one are copied, with some
deliberate divergences, from the Visconti-Sforza pack.
Their measurements were given in the article as 170 x
70 mm., but, as pointed out by Mr Ronald Decker,
this can be seen from the full-size reproductions to be
an error: it should be 170 x 87 mm. The set consists of
one card showing only the Visconti/Sforza emblem of
a crowned serpent swallowing a woman, one numeral
card, six court cards and five triumphs - the Pope,
Temperance, the Chariot, the Wheel of Fortune and
the Judgment. The Temperance card has been copied
from the corresponding one in the Visconti-Sforza
pack executed by the later, probably Ferrarese, artist,
so that the cards must date from after the time that
those six cards were painted. On the one numeral
card, the 5 of Swords, the Swords are straight, as in
the Visconti-Sforza pack. On the Wheel card, a point of
divergence from the Visconti-Sforza card is the ladder,
heraldic emblem of the Delia Scala family of Verona,
on the clothing of the topmost figure, who wears ass's
ears, being at the height of his fortunes and about to
experience their collapse.(22)
22 Miss Moakley, in her book cited in footnote 24, draws
attention to the initials ' A. C.' on the base of the throne of
the King of Swords in the Tozzi set. She thinks that these
initials are intended as those of Antonio Cicognara, a
painter to whom many authorities have credited various
surviving fifteenth-century Italian tarocchi. The attribution is
grounded on a purported quotation from Bordigallo's
Chronicle of Cremona given in Count Leopoldo Cicognara's
book referred to in footnote 11, to the effect that in 1484
Antonio Cicognara painted a Tarot pack for Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza. As observed in more detail in Appendix 2,
the quotation is spurious; Count Cicognara was honest but
gullible. Art historians are afflicted by an avid desire to
attach artists' names to works of art, however flimsy the
evidence for it; and so, until more careful study of styles
yielded the attribution to Bembo, sets (1) to (3), and others
as well, were ascribed to Antonio Cicognara, although no
one appears to have attempted to make the elementary
check of verifying that Bordigallo's Chronicle said what it
was supposed to say; even after the attribution to Bembo

(9) The only one of these nine sets that is, almost
certainly, from a regular pack is one consisting of "
fifteen suit cards, not including any Queen, and all
badly damaged by a fire that occurred in 1904, in the
Biblioteca Nazionak in Turin. On the testimony of
W.L. Schreiber,(23) who does not, however, appear very
well informed about the matter, this set comprised
twenty-four cards before the fire. It is helpfully
reproduced in full in Kaplan's book. Unfortunately,
the composition of the set before the catastrophe does
not seem to have been recorded, save on a list kept at
the library, which Mr Kaplan reproduces and which
has itself been partly consumed by the fire. The list
starts with the Coins suit (Cavallo, Jack, Ace, 3),
followed by the suit of Cups (King, Cavallo, Jack, 3, 4,
9, 10), and then the Batons suit, of which only Ace
and 6 are legible. Of the numerals, only Ace and 3 of
Coins, 4 and 9 of Cups, 6 and 10 of Batons and Ace, 3,
6, 7 and 10 of Swords survive. There is also a Cavallo
of Swords, and three court cards whose suit-sign is
unidentifiable, a Cavallo and two Jacks. From the list,
the Cavallo cannot belong to the Batons suit, but
must be of either Cups or Coins; the Jacks likewise
cannot belong to the Batons suit. Evidently there were
no triumph cards before the fire. The Swords are
curvedl-and intersecting; on the odd-numbered cards,
other than the Ace, there is no straight vertical Sword,
but unequal numbers on the two sides. To judge by
the surviving Cavallo of Swords, the general style of
the courts somewhat resembles that of the Rothschild
had been generally accepted, the claim was made that
Cicognara had painted the six cards in the Visconti-Sforza
pack that are not by Bembo. Now Miss Moakley was
convinced that the quotation was spurious, and hence that
there was no reason to suppose that Antonio Cicognara ever
painted any Tarot cards at all. Hence she advanced two
alternative hypotheses: that the initials "A. C." had been
added some time after 1831; or that the entire set was a
modern forgery. The second hypothesis is surely unlikely: a
forger would either have made the cards more unlike the
Visconti-Sforza ones, to reduce the suspicion of forgery, or
have made them exact copies, so as to throw doubt on which
was the original, which the copy. Whether Miss Moakley's
first hypothesis is correct, or whether the initials have some
altogether different significance, I cannot say. The
hypothesis that early playing cards might be forged is not,
as such, implausible: for an example of a forged copy of a
card from the Sola-Busca tarocchi, see D. Hoffmann, Die Welt
, Leipzig, 1972, plate 23(a).
23. Die altesten Spielkarten, Strasbourg, 1937, footnote 10,
p. 102.
24. The Visconti-Sforza pack is the subject of a book by
Miss Gertrude Moakley, The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio
Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family
, New York, 1966: all the
cards are illustrated and discussed in detail. It is also the
subject of Tarocchi: il mazzo visconteo di Bergamo e New York,
with text ty Italo Calvino and notes by S. Samek Ludovici,

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 71
As already remarked, of these nine packs, eight
contained both triumph cards and suit cards,
though in one case only one triumph card has
survived and in another only one suit card. Of
any fragmentary set not containing any card
distinctive of the Tarot pack, we can never say for
sure that it was not originally part of such a pack;
but, if the pack to which the Turin cards
belonged had been a Tarot pack, the chance that
all of the fourteen surviving cards should have
been among the fifty-two that could equally well
have come from a regular pack is very low
indeed, so that we can reasonably discount this
possibility. Nevertheless, the remaining eight
packs testify to the great popularity of tarocchi
among the fifteenth-century Italian nobility,
though we should bear in mind that the greater
scope given to an artist by the triumph subjects
Parma, 1969, which also gives illustrations of all the cards.
There is also a reproduction pack issued by the Grafica
Gutenberg, Bergamo; in the United States this is
distributed by U.S. Games Systems, Inc., New York. The
Visconti-Sforza, Visconti di Modrone and Brambilla packs
are illustrated in Emiliano di Parravicino, 'Three packs of
Italian Tarocco cards', Burlington Magazine, vol. Ill, 1903,
pp. 237-52. All three of these packs painted by Bonifacio
Bembo are discussed from an art-historical standpoint in
Pietro Toesca, La pittura e la miniatura nella Lombardia, Milan,
1912 (see pp. 626-7), reprinted Turin, 1966 (see p. 218); in
R. Longhi, 'La restituzione di un trittico d'arte cremonese
circa il 1460', Pinacoteca, vol. I, 1928, pp. 55-87, reprinted in
R. Longhi, Me pinxit, Florence, 1968; Fernanda Wittgens,
'Note ed aggiunte a Bonifacio Bembo', Rivista d'Arte, vol.
XVIII, 1936; and C. Baroni and S. Samek Ludovici, La
pittura lombarda del Quattrocento
, Messina and Florence, 1952
(see pp. 91-116). The Visconti di Modrone pack is discussed
by Robert Steele, 'A notice of the Ludus Triumphorum and
some early Italian card games', Archaeologia, vol. 57, 1900,
pp. 185-200, and by Ron and Charlotte Decker, 'The
Visconti-Sforza cards in the Cary Collection', The Journal of
the Playing-Card Society,
vol. IV, no. 2, November, 1975, pp.
27-32. Eight cards from it are illustrated in Catherine Perry
Hargrave, A History of Playing Cards, Boston and New York,
1930, reprinted New York, 1966, p. 226. The Brambilla
pack was completely illustrated in a booklet called 48 tarocchi
di Bonifacio Bembo, published by the Istituto Finanziario per
l'Arte, Milan, 1971; some of the captions are incorrect.
These and several other of the hand-painted Tarot packs
discussed in the text are discussed, with several illustrations,
in an excellent article by Robert Klein, 'Les tarots
enlumines du XVe siecle', L'Oeil, no. 145, 1967, pp. 11-17,
51-2. For illustrations of the Rothschild cards, see R. Klein,
op. cit., Detlef Hoffmann, Die Welt der Spielkarte, Leipzig,
1972, plates 17(a) and 20(b), and Leopoldo Cicognara,
Memorie spettanti alia Storia delta Calcografia, Prato, 1831, plate
XI. Many works illustrate and discuss the 'Charles VI'
tarots: see R. Klein, op. cit., an anonymous picture-book,
Antiche carte da tarocchi, Rome, 1961, plates III-V; William


[new column]
must have created a strong incentive to a patron,
when ordering an expensive hand-painted set, to
specify a Tarot pack. Equally striking is the
constancy of the subjects used for the triumph
cards; despite the wide variety in their treatment,
we find always the same subjects as those known
from later packs, with the exception of three from
the Visconti di Modrone pack which will be
discussed below, and the possible exception of
the figure on the stag from the Catania pack. Of
the standard twenty-one subjects, the only one
not represented among any of the fifteenthcentury
Italian hand-painted cards surviving to us is the
Devil: but, since this figure appears on the
popular sets of tarocchi, printed by woodblock,
that have come down to us from the end of the
century, this should probably be ascribed to chance.
Andrew Chatto, Facts and Speculations on the Origin and History
of Playing Cards
, London, 1848, p. 187; R. Merlin, L'Origine
des cartes a jouer
, Paris, 1869, p. 89; H.-R. D'Allemagne, Les
Cartes a jouer du XIV au XXe siecle
, vol. I, Paris, 1906, pp. 11,
13, 15, 181-2 and opposite pp. 12, 172, 414, and vol. II,
opposite pp. 4, 18; W.L. Schreiber, Die altesten Spielkarten,
Strasbourg, 1937, p. 101; and Eberhard Pinder, 'The
history of European playing cards', Graphis, vol. 11, 1955,
pp. 246-7. For the d'Este cards, see H.-R. D'Allemagne, op.
cit., vol. II, opposite pp. 12 and 38. Some cards from the
Catania pack, including the figure on the stag, are
illustrated in D. Hoffmann, op.cit., plate 18(a); see also R.
Klein, op. cit., and Antiche carte da tarocchi, plate I, and Guido
Libertini, II Castello Ursino e le raccolte artistiche e comunali di
, Catania, 1937, pp. 112-13. The catalogue numbers
of the cards are 6425-51. One of the Turin cards is shown in
D. Hoffmann, op. cit., plate 18(b); see also R. Klein, op.
cit., Antiche carte da tarocchi, plate I, and W.LI Schreiber, op.
cit., p. 102. The Tozzi cards are all illustrated and discussed
in M. L. D'Otrange, 'Thirteen Tarot cards from the
Visconti-Sforza set', The Connoisseur, vol. CXXXIII, 1954,
pp. 54-60; see also Gertrude Moakley, op. cit., pp. 33-4, fn.
10, and Ronald Decker, 'Two Tarot studies related', part
III, Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. IV, no. 1, August,.
1975, pp. 46-52, particularly p. 50. R. Cavendish, The Tarot,
London, 1975, p. 140, illustrates in colour two Charles
VI cards. Kaplan, op. cit., gives illustrations of all
these set-s, as follows: (1) the Visconti di Modrone
pack, seven triumphs, pp. 88-92, and eleven suit cards,
pp. 92-5, with a colour plate of the Knight of Cups,
plate 9; (2) the Brambilla pack, both triumphs, p. 96,
and ten suit cards, pp. 97-8; (3) the Visconti-Sforza
pack, all the cards, pp. 36, 65-86, 285, with a colour plate of
the Bagatto, plate IV; (4) the Charles VI pack, all the cards,
pp. 112-16, with a colour plate of the Love card,, plate 2; (5)
the Rothschild pack, the one triumph, p. 121, and eight
court cards, including that at Bassano, pp. 120-2; (6) the
d'Este pack, all the cards, pp. 117-18; (7) the Catania pack,
two triumphs, p. 109; (8) the Tozzi pack, all the cards, pp.
100-2; and (9) the Turin pack, all the cards, p. 119.

72 Part I: History and Mystery
Besides these nine packs, there are a number of
others of which fewer cards have survived, as

(10) A set of five, consisting of four numeral cards
and one triumph, the Emperor, was acquired in 1974
from a Milanese dealer by the Fournier Playing-Card
Museum at Vitoria in Spain. Like the Tozzi cards, the
designs are based very exactly on the corresponding
cards in the Visconti-Sforza pack; the one notable
departure from the Visconti-Sforza designs is the
depiction of a three-tiered tower on the Coin in the
Ace of that suit, a heraldic emblem of the Gonzaga
family, Marquises of Mantua, according to Mr
Decker. The cards have black backs and measure 171 x
87 mm., as close as makes no difference to the
dimensions of the Tozzi cards (a discrepancy of a
millimetre or two in the measurements of different
cards from the same pack, or of the same card
measured by different people, is ndt significant). If the
backs of the Tozzi cards are also black, there is
therefore a possibility that these five cards belong to the
same pack.

(11) There are four numeral cards, one from each
suit, in the Correr Museum in Venice: the sword on
the Ace of Swords is encircled by a crown and has the
unusual feature of piercing a bleeding heart. The
cards are precisely similar in style to the numeral
cards of the Rothschild set, but, although there is no
overlap between them, they cannot actually be from
the same pack, since the dimensions do not tally (180
x 93 mm. for the Correr cards, 188 x 90 mm. - or,
according to Hoffmann, 186 x 93 mm. - for the
Rothschild ones).

(12) Another set of four cards, bought in Milan
before 1915; is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in
London: it includes two triumph cards - Death and
the Star - and two suit cards - the Jack of Coins and
the Ace of Cups. The Jack of Coins corresponds
almost exactly in design with that in the Visconti-
Sforza pack, and is in a better state of preservation: as
far as I am able to see, judging from this card alone, it
could perfectly well be by Bembo. The other cards,
however, do not in any way resemble the Visconti-
Sforza cards (though it will be recalled that the Star in
the Visconti-Sforza pack as we now have it is not by
Bembo, so that it is conceivable that the Victoria and
Albert Star resembles one by Bembo that is now lost).
Death is shown as a skeleton wielding a scythe and
wearing a cardinal's hat and robe, standing on a
black-and-white chequered floor and with a scroll
coming from his mouth saying 'Son fine'. The Ace of
Cups depicts the Cup as a fountain with a vertical
arrow between the two jets which spring from it; the
stem of the Cup bears the inscription 'nec spe nec
metu', which was the heraldic motto of Isabella
d'Este, and the Cup stands on grass; there are two
putti at its foot, one beaming a shield with the Colleoni

[new column]
arms. (25) The cards measure 167 x 85 mm. I know of no
connection between Isabella d'Este and the Colleoni
family; the cards could plausibly have been painted
for the famous condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni (1400-
1476), who was closely associated with Francesco
Sforza at certain stages of his career; but Isabella
d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, seems a more likely

(13) Three isolated cards should probably be
grouped together. One is a Popess in the Fournier
Museo de Naipes at Vitoria. This card was bought at
the" Same "time" and from ' t ie "same~ dealer as the five
cards described under (10), but is slightly, though
visibly, smaller, measuring 170 x 85 mm.; it has a red
back, while the other five have black ones. It is a copy
of the Popess in the Visconti-Sforza pack, though not
an exact copy; the Popess's tiara, on this card,
projects further from her head. The second card is a
King of Cups in the collection of Mr N. Biedak of Los
Angeles, very closely resembling the Tozzi King of
Cups, but seen in right profile, like the Visconti-
Sforza one, not in left profile, like that of the Tozzi set;
according to Mrs Wayland, it measures 170 x 86 mm.
The third card is a Jack of Batons in the collection of
Signora C. Marzoli of Milan, measuring 170 x
85 mmj;s;and closely resembling the corresponding'
Visconti-Sforza card. I do not know the colour of the
backs of these last two cards; if it is red, it seems
probable that all three come from the same pack,
possibly one by the artist responsible for the Tozzi set.
Kaplan (op. cit., p. 103) mistakenly groups the Popess
with the other five Fournier cards.

(14) The Guildhall, London, has two pairs of handpainted
fifteenth-century cards, which are of very perceptibly
different widths, and do not come from the same pack.
The wider of these two pairs (138 x 72 mm.) consists of
the Aces of Cups and of Swords.
25. As often in heraldry, the device on these arms
represents a pun on the name of the bearer, though in this
case, one unlikely in more modern times: it consists of three
pairs of testicles (coglioni) which, by a euphemism, later
came to be called, and shown as, inverted hearts. The shield
on the Ace of Cups is parted per fess, not, as in all other
examples of these arms known to me, per pale. Kaplan, op.
cit., p. 99, remarks on the presence of a precipice at the very
bottom of the card on the Ace of Cups; it is also visible on
the Jack of Coins, though not present on the Visconti-Sforza
one. As Kaplan observes (pp. 70, 72), such a precipice is a
feature of four of the six cards not by Bembo in the Visconti-
Sforza pack, Temperance, the Star, the Moon and the Sun.
It is, moreover, to be found on three of the Tozzi cards,
Temperance, the Wheel of Fortune and the Jack of Cups.
Kaplan remarks (pp. 60, 106) that such a precipice is to be
found in the painting at the Carthusian monastery near
Pavia of Christ on the way to Calvary by Ambrogio
Bergognone (active from 1481, died 1523), but draws no
conclusion from the fact. Kaplan gives the inscription on the
Death card incorrectly as Sanfine (p. 104), which he takes to
mean 'Without end'; the first word is Son, meaning 'I am'.

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 73
The former shows a strong affinity with the Victoria
and Albert card: the cup is again a fountain with
vertical arrow between two cascades of water, but
stands on a chequered floor. There is a blank scroll
behind the cup; an odd detail is a small anchor in the
top left-hand corner of the card and a small straight
sword in its top right-hand corner, looking for all the
world like suit-signs, which they obviously cannot be.
The Ace of Swords shows a short sword encircled by a
crowned serpent biting its tail; behind the sword is a
scroll with the words 'Vim vi', and above it a sun with
rays and a face, with the letters MIA above the sun.
'Vim vi' is a motto borne by various Italian families,
but I have not been able to discover one for whom
playing cards are likely to have been painted; the
motto is oddly misread by Kaplan (op. cit., p. I l l ) as

(15) The narrower Guildhall pair (141 x 66 mm.)
comprises one triumph card, the World, which is a
very close copy, laterally reversed, of that in the
Visconti-Sforza pack, and an elaborate card that may
dubiously be identified as a Jack of Batons. This
second card, which Kaplan (ibid.) mistakenly groups
with the wider pair (14), shows a crossbowman
shooting at a heron over water; the archer wears a flat
cap, there are trees behind him, and the heron is
standing by some rushes. Over the right shoulder of
the archer, not attached to anything, is a vertical
cudgel, resembling a Baton of the so-called Spanish
type. It is true that on some early Italian cards,
including the d'Este tarocchi at Yale (6), the Batons
can be rather knobbly, but, with the exception to be
mentioned below, there is nothing else at all like this;
besides, in almost all other cases, the court figure
holds his suit-sign in his hand. Moreover, the whole
design seems rather German in style than Italian. The
Guildhall catalogue records both pairs as having been
found in an old chest in Seville.

(16) A pair of cards at the Muzeum Narodowego in
Warsaw, bought in 1946 from the Potocki collection,
are both court cards, the Cavalier of Coins and the
Queen of Cups; the presence of the Queen shows that
they must have come from a Tarot pack. They show
no especial stylistic resemblance to any other of the
cards here listed.

(17) A very fine pair of Jacks, of Swords and Coins,
is at Hanover (Niedersachsisches Landesmuseum):
the style is quite unlike Bembo's, but the Coin held by
the Jack of that suit bears the Visconti-Sforza serpent.

(18) An isolated card, the Jack of Coins, is in the
collection of Signor Francesco Andreoletti of Milan,
and is a copy, though laterally reversed, of the
corresponding card in the Visconti-Sforza pack; its
measurements (140 x 66 mm,) tally closely with those
of the narrower Guildhall pair.

(19) By far the most puzzling of all is the set of nine
cards known as the Goldschmidt cards, again from

[new column]
the name of a former owner, at the Spielkarten
Museum in Leinfelden. One is a 5 of Batons; the
Batons appear in exactly the 'Spanish' form and
arrangement. Another is an Ace of Cups: as in the
wider Guildhall pair and the Victoria and Albert set,
the cup is a fountain, with two cascades of water and a
vertical arrow between them; as on the Guildhall
card, it stands on a chequered floor. The stem of the
cup is encircled by a serpent biting its tail, like that on
the Ace of Swords in the Guildhall pair, although
uncrowned and facing in the opposite direction. A
third card is surely to be identified as the Ace of
Swords, although Detlef Hoffmann has suggested that
it be equated with the Death card of the Tarot pack. It
shows a short sword, very similar to that on the
Guildhall Ace of Swords, to the blade of which is
chained a skull and the hilt of which has a pair of
crossbones superimposed. A fourth card shows a
crowned dolphin: probably this is just a heraldic
device, and the card, like the Tozzi card showing the
Visconti-Sforza serpent, was not meant to be Used in
play. The remaining five cards are a complete
mystery, (a) One shows a falconer, standing on a
chequered floor, with a little dog at his feet, a bird on
his hand and a hoop suspended from his shoulders;
floating above his shoulder is a toothed wheel,
(b) Another shows a sun, with rays and a face, very
like that on the Guildhall Ace of Swords, above a
chequered floor on which stand three metallic objects
bearing respectively, the letters a, m, c (perhaps
heraldically conventionalised mountains, or perhaps
something quite different), (c) A third shows a
bishop, again standing on a chequered floor; above
his shoulder is an anchor, exactly like that on the
Guildhall Ace of Cups, (d) A fourth shows a lady
wearing a crown, holding a model of a castle and
standing on the usual chequered floor, her gown held
by a lady in waiting; W.L. Schreiber takes her to be
an Empress, (e) The final card has no chequered
floor, and shows a lady wearing a crown and kneeling
at a prie-dieu, with a maidservant in attendance;
Schreiber identifies her as a Dogaressa, with what
right I do not know.

(20) In view of the falconer on one of the
Goldschmidt cards, it is worth mentioning also a
single, very large, card (177 x 95 mm.) showing a
falconer, also at the Spielkarten Museum at
Leinfelden. In 1955 Eberhard Pinder established that
this card was a forgery, though he did not publish this
finding. However, the card is so unlike any other
known to survive that it is probable that the forger was
imitating some original that has since disappeared; he
would hardly have gone to the trouble of producing a
forgery bearing no resemblance to any authentic
26 For colour illustrations of eight of the nine Goldschmidt
cards, see D. Hoffmann, op. cit., plate 19; for discussion
of them, see pp. 18 and 67 of the same work, the article by E.

74 Part I: History and Mystery
One of the striking facts is how frequently the
Visconti-Sforza cards were copied, sometimes
only for certain cards in a pack. It is not
especially surprising that the cards of a famous
pack should have served as a model for later
artists; but it is rather notable that it seems
always to have been the Visconti-Sforza pack
which played this role, and not, for example, the
Brambilla or the Visconti di Modrone one. There
might be suspicions of the authenticity of some of
these cards; but such suspicions could not be
founded on the mere fact that Visconti-Sforza
cards have been copied, since there is surely no
basis for suspecting the genuineness either of the
Victoria and Albert cards (12) of of the narrower
Guildhall pair (15). On the whole, I am disposed
to believe that nos. (1) to (19) are all genuine.

It is obvious that the Goldschmidt cards pose a
severe problem. It is not apparent, from the cards
Pinder in Graphis, vol. 11, 1955, p. 243, the same author's
Charta Lusoria, Biberach an der Riss, 1961, p. 89, W.L.
Schreiber, op. cit., p. 100, and R. Klein, op. cit. For a colour
illustration of the single 'Falconer' card, see E. Pinder's
Graphis article, p. 243. Pinder's later judgment that this card
was a forgery was based on a chemical analysis of the paint by
the Doerner Institut in Munich, backed by the stylistic
judgment of Dr Degenhard, of Munich, and others; I owe this
information to Frau Margot Dietrich, of the Leinfelden
Museum. For the Correr cards, see R. Merlin, op. cit., p. 66
and plates 8 and 9. For the Warsaw cards, see
Stanislaw Sawicky, 'Dwie wtoskie karty "tarocchi" w
zbiorach Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie', Roczwik
Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie
, vol. II, 1957,
pp. 605-24. A colour illustration of one of the wider pair of
Guildhall cards (the Ace of Swords) is in Roger Tilley,
Playing Cards, London, 1967, p. 9. For a colour illustration of
the Hanover cards, see J»A.S. Morrison, 'Gamblers' printed
art', The Penrose Annual, vol. 53, London, 1959, p 54. Three of
the Victoria & Albert cards are illustrated, two in colour, in
R. Cavendish, op. cit., pp. 126 and 140. All the cards in sets
(10) to (19), but not the Falconer card (no. 20), are
illustrated in Kaplan, op. cit., as follows: (10), p. 103; (11), p.
123; (12), p. 104; (13), pp. 103, 105; (14), p. 111; (15), pp.
104, 111; (16), p. 109; (17), p. 108; (18), p. 105; and (19), p.
110. Mr Decker cites, as a reference for the Gonzaga tower,
The Complete Paintings of Mantegna, ed. N. Garavaglia,
New York, 1967, p. 104. Of the cards in sets (l) to (20), those
I have not personally seen are the ones in Paris, namely the
Charles VI and Rothschild sets (nos. 4 and 5), those at Turin,
Warsaw and Hanover (nos 9, 16 and 17) and those in private
collections (thirteen of the Visconti-Sforza set in the Colleoni
collection in Bergamo, the Marzoli and Biedak cards in set
no. 13, the Tozzi cards, no. 8, and the Andreoletti card, no.
18). For these I have relied on photographs and on
information, including measurements, very kindly supplied
by Dr and Mrs Harold Wayland, of Pasadena, California-,
who many years ago undertook a comprehensive study of
fifteenth-century Italian hand-painted cards, but regrettably
never published the results of their findings; their help,
without which I should not have known of some of these sets,
has been invaluable to me.

[new column]
themselves, that they are Tarot cards at all: not
one of them can be identified with any assuranceas
one of the Tarot triumphs. Hoffmann equates
the falconer (a) with the Bagatto; but the single
'Falconer' card (no. 20) resembles any ordinary
Bagatto even less, and so makes this
identification doubtful. Hoffmann also equates
card (b) with the Sun of the Tarot pack; but
since the very similar sun on the Guildhall Ace of
Swords clearly does not determine the identity of
the card, it may be that, on this Goldschmidt
card, the sun is again decorative, and that the
identifying symbol is the three mysterious objects
standing on the floor. The bishop might be a
replacement for the Pope: on a sheet taken from a
woodblock, mentioned below, a female bishop
evidently substitutes for the Popess. Schreiber
might be right in saying that the lady with the
model castle is an Empress; but none of these
identifications is compelling, and the lady at the
prie-dieu remains completely enigmatic.

There is, nevertheless, a reason for regarding
the Goldschmidt cards as part of some very
unusual Tarot pack. Their iconographical links
are with the wider Guildhall pair; but there is
some reason to suppose that the narrower
Guildhall pair comes from the same pack, which
must, if so, have been a Tarot pack, since one
member of that pair is the World. The
dimensions of the narrower Guildhall pair (141 x
66 mm.) coincide as nearly as may be with
those of the Goldschmidt cards (140 x 66 mm.).
Where the wider Guildhall cards have
unpatterned gold backgrounds, the narrower
ones have gold backgrounds with patterns very
similar to those on the Goldschmidt cards. The
pattern does not seem to be exactly the same on
any two of the Goldschmidt cards, nor does the
pattern on any one of them tally precisely with
that on either of the narrower Guildhall cards;
but the pattern on one is very similar to that on
Goldschmidt card (b) (the card with the sun),
and that on the other has a clear resemblance to
those on Goldschmidt cards (a) and (e) (the
falconer and the lady at the prie-dieu). Both the
narrow Guildhall cards have black borders, just
as do the Goldschmidt cards. The only
iconographical resemblances are the Spanishstyle
Batons on the Goldschmidt 5 of that suit and
the exactly similar one on the Guildhall card
presumably to be identified as the Jack of that
suit, and the caps worn by the latter figure and the
Goldschmidt falconer. These points do not
together make the assignment of the two sets to

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 75

the same original pack more than a plausible
conjecture: but since, in several of the
Goldschmidt cards and in the Guildhall Jack of
Batons, if that is what it is, we have the only
examples from these fifteenth-century handpainted
cards that present difficulties of
identification, with the sole exception of the
Catania figure on the stag, it is a tempting one.
If the Goldschmidt cards do come from a Tarot
pack, then they testify to the existence in the
fifteenth century of a type of such pack
employing the 'Spanish' form of the Latin suitsigns
and deviating greatly from the norm in the
representation of the triumph subjects, and
probably also in the selection of those subjects,
but yet having links with tarocchi of a more usual
kind, as exemplified by the Victoria and Albert
cards and by the Visconti-Sforza pack. The
implications of this possibility will be discussed
in more detail below.

The Goldschmidt cards, and their relation to
the two Guildhall pairs and to the Victoria and
Albert cards, do indeed pose a difficult problem
which is far from being solved. But if we set the
Goldschmidt cards on one side, and, with them,
the single Falconer card, almost all is plain
sailing: the smaller sets, (10) to (18), simply
confirm the impression derived from the nine
packs of which thirteen or more cards have
survived. There are a few problems about where
certain of the cards were painted or at whose
order: but their identity and the composition of
the packs from which they came are for the most
part unproblematic. Making the suggested
assumptions that the Marzoli and Biedak cards
belong with the Fournier Popess, and the
Bassano card with the Rothschild ones, we have
nine sets of from one to eight cards, of which five
come from Tarot packs and the other four could
be from regular packs. Of the five from Tarot
packs, all have some suit cards, and four have one
or more triumphs. Moreover, when it consists of
only four or fewer cards, the chance that a set
which could have come from a regular pack
actually came from a Tarot pack is significant. If
we take the denomination of a surviving card to
be random, there is of course a 2:1 chance that a
single card from a Tarot pack will be a suit card
other than a Queen. The chance that both of two
cards will be suit cards other than Queens is over
44 per cent, and, even with four cards, the chance
that none of them will be distinctive of the Tarot
pack is nearly 19 per cent. But even if we suppose
that every one of our sets from (1) to (18) that

[new column]
could have formed part of a regular pick did in
fact do so, there are, if the suggested
identifications are accepted, only five such sets
altogether as against thirteen from Tarot packs.
It is plain that the great majority of the playingcard
packs painted by hand for the Italian
nobility of the fifteenth century were tarocchi.

The Goldschmidt cards aside, the four more
fragmentary sets which include triumph cards -
the five Fournier ones (10), the four Victoria and
Albert ones (12), the Fournier-Biedak-Marzoli
trio (13) and the narrower Guildhall pair (15) -
confirm our previous impression that the
triumph subjects, though not their
representation, were standardised from an early
date. This is reinforced by the earliest detailed
reference to the Tarot pack, a sermon against
gaming from an anonymous manuscript volume
of sermons by a Dominican friar. The volume
was formerly in the possession of Robert Steele,
and is now at the Museum of Art in Cincinnati.
The bulk of the sermon was published by Steele
in his article of 1900, (27) in which he dates the
volume to between 1450 and 1470; in his
subsequent article of 1901,(28) he gives the date,
more cautiously, as between 1450 and 1480. In
this sermon, the preacher lists the twenty-one
triumph cards, together with the Matto, as if
they formed an invariable set: the subjects are
precisely the usual ones, though not in exactly
the. order most familiar to us. The same selection
of triumph subjects is confirmed by many literary
references from the sixteenth century.(29) It is
found, likewise, on certain surviving sheets of
cards, printed from wood blocks and made for
the popular market, dating from the end of the
fifteenth century. For our purpose, the sheets
showing regular packs are not of importance: I
shall list only those four which show tarocchi.
(21) Three coloured sheets for one such pack are in
the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and show, in
whole or part, twenty of the twenty-one standard
triumph cards.

(22) A sheet for another such pack, showing all
twenty-one triumphs and three Queens, is in the
Rosenwald Collection in the National Gallery of Art,
Washington, and another copy, much less well
preserved, in the Spielkarten Museum in Leinfelden.
The Rosenwald Collection has two other sheets,
probably though not quite certainly from the same
pack, showing suit cards.
27 See footnote 2.
28 See footnote 15.
29 See Chapter 20.

76 Part I: History and Mystery
(23) Yet another sheet, showing six triumph cards,
is in the Rothschild Collection at the Louvre. A
further sheet of six triumph cards, without doubt from
the same pack, is at the Bibliotheque de l'Ecole
Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Together they show the Wheel, the Chariot, the
Hermit, the Hanged Man, Death, the Devil, the
Tower, the Star, the Moon, the Sun, the World and
the Judgment or Angel.

(24) Finally, a sheet showing two numeral cards, a
fragment that is probably the Fool, and, in whole or
part, fifteen triumph cards, is at the Beinecke Library
at Yale, having been part of the Cary Collection.
Among these, there are certainly identifiable the
Bagatto, the Empress, the Emperor, Temperance,
Fortitude, the Wheel, the Chariot, the Devil, the
Tower, the Star, the Moon and the Sun: there are also
fragmentary cards that could be the Pope and Love
cards, and a female Bishop who presumably replaces
the Popess. Several cards resemble the corresponding
ones in the Tarot de Marseille pattern.(30)

A discussion of the probable places of origin of
these various popular Tarot packs will be
postponed until Chapter 20. A detailed analysis
of all the cards in the hand-painted packs (1) to
(19) and on these four sets of sheets will be found
at the end of the present chapter.

There are two late fifteenth-century exceptions
30. A fragmentary card on one of the Metropolitan
Museum sheets is probably the Moon, but might be the
Star; the other of this pair is missing. Their catalogue
numbers are 26.101.5, 26.101.4 and 31.54.159; a
composite photograph of the last two is reproduced by
Kaplan, op. cit., p. 125. The catalogue number of the
Rosenwald sheet is R 19823; the two other sheets with suit
cards are B 19821-2. See Boris Mandrovsky, 'Early Italian
playing-cards in the Rosenwald Collection, the National
Gallery of Art, Washington, D . C , Journal of the Playing-
Card Society
, vol. I, no. 2, November 1972, pp. 1 and 8.
The catalogue number of the Rothschild sheet is 3804.
The cards shown are the Chariot, Death, the Devil, the
Tower, the Star and the Moon. See W.L. Schreiber, op. cit.,
p. 104, where, however, the sheet is. incorrectly stated to
show the Sun instead of the Star. The catalogue number of
the sheet in the Cary Collection is 1-1005. The cards
definitely identifiable are the 7 and 8 of Batons, the Bagatto,
the Emperor, a female bishop presumably representing or
replacing the Popess, Temperance, Fortitude, the Chariot,
the Wheel, the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the Moon and the
Sun. There are also fragments probably to be identified as
the Fool, the Pope and Love. Half of the Rosenwald sheet
with the triumph cards is illustrated in Mandrovsky's article,
and the whole of it by Kaplan, pp. 130-1, in both cases
printed the wrong way round; the Rothschild sheet is
illustrated by Hoffmann, op. cit., plate 14(b), and it and the
Beaux Arts sheet by Kaplan, pp! 128-9. The Cary sheet has
not, so far as I know, previously been reproduced.

[new column]
to the general rule that the triumph subjects are
always the same; these both substitute individual_
classical and Biblical characters for the
generalised figures of the usual Tarot triumphs.
One is the celebrated Sola-Busca tarocchi, a
copper-engraved pack of which several examples
are extant; it was made in Venice by a Ferrarese
artist in 1491, or possibly in 1523.(31) It has the
usual number of cards in each suit, and the suit-
signs are standard; but the numeral cards are
very fancifully executed, the suit-signs not being
displayed in the usual manner, but worked into a
picture containing one or more figures. The court
cards are identified with various historical
characters, whose names are shown on the cards.
There is a Matto, but the twenty-one triumph
cards, which are numbered from I to XXI, again
depict characters of classical and Biblical history,
their names being shown on the cards; there is no
correspondence with the usual subjects.(32) The
other is a pack designed by the poet Matteo
Maria Boiardo (1441-1494). It was to have four
suits, made up of the usual fourteen cards each,
but with the non-standard suit-signs of Whips,
Eyes,""Arrows and Vases; in addition, it was to
have a Fool (Folle) and twenty-one non-standard
triumphs. Again, there was no correspondence
between their subjects, each of which
represented some quality, such as patience,
modesty, etc., and was symbolised by an
appropriate historical character, and the
standard ones.(33) Both these are evidently
31. One card bears the inscription 'Col permesso del
Senato Veneto nell'anno ab urbe condita MLXX' ('With
the permission of the Senate of Venice in the year 1070 after
the foundation of the city'). A traditional date for the
foundation of the city of Venice is 421, yielding the date
1491 for the cards; but W.L. Schreiber, op. cit., p. 105,
remarks that an alternative date is 453, yielding 1523 for the
32. D. Hoffmann, op. cit., p. 68, gives Ferrara as the place
of origin of this pack. For discussion and illustrations, see
Arthur Mayger Hind, Early Italian Engraving, London, vol. I,
1938, pp. 241-7, and vol. IV, 1938, plates 370-93. Kaplan,
pp. 126-7, illustrates twenty triumphs and three court cards.
33. Each card was to bear a descriptive tercet composed by
Boiardo; there were also to be two extra cards, bearing
sonnets by him. The resulting poems, consisting of the two
sonnets and the tercets arranged to make five capitoli, one for
each suit and one for the triumphs, were printed separately
in 1523 in a volume published in Venice and containing
poems by various authors. They were reprinted, under the
title 'I Tarocchi', together with a previously unpublished
commentary by Pier Antonio Viti da Urbino (c. 1470-1500),
by Angelo Solerti in Le Poesi Volgari e Latine di M. M. Boiardo,
Bologna 1894, pp. 313-38, with notes on pp. xxxii-xxxv,

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 77
conscious departures from the norm: they in no
way call in question the existence of a norm. The
standard composition of the Tarot pack was
plainly fixed at a very early stage in its history,
despite occasional experiments such as the Sola-
Busca tarocchi and those of Boiardo. Later, as we
shall see, a number of variant forms developed;
but, in fifteenth-century Italy, the number and
identity of the cards of the Tarot pack was
completely determinate.

The important exception to this is the Visconti
di Modrone pack, which we have yet to describe.
It diverges from the norm in two ways, both in
respect of the suit cards and in respect of the
triumphs. Among the sixty-seven surviving cards
are all forty numeral cards save the 3 of Coins.
However, there are six different denominations of
court card, a male and a female one of each rank:
King and Queen, Knight and Dame (or male and
female Cavalier), and Page (or Jack) and Maid.
Although there is no suit in which all six court
cards survive, they are distributed so randomly
and again in A. Zottoli (ed.), Tutte le opere di Matteo Maria
, Milan, 1936-7, vol. 2, pp. 702-16, with notes pp. 748-9.
The title 'I Tarocchi' is not Boiardo's; neither he nor Viti uses
the word tarocchi, but, instead, trionfi (sometimes for the
twenty-one triumph cards, sometimes for the pack as a
whole). The suits represent four passions: love (Arrows),
jealousy (Eyes), fear (Whips) and hope (Vases). Each court
card depicts an appropriate Biblical or classical character.
The Fool (called by Viti macto) is called il Mondo (the
World), a reversal of the usual practice by which the World
is the highest triumph card; each of the actual triumph
cards represents some quality, such as patience, modesty,
etc., and is symbolised by an appropriate historical
character; there is no correspondence with the usual
triumph subjects. Viti's commentary is addressed to a lady
of the court of Urbino; he expresses the hope that his
patroness will have a pack made in accordance with the
designs he describes. She must have done so, since Carlo
Lozzi, 'Le Antiche Carte da Giuoco', La Bibliofilia, vol. I,
1900, pp. 37-46 and 181-6, mentions just such a pack,
though missing all the court cards and the Fool, and R.
Merlin, L'Origine des cartes a jouer, Paris, 1869, pp. 94-6 a'nd
plate 28, speaks of another copy, missing five court cards,
seven numeral cards, the Fool and all the triumph cards.
(Merlin naturally does not recognise his pack as a Tarot
pack, and Lozzi fails to connect his with Boiardo's poem.)
The pack illustrated by Merlin was very probably identical
with one sold at Christie's in 1971 to Signor Carlo Alberto
Chiesa of Milan; this was a pack printed from wood blocks,
and also missing the Fool and all the triumph cards, as well as
a few court cards and numeral cards. For more illustrations
and further details, see M. Dummett, 'Notes on a fifteenthcentury
pack of cards from Italy', Journal of the Playing-Card
vol. I, no. 2, February 1973, pp. 1-6. The pack is now
in an anonymous Swiss collection.

[new column]
as to make it impossible to suppose otherwise
than that there were originally all six in each
suit: there survive the King, Queen, Dame arid
Maid of Swords, the Queen, Dame, Page and
Maid of Batons, the King, Knight, Page and
Maid of Cups and the King, Queen, Knight,
Dame and Maid of Coins. Of the eleven surviving
triumph cards, eight represent standard subjects
- the Empress, the Emperor, Love, Fortitude, the
Chariot, Death, Judgment and the World. The
other three cards, however, represent the three
theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity,
subjects which do not, of course, occur in the
ordinary Tarot pack.

The Visconti di Modrone pack is the only
Tarot pack, of any kind, in which the suits include
court cards other than the usual King, Queen,
Cavalier and either Jack or Maid. There must
have been sixty-four suit cards in all: how many
triumphs there were originally, and whether a
Fool was included, it is impossible to say.
Ronald Decker has suggested that there may
originally have been only fourteen triumphs, and
no Fool, so as to make up the usual total of 78
cards;(34) but the total number of cards in the pack
34. Letter to the Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. Ill,
no. 1, August, 1974, pp. 23-4, 48; see also letter by M.
Dummett, ibid., vol. Ill, no. 2, November, 1974, pp. 27-31,
and Ronald Decker, 'Two Tarot studies related', part III,
ibid., vol. IV, no. 1, August, 1975, pp. 46-52 (esp. p. 50). Mr
Decker presumes that the Visconti di Modrone pack had
only 78 cards, like other Tarot packs; since it must have had
64 suit cards, that leaves only 14 triumph cards and no
Fool. There can, on this reasoning, have been no Fool, since
Mr Decker accepts my view that the three, missing Virtues
must originally have been present, and, if we add these to
the eleven surviving triumphs, we already obtain 14, and
there is no roorfl for the Fool. Mr Decker then takes the very
illogical step of arguing that, since there are only 13
(surviving) triumph cards in the Visconti-Sforza pack that
were painted by Bembo, perhaps these, together with the
Fool, were all that the pack originally contained. This is
illogical because in this pack there are only the usual 56 suit
cards, so that he is suggesting an original pack of only 70
cards, whereas the original premiss was that all Tarot packs
had 78 cards. He attempts to rescue his hypothesis by
conjecturing that the Visconti-Sforza pack had originally six
court cards in each suit; but this is obviously very special
pleading. On his hypothesis, there would, besides the suit
cards, have been seven cards in common between the two
packs: the Empress, the Emperor, Love, Justice, the
Chariot, Death and the Judgment. Seven of the triumphs
present in the Visconti di Modrone pack would then have
been removed, namely the World and the six Virtues other
than Justice, when the Visconti-Sforza pack was painted, to
make room for the Fool, the Bagatto, the Popess, the Pope,
the Wheel of Fortune, the Hermit (which originally

78 Part I: History and Mystery
is unlikely to have been seen as a significant
feature. Since four of the stock set of seven
Virtues were included among the triumphs, it
seems probable that the other three were also:
Temperance and Justice, which belong to the
standard list of triumph subjects, and Prudence,
which does not. It is just possible, on the other
hand, that what was held constant was the ratio
between the number of triumphs and the
number of cards in each suit, which, in the 78-
card Tarot pack, is 3:2; if this was also so in the
Visconti di Modrone pack, it would have had
twenty-four triumph cards, in which case it could
have contained all save one of the usual subjects,
making, if the Fool was included, a pack of 89
cards altogether; indeed, if we do not suppose
that it included Prudence, it could have had all of
the usual subjects.

However this may be, the divergence of the
Visconti di Modrone pack from the norm, both
as to the number of suit cards and as to the
subjects, if not the number, of the triumph cards,
strongly suggests that it dates from an early
period when the Tarot pack had not yet assumed
its definitive form. In fact, it is probably the
earliest of all the examples of that pack that have
survived to us. It has usually been thought to
have been made for Filippo Maria Visconti,
which would date it to 1447, the year of his death,
at the latest. All three of the Bembo packs
bear emblems and mottoes of the Visconti family,
but that does not prove that they were made
for Filippo Maria, since Francesco Sforza,
his successor, had in 1441 married his
illegitimate daughter by Agnese del Maino,
Bianca Maria Visconti, and had assumed the
name Visconti-Sforza and, with it, many of the
represented Time) and the Hanged Man. Later, when the
number of triumphs was increased by eight, this was done
by restoring, from the original set of subjects, the World and
two of the Virtues, Temperance and Fortitude, but not the
other four, and adding the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the
Moon and the Sun. All this makes so little sense, and is so
grossly implausible, that the hypothesis that demands it is
not to be entertained. What is impressive about the
fifteenth-century Tarot packs that have come down to us is
not the variation in subjects, but, on the contrary, their
invariance, given the fact that no pack has survived
complete. Certainly we must allow that, after the Visconti di
Modrone pack was made, four of the seven Virtues were
removed; the advantage of the hypothesis that that pack
contained twenty-four triumph cards (not including the
Fool as a triumph) is that it gives a reason for the removal of
at least three of them when the number was reduced to

[new column]
Visconti devices. It is indeed, virtually certain
that the Visconti-Sforza pack was made for_
Francesco Sforza. One reason given by Robert
Steele for taking the Visconti di Modrone pack
to have been made for Filippo Maria is
admittedly flimsy. He thought that the Love
card, which shows a man and woman joining
hands before a tent above which flies a winged
and blindfold Cupid, carried a reference to
Filippo Maria's second marriage. Filippo Maria
divorced his iirst wife,_ Beatrice di Tenda, in
Italian style, having her executed for adultery in
1418; in 1428, he married Maria of Savoy,
although the marriage was probably never
consummated. The tent on the Love card is hung
with shields, alternately showing the Visconti
serpent and a white cross on a red ground, which
Steele took to be the arms of Savoy. But, if the
cards were painted by Bembo, an attribution
questioned by no one, they cannot have been
made as early as 1428, and it is unlikely that
there should have been any allusion to this
unfortunate marriage at any later date; Ronald
and Charlotte Decker identify the shield with the
cross" as the arms of the Principality of Pavia, a
title held by all the-Visconti and Sforza dukes.35
The principal reason for thinking that: the cards
were painted for Filippo Maria is, however, that
the numeral cards of the Coins suit, other than
the Ace and 2, show actual coins, the gold florin
of Filippo Maria, bearing the letters 'FI MA' and
made by the imprint of an actual die; the same is
true of all the eleven surviving cards of the Coins
suit in the Brambilla pack, but not of the
Visconti-Sforza pack. The Deckers surmise,
instead, that they were made by means of 'seals
of the sort used to attach wax imprints to official
documents'; (36) this strikes me as rather unlikely,
in view of the fact that both sides of the coin are
shown: it does not seem probable that there were
two distinct seals, corresponding exactly to the
two sides of the coin. The figures on the court
cards of Swords in the Visconti di Modrone pack
bear a gold fruit on their costumes, which the
Deckers identify as a quince, a Sforza emblem;
but this need not imply that the cards were
painted after Filippo Maria's death, since
35. Ron and Charlotte Decker, 'The Visconti-Sforza cards
in the Cary Collection', Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol.
IV, no. 2, November 1975, pp. 27-32; see p. 29.
36 Ibid., p. 31. The Deckers wish to prove that the pack
was painted for Francesco Sforza, not for Filippo Maria
[Transcriber's note: In The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards Dummett says that the coin-imprints on the cards are too large to be from actual coins. Hence they are from dies. On THF Marco shows that the designs on the cards do not in fact correspond to known coins. I wold add that the "rearing-horse" design remained essentially the same since the time of Gian Galeazzo, only the name of the reigning duke being changed.

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 79
Francesco Sforza was in his service, as well as
being married to his daughter. The probability
seems therefore to be that both the Visconti di
Modrone and the Brambilla packs were painted
for Filippo Maria Visconti, the former being the
earlier of the two and dating from the earliest
stage of existence of the Tarot pack.

The Deckers believe that all three Bembo
packs were painted after the death of Filippo
Maria. Stuart Kaplan, on the other hand, takes
the more usual view that the Visconti di
Modrone and Brambilla packs were both
painted for him, but regards the Brambilla pack
as the earlier (op. cit., p. 107). So far as we can
tell, the composition of the suits in the Brambilla
pack was standard (or what came to be
standard); since only two of the triumphs
survive, we cannot be certain about them. If the
composition of the Brambilla pack was in fact
standard, it seems more likely that it is the later
of the two. Hankering still after an identification
of the Visconti di Modrone pack as a wedding
present, which has only tradition, not evidence,
to speak for it (and not, of course, an ancient
tradition), Kaplan makes the novel suggestion
that it was painted for the wedding of Francesco
Sforza with Bianca Maria Visconti in 1441.
Taken together with his view that the Brambilla
pack is earlier still, this yields a date rather too
soon for such a commission to have been given to
Bembo, whose earliest dateable work is from
1442. As Ronald Decker has observed, the style
of the Visconti di Modrone cards resembles
Bembo's illustrations for a History of Lancelot
dated 1446. If we assume that the Brambilla pack
was the later, we must leave time for Bembo's
receiving from Filippo Maria a second
commission to execute a set of Tarot cards; we
shall therefore probably not be far wrong if we
date the Visconti di Modrone pack to about
1445. We know from the Ferrara account-books
that the Tarot pack (carte da trionfi) was already in
existence by 1442, and was sufficiently familiar to
that court to bear a generic name. On the other
hand, I have argued that the Visconti di
Modrone cards are not likely to have been
painted many years after the first invention of the-
Tarot pack. That event may therefore be
reasonably placed at somewhere around 1440 -
the approximate date, incidentally, assigned to
the painting in the Casa Borromeo.

With the possible exception of the
Goldschmidt cards and of one or both of the

[new column]
two Guildhall pairs, all the early Tarot cards we
possess are Italian; and though, as we shall see, it
cannot be ruled out that the pack was known
elsewhere during the fifteenth century, there is
no conclusive evidence that it was. We can
therefore safely say that it was in Italy,
specifically in northern Italy, that the pack was
invented and first became popular. Furthermore,
it appears initially to have originated and have
been in use in aristocratic circles. The type of
pack of which the few sheets, printed from wood
blocks, listed above are the only remaining
representatives was no doubt, in its time, very
common. As already remarked, cheap mass-
produced playing cards are highly ephemeral,
and survive, when they do, only through some
unusual accident, whereas costly objects made
by an acclaimed artist are preserved: there are in
fact not very many more popular cards, printed
from wood blocks, surviving from fifteenth-
century Italian regular packs than there are
Tarot cards of the same type. We may therefore
safely assume that in the last quarter of the
fifteenth century the Tarot pack attained great
popularity among the lower ranks of society; this
is confirmed by the Steele sermon, the author of
which was probably not preaching to a
congregation drawn only from the nobility, and,
perhaps, by the painting at Issogne.
Nevertheless, the connection with the nobility,
and especially with the courts of Ferrara and
Milan, compels attention. We have seen that at
least two out of three, and probably more, of the
cards hand-painted for the nobility were tarocchi,
a proportion there is no reason to suppose so high
for the popular cards printed from wood blocks.
The three packs by Bonifacio Bembo were all
made for the Milanese court, the Visconti di
Modrone and Brambilla packs probably for
Filippo Maria Visconti and the Visconti-Sforza
one for Francesco Sforza. We have noted that the
Tozzi, Fournier, Biedak and Marzoli cards come
fronxat least two distinct packs, though probably
by the same painter. That painter must have had
access to the Visconti-Sforza cards in order to
make such close copies of them. The card in the
Tozzi set bearing only the Visconti-Sforza
serpent implies that that pack was intended for
the Milanese court. If Ronald Decker is right in
identifying the three-tiered tower on the Fournier
Ace of Coins as a Gonzaga emblem, that
suggests that the five cards of the Fournier set (10)
do not after all come from the same pack as the

80 Part I: History and Mystery
Tozzi cards, and that we therefore have to do
with three distinct copies of the Visconti-Sforza
pack. A possible supposition is that all three were
commissioned from the same artist by Beatrice
d'Este, who married Lodovico il Moro, the last
great Sforza duke, in 1491 and died in childbirth
in 1497: one (the Tozzi set) for her own use, one
(the five Fournier cards) as a present to her sister
Isabella, who married Francesco Gonzaga,
Marquis of Mantua, in 1490, and one (the
Fournier-Biedak-Marzoli trio) for an unknown
recipient. (The Delia Scala emblem on the figure
on the Wheel of Fortune card in the Tozzi set
remains a mystery, since that family had been in
eclipse for a century.) The Victoria and Albert
cards may also come from a pack made for
Isabella d'Este, in view of the inscription of her
motto on the Ace of Cups (though the presence
on that card of the Colleoni shield would then be
mysterious); the artist must surely also have had
access to the Visconti-Sforza cards, in view of the
exact correspondence of the two Jacks of Coins.
The painter of the narrower Guildhall pair and of
the Andreoletti Jack of Coins, whether or not
these are from the same pack, must also have
seen the Visconti-Sforza cards. In view of the
presence of the arms of the King of Naples on two
of the cards, the d'Este pack at Yale was
probably made for Ercole I, the father of Beatrice
and Isabella, who became Duke of Ferrara in
1471 and died in 1505, since he was married to
Eleanora of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinando
I, King of Naples. We may also with reasonable
confidence assign the Charles VI, Rothschild and
Catania packs to those made for the Ferrara
court. The Ferrara account-books continue to
record orders for Tarot packs, among cards of
other kinds, for example, in 1452, in 1454 and in
1461;(37) and in 1492 Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, the
brother of Beatrice and Isabella, wrote from
Hungary, where he was staying with his aunt,
Beatrice of Aragon, Queen of Hungary, to thank
his mother Eleanora for sending a variety of
things including gilded Tarot cards {triumphi
dorati).(38) We have no way of being sure, but a
plausible guess might be that the Tarot pack
originated in the court of Ferrara, in 1440 or a
few years earlier, and was soon afterwards
adopted by the wealthier court of Milan. In any
case, it seems probable that, for the first two or
37. See the references under footnote 19.
38. See G. Bertoni, op. cit., footnote 19, p. 218.

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three decades of its existence, it was restricted to
the nobility, and only after that spread out among a
wider social circle.

Although the Tarot pack originated in the
fifteenth century, it did not originally bear that
name. The word 'Tarot' has become more or less
naturalised as an English word; it is in fact the
French adaptation of the Italian name of these
cards — tarocchi or, in the singular, tarocco. In early
sources the French word is sometimes spelled
tarau (plural taraux),tarault or simply taro. In
every other language but French and English, the
hard c sound of the Italian word has been kept -
Tarock in German (formerly often spelled Tarok
or Taroc), tarokk in Hungarian, taroky in Czech, etc.
Where the word tarocchi comes from, nobody
knows: no plausible etymology for it has ever
been suggested, and this deficiency was already
being commented on by an Italian poet, Lollio,
in 1550. (39) It is not, however, the original name of
the cards: the first use of the word tarocchi known
to me dates from 1516, once again from an
account-book of the Ferrara court.(40) Throughout
the fifteenth century, the word used was always
trionfi, or, in Latin, triumphi - 'triumphs': this
name was still in use in 1500.(41) The word trionfi,
39. 'Invettiva contra il Giuoco del Taroco': 'E quel nome
fantastico, e bizarro/Di Tarocco, senz'ethimologia,/Fa
palese a ciascun, che i ghiribizzi/Gli havesser guasto, e
zorpiato il cervello' ('And that whimsical, bizarre name
"Tarocco", without any etymology, makes plain to each that
fantasies have damaged and befuddled his brain '- 'he' being
the inventor of the game).
40. In 1516 the Registro di Guardaroba of the court of Ferrara
repeatedly records the purchase of two, or four, para de
, and similar entries occur in the following year; see
G. Bertoni, op. cit., 1917, pp. 218-19. The word tarocchi also
occurs in Francesco Berni, Capitolo del Giuoco delta Primiera,
Venice, 1526. I know no sixteenth-century use of the word
trionfi to refer to Tarot cards in general, or to the game played
with them, although it continued to be used to refer
specifically to the triumph cards. Nor do I know any
authentic occurrence of the word tarocchi before 1516. For an
almost certainly spurious one, see Appendix 2 to this chapter.
41. The word triumphi occurs in an ordinance from Reggio
nell'Emilia in 1500, forbidding games of chance, including
dice and cards, but specifically excepting 'tables' (i.e.
backgammon), chess and triumphs (hoc tamen statuto non
comprehendentur ludentes ad tabulas et scachos et triumphos cum
); see W.L. Schreiber, op. cit., p. 79, where, however,
the city is mistakenly identified as Reggio di Calabria. Such
exceptions were quite frequent, as at Brescia in 1488, Salo in
1489 and Bergamo in 1491 (see W.L. Schreiber, op. cit., pp.
78-9); in all of these cases the expression used was triumphi
or ludus triumphorum. It thus seems clear that the replacement
of the word trionfi or triumphi by the word tarocchi occurred
some time between 1500 and 1516.

Where and When the Tarot Pack was Invented 81
strictly speaking, refers only to what we have
been_calling the triumph cards, sometimes taken
as including the Fool, sometimes not. By
transference, it was used to apply also to the
game played with the Tarot pack, and sometimes
to the pack itself, including the suit cards; but the
more correct way of referring to the cards of the
Tarot pack, taken together, was as carte da trionfi.
At some time between 1500 and 1516, the new
name, tarocchi, superseded the old one, and was
thereafter invariably used as the way of referring
to these cards in Italian.

An opinion that has gained some support was
first advanced by Robert Steele, namely that the
Tarot pack was formed by uniting the regular
pack with what had previously been an
independent entity, a pack consisting solely of
the Matto and the twenty-one triumphs used on
their own, and that the early references to trionfi
should be taken as alluding, not to the composite
pack known to us as the Tarot pack, but to this
supposed 22-card pack. He based his opinion on
the text of the sermon by the anonymous
Dominican the manuscript of which was at that
time in his possession; indeed, that sermon
formed his only ground for that opinion. The
preacher inveighed, in his sermon, against three
types of game: first dice; then playing cards
{cartulae); and finally triumphs {triumphi). When
he comes to the last of these, he lists the twentyone
triumph cards and the Fool, but makes no
mention of the suit cards. Now, doubtless, if we
knew nothing of the Tarot pack save what we
learn from this sermon, we should have no reason
to think that a set of triumphi consisted of
anything but these twenty-two cards. But the fact
is that there is no other evidence whatever for the
existence of a pack consisting solely of the
triumph cards and the Matto; as we have seen, it
so happens that every fragmentary Tarot pack
that has come down to us includes at least one
suit card. The remarks of the Dominican friar
provide a very flimsy basis for contradicting the
assumption so compellingly suggested by the
actual cards that have survived, namely that the
triumph cards of the Tarot pack from the first
formed only part of a composite or augmented
pack, one containing, in addition to them, the
four suits of the regular pack. The preacher was
not, after all, trying to introduce his congregation
to vices with which they were previously
unacquainted: he was trying to wean them from

[new column]
what he regarded as vices to which they were
already addicted. He therefore did not need
carefully to inform them of the precise
composition of a trionfi pack, something they
already knew very well: he was trying, by
rhetorical devices, to convince them of his view
that all these things - dice, regular playing cards
and triumphs - were instruments of the devil; the
list of triumph cards evidently served as a
memorandum for expatiating on this topic. What
more natural than that, having left the subject of
regular playing cards, he should, when he turned
to denounce triumphs, mention only the cards
peculiar to the trionfi pack? We may agree that it
was primarily to these additional cards that the
name triumphi applied, without in the least
inferring that they ever formed by themselves an
independent pack.(42)

Miss Moakley is inclined to the same view as
Steele, but adds a further complication: she
thinks that there were also packs, consisting
solely of picture cards, but different in number
and subjects from the triumphs of the Tarot
pack, and likewise known as trionfi. On her view,
the term trionfi originally applied to cards of any
pack of a certain generic type, one consisting of
cards depicting mythological figures, personified
abstractions and the like, and only later came to
have specific application to a composite pack
formed by uniting a particular such series to the
regular four-suited pack. That there were, during
the fifteenth century, various packs answering to
this general description, Miss Moakley
undoubtedly establishes. It does not appear,
however, that they were, at any time, of
widespread use; none of them gained a hold on
general taste or remained more than an isolated
curiosity. Nor can it be shown that they were in
existence at an earlier date than the composite
Tarot pack. What is most to the point, however,
is that there is no reason to think that the word
42 Stuart Kaplan, op. cit., pp. 26, 349, offers a piece of
spurious evidence for the Steele thesis, stating that St
Anthony, Bishop of Florence, in a Treatise of Theology written
in 1457 'refers to playing cards and tarot, thus suggesting
that the trumps or trionfi were considered a separate game
from playing cards, which comprised court cards and
numeral or pip cards'. He presumably intends to refer to the
Summa Theologica of St Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence;
Pars 2 (Nuremberg, 1447), chap. 23, of this work does indeed
contain several mentions of playing cards, under the
alternative names of cartae or naibi, and their suit-signs (e.g.
§ viii, 'Unde in cartis sive naibis sunt figure non solum
baculorum, denariorum, cupparum, sed et gladiorum'). No
mention of triumphi is, however, to be found.

82 Part I: History and Mystery
trionfi was ever used for any kind of playing cards
other than Tarot cards. If Miss Moakley were
right, the references to carte da trionfi in the
account-books of the Ferrara court, from 1442
onwards, might relate, not to Tarot packs, but to
others of this more general type; but such a
generalised use of the term cannot be

The most interesting of the special packs
which Miss Moakley claims as examples of trionfi
in the alleged more general sense, and one to
which she draws particular attention, is a set of
sixteen picture cards commissioned by Filippo
Maria Visconti from the painter Michelino da
Besozzo (fl. 1394-1442) - a painter, incidentally,
to whom the murals of games players in the Casa
Borromeo have been attributed by some. This set
was sent in 1449 by a Venetian, Jacopo Antonio
Marcello, as a present to Queen Isabella, wife of
King Rene I, Duke of Lorraine. It was divided
into four groups of four, representing Virtue,
Virginity, Riches and Pleasure; each card
depicted a suitable classical divinity. The pack
has not survived, but the letter to Queen Isabella,
written in Latin, describing the pack and saying
that Michelino painted it, has.(43) The letter
applies the word ludus (game) to the set, showing
that it was really meant to be used to play some
kind of game; but there is no use of the word
triumphi in reference to the cards.
[Transcriber's note: here Dummett is mistaken. See ]

A celebrated but problematic passage in the
life of Filippo Maria Visconti, written in Latin by
Pier Candido Dezembrio (1399-1477), runs as
follows: 'He was accustomed from his youth to
play games, of various kinds ... and particularly
that type of game in which images are painted,
which delighted him to such an extent that he
paid 1500 gold pieces for a whole pack (ludum) of
them, made in the first place by Marziano da
Tortona, his secretary, who executed with the
utmost diligence images of gods, and placed
under them with wonderful skill figures of
animals and birds.' (44) There are many oddities
about this passage. In the first place, as W.L.
43. See Chapter 3, footnote 2.
44. The passage runs: Variis autem ludendi modis ab
adolescentia usus est ... plerunque eo ludi genere, qui ex imaginibus
depictis fit, in quo precipue oblectatus est adeo, ut integrum eorum
mille, et quingentis aureis emerit, auctore pel in primis Martiano
Terdonensi ejus Sectretario, qui Deorum imagines, subjectasque his
animalium figuras, et avium miro ingenio, summaque industria
Dezembrio's life is reprinted in L.A. Muratori,
Rerum italicarum scriptores, vol. XX, Milan, 1731, and the
passage will be found in col. 1013.

[new column]
Schreiber remarked,(45) playing cards were
perfectly well known when Dezembrio .. was_
writing, and it is quite obscure why he should
choose to describe them as for readers who had
never heard of them before. In the second place,
even for someone as rich as Filippo Maria
Visconti, the price for a single pack seems
staggeringly high. In the third place, as remarked
by Campori,(46) Marziano is not known to have
been a painter, and a funeral oration for him
makes no mention of his having been one.(47)
However, if the information given by Dezembrio
is at all correct, the pack described was
presumably not a Tarot pack, which does not
normally contain images of gods or pictures of
animals and birds. Hence this was probably a
pack of the kind Miss Moakley is concerned
with; but there is not in Dezembrio's text any use
of the word triumphi. The word does, indeed,
occur in what Campori cites as a contemporary
translation into Italian of Dezembrio's life of
Visconti, written by someone using the
pseudonym Polismagna, the manuscript of
which is said by Campori to be preserved in the
d'Este library; but it may quite well be that the
translator, like others' after him, was puzzled by
the passage, and assumed that it must refer to
some kind of Tarot pack.(48)

Another documentary source cited by Miss
Moakley is an inventory of the workshop of the
engraver Francesco Rosselli made in 1528.(49) This
inventory lists plates for printing a number of
remarkable games: the giuocho del trionfo del
; the giuco d'apostoli chol nostro singnore; the
giuoco di sete virtu; and the gioucho di pianeti cho loro
(the game of the triumph of Petrarch; the
game of Apostles with our Lord; the game of
45. W.L. Schreiber, op. cit., p. 100.
46. G. Campori, 'Le Carte da Giuoco dipinte per gli
Estensi nel Secolo XV, Atti e Memorie delle RR. Deputazioni di
Storia Patria per le provincie modenesi e parmensi
, vol. 3, Modena,
1874, p. 125, fn. 4.
47. The funeral oration is printed in Tiraboschi, Storia della
letteratura italiana
, vol. 6, p. 1196.
48. See G. Campori, op. cit., p. 125, fn. 3. The translation
runs: Alcuna volta zugava a le carte de triumphi. Et di questo giocho
molto si delectoe per modo che comparoe uno paro di carte da triumphi
compite mille et cinque cento ducati. Di questo maximamente auctore et
casone Martinno da Terdona suo secretario, il quale cum meraviglioso
inzegno et somma industria compite questo giocho de carte cum le
figure et imagine de li dei et cum le figure de li animali et de li ocelli
che gli sum sottoposti.

49. See. A.M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving, part I, vol. I,
London, 1938, pp. 10, 11, 305-8. The spellings are given as
in Hind.

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 83
seven virtues; and the game of planets with their
borders). These must, again, have been games
with picture cards of special kinds; but they are
not labelled, generically, trionfi. The name of the
first game relates to the poem by Petrarch called
I Trionfi, and cannot, therefore, fairly be cited in
support of a general thesis.

None of the special packs so far mentioned has
survived: the only one of this kind that has come
down to us from this period is the celebrated
copper-engraved set, which exists in two
versions, known as the tarocchi di Mantegna, about
which it is invariably, and correctly, observed
that they are neither tarocchi nor by Mantegna.
They are thought to date from about 1465, and
were made by an unknown artist of the Ferrarese
school. Many have doubted that this set was used
for a game at all, on the ground that existing prints
are on paper too flimsy to be used for play; but it is
quite likely that it was originally intended for a
game of some kind. The set consists of fifty
picture cards, divided into five groups of ten
each, representing respectively social ranks,
Muses, sciences, virtues and the celestial spheres:
the cards are individually numbered, and each,
group is distinguished by a letter. Once again,
there is no evidence that they were ever referred
to as trionfi, although at a later date the term
tarocchi was attached to them by a vague

The fact is that games of this kind represent a
persistent, and natural, inclination to invent new
games to be played with packs of playing cards
having a structure entirely different from that of
the regular playing-card pack or from an
augmented form such as the Tarot pack, an
inclination already manifest in the fifteenth
century and freely indulged in by games
50. Miss Moakley also suggests that some engravings
ascribed to Nicoletto da Modena, illustrated in A.M. Hind,
op. cit., vol. VI, 1948, plates 640-7, form part of a pack of
cards; but this cannot be so, since they differ considerably in
size. The literature on the tarocchi di Mantegna is vast: for
illustrations, see A.M. Hind, op. cit., vol. IV, 1938, plates
320-69; for a survey of the literature, see D. Hoffmann, op.
cit., p. 67. For arguments in favour of regarding them as
playing cards, see Fritz Saxl, 'Verzeichniss astrologischen
und mythologischen illustrierten Handscrhiften des
Lateinischen Mittelalters in JR.6mischen Bibliotheken',
Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademieder Wissenschaften, pp.
101, 222, and Heinrich Brockhaus, 'Ein Edler Geduldspiel
"Die Lietung der Welt oder die Himmelsleiter" und die
sogenannte Taroks di Mantegna vom Jahre 1459-60', in
Miscellanea di Storia dell Arte in onore Igino Benvenuto Supino,
1933, p. 397.

[new column]
manufacturers to-day. There was a particular
vogue for such games in Italy, which lasted
through the seventeenth century, as two such
packs designed by Mitelli bear witness. In most
cases, however, the games invented to play with
packs of this kind have no strong attraction to
outweigh the disadvantage of having to buy a
special pack of cards to play them; often they
merely imitate the features of traditional games
played with the regular pack. As a result, the
packs designed for use in such games prove
ephemeral and leave no progeny. The only
exception to this is the Cuccu pack, an Italian
invention of the seventeenth century which not
only exists to this day but spread to other parts of
Europe, where it gave rise to the Hexenkarte of
Germany, no longer extant, and the Gnav pack of
Denmark and Norway and the Killekort of
Sweden, both still well known in those countries.
This was, and is, used to play a simple and
enjoyable game which, in a simplified form,
adapted to the regular pack, is known to British
children under such names as Ranter Go Round
and Catch the Ace. But, of course, this has
nothing to do with the Tarot pack, and no-one
ever thought of calling these cards trionfi or tarocchi.

There is thus no reason to suppose that the
Tarot triumphs ever formed a separate pack by
themselves; and there is still less reason to think
that they were ever regarded as just one species of
a large genus known, as a whole, as trionfi. It is
evident that the Tarot pack became immensely
popular within a short time after its invention;
but the only reasonable hypothesis is that it was
from the start a composite pack, containing the
four suits of the regular pack alongside the
additional cards to which the name trionfi
properly applies, and that, in connection with
playing cards, the word trionfi, as used in the
fifteenth century, applied only to the Tarot
triumphs or, by extension, to Tarot cards as a

There can be no doubt that it was in Italy that
the Tarot pack was invented, and there that,
throughout the fifteenth century, it was chiefly
popular; but the question when it first became
known in any other country does not admit 6f so
ready an answer. It was certainly in France that
it first became known outside its country of
origin; but it is difficult to be precise at what date
it was first known there. The earliest certain
reference to it there comes from Rabelais in 1534;
he includes it, under the spelling tarau, in his long

84 Part I: History and Mystery
list of the games played by Gargantua; tarots are
again referred to in the posthumous Fifth Book of
1564.*51) The earliest surviving Tarot pack known
to have been made outside Italy is one made by
Catelin Geoffroy in Lyons in 1557.(52) But we have
seen that the term tarocchi did not come into use
in Italy until after 1500, and we should therefore
assume the same to be true of the term tarots in
France: if there were any reference to the Tarot
pack from fifteenth-century France, we should
expect it to be by means of some such word as
triumphes. And indeed we find, once more from an
account book, that in 1496 Rene II, Duke of
Lorraine, is reported as having played at
triumphe;(51) the earliest recorded use of the word in
French as the name of a card game dates from as
early as 1482.(54) Unfortunately, we cannot be
certain that these references are to games played
with the Tarot pack. In Italy, after the adoption
of the new term tarocchi, or perhaps
simultaneously with it, the term trionfi was
transferred to a game played with the regular
pack; this new use of the word trionfi goes back at
least to 1526.(55) In France also there was a very
ancient game, played with the regular pack, and
known as Triumphe, which is also mentioned by
Rabelais. If we conceive of the Tarot pack as not
having been introduced into France until after
the adoption of the name tarocchi, that is, at the
beginning of the sixteenth century, so that the
cards were never known there otherwise than as
tarots, then we could interpret these late fifteenth-
century references to triumphe or triomphe as
alluding only to the game known from Rabelais's
time to the present day under that name. But this
supposition, although possible, is unlikely. It
implies that the use of the name 'Triumphe' tor a
card game in France is unconnected with the
51. F. Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, book I, ch. 22 and 23.
52. Seventeen cards from this pack are illustrated in Detlef
Hoffmann, op. cit., plates 15(b) and 36(a), nine of them in
colour. Nine are illustrated by Kaplan, op. cit., p. 132. The
pack is in the Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt am
Main, catalogue number K 1.
53. See H.-R. D'Allemagne, op. cit., vol. II, p. 212. The
references occur in the account-books of the court of
Lorraine for the year 1495-6, and run respectively:
Au Roy, le 29 avril pour jouer au triumphe a Vezelise
deux francs.
Encore audit seigneur roy le 1e mai pour jouer audit
triumphe a Vezelise deux florins d'or.
54. See F. Godefroy, Dictionnaire de I'ancienne langue francaise,
Complement, s.v. 'triomphe'. See also Chapter 9, fn. 2.
55. In Francesco Berni, Capitolo del Giuoco della Primiera.

[new column]
contemporary use in Italy of the word trionfi for
Tarot cards and the games played with them,
that it was mere coincidence that two such
similar names were used for different things. On
this theory, the transference of the term trionfi to a
game played with the regular pack might have
occurred in imitation of the name of the French
game also so played, necessitating the
introduction of a new word for Tarot cards. This
is possible; but it is not probable. For reasons
that will-not-be-set out in full until Chapter
7, it is much more likely that no coincidence
was involved: that the name trionfi was
transferred from the Tarot cards to a game
played with the regular pack precisely because
that game was in part adapted from that which
the Tarot pack was used to play, and that the
game played in France under the name
Triumphe, like other games with similar names
in other countries, originated from, the
dissemination of the same idea. If this is so, then
the game known to this day as Triumphe cannot
have come into existence until after the term
trionfi had ceased to be used specifically for Tarot
cards; and the fifteenth-century uses of the word
triumphe or triomphe must be taken as referring to a
game played with the Tarot pack, whose
introduction into France must therefore be dated
to at least about 1480. It fits well with this
hypothesis that the later reference concerns the
court of Lorraine, to which we^ have noted a
pack of playing cards made for the Milanese
court being sent as a present some forty-odd
years earlier.

Of the various hand-painted Tarot cards of the
fifteenth century, the only ones of which we
could not be certain that they came from Italy
were the Goldschmidt cards and the two
Guildhall pairs, though they had connections
both with the Victoria and Albert cards and the
Visconti-Sforza pack. Opinions about the
provenance of the Goldschmidt cards have been
very various. W.L. Schreiber assigned them to
Venice, on the strength of his identification of the
kneeling lady as a Dogaressa. Eberhard Pinder
thought they were made in the Upper Rhine
region by an Italian artist. Now the Victoria and
Albert cards are surely Italian, if only because of
the Italian inscription on the Death card; and it
is plain that the painters of the Goldschmidt
cards and of the wider Guildhall pair were
familiar with the convention used in the Victoria
and Albert pack for the representation of the Ace

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 85
of Cups. Furthermore, if the narrower Guildhall
pair really is part of the same original pack as the
Goldschmidt cards, the artist must have known
the Visconti-Sforza pack, including the later
cards not by Bembo. There is therefore good
reason for thinking that an Italian artist, or at
least one acquainted with Italian cards, was
responsible for this pack. Nevertheless, Detlef
Hoffmann is surely right in fastening upon the
appearance of the Batons in their so-called
Spanish form as the most significant clue. Batons
on Italian cards of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries may vary somewhat in shape: but they
invariably intersect, and, like the Swords (which
do not always intersect), they invariably extend
the whole length of the card. They are never
found disposed, as in Spanish-suited packs and
as on the 5 of Batons in the Goldschmidt set,
upright and in the manner of the pips on a
French-suited card, in separate rows. It seems
unthinkable that this pack can have been made
for use in fifteenth-century Italy.

From the fact that the two Guildhall pairs
were discovered in a chest in Seville one might be
tempted to believe that the Goldschmidt cards
represent an otherwise unknown phenomenon -
Spanish Tarot cards. But this would surely be a
mistake. As has already been remarked, that
variant of the Latin suit-system which was in the
course of the sixteenth century adopted as the
national suit-system of Spain was not in origin
Spanish, but French. What little we know of late
fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Spanish
cards suggests that at that time cards made in
Spain employed the Latin suit-system in
something very much more like what was to
become its Portuguese variant, with straight but
intersecting Swords and knobbly but intersecting
Batons, though doubtless French-made
'Spanish'-suited cards were imported in
considerable numbers. It is possible, therefore,
that the Goldschmidt cards represent a type of
Tarot pack used in some noble house of fifteenth-
century France, though there is no need to locate
them more narrowly in Provence, as Hoffmann
does. They differ too much from anything else
that has come down to us, however, for this to be
more than a conjecture. Only a single Tarot pack
survives to us from sixteenth-century France,
that by Catelin Geoffroy already referred to; and
this is no guide to the way the suit-signs
appeared on early French Tarot packs, since it
uses completely non-standard suit-signs. The

[new column]
subjects on the triumph cards are, however,
standard, and show no relationship with
the enigmatic figures on the Goldschmidt
cards. The next earliest French Tarot pack
we have is one made in the early seventeenth
century; and on this the Swords and Batons are
neither of the usual Italian shape, nor of the
Spanish one; they do, however, for the most
part intersect with one another. In all
later French Latin-suited Tarot packs, the
Italian suit-system is used. It thus appears that, if
the Goldschmidt cards really were made for use
in France, they have left no progeny and may
have been an isolated experiment; but the data
are too sparse to ground a firm opinion. It could,
indeed, be argued from the fact that the Tarot
pack was later associated so firmly with the
Italian version of the Latin suit-system that it
cannot have been introduced into France until a
time when that suit-system was no longer very
familiar, or, at least, no longer seemed quite
ordinary, on the ground that otherwise the suitsigns
would have undergone the same
modification to their 'Spanish' form that was
imposed on regular Latin-suited packs in France.
Such an argument would rest upon the
assumption that we have made that originally the
'Italian' suit-system was everywhere in use. But,
even if this assumption and the foregoing
argument are correct, this does not threaten our
conjecture that the triumphe played by Duke Rene
II and the triumphe mentioned in 1482 were games
played with the Tarot pack, or even that the
Goldschmidt cards represent the type of pack
that may have been used. The 'Spanish' variation
on the Latin suit-system was in existence by
about 1460, but it may have been invented
earlier; and the Goldschmidt cards might
represent an early phase when the Tarot pack
was known only in a few aristocratic circles.

In all Tarot packs made outside Italy, the
triumph cards bear Roman or Arabic numerals
to indicate their position in the sequence; and,
in all non-Italian Latin-suited Tarot packs after
1700, except in the Revolutionary period, and in
some seventeenth-century ones, they also
have their names inscribed in full at the bottom
of the card (save for the Death card, whose name
is usually missing). The same practice was
usually observed for the court cards as well, and
often for the Aces. Italian Tarot cards made
before the eighteenth century do not carry verbal
inscriptions (save for a few non-standard packs,

86 Part I: History and Mystery
and some occasional mottoes); and even the
practice of putting numerals on the triumph cards
seems to have come in only gradually. On the
sheet in the Rosenwald Collection in Washington,
the numbering stops at XII, the top nine cards
being left unnumbered; on the sheets at the
Metropolitan Museum, New York, the triumph
cards are numbered from I to XX, only the top
card, the World, being left unnumbered; but, on
the sheet in the Cary Collection, and on those in
the Rothschild Collection and at the Ecole des
Beaux Arts, the triumph cards bear no numerals.
There is an incomplete pack in the Bibliotheque
Municipale at Rouen from the early sixteenth
century, whose triumph cards bear numerals;
although a classicised pack, the figures can
easily be equated with the usual subjects, unlike
in the Sola-Busca tarocchi.(56) Count Leopoldo
Cicognara knew a complete example of a very
similar, though not identical, pack, and
illustrated six cards from it in his book of 1831; (57)
in his pack, there were no numerals on the
triumph cards. The triumphs of the Sola-Busca
pack itself do bear numerals. Numerals do not
seem to have been an original feature of any
of the hand-painted packs: there are numerals
on three of the triumph cards at the Castello
56. The pack is part of the Leber Collection, catalogue
number 1351-XIV. Four cards are illustrated in colour in D.
Hoffmann, op. cit., plate 23(b), and nine by Kaplan, op.
cit., p. 133. Thirty cards survive, including the Fool and
seven triumph cards. The latter are to be identified with the
usual subjects as follows: Imperator Assiriorum,
unnumbered (the numeral is presumably covered up by the
turned-over edge) - the Emperor; Pontifex Pontificum, 5 -
the Pope; Victoriae Premium. 7 - the Chariot; Omnium
Dominatrix, 10 - the Wheel of Fortune;. Rerum Edax
(Saturn), 11 - the Hermit (or Time); Perditorum Raptor
(Pluto), 14-the Devil; Inclitum Sydus, 16-the Star.
57 See L. Cicognara, op. cit., pp. 163-6 and plate XIV; the
cards are also shown in D. Hoffmann, op. cit., fig. 6. The
cards illustrated by Cicognara are the Aces of the four suits,
Cupid = Love, and Apollo = the Sun. Contrary to what is
said by D. Hoffmann, op. cit., p. 68, the pack described by
Cicognara was not the same as that at Rouen, though very
similar. The Rouen set includes the Aces of Batons, Coins
and Swords, and these differ considerably in design from
those .shown by Cicognara. Also, Cicognara describes the
Fool of his pack in detail, and it is quite different from that
at Rouen: Cicognara's Fool was a drunkard lying bn his
back, supporting, with his legs in the air, a jar marked
'Muscatello'; that at Rouen shows a man armed to the
teeth, and dressed in armour, but with genitals exposed and
urinating, and bears the inscription 'Velim fundam dari
mihi'. The Cicognara pack is ascribed by A.M. Hind, op.
cit., vol. V, London,' 1948, pp. 139-40, to Nicoletto da

[new column]
Ursino in Catania (not on the unidentified
one showing the figure on a stag), but these
have obviously been added much later; There
are also numerals on the triumph cards of the
'Charles VI' set, which are also later additions,
although, in their case, they may have
been added in the fifteenth century. Otherwise
the hand-painted triumph cards are all
unnumbered. It should not be thought, however,
that the lack of numerals in these packs is
evidence that the triumph cards did not
originally form an ordered sequence. The sermon
quoted by Steele lists them in a definite sequence,
even giving their numbers, a sequence that is
confirmed by some literary sources of the
sixteenth century. It is not that the cards did not
have an order, but just that those who used them
were expected to remember this order without
recourse to enumeration, just as they would
know the order of the court cards of any suit
without any further aid. It might seem that to
keep in mind the order of twenty-one distinct
cards is too difficult a feat for people to have been
expected to perform; but this supposition can, as
it happens, be decisively refuted. The particular
form of Tarot pack still used in Bologna, which
has changed comparatively little since the
sixteenth century, save for becoming double-
headed (it was one of the earliest standard
patterns to do so), did not, until the mid-
eighteenth century, bear numerals on any of the
triumph cards at all. Yet, in the game played
with this pack (which has also changed very
little, at least since the eighteenth century, and,
probably, since long before that), the triumph
cards have a definite ranking. Eighteenth-
century descriptions of this game list the triumph
cards by name, and never refer to them by
number, and were probably written for players
using packs without numerals on the cards. In
any case, there is a clear demonstration that the
same ranking applied before it was the practice
to put numerals on the triumph cards. Before
that time, a celebrated geographical Bolognese
Tarot pack was designed by Canon Luigi
Montieri in 1725: the main body of each triumph
card (including the Fool) carried geographical
information, and that of each suit card showed
coats of arms. (There was a great vogue in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for such
instructional packs, particularly geographical
and heraldic ones; both regular packs and Tarot
packs were designed for this purpose.) In

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 87
Montieri's pack, the usual symbol giving the
denomination-of each card was confined to a
small panel at the top. In each such panel on the
triumph cards is a single letter; when the
triumphs are arranged in descending order, with
the Fool at the end, these letters spell C LUIGI
MONTIERI INVENTOR, a clear indication
that, at that time, the triumphs ranked in the
same order as that which they have had from the
mid-eighteenth century until now.(58) Another
famous Bolognese Tarot pack was made (in 1664,
according to C. P. Hargrave) for the Bentivogli
family by the engraver Gioseppe Maria Mitelli
(1634-1718); the engravings were also issued in
book form, with ten cards to a page, and the
triumph cards are again arranged, in descending
order, in the usual sequence.(59) It is thus apparent
that, long before the Bolognese triumphs bore
numerals, they were arranged in a determinate
order, and that, from the early sixteenth until the
mid-eighteenth century, players were expected to
remember this order. What Bolognese players
could do up to the eighteenth century, others
could do in the fifteenth. There is therefore no
obstacle to supposing that the triumph cards
formed, from the outset, a sequence with a definite

Why, then, were these cards called 'triumphs'?
Many have tried to explain the word from the use
of the twenty-one triumph cards in play, namely
as 'triumphing' over the other cards; and we
cannot say for sure that this explanation is
incorrect. A brilliant suggestion of Miss
Moakley's is, however, more attractive. This is
that the name has nothing to do with the use of
the cards, but only with what is shown on them,
the series of triumph cards representing a sort of
triumphal procession. As documented by
58. The Montieri cards are illustrated in Playing Cards of
Various Ages and Countries Selected from the Collection of Lady
Charlotte Schreiber
, vol. Ill, London, 1895, plates 74-9, with
notes pp. 13-15. There is also a reproduction pack issued by
the Edizioni del Solleone in Lissone in 1973, edited by
Signor Vito Arienti and illustrated by Kaplan, op. cit., p.
59. Two of the Mitelli cards are illustrated in C. P.
Hargrave, op. cit., opp. p. 232; see also opp. p. 99 in 1966
edition; twenty-four are shown in Kaplan, op. cit., p. 54.
The book version was issued as Giuoco di Carte con nuova forma
di Tarocchini; Intaglio in Rome di Gioseppe Maria Mitelli
, and
was reprinted in 1970 by Huber und Herpel of Offenbach
am Main as Gioseppe Maria Mitelli, B]ologneser Tarockspiel
des 17. Jahrhunderts
. C.P. Hargrave, A History of Playing Cards,
New York, 1930, 1966, p. 232, confidently cites the date
1664, but gives no authority for doing so.

[new column]
Burckhardt and Miss Moakley, a favourite
entertainment in the courts of Renaissance Italy
was the staging of just such triumphal processions,
with floats bearing figures either derived
from classical mythology or representing
abstractions such as Love, Death, etc.: a
transformation of the utterly serious triumph of a
Roman general or Emperor into an elegant allegorical
entertainment. A frequent ingredient
in such Renaissance triumphs was the idea
underlying Petrarch's poem I Trionfi, in
which each successive personified abstraction
triumphs over, that is, vanquishes, the last;
thus, in the poem, love triumphs over gods
and men, chastity over love, death over
chastity, fame over death, time over fame
and eternity over time. The case would be
clinched if it were possible to explain the subjects
of the triumph cards of the Tarot pack as forming
a triumphal procession of this sort; but in
spite of Miss Moakley's determined efforts,
supplemented subsequently by those of Mr
Ronald Decker, such an explanation, while
plausible in principle, is difficult to make
convincing in detail. Nevertheless, in default of a
better explanation, we may accept it as likely,
though by no means certain, that it was this
association of ideas which prompted the use of
the name 'triumphs' for the additional cards of
the Tarot pack.

Appendix 1:
A Problematic Set of Tarocchi

After I had finished this book, and was engaged on
final revision, I received a copy, kindly sent me by the
author, of Stuart R. Kaplan's The Encyclopedia of Tarot
(New York, 1978), already referred to. The most
valuable feature of the book is the extensive series of
illustrations of all the sets of fifteenth-century Italian
hand-painted c'ards, and of many other Tarot packs
surviving from before the eighteenth century. I have
inserted references to Kaplan's illustrations of the
packs discussed in this chapter in the footnotes. I have
some disagreements with Kaplan's judgments; to
some of these I have drawn attention in the text or the
footnotes of this chapter. There is, however, one set of
hand-painted Tarot cards illustrated by Kaplan of
which I was quite unaware, discussion of which I
thought it best to relegate to this appendix.

The set in question comprises twenty-three cards;
Kaplan states (p. 106) that the last known owner of
the set, before the Second World War, was a British
dealer named Rosenthal, and says (p. 99) that in 1939

Part I: History and Mystery
it was offered to a leading American collector, who
refused it because he doubted its authenticity. Kaplan
supplies illustrations of all the cards (p. 99);
unfortunately, these are rather minute, so that it is
difficult to see details even with a magnifying glass. Of
the twenty-three cards, eleven closely resemble the
corresponding Visconti-Sforza ones: the Emperor,
Justice, the Cavalier, Jack, 5 and 4 of Swords, the
Queen and Jack of Batons, the King of Cups, and the
King and Jack of Coins. Four resemble the Visconti-
Sforza cards in general style, but differ in detail: the 5
of Batons, the 5 of Cups, and the 5 and 3 of Coins.
The former two differ in the arrangement of the suitsigns,
the latter two in the disposition of the scrolls
inscribed a bon droit, which is the form of the Visconti
motto consistently used in this set (the spelling is
always droyt on the Bembo cards, as on the Tozzi 5 of
Swords, though it is droit on the Fournier 2 of Coins).
Two cards, the Star and the Ace of Cups, are very
similar to the Victoria and Albert ones. The Star is
almost precisely the same, but the Ace of Cups shows
some differences: the Colleoni arms are not parted,
there is an inscription I cannot read on the upper
scroll, the cliff noted by Kaplan is missing, and,
though the stem of the 'cup' or fountain is still
inscribed nec spe nec metu, the inscription occupies two
lines instead of four. Another card in the Rosenthal
set shows only the Visconti/Sforza serpent, exactly
like the Tozzi card. The remaining five cards are: (i) a
Falconer card, very closely resembling no. (20), save
for the design on the cape; (ii) a card showing a sun
with rays and a face, as on the Goldschmidt and wider
Guildhall cards, over a castle, with a wheel and a fleur
de lys above the castle on either side, and, at the
bottom, a scroll inscribed Fortezza (a word which may
mean either 'fortress' or 'fortitude'); (iii) an Ace of
Swords, showing a dagger dripping blood, and, at the
bottom, part of a sun with an inscription I cannot
read, and two scrolls higher up on the card, marked a
bon droit and, apparently, REPUB; (iv) a Cavalier of
Batons, like the Visconti-Sforza one but laterally
reversed, and with a three-turreted castle in the top
left-hand corner, encircled by an inscription I cannot
read, and an unidentifiable object in the top righthand
corner; and (v) an Ace of Coins, showing a
cardinal in the Coin, and, according to Kaplan, an
inscription, not visible in the illustration.

It is very hard to draw conclusions about this
extraordinary set from Kaplan's diminutive
illustrations, taken from a photograph in his
possession; they deserve publication in colour and in
full size (though Mr Kaplan does not know their
measurements). The salient reason for supposing the
suspicions of the American collector who refused to
buy them to be justified is the figure of the cardinal on
the Ace of Coins; it looks very much like an attempt to
establish the set as really being, at last, from the pack
supposedly painted for Ascanio Sforza. However, the

When and Where the Tarot Pack was Invented 89
style of this Ace of Coins seems totally unlike that of
the rest of the set; it is possible, therefore, that it is a
forged addition to an otherwise genuine set. A more
subtle reason for doubt lies in the form of the Colleoni
arms on the Ace of Cups; here the device takes the
later form of three inverted hearts, not of three pairs of
coglioni (testicles), as on the Victoria and Albert card
and other contemporary presentations of these arms,
for instance in the Colleoni chapel at Bergamo (see
footnote 25). This strongly suggests that the
Rosenthal cards could not have been painted in the
fifteenth century.

If the set should nevertheless prove to be genuine
(perhaps with the exception of the Ace of Coins), it
would establish the most interesting links between
other surviving sets of fifteenth-century Tarot cards.
First, it would supply an original for the Falconer card
(no. 20), and from a Tarot pack, though whether it
represented the Bagatto, or even the Fool, or some
distinct alternative triumph subject, would remain
obscure; this would increase the probability that the
Goldschmidt cards are also genuinely from a Tarot
pack. Secondly, it would establish the sun with a face
as a device employed on various Milanese Tarot
cards, and thus would make it less likely that the
Goldschmidt cards or the wider Guildhall pair had a
non-Italian origin; the significance of this sun would
remain problematic. Thirdly, it would provide further
examples of the practice of placing small emblems in
the upper corners of cards, a practice that would still
be baffling.

Whether genuine or forged, the set poses some new
puzzles of its own. What is the significance of the
inscription REPUB on the Ace of Swords? On the
death of Filippo Maria Visconti in 1447, the citizens
of Milan, tired of their Dukes, as well they might be,
declared a republic; in 1450, however, Francesco
Sforza captured the city and proclaimed himself
Duke. Can this card be meant to contain an allusion
to the bloody suppression of the short-lived republic?
The card inscribed Fortezza cannot, in view of the
inscription, represent the Sun; if the card is genuine,
this provides corroboration of the view that the sun on
the Guildhall card we took to be the Ace of Swords
and on the unidentified Goldschmidt card is not, in
either case, the feature of the card determining its
identity. The Fortezza card, if spurious, may be meant
to represent the Tower; but, if genuine, it can hardly
do so, because that card, although it went under
various names and had many representations, is never
called la Fortezza, or even la Torre, in early Italian
sources. It is much more likely to represent Fortitude,
by a kind of visual pun, even though this subject is
normally represented by a personification; la Fortezza
is the name invariably given to this subject in the early
sources, as against the name la Forza (Strength)
usually employed in the later Tarot de Marseille-
derived packs. It is hard to avoid being impressed by

[new column]
this card. Unlike most of those in the set, it is not a
close copy of some other existing card. If we suppose it
a forgery, then to suppose it intended to represent the
Tower is to attribute a very crude mistake to the
forger. If we regard it as representing Fortitude, on
the other hand, it becomes, an ingenious and
unexpected representation of its subject, and
presupposes enough knowledge of the literary sources
on the part of any forger responsible for it for him to
be aware that the regular word used for the Fortitude
card in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was
Fortezza. These considerations seem to me to weigh in
favour of the authenticity of the set; and, if the
Fortezza card is genuine, the lady with the model
castle in the Goldschmidt set may be another deviant
version of Fortitude.

It thus becomes a matter of some importance for
the study of fifteenth-century hand-painted tarocchi to
determine whether any or all of the Rosenthal cards
are genuine, and, as a first step, where they are. Mr
Albi Rosenthal, of Oxford and London, who is
presumably the British dealer referred to by Kaplan,
has informed me that in the 1920s his father sold some
hand-painted Italian tarocchi to Herr von Hardt of
Switzerland, but does not know where the von Hardt
collection is now. He has also told me that at a later
date some fifteenth-century hand-painted tarocchi were
shown to him at his Curzon Street office in London,
but that these were definitely found to be forgeries.
Which of these two sets, if either, is that designated
'the Rosenthal cards' by Kaplan is unclear. It is to be
hoped that the cards themselves, or at least some
more detailed illustrations of them, become available
for examination; in the meantime, we owe a
considerable debt to Mr Kaplan for bringing the set to
public attention.

Appendix 2:
The Tarocchi of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza

In Count Leopoldo Cicognara, Memorie spettanti alia
Storia delta Caliografia
, Prato, 1831, p. 16, there is
quoted an alleged excerpt from the Chronicle of
Cremona by Domenico Bordigallo. The excerpt is in
Italian, and states that in the year 1484 the excellent
painter Antonio Cicognara (of the same family as the
Count) painted uno magnifico mazzo de carte dette de'
Tarocchi, da me veduto
(a magnificent pack of the cards
called tarocchi, seen by me) for Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza. Count Cicognara says that this passage was
communicated to him by Mgr Antonio Dragoni from
the schede (notes) of Giacomo Torresino, an
eighteenth-century Cremonese antiquarian. On the
strength of this passage, numerous art historians have
ascribed various hand-painted Tarot cards of the
fifteenth century to Antonio Cicognara, including the

[new column]
six cards of the Visconti-Sforza pack that are not by
Bembo; but the passage is almost certainly spurious.
Any historical document connected with Dragoni is
under the gravest suspicion, since he was either a
forger or the dupe of forgers, although he was
primarily concerned with documents relating to the
Dark Ages, of which he made, or manufactured, a
large collection. Torresino did indeed compose notes
on local history, using a page for each year, and
entering quotations relating to that year from various
sources; but this work, at any rate in the form in
which it survives in the Biblioteca Statale at Cremona,
stops before 1484. Bordigallo's Chronicle was written
in Latin, and has never been published; the
manuscript was located by Signor Marco
Santambrogio, of the University of Bologna, in the
Biblioteca Treccani in Milan, where, with the kind
assistance of Signora Carla Treccani degli Alfieri, he
examined it; he found that, while the entry for 1484
does contain a reference to Ascanio Sforza, namely to
record that it was in that year that he was created a
Cardinal, it mentions neither Antonio Cicognara nor
tarocchi. It is conceivable that the quotation was in
some later section of Torresino's notes that has since
been lost, but from some other source, or that it is in
Bordigallo's Chronicle, but under a later year
(Ascanio Sforza died in 1505); but the probability is
that it is quite inauthentic. In any case, the use of
the modern word mazzo for 'pack' was, so far as I am
aware, unknown in fifteenth-century Italian, which
uses paro or gioco instead; so, even if the Italian given
by Count Cicognara is a translation of some genuine
Latin original, the word tarocchi is not likely to have
occurred in that original. See M. Dummett, 'A Note
on Cicognara', Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. II,
no. 1, August 1973, pp. 14-17 (original issue), pp. 23-
32 (reissue), and 'More about Cicognara', ibid., vol.
V, no. 2, pp. 26-34. These two articles are cited by
Stuart R. Kaplan in his annotated bibliography (The
Encyclopedia of Tarot,
New York, 1978, p. 356), but he
mentions only their discussion of the Fibbia portrait,
not of the Bordigallo Chronicle. Mr Kaplan does,
however, state categorically (pp. 33, 351) that the
Chronicle contains no reference either to tarocchi or to
Antonio Cicognara. Though I consider this quite
probable, I cannot vouch for it, since Signor
Santambrogio had time to examine only the section
dealing with the year 1484, and I have not yet seen the
manuscript myself. From the absence of
acknowledgment to myself or to Signor
Santambrogio, the reader might naturally suppose
that Mr Kaplan was speaking on his own authority
and had examined the Chronicle in more detail than
Santambrogio had done; but this seems unlikely in
view of his mistaken assertion (p. 33) that it was in
1484 that Bordigallo wrote his Chronicle, since
anyone who had seen it would have observed that the
entries go beyond that year. From his curious

90 Part I: History and Mystery
statement (p. 374) that Torresino's notes contain
Bordigalio's Chronicle, it is equally unlikely that he
has seen them. Mr Kaplan expresses the belief (pp.
100, 107) that the initials ' A. C.' on the Tozzi King of
Swords may stand, not for 'Antonio Cicognara', but
for 'Ascanio Cardinale'; this seems somewhat
illogical, since Count Cicognara's purported
quotation from Bordigallo is the only positive
evidence either that Antonio Cicognara painted any
tarocchi or that any were painted for Ascanio Sforza,
and Mr Kaplan agrees that the quotation is spurious.
His assertion of its inauthenticity occurs during a list"
(pp. 31-3) of spurious sources, and is repeated in the
bibliography; in the section discussing the authorship

[new column]
and dates of the hand-painted packs (pp. 106-7), he
cites the purported Bordigallo quotation in full
without, indeed, endorsing it, but without repudiating
it either; only the most alert reader is likely to
remember the earlier declaration of disbelief in it. Of
course, it is perfectly plausible that Ascanio Sforza
should have had some tarocchi made for him. But, ever
since 1831, the names of Antonio Cicognara and of
Ascanio Sforza have been endlessly cited, in books,
articles and museum catalogues, in connection with
tarocchi, and it is in my view best to make no further
reference to those two individuals until some genuine
evidence of such a connection becomes available.

[There follows two tables summarizing the surviving cards in the decks 1-12, 14, 19, 22, and 24 of this chapter.]
Location: Oregon USA
Favorite Deck: Conver/Noblet & Sola-Busca pips

Chapter 20, Game of Tarot

Postby mikeh on 19 Mar 2017, 13:43

The Order of the Tarot Trumps

Those who, in the eighteenth century, when the
Italian suit-signs of the traditional Tarot pack
were replaced by French ones, also substituted
animal figures for the traditional trump subjects,
and those who later replaced these with rural
scenes, views of buildings or characters from the
drama, obviously did not think they were
depriving the pack of any essential feature. What
was essential to a trump card was its position in
the sequence, indicated by its number; for the
rest, antiquated mediaeval figures were being
replaced by subjects more to modern taste. Many
people, however, have been fascinated by thea
figures on the trump cards of the Latin-suited
Tarot pack, and have sought to uncover a hidden
symbolism lost to us. They have been convinced
that these figures must have a deeper meaning
than appears on the surface; and, in particular,
they have believed that there is a significance, not
only in the individual cards, but in the precise
order in which they are arranged. Foremost
among these have, of course, been the occultists;
but, as we saw in Chapter 6, their interpretations
have been completely arbitrary, or based on false
premisses such as the ancient Egyptian or
Hebrew origin of the cards. In so far as the
occultist interpretation has rested on anything
more than whim or demonstrably spurious
history, it has been based on the details of the
trumps in the Tarot de Marseille pattern. If we
are seeking the symbolic intentions of those who
first designed the Tarot pack, the Tarot de
Marseille is a dubious guide. We cannot feel sure
that the pattern is, as a whole, any older than the
seventeenth century; and, although the order of
the trumps which it observes goes back at least to
Catelin Geoffroy's pack of 1557, we do not know
it to hiave any exact Italian prototype.
Speculations based on false data are obviously

Not all of those who have sought to decode the
symbolism of the Tarot pack have been
occultists; some have been serious scholars, well
versed in the iconography of late mediaeval and
early Renaissance art. One W.M. Seabury wrote .
a book to prove that the symbolism of the pack
was based upon Dante; (1) Miss Gertrude
Moakley, in her fine book about the Visconti-
Sforza pack, advanced an interpretation of the
pack, supported by much evidence from Italian
art and literature; Mr Ronald Decker has
engaged in complicated speculations, linking the
pack to the astrology of the time. I am not going
to advance another such theory. I do not even
want to take a stand about the theories that have
been advanced. The question is whether a theory
is needed at all. I do not mean to deny that some
of the subjects, or some of the details of their
conventional representation; may have had a
symbolic significance obvious to fifteenth-century
Italians, or, at least, to educated ones, that
escapes us and may be revealed by patient
research; that is very likely to be the case. But the
question is whether the sequence as a sequence
has any special symbolic meaning. I am inclined
to think that it did not: to think, that is, that
those, who originally designed the Tarot pack
were doing the equivalent, for their day, of those
who later selected a sequence of animal pictures
to adorn the trump cards of the new French-
1 William Marston Seabury, The Tarot Cards and Dante's
Divine Comedy
, New York, 1951.

388 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
suited pack. They wanted to design a new kind of
pack with an additional set of twenty-one picture
cards that would play a special, indeed a quite
new, role in the game; so they selected for those
cards a number of subjects, most of them entirely
familiar, that would naturally come to the mind
of someone at a fifteenth-century Italian court. It
is rather a random selection: we might have
expected all seven principal virtues, rather than
just the three we find - and, of course, we do find
all seven in the Minchiate pack, and they were
probably present also in the Visconti di Modrone
pack. With the Sun and Moon we might have
expected the other five planets, instead of just a
star; with the Pope and the Emperor, we might
have expected other ranks and degrees. But, of
course, in a pack of cards what is essential is that
each card may be instantly identified; so one
does not want a large number of rather similar
figures, especially before it occurred to anyone to
put numerals on the trump cards for ease of
identification. Certainly most of the subjects on
the Tarot trumps are completely standard ones
in mediaeval and Renaissance art; there seems
no need of any special hypothesis to explain
them. Whatever may be the truth about those
who first designed the Tarot pack, the inventors
of the Minchiate pack surely approached their
task in the spirit I have suggested: they wanted
twenty additional subjects, and they chose ones
which it was natural for men of the sixteenth
century to think of - the four elements, the
remaining virtues, the signs of the Zodiac - and
inserted them en bloc in a convenient place. I do not
think that anyone has suggested that there is any
hidden significance in the sequence of Minchiate

That is my opinion; but I do not want to insist
on it. It may be that those who first devised the
Tarot pack had a special purpose in mind in
selecting those particular subjects and in
arranging them in the order that they did:
perhaps they then spelled out, to those capable of
reading them, some satirical or symbolic
message. If so, it is apparent that, at least by the
sixteenth century, the capacity to read this
message had been lost. There are many
references to tarocchi in sixteenth-century
Italian literature, in which their symbolic
potentialities were exploited, but always in an
obvious way: no hint survives that any more
arcane meaning was associated with them.
'What else', asks Flavio Alberto Lollio in his
Invettiva contra il Giuoco del Taroco, 'do they signify;
the Popess, the Chariot, the Traitor the Wheel,
the Hunchback, Fortitude, the Star, the Moon,
Death, Hell and all the rest of this revolving
bizarrerie, save that this man [the inventor of the
game] had an empty head, full of smoke, caprices
and idle tales?' Lollio, of course, had no interest
in making much sense of the Tarot trumps; but
he could hardly have written in quite this vein if
there was generally acknowledged to be some
particular interpretation to be placed on them.
The search for a hidden meaning may be a
unicorn hunt; but, if there is a hidden meaning to
be found, only a correct basis of fact will lead us
to it.

The hidden meaning, if any, lies in the
sequential arrangement of the trump cards; and
therefore, if it is to be uncovered, we must know
what, originally, that arrangement was. In
all Italian-suited packs made outside Italy since
1700, the order is always and everywhere the
same, namely that found in the Tarot de Marseille.
There is, as we have seen, some variation
in the subjects: the Pope and Popess are replaced,
in the Tarot de Besançon, by Jupiter and Juno,
and, in the Belgian Tarot, as in de Hautot's pack,
by Bacchus and the Spanish Captain. But, from
the beginning of the eighteenth century, the
order of the trump subjects and their numbering
remain constant, in the Belgian Tarot as well as
m the Tarot de Marseille and its various
offshoots. In the seventeenth century, we have
Viévil's pack with a significantly different order:
we also have, in de Hautot's pack and the list
given in the Maison academique, the minor
variation in which the Empress was higher than
the Emperor. But we also find the exact Tarot de
Marseille order in the anonymous seventeenth century
Parisian pack; and, as remarked, we also
find it in Geoffroy's pack of 1557, so that it is
plainly of considerable antiquity in France. The
use of just the same order in all other countries of
Europe, other than Italy, simply reflects the fact
that it was to France and other French-speaking
regions, including those in Switzerland, that the
game of Tarot first spread from Italy, and from
which it spread further to yet other lands. Since
the eighteenth century, the Tarot de Marseille
order has been well known in Italy itself, being
observed in the Lombard pattern and in the
Tarocco Piemontese which remains in wide use
to this day, both patterns being descendants of
the^Tarot de Marseille. It will, however, already
h'ave been apparent to the reader, from what we

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 389
have seen of the Tarocco Bolognese, the Tarocco
Siciliano and the Minchiate packs, that the Tarot
de Marseille order was not and is not the only
order for the trump cards known in Italy. In fact,
there is no clear evidence that the Tarot de
Marseille order was ever known in Italy before
the appearance of the Lombard and Piedmontese
variants of the Tarot de Marseille in the
eighteenth century. There is, however, no one
trump order which we could set over against that
of the Tarot de Marseille as being the
predominant Italian one; rather, the evidence
yields a number of distinct orders used in
different places or by different players.

There are three types of source that we have
for the different orderings of the trumps observed
by Italian card players. First, there are the three
variant types of pack, the Tarocco Bolognese, the
Tarocco Siciliano and the Minchiate pack. The
Minchiate pack has, of course, twenty additional
trumps: but since these were inserted en bloc at a
certain point in the sequence of standard trump
subjects, we can remove them and study the
resulting order in reasonable confidence that it
represents an order observed for the trumps of
the 78-card pack at the time the Minchiate pack
was invented. Secondly, there are the early packs
that survive to us. Not all of these are any help,
since we noted that the trumps in the fifteenth-
century hand-painted packs lack numerals, and
we therefore cannot tell how they were ordered;
but we have a few packs, mostly popular ones
printed from wood blocks, in which the trumps
bear numerals. Finally, there are literary sources.
The earliest of these is the sermon against
gaming in the anonymous volume of sermons
once owned by Robert Steele; it is dated between
1450 and 1480, probably towards the end of that
period, and gives a list of all the trumps with
their numbers. A well-known list, without
numbers, is given by Tomaso Garzoni (1549-
1589) in his La Piazza Universale (Venice, 1585).
Garzoni uses a phrase which has been
understood to mean that he has taken the list
from an earlier writer, Raffaele Maffei
Volterrano (1455-1522), but no such list is
known to occur in Volterrano's writings;
Garzoni's remark may not be so intended. (2)
2 Tomaso Garzoni, La Piazza Universale di Tutte le
Profession: del Mondo, e nobili et ignobili,
Venice, 1585. The list
occurs in the chapter 'de' Giocatori in universale, et in
particolare', which is Discourse 69 of the later editions, and
is to be found on p. 574 of the Venice, 1586 edition.

remaining two sources known to me are
examples of a curious form of verse fashionable in
Garzoni's turn of phrase is curious: he says, 'Alcuni altri son
giuochi da tauerne, come la mora, le piastrelle, le chiaui, e le
carti, 6 communi, 6 Tarocchi, di nuoua inuentione, secondo
il Volteranno: oue si vedono danari, coppe, spade, bastoni,
dieci, noue, ...', and continues by listing the remaining
twelve cards of each suit, followed by the trumps in
descending order and finally the Matto; after a mention of
the French suits (as used 'con le carte fine'), he lists a
number of card games, beginning with Tarocchi and
Primiera. (In English, the quoted passage runs, 'Some
others are tavern games, such as mora, quoits, keys and
cards, either ordinary ones, or tarocchi, recently invented
according to Volterrano: in which are to be seen Coins,
Cups, Swords, Batons, the 10, the 9, ...'. Mora is a well-
known game in which each of two players simultaneously
holds up a hand, with five, two or no fingers extended: I do
not know what 'keys' are.) For some reason, Garzoni's
reference to tarocchi is much the best known of the sixteenth-
century ones, and is cited by a whole string of later writers,
including Senftleben (Andreas Senftlebius, De alvea veterum
opusculum posthumum
, Leipzig, 1667), who mistranslates
Fortezza as propugnaculum (fortress), and the notes to Saverio
Bettinelli's Il giuoco delle carte, poemetto (Cremona, 1775);
many of these attribute the list to Volterrano. Garzoni's
phrase 'secondo il Volteranno' appears, however, to relate,
not to the list of trumps, but to the apparent.observation
that tarocchi are a recent invention. Even on this
interpretation, the remark is baffling, since Tarot cards are
nowhere referred to in the Commentariorum Urbanorum
of Raffaele Maffei, called Volterrano after his
place of birth, which were first published in Rome in 1506,
nor, so far as anyone has discovered, in any other of his
writings, as was observed by Robert Steele in 1900;
moreover, the Tarot pack had existed for a hundred and
fifty years when Garzoni was writing, and for at least fifteen
when Maffei was born. The explanation appears to be that
Garzoni meant that playing cards in general were a recent
invention, and that he was alluding to the remark by Maffei
that 'Chartarum vero & sortium & divinationis ludi priscis
additi sunt ab avaris ac perditis inventi' ('To the ancient
games have been added those of cards and of lots and of
divination, invented by covetous and dissolute men'). This
remark occurs in the section 'De ludo diverso quo summi
viri quandoque occupati fuerunt' of book XXIX of the
Commentaria Urbana (p. 421 verso of the Rome, 1506, edition,
p. 313 verso of the Paris, 1511, edition, and p. 694 of the
Basle, 1559, edition; the second ampersand, present in the
1506 and 1511 editions, is missing from that of 1559). Maffei
is meaning to convey by this observation no more than that
the games he is referring to were not played in classical
times. Garzoni was not, therefore, quoting him in support of
any thesis that tarocchi were of recent invention, only as saying
that playing cards are of modern, as opposed to ancient,
origin. (I am uncertain to what Maffei was referring as
sortium & divinationis ludi, but I do not think the passage can
be treated as evidence that cards were used for fortune-
telling; we have in all three modern types of game, cards, lots
and divination, and the mention of avari suggests that Maffei
has gambling games principally in mind.)

390 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards

the sixteenth century and known as tarocchi
We have already come across one
example of this form, namely the Germini sopra
Quaranta Meritrice
, in which the Minchiate
trumps are used. In a poem of this kind, a set of
people is described by associating each of them
with one of the trump subjects from the Tarot
pack. In some cases, the trumps are not arranged
in any particular order, and these poems are of
no help to us; but, in two of them, the trumps are
arranged in sequence. One of these is an anonymous
poem first published by Giulio Bertoni
in an essay on 'Tarocchi versificati' in
1917; (3) it describes the ladies of the court of
Ferrara, and is dated by Bertoni to between 1520
and 1550, more probably nearer the later date. I
shall refer to this as 'the Bertoni poem'. The
other is a poem that has been attributed to
Giambattista Susio (1519-1583), an attribution
that has been contested. The poem has never
been published in full, but excerpts are given by
Ridolfo Renier in his essay 'Tarocchi di M.M.
Boiardo' of 1894; (4) it concerns the ladies of the
court of Pavia, and may have been written about

Before we look in detail at these various orders,
a word needs to be said about the names of the
cards. Tarot de Marseille trumps, and in fact all
those in Italian-suited packs made anywhere
outside Italy, bear their names as well as their
numbers, with some slight variation on these
names from one pack to another. By contrast, in
Italian Tarot packs, other than those which
derive from the Tarot de Marseille, the trumps
never have their names inscribed on them, save'
for isolated cards like the Miseria of the Tarocco
Siciliano and a few non-standard packs such as
that at Rouen. We have, therefore, to appeal to
literary sources for the names. Here, of course,
other sources, those which name the trumps
without arranging them in order, become useful.
One such is a set of five sonnets on the Tarot
trumps by Teofilo Folengo (1491-1544), a
Mantuan author of macaronic verses; these were
included in his Caos del Triperuno, a work
published in Venice in 1527 under his
pseudonym Merlin Cocai. (5) Another is Pietro
3 In Poesie, leggende, costumanze del medio evo, Modena, 1917,
pp. 215-29; see pp. 220-1.
4 In Studi su Matteo Maria Boiardo, ed. by N. Campanini,
Bologna, 1894; see pp. 256-9.
5 Le opere maccheroniche di Merlin Cocai, ed. by Attilio
Portioli, vol. Ill, Mantua, 1890, pp. 128-33.

Aretino's Le Carte Parlanti, published in Venice in
1543; and a third is Lollio’s poem, already
mentioned, published in Venice in 1550. There
are also two other tarocchi appropriati, both
concerning cardinals at a conclave: one relates to
the conclave of 1522, which elected Adrian VI
and the other to that of 1549-50, which elected
Julius III. (6) We may add to these the lists of the
trumps of the Tarocco Bolognese given in the
earliest eighteenth-century accounts of the game
ot Tarocchinp and written before numerals had
been added to any of the trump cards; Bolognese
players were evidently as conservative in their
nomenclature as in their manner of play. (7)

Most of the cards have the same name, save for
trivial variations of spelling, in all the sources.
Among these, the ones with names coinciding
with those used in modern Tarocco Piemontese
packs, and also corresponding to those of the
Tarot de Marseille (given here in the right-hand
column), are as follows.
The Fool
The Emperor
The Popess
The Devil
The Moon
The Sun
The World

il Matto
la Papessa
la Temperanza
la Giustizia
il Diavolo
la Luna
il Sole
il Mondo

le Mat
la Papesse
la Justice
le Diable
la Lune
le Soleil
le Monde

There are five more whose names always appear
in the same form in the early sources:
6 The first is no. XXXII of the Pasquinate di Pietro Aretino ed
Anonime per il Conclave a I'Elezione di Adriano VI
, ed. by
Vittorio Rossi, Palermo, 1891, also to be found in Mario
dell'Arco, Pasquino e le Pasquinate, Milan, 1957, pp. 87-8. The
second, an imitation of the first, was published by V. Cian
in his 'Gioviana', Giornale storico delta Letteratura Italiana, vol.
XVII, 1890, pp. 338-40.
7 Stuart R. Kaplan, in his The Encyclopedia of Tarot, New
York, 1978, cites yet another source; on p. 30 he states that
Antonio Francesco Grazzini wrote in Tutti i trionfi, carri,
mascherate o canti carnascialeschi andati per Firenze dal tempo del
magnifico Lorenzo de' Medicifino all'anno 1559
about the tarocchi
trumps. On p. 359, he repeats this claim, attributing the
whole book to Grazzini. Poems by Grazzini (il Lasca) are
indeed included in this collection, which he in fact edited, but
I can find no reference in them or in any other poems in the
volume to tarocchi. Perhaps Mr Kaplan was misled by the
occurrence of the term trionfi in the title: it does not there refer
to Tarot trumps or triumphs, but is used in the sense of
'triumphal processions; see the section on Festivals in J.
Burckhardt's Civilisation of the Renaissance.

Fortitude always appears in them as la Fortezza;
it is la Force (Strength) in the Tarot de Marseille,
and likewise la Forza (Strength) in the Tarocco

Love always appears in the early sources as
I'Amore; in the Tarot de Marseille it is I'Amoureux
(the Lover) and in the Tarocco Piemontese gli
(the Lovers).

Death is always called la Morte, as in the
Tarocco Piemontese; in the Tarot de Marseille, it
is almost always left unnamed.

The Star is always la Stella in the early sources;
in the Tarot de Marseille it is, likewise, l'Etoile
(the Star), but in the Tarocco Piemontese le Stelle
(the Stars).

The Angel is always l'Angelo in the early
sources, save in the Minchiate pack, in which it is
le Trombe (the Trumpets). In the Tarot de
Marseille it is le Jugement (the Judgment), though
a pack made in Strasbourg has la Trompette (the
Trumpet), and it is similarly referred to as la
in Viévil's pack. In the Tarocco
Piemontese it is sometimes labelled il Giudizio
(the Judgment), but usually as I'Angelo.

This leaves six cards whose names vary in the
early sources. For three of these, the differences
are trifling.

The Bagatto, called le Bateleur in the Tarot de
Marseille and, usually, il Bagatto in the Tarocco
Piemontese, is referred to as il Bagatella in most of
the early sources; Pietro Aretino alone uses the
name il Bagatto, and only as an alternative. In the
poem on the 1549 conclave, the form used is il
The term is il Bagatino in the Bertoni
poem, like the form il Bagattino used by Bolognese

The Chariot is usually called il Carro, as it is in
the Tarocco Piemontese, corresponding to le
Chariot in the Tarot de Marseille. In the Steele
MS. and in Aretino it appears more explicitly as il
Carro triumphale (the triumphal Chariot).

The Wheel, called la Roue de Fortune (the Wheel
of Fortune) in the Tarot de Marseille and
likewise la Ruota di Fortuna in the Tarocco
Piemontese, is usually abbreviated to la.Rota or la
(the Wheel) in the early sources; only the
two poems on the conclaves use the full term.
However, the idea is just the same, and Fortune
is almost always mentioned in connection with
this card.

The only serious variations in nomenclature are
confined to three cards:

The card known to modern players as the
Hermit - I'Ermite
in the Tarot de Marseille (le
in some related packs) and l'Eremita in the
Tarocco Piemontese - has three names in the
early sources. In the Steele MS., in the Bertoni
poem and in Lollio, it is il Gobbo (the
Hunchback). In Garzoni, in Susio and in the
poem on the 1522 conclave, as also for Bolognese
players, it is il Vecchio (the Old Man); compare
Viévil's term le Vielart. In Teofilo Folengo it is il
(Time). (Aretino and the other conclave
poem fail to mention it.)

The Hanged Man - le Pendu in the Tarot de
Marseille and il Penduto in the Tarocco
Piemontese - is l’Impiccato in the Steele MS. and
in Garzoni, and l'Appicato in Teofilo Folengo,
both meaning 'the Hanged Man'. For all the rest,
including the Bolognese players, it is il Traditore
(the Traitor).

The Tower, called la Torre in the Tarocco
and la Maison Dieu (the House of
God, or, perhaps, the Hospital) in the Tarot de
Marseille, bears a variety of names in the early
sources. In the Steele MS. it is la Sagitta, literally
'the Arrow' but more probably meaning 'the
Thunderbolt'; for Bolognese players it was la.
, also meaning 'the Thunderbolt' (compare
la Foudre (the Lightning) in the anonymous
seventeenth-century Parisian pack, those of
Viévil and de Hautot and in the Belgian Tarot).
The Bertoni poem calls it la Casa del Diavolo (the
House of the Devil), by which name it was also
known to Minchiate players; the poem on the
1549 conclave has the variant la Casa del Dannato
(the House of the Damned), while that on the
1522 conclave calls it simply la Casa (the House).
In Garzoni, Folengo and Susio it is il Fuoco (the
Fire). Lollio calls it l’lnferno (Hell) outright.
Aretino leaves it unmentioned.

In order to have a uniform terminology for
making comparisons between different orders,
without falsely implying that a particular term is
used in each of the sources, I shall in what follows
use English names (save for the Bagatto). For the
last three cards mentioned above, I shall use 'the

392 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
Hermit', 'the Hanged Man' and 'the Tower'.

Among the variant packs, the Tarocco
Bolognese, considered in its older form before the
Papi were replaced by Moors, contains precisely
the standard trump subjects; it merely fails to
yield an order among themselves for the Pope,
Popess, Emperor and Empress. The Tarocco
Siciliano has several unfamiliar subjects: but the
Globe obviously corresponds to the World, we
know from Villabianca that the Ship is a
replacement for the Devil and we may reasonably^
assume that Jupiter stands in place of the Angel.
In the Minchiate pack, the 'Grand Duke' does
not correspond precisely to any card or other
packs, but clearly belongs with the two Imperial
cards. It is evident that the insertion of the
twenty extra cards has not been allowed to
disturb the order of the familiar ones; it is
especially striking that the four additional
Virtues have not been placed next to the three
that were already there, but have been grouped
together with the other new cards. We are
therefore justified in extracting from the
Minchiate pack an order for the standard Tarot
trumps. This is confirmed by a certain feature of
the design of Minchiate trumps. The trumps
cards from XVI to XXXV, that is, the twenty
additional ones, bear rosettes in the two top
corners. Of the remaining trumps, the top five
unnumbered ones and those from I to XV, only
trumps I and II have rosettes in the top corners.
A possible explanation is that the original
designer of the Minchiate pack, whose designs
were thereafter faithfully copied, used existing
designs for the trumps of an ordinary Tarocco
pack as far as he could, and invented new designs
for the additional cards. Some adjustment would
be necessary with the lowest cards, owing to the
reduction in number of the Imperial/Papal cards
from four to three; the purpose of the rosettes
may have been to indicate to the cardmaker
himself which designs he would be unable to use
for ordinary 78-card Tarocco packs.

In Chapter 4 a list was given of all known
surviving sets of fifteenth-century Italian Tarot
cards. The first twenty of these consisted of the
hand-painted cards, made for the nobility, which
have survived in considerable numbers; but, in
addition, there were listed, as nos. (21) to (24),
four popular packs, dating from the end of the
fifteenth century, from which one or more uncut
sheets have survived; the Boiardo pack and the
copper-engraved Sola-Busca tarocchi, being to a
high degree non-standard, were not included in
the list. The dating of the four-popular paekv
(21) to (24), as late fifteenth-century, is
admittedly not unshakable: any of them may be
assignable to the beginning of the sixteenth. We
may now extend the list to cover Italian Tarot
cards of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The vogue for expensive hand-painted packs died
away in the sixteenth century; accepting nos. (21)
to (24) of Chapter 4 as of the fifteenth century,
we are left with only four sixteenth-century
Italian Tarot packs of which we have any
knowledge. With the numbering continued from
Chapter 4, these are:

(25) A set of thirty cards belonging to the Leber
Collection in the Bibliotheque Municipale at Rouen.
They comprise the King, Queen, Cavalier, Jack, 9, 6
and Ace of Swords; the King, Cavalier, 9, 7, 5, 4, 2
and Ace of Batons; the 9, 8 and 7 of Cups; the King,
Jack, 9 and Ace of Coins; and the Fool and seven
trumps. The trumps are numbered with Arabic
numerals, and are the Emperor (4), the Pope (5), the
Chariot (7), the Wheel of Fortune (10), Time,
corresponding to the Hermit (11), the Devil (14) and
the Star (16). The pack is obviously non-standard,
and is a classicised one: the court figures are labelled
with inscriptions in Latin identifying them with
characters of classical history (e.g. the King of Coins
with Midas, King of the Lydians), while the trump
cards, although clearly identifiable with the usual
subjects, also have Latin inscriptions interpreting
them in terms of classical mythology (e.g. the Devil is
represented by Pluto and is labelled 'Perditorum
Raptor'). The numeral cards are very elaborate, the
Batons, in particular, being depicted as whole trees. (8)

(26) A complete pack, very closely related to the
one at Rouen, but not identical with it, was known to
Count Leopoldo Cicognara, and was described by
him in his book on playing cards of 1831. (9) He
illustrated it by all four Aces and trump cards
showing Apollo and Cupid, obviously representing
the Sun and Love cards. This pack has now
disappeared; it evidently did not have inscriptions on
8 Catalogue number 135-XIV. The cards measure 134 x 70
mm. Four are illustrated in colour by D. Hoffmann, Die Welt
der Spielkarte
, Leipzig, 1972, plate 23b, nine in black and white
by Kaplan, op. cit., p. 133, and five by H.-R. D'Allemagne,
Les Cartes a jouer, vol. I, Paris, 1906, opposite p. 186.
9 See L. Cicognara, Memorie spettanti alia Storia della
, Prato, 1831, pp. 163-6 and plate XIV; A.M.
Hind, Early Italian Engraving, vol. I, London, 1938, pp. 241
and 243, and vol. V, London, 1948, pp. 139-40; and D.
Hoffmann, op. cit., fig. 6. Hind attributes the pack to
Nicoletto da Modena.

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 393
the trump or court cards, nor, apparently, numerals
on the trumps. The Aces differ considerably from
those at Rouen; furthermore, the Fool of the Rouen
pack is quite different from that described, though not
illustrated, by Cicognara. Cicognara's Fool was a
drunkard lying on his back, supporting, with his legs
in the air, a jar marked MUSCATELLO. The Fool of
the Rouen set shows a man armed to the teeth and
dressed in armour, but with genitals exposed and
urinating; the inscription reads 'VELIM FUND AM
DARI MIHI'. Nevertheless, Cicognara's pack was a
classicised one of very much the same kind as that at

(27) A single card, showing the Devil, is in the
British Musuem. (10) The back gives the maker's name as
Agnolo Hebreo. It is unnumbered, and the design is
very similar to that on the Rothschild sheet (no.
(23)), but it is much cruder in execution.

(28) Another isolated card is in the Museo
Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari in Rome: it
is numbered VIII and represents Love. (11) It shows two
musicians playing a viol da gamba and a lute, and;
behind them, a pair of embracing lovers: above them,
as usual on all versions of this card, hovers Cupid
aiming his bow. The design does not correspond in
detail to any other known version, but is in no way

This may appear a meagre crop for a whole
century, but compares favourably with the single
surviving pack from sixteenth-century France. As
before, we cannot be certain, when dealing with
Italy, that we have identified all surviving cards
from Tarot packs; it is possible that some of the
suit cards that have survived in fact come from
such packs, without our having any means of
knowing this. The wealth of literary references
assures us that the game continued, in the
sixteenth century, to enjoy both popularity and
renown. It is unnecessary to list Tarocchino and
Minchiate packs made in the seventeenth
century, since they are readily identifiable as
such; when these are set aside, our list may be
extended to the seventeenth century as follows:

(29) A set of six tarocchi was found, among other
cards, at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan during
restoration work. They consist of the 6, 7 and 9 of
Swords, the 8 of Batons, the 6 of Coins and the World,
numbered XXI. They measure 138 x 68 mm., and
have backs showing a complex design identified by
Francesco Novati as depicting Ruggero and Angelica;
the design has a dotted border, folded over to form a
similar border for the faces of the cards. The backs,
and consequently the borders, have peeled off from
the 8 of Batons, 9 of Swords and the World. The suit
cards resemble those of the Tarot de Marseille very
closely, with the major exception that they bear no
numerals to indicate their rank, and the minor one
that, on the odd-numbered cards of the Swords suit,
the crosspiece of the single sword is straight, not S
shaped as in most Tarot de Marseille packs (a Tarot
de Besançon made in 1784 by Bernhard Schaer of
Mumliswil being an exception). The single trump, the
World, is similar in general design, though not in
precise detail, to the corresponding card in the Tarot
de Marseille, showing a naked female figure enclosed
in an oval wreath, with the symbols of the four
Evangelists at the corners. The card does not bear an
inscription giving its name. It is inscribed-XXI-above
the top margin, but this inscription would have been
covered by the border folded over from the back when
the card was in its original condition. Novati assigns
these cards to the early sixteenth century; but they
seem more likely to be from some date in the

(30) Two incomplete uncut sheets from a
Portuguese-suited Tarot pack are in the British
Museum. One shows the Maids of Swords and
Batons, the Cavalier of Batons and fragments of the 3
of Swords and Cavalier of Coins. The other shows
trumps bearing Arabic numerals but not names: they
consist of the Wheel (11), the Chariot (10), Love (6),
a card depicting a Sultan and numbered 5, and two
fragmentary cards numbered 20 and 21, presumably
the World and the Angel respectively. The 2 of
Swords bears the inscription 'Alia Colonna in Piazza
Nicosia'. Italian cardmakers from the sixteenth to the
eighteenth century identified themselves by signs
which, like English inn-signs, presumably hung
outside their workshops; usually the sign itself and its
name appear on the backs of the cards. The pack is
thought to have been made in Rome, there being a
Piazza Nicosia in that city. There are also in the
British Museum two fragmentary sheets from a
regular Portuguese-suited pack by the same maker,
showing the Kings, Cavaliers, Maids and Aces of all
four suits, and the 2 to 6 and fragments of the 7 and 9
of the Swords suit. A column, which was also the
heraldic emblem of the Colonna family, appears on a
shield borne by the Maid of Swords in both packs,
and on one borne by the Maid of Cups in the regular
pack; on the 2 of Swords of the regular pack appears
the date 1613. The small details of design of the cards
10 Illustrated in D. Hoffmann, op. cit., plate 14a.
11 Illustrated in Antiche. Carte da Tarocchi, Rome,
plate XII. The back shows a standing Cupid.
12 The cards are in the Raccolta delle Stampe Achille
1961, Bertarelli at the Castello Sforzesco. For Novati's articles, see
footnote 22.

394 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
common to both packs are not precisely the same, but
the pattern used is identical, and corresponds closely
to that of other Portuguese-suited packs made at the
time when this had become recognised as a quite
distinct suit-system. In both packs, the Maids are
girls with long gowns, and the Swords are straight but
intersecting; further, each suit card has an index at
both top centre and bottom centre (FS, FB, FC and
FD for the Maids, RS, etc., for the Kings, CS, etc., for
the Cavaliers, AS, etc., for the Aces and S2, S3, etc.,
for the numeral cards from 2 up). In the regular pack,
the Kings are seated, there are dragons-on-t-he- Aeesand
the Batons have a shape very characteristic of
Portuguese-suited packs.(13)

(31) There are several extant examples of a
puzzling kind of pack made by a cardmaker using the
name 'Orfeo': the backs of his cards give this name
with an elaborate design of Orpheus playing his lute.
The Beinecke Library at Yale has two nearly
complete ones and another, very fragmentary, one;
two others are in the British Museum, while the
Fournier Museum in Vitoria has fragments of three
packs (and one card from a fourth).(14) These packs are
invariably catalogued as incomplete Minchiate packs.
The reason is that the trumps display exactly the
designs of the Minchiate ones: the top five trumps, left
unnumbered in the Minchiate pack, are unnumbered
in the Orfeo packs also, and those that are numbered
bear the same numbers as in the Minchiate pack.
Furthermore, as in the Minchiate pack, the Swords
are straight but intersecting. In other respects,
however, the Orfeo packs deliberately diverge from
the highly constant Minchiate designs. This is true of
the Fool and of the Aces, and in some degree of the
Kings; but the most striking divergences are in the
two lower court cards. In the Minchiate pack, the
Cavaliers, although still called Cavalli, are centaurs in
Swords and Batons, and other half-human, half-
animal creatures in Cups and Coins; but in the Orfeo
packs, they are the conventional mounted knights. In
the Minchiate pack, the Cups and Coins suits, though
not the other two, have Maids instead of Jacks as the
lowest court cards; but in the Orfeo packs, there are
distinctly male Jacks in all four suits, and their
designs in no way resemble the Minchiate ones. If
13 See Playing Cards of Various Ages and Countries selected from
the Collection of Lady Charlotte Schreiber
, vol. Ill, London, 1895,
plates 44 and 45. The Tarot pack, but not the regular one, is
illustrated in Kaplan, op. cit., p. 134.
14 The new catalogue no. of the more complete Orfeo pack
in the Cary Collection at Yale is ITA-63; the old no. was I-
11, the other Orfeo pack being 1-96. The Orfeo packs in the
Fournier Museum are grouped as no. 10 in the Italian
section of the catalogue. For the British Museum ones, see
F.M. O'Donoghue, Catalogue of the Collection of Playing Cards
bequeathed to the Trustees of the British Museum by the late Lady
Charlotte Schreiber
, London, 1901,1-59 and 1-60.

there were anything to compel us to regard the Orfeo
packs as intended for the game of Minchiate, we
should have to treat, them as exhibiting certain
deviant features; but there is not. Although the
designs of all surviving trump cards from Orfeo packs
coincide with those used in Minchiate packs, no Orfeo
pack is known which has any of those twenty trump
subjects which are peculiar to the Minchiate pack,
which, unlike every other form of the Tarot pack, had
in all forty trumps (in addition to the Fool). The
probability is, therefore, that the Orfeo packs were
originally 78 card ones.Perhaps the designs used
were not at that time regarded as the exclusive
property of the Minchiate pack, which had probably
taken them over, at the time of its invention in the
previous century, from some local standard pattern
for the normal Tarot pack; or, possibly, the
cardmaker using the sign Orfeo found it more
economical to use Minchiate blocks, so far as he
could, to produce ordinary 78-card Tarot packs. This
conclusion cannot be regarded as certain, however,
because one oddity remains. In none of the Orfeo
packs I have mentioned is there any trump below IX
(or Villi as it is written). To make a complete set of
Tarot trumps, there would have to be nine such
trumps, perhaps leaving the Bagatto unnumbered, or,
just conceivably, with a trump XVI to insert between
the extant XV (the Tower) and the five top
unnumbered trumps: in any case, they would have to
diverge in some respect from the Minchiate trumps,
which do not include the Pope and Popess and have
only the eight trumps numbered I to VIII' below the
IX. It may be mere coincidence that these nine
trumps happen to be missing from all surviving
examples of the Orfeo pack; but, until an example is
found that includes some of them, it remains a fact
that seems to call for explanation, and, until one is hit
on, we cannot feel assured that we have correctly
interpreted the pack.

Considering the rarity of pre-eighteenth-
century cards generally, we cannot regard this as
a poor haul; and we have, in addition,
seventeenth-century examples both of the
Minchiate and Tarocchino packs. Nevertheless,
the dearth of literary and textual references, save
to Minchiate, from this century suggests that the
popularity of the game of Tarocco, as played
with the 78-card pack, was distinctly on the wane
in mainland Italy,, though Minchiate and
Tarocchino continued to flourish. In the next
century, of course, games with the 78-card pack
were to enjoy a great revival in Lombardy and

Of all these packs, made in Italy between the
fifteenth and seventeenth centuries inclusive,

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 395
there are, apart from the Minchiate and
Tarocchino packs, just nine that yield an
order, complete or incomplete, for the trump
cards. Two of these are fifteenth-century ones
printed from wood blocks and preserved in the
form of uncut sheets: that in the Metropolitan
Museum, New York, no. (21) of Chapter 4; and
that in the Rosenwald Collection in Washington,
no. (22) of Chapter 4. The Metropolitan set
includes an almost complete sequence of trumps,
of which the World is definitely unnumbered,
and the rest appear to have borne Roman
numerals from I to XX. The sheets are
mutilated, so that a few of the trumps are missing
or fragmentary. Only the tops of the Pope,
Emperor, Popess and Empress survive, bearing
the numerals II to V, but only the Popess (III)
can be identified with certainty, although, given
that, the positions of the others admit of little
doubt. Another card of which only the top
remains may be either the Bagatto or the Fool:
no numeral is to be seen. There is only the right=
hand half of the Chariot, without the numeral. Of
three cards, only the left-hand halves survive: one
is easily identified as the Hanged Man, with a
numeral beginning XL. that can only be XII;
one appears to be the Star, with a numeral
beginning XV.., which would have to be XVI,
but may possibly be the Moon, in which case the
numeral must be XVII; and the third, which is
also truncated below, is unidentifiable and shows
no numeral, but is probably Fortitude. Save for
the relative positions of Fortitude and the
Chariot, it is possible to reconstruct the order
completely with virtual certainty.

In the Rosenwald set, all the trumps, without
the Fool, are printed on one sheet, together with
three Queens. The only mutilated card is the
Wheel, on which the numeral, if there was one,
can no longer be seen. Unlike on the
Metropolitan sheets, the trumps are arranged on
the sheet more or less in sequence. The bottom
line contains the three Queens and the first five
trumps from the Bagatto (I) to the Pope (V). The
middle line begins with Love (VI), Temperance
(VII) and Justice (VIII). These are followed by
Fortitude, also numbered VIII, and the Chariot,
numbered X. Evidently the VIII on Fortitude is a
mistake for Villi. There follows the Hermit,
numbered XII, the Hanged Man, which is
definitely unnumbered, and the Wheel, of which
we cannot tell whether it had a numeral. The
cards on the top line, running from Death to the
Angel, are all unnumbered, and are arranged in
a plausible order, indeed, in what, by analogy
with other packs, is the only possible order, given
the numbers assigned to the other cards. There
are two possible hypotheses about the end of the
second line. One is that the cards are arranged in
the correct sequence, but that the Hermit has
been misnumbered XII instead of XL On this
hypothesis, proposed by Sylvia Mann, the Wheel
was not numbered, and the numbering stopped at
XL An alternative hypothesis seems to me a little
more probable. This is that the Hermit is
correctly numbered XII, and that the Wheel was
numbered XI, but was located slightly out of
sequence on the block. I shall follow this second
hypothesis in the comparative table given below.

Although fifteenth-century hand-painted
packs do not usually have numerals on the
trumps, there are two exceptions to this. One is
the celebrated 'Charles VI' pack, no. (4) in
Chapter 4. A fact seldom referred to in the
extensive discussions of this pack in the literature,
is that the trumps bear lower-case Roman
numerals at the very top, in a fifteenth-century
hand. Robert Steele listed these in his 1900
Archaeologia article. The cards are in fact printed
from a wood block with the colours subsequently
painted by hand; and, on the basis of some
technical considerations concerning the process
of production, Steele asserted that the numerals
were written on the cards before they were
painted. Detlef Hoffmann has denied this,
maintaining that the numerals were added later,
and were not intended to be part of the original
designs. In this he is almost certainly right. They
do not lose their importance for that reason: they
represent an order which, at an early period,
their owner at the time thought they ought to
have. I have not seen these cards myself, and rely
on Steele for the numbering. In one particular, he
seems likely to be wrong: he gives the numeral for
the Pope as ii, and adds a question mark to show
his uncertainty about the reading. But the Pope
can hardly rank lower than the Emperor, which
is iij; moreover, in every other case, a terminal i is
written j . It is therefore probable that the
numeral on the Pope was intended to be iiij.

The other exception is the very incomplete
Catania set no. (7) in Chapter 4. On three of the
four surviving trumps Arabic numerals have at
some time been inscribed in ink; these
inscriptions cannot be contemporary with the
cards, and may be conjectured to have been

396 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
made in the seventeenth century. The fourth
surviving trump is the figure on the stag, which
Ronald Decker has interpreted as an unusual
representation of Temperance; to this no
numeral has been added, presumably because
whoever added them could not identify the

From the sixteenth century we have two
remnants of packs with numbered trumps. One
is the single card at Rome depicting Love and
numbered VIII, no. (28) above. The other is the_
classicised pack at Rouen, no. (25) above, whose
trumps, readily identified with their counterparts
in ordinary packs, bear Arabic numerals and
inscriptions giving their names in Latin; I differ
from Detlef Hoffmann in equating Pluto, not, as
he does, with Death, but with the Devil.

Finally, there are three fragmentary packs
from the seventeenth century. One is the very
inomplete sheet of trump cards for the
Portuguese-suited alia Colonna pack, no. (30)
above; this has Arabic numerals, which were
presumably borne by all the trumps, since they
go up to 21. The second is the Orfeo pack, no.
(31) above, of which several examples exist; this
has Roman numerals, but the top five trumps are
unnumbered, as in the Minchiate pack. Finally,
there is the set of six Tarot cards found at the
Castello Sforzesco, of which only one is a trump,
the World, numbered XXI.

From the four literary sources and from the
three variant types of Tarot pack, we obtain
complete orders for all the trumps; from the nine
fragmentary early packs with numbered trumps,
we obtain further orders with varying degrees of
incompleteness, of which those of the
Metropolitan Museum, Rosenwald and Charles
VI packs can be reconstructed in their entirety
with very little uncertainty. Of the orders which
we know in complete detail, only two agree
exactly, those given by Garzoni and in the
Bertoni poem; the order in the Metropolitan
Museum pack almost certainly also nearly
coincides with that in these two sources, and that
of the Rouen pack may very well have done so as
well. The order in the alia Colonna pack may
have been the same as that in the Rosenwald
pack, save for carrying the numbering through to
21 and having a Sultan in place of the Pope; the
order underlying the numbering on the three
Catania cards may have been the same as in the
Orfeo pack, save that the numbering is carried at
least as far as 19. All the rest have at least minor
differences between them. Ignoring the isolated
Love card at Rome, we thus have eleven distinct
orders, all differing from the Tarot de Mlarseille

This is a very surprising fact. Games players
do not in the least mind having to master a
complicated and arbitrary sequential ordering
(for instance, the ranking, in 'civil' and 'military'
suits, of dominoes in Chinese domino games);
but they do require that any such ordering be
held constant. It is of the essence of Tarot games
that there be a determinate means of deciding
which card in any trick is the winning one, and
this necessarily requires an agreed ordering of
the trump cards; in special cases there may be
exceptions, such as the equal ranking of the Papi
or Moors in the Bolognese game, but anything of
this kind is necessarily an exception, not the
general rule, and, indeed, this is the only known
such exception. If play is to be possible, the
ranking of the trumps must be apparent to all
players and subject to no dispute.

How, then, are we to explain the variations
that we find in the order of the trumps in Italy
from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century?
One explanation, which we glanced at earlier,
can be ruled out immediately, although it has
been proposed by some, the suggestion, namely,
that the Tarot trumps did not originally have an
order at all. If what, in the early chapters of this
book, we called the triumph cards did not have
an order, they were not trumps, and the game
played with the pack cannot have been a trick-
taking game; in that case, the suit cards cannot
have had an order either, since it is only in trick-
taking games that an order is required. We should
then have to suppose that, at some time between
the first invention of the Tarot pack in the 1430s
and its spread to France and the appearance of
packs with numbered trump cards, say around
1480, a new type of game was invented, for play
with the Tarot pack, and a new employment,
within this game, found for the triumph cards,
namely as genuine trumps. We should have to
assume this, to account for the etymological
connection between triumphi and 'trump', for the
subsequent history of the game of Tarot in Italy
and in France, and for the reversed ranking, in the
two pairs of suits, of the numeral cards, already
going out in Italy by the beginning of the sixteenth
century, as the game of Trappola shows. Above
all, we should have to assume it to explain the fact
that from the author of the fifteenth-century

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 397
Steele sermon on, writers assign an order to the
trump cards. But then we are faced with the same
problem as before: why are the orders different in
different sources? The hypothesis completely fails
to explain that which it was its sole object to
explain. We have no evidence that the trump
cards ever lacked an order; we have abundant
evidence that they had an order: our problem is
that this order is not constant. It is no explanation
of the variations in the order to propose that, at the
start, there was no order at all.

A more specious explanation is that, once it
became the practice to inscribe numerals on the
trumps, it ceased to be important to maintain a
fixed order for the trump subjects. Our surprise
at the variations in order is due, on this view, to
our being accustomed to the Italian-suited packs
used outside Italy, with their unswerving
uniformity of order: but there was in fact
no need for such uniformity. In the early French-
suited packs which have animals on the trumps,
it is common to find the same selection of
animals arranged in different orders; in the same
way, the standard selection of trump subjects in
the Latin-suited packs may have varied without
causing any confusion.

The idea underlying this suggestion is that,
once the trump cards bore numerals, the players
would have identified them from those numerals
and not from the subjects depicted, as they
unquestionably did from the start with the
French-suited packs. But this idea is borne out
neither by the early Italian Tarot cards that
survive to us, nor by the literary references. It is
correct, indeed, for the Minchiate trumps, which
were too numerous for anyone to memorise the
order of any but the five top cards, the arie; and,
accordingly, in literary sources, the first thirty-
five Minchiate trumps are virtually always
referred to by number and not by name; we do
not even know what subject Minchiate trump II
was intended to represent. By contrast, the
tarocchi trumps are never referred to by number; of
the various literary texts that mention them, only
one, the Steele MS. sermon, even cites their
numbers. Of the four sets of fifteenth-century
sheets for Tarot cards, the Cary sheet and the
Rothschild/Beaux Arts sheets have no numerals
at all, while the Rosenwald sheet leaves as many
as nine cards unnumbered; and we know that at
Bologna it was not until the later eighteenth
century that any of the trumps began to be
numbered. On the trump cards of the later
French-suited Tarot packs, the numerals form
one of the most prominent features. In those used
in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and, eventually,
France, these numerals are contained in a
separate panel extending across the card; though
this is not true of the packs made in the Austrian
Empire, the numerals are still very prominent.
This is not so with the early Italian cards. Only
on the alla Colonna trumps are the Arabic
numerals clear and regularly placed. The
numerals on the Metropolitan Museum trumps
are quite insignificantly placed; for instance, the
figures XV appear on the left of the head of the
Angel, while the remainder of the numeral, IIII, is
set on the right; on the Sun card, the figure XVIII
is set more than half-way down the card, just
above the trees on which the Sun is shining. One
can hardly suppose that these numerals were
intended as more than a last resort in identifying
the cards. Something very interesting happens in
the Minchiate pack. On the trumps peculiar to
that pack, trumps XVI to XXXV, the numerals
are placed in a scroll at the top of each card,
making them easy to pick out; but, on the fifteen
lowest trumps, the numerals are placed in a much
more random fashion in blank spaces of the
design. It is probable that these lowest trumps - or
at least those from V to XV - represent designs
originally used for trumps of a 78-card tarocchi
pack, taken over when the Minchiate pack was
first invented. The numerals on the Orfeo trumps
are, of course, placed in the same way, and those
of the Rosenwald sheet, though clearer than the
Metropolitan Museum ones, are also far from
being very prominent. As for the numeral on the
Castello Sforzesco World card, it would have
been invisible to a player, and perhaps was
intended only as a reminder for the cardmaker

From all this it is plain that Italian players
were highly conscious of the trump subjects, and
did not rely principally upon the numerals in
order to identify the cards. If the true explanation
of the variation in the order of the subjects were
that the subjects did not matter, the cards being
identified by numeral, we should expect that at
least the subjects of the really important qards
would have been held constant; yet we shall find
that the variation affects even the top three
trumps. In some orders, the Angel is the highest
trump, followed by the World and then by the
Sun; in others, the World is the highest, followed
by Justice and only then by the Angel; or, again,

398 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
the World may be the highest, the Angel second
highest and then the Sun. For the variations to be
explicable on the ground that the players were
indifferent to the subjects associated with the
numbers, they woud have had to be altogether
oblivious to them for the variations at this level to
have passed unnoticed, whereas, from the way in
which the trumps are referred to in the literary
sources, it is apparent that they were not. The
most striking example of the importance of the
subjects, at least at the highest level, is the_
persistence in Piedmont of the tradition that the
Angel beats the World, in face of the contrary
numerical ordering on the cards being used. It
seems probable, rather, that the very reverse of
the present suggestion is close to the truth; that
just as, at Bologna, a player of tarocchi had, until
the later eighteenth century, to make the fixed
conventional ordering of the trumps second
nature to him, so players of other varieties of
Tarot, save for Minchiate, identified the trump
cards principally by subject, and were aware of,
and could have stated, the order =of those

If this was so, it would have been hopelessly
confusing for the players if the order of the
trumps had varied even in minor respects from
one pack of cards to another. The observable
variations in the order must therefore be due, not
to the absence of a fixed order, but to that
phenomenon evident throughout the entire
history of the game of Tarot: the extreme
localisation of specific modes of play. Again and
again we find that the players in one city or town
play only amongst themselves and do not know
those of a neighbouring town; the detailed rules,
and sometimes the whole type of game played,
diverge from locality to locality, the players in
one circle being quite unaware of the manner of
play of those in another, and, often, of their
very existence. The different orders for the
trumps that we find in Italy .must represent
different practices adopted in different cities,
presumably at a stage earlier than that at which
numerals came regularly to be inscribed on the
trump cards. Evidently, quite a short time after
the game of Tarot had first been invented,
players in various cities or regions developed
local peculiarities in their modes of play, which,
in Italy, extended to the conventional order of the
trumps; this must have happened before it
became usual anywhere to inscribe numerals on
the trump cards, and hence before the end of the
fifteenth century. Modern piayers might feel that
it would be impossible to memorise the order of
twenty-one trump subjects so accurately as to be
at once aware, without the need for reflection,
which card was superior to which; but, as we
know from the Bolognese game, this doubt is
quite misplaced. The different orders of the
trumps testify, not to a reliance on the numerals
alone, but to the existence, at an early date, of
wide local variation in the manner of play.
Whenjwe look closely at the various orders, we
find that there was far from being total chaos. A
first impression is of a good deal of regularity
which, however, is hard to specify. Now the cards
which wander most unrestrainedly within the
sequence, from one ordering to another, are the
three Virtues. If we remove these three cards, and
consider the sequence formed by the remaining
eighteen trump cards, it becomes very easy to
state those features of their arrangement which
remain constant in .all the orderings. Ignoring the
Virtues, we can say that the sequence of the
remaining trumps falls into three distinct
segments, an initial one, a middle one and a final
one, all variation in order occurring only within
these different segments.

The first segment consists of the Bagatto and
the four Papal and Imperial cards (three in the
Minchiate pack, two only in the Tarocco
Siciliano). Save in the Tarocco Siciliano, where
the Miseria or Poverta comes below it, the Bagatto
is always the lowest trump. The Pope, when
present, Is always the highest member of this
initial segment. In all known Italian trump
orders, the Emperor ranks higher than the
Empress, as one might expect; but it will be
recalled that in the pack made at Rouen by
Adam de Hautot, and also in the list given in the
Maison academique des jeux of 1659, the Empress
outranks her spouse. In Italian trump orders, on
the other hand, the only opportunity for variation
within this segment lies in the position of the
Popess. In different orders, she occupies one of
three possible positions: immediately below the
Pope and above the Emperor; below the
Emperor but above the Empress; and below even
the Empress.

The middle segment consists of five cards, of
which the typical order is, from lowest to highest:
Love, the Chariot, the Wheel, the Hermit, the
Hanged Man. That very order is found in the
Tarocco Bolognese, the Charles VI numbering
(the Wheel cannot have come anywhere but at

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 399
no. 10), the Rosenwald pack (on the above
hypothesis as to the intended order), the Steele
sermon, Susio's poem and the Viévil pack; the
alia Colonna pack must also have had that order,
unless the Hermit and the Hanged Man- were
reversed. In all other cases, the order within this
segment results from interchanging some one
pair of adjacent cards: in the Minchiate and
Orfeo packs (and presumably in the numbering
of the Catania cards), the Wheel and the Chariot
have been interchanged; in the Tarocco Siciliano
the Hermit and the Hanged Man; in Garzoni's
book, the Bertoni poem and probably the
Metropolitan Museum pack, Love and the
Chariot; and, in the Tarot de Marseille, the
Wheel and the Hermit. (If Miss Mann's
hypothesis, mentioned above, concerning the
order in the Rosenwald pack be adopted in
preference to mine, that pack forms the sole
exception to this rule.)

The final segment consists of Death, the Devil,
the Tower, the Star, the Moon,-the Sun, the
World and the Angel. These always occur
(ignoring possible intervening, Virtues) in
precisely the order just stated, with the sole but
very important exception that, sometimes, the
position of the World and the Angel are reversed, '
the World coming highest.

If, now, in the light of this analysis, we look at
the actual orders, we see that they divide into
three sharply distinct types, which I shall
arbitrarily label type A, type B and type C.
These types are to be distinguished according to
two principles: where the Virtues come; and
whether the Angel or the World is the highest
card. In type A, the Angel is the highest trump,
the World coming immediately below it. The
three Virtues, Temperance, Fortitude and
Justice, occur consecutively, usually interposed
just above the lowest card of the middle segment,
which, in orders of this type, at least whenever we
can tell, is invariably Love. Type A is not attested
by any of our four literary sources. On the other
hand, it is well supported by actual packs. All
three variant packs - the Tarocco Bolognese, the
Tarocco Siciliano and the Minchiate pack -
belong to this type; so do the Charles VI
numbering and the Rosenwald and Orfeo packs.
So also must the alia Colonna pack have done: at
least, if the three Virtues did not come between
Love as no. 6 and the Chariot as no. 10, the order
must have been very non-standard. Almost
certainly the Catania numbering also exemplifies
this type: the numbering of the Chariot as 10 and
the Hermit as 11 surely implies that all three
Virtues ranked below the Chariot, and the World
as 19 must have ranked below the Angel.

In orders of type A, the three Virtues rank
immediately above Love, except in the Tarocco
Siciliano pack, where they rank immediately
below it, and in the Tarocco Bolognese, where
they outrank the second lowest card of the
middle segment, the Chariot. In type A orders,
Temperance is always the lowest of the three
Virtues, whenever we can tell. In the Tarocco
Bolognese and the Rosenwald pack, Fortitude is
higher than Justice, but in the Tarocco Siciliano,
the Minchiate pack and the Charles VI
numbering, it is Justice which is higher.

400 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
In orders of type B, something completely
different happens. In these, the World is the
highest trump, and Justice is promoted to the
second highest position in the sequence, coming
immediately below the World and above the
Angel, the third highest card. There is clearly
here an association of ideas: the Angel proclaims
the last Judgment, at which justice will be
dispensed. In orders of type B, Temperance
always comes immediately above the Pope, and
is separated from Fortitude, which comes three^
cards later, after Love and the Chariot. There is
very little variation in these orders: the Popess
does not have a stable position, and, in the Steele
MS., the positions of Love and the Chariot have
been reversed.

Type B has by far the best literary attestation,
namely in three out of our four sources, including
the earliest one, the Steele MS. The other two are
Garzoni and the Bertoni poem, which give
exactly the same type B order. The type is also
exemplified by the Metropolitan Museum pack,
and, incomplete as it is, by the Rouen pack. The
isolated card at Rome, Love, numbered 8,
probably also comes from a pack with a type B
order, although this cannot be certain, there
being one type A order, that of the Tarocco
Siciliano, in which Love bears the number 8.


We have only one certain attestation to an
order of type C as being used in Italy before the
eighteenth century, namely Susio's poem. If we
knew nothing of non-Italian Tarot cards, or of the
post-1700 Lombard and Piedmontese patterns,
we might dismiss type C as a minor curiosity;
but, as the type to which not only the Tarot de
Marseille order, but all those used outside Italy,
belong, it is of course of great importance. Susio's
order is considerably different from that of the
Tarot de Marseille; it is, in fact, almost precisely
the order found in Viévil's pack, save for the
relative order of the Empress and Popess. In an
order of type C, the World is again the highest
card in the sequence, but, this time, the Angel
comes immediately below it. Of the Virtues, it is
Temperance that is promoted to a relatively high
position, namely to just above Death and just
below the Devil; any symbolic appropriateness in
this escapes me. The remaining two Virtues are
again separated and scattered within the middle
segment, Justice in all cases coming lower. In
Viévil's and Susio's orders, Justice comes just
above the first card of the middle segment, Love,
and Fortitude just above the next one, the
Chariot. In the Tarot de Marseille, Justice comes
above the first two cards of the middle segment,
Love and the Chariot, and Fortitude above the
next two, the Hermit and the Wheel. The single
trump card, the World, numbered XXI, from the
Castello Sforzesco set, in itself of course indicates
no more than that the order was of type B or type

It will be remembered, in connection with the
following table, that, in Viévil's pack, as in those
of de Hautot and of the anonymous Parisian
cardmaker, as well as in the Belgian Tarot,
trump XVI is actually called the Lightning and
does not show a tower; nor does that by Catelin
Geoffroy, though we do not know what name it
bore. The order in the anonymous Parisian pack
coincides with that of the Tarot de Marseille; so
do those of the Tarot de Besançon and of the
Belgian Tarot, save for the difference of subjects
on trumps II and V. With the same reservation,
the order in de Hautot's pack coincides with that
given by the Maison academique. It is apparent
from the table that the order in Catelin
Geoffroy's pack, unless very eccentric, must have
been that of the Tarot de Marseille; virtually the
only alternative is that the Wheel was numbered
VIII and Justice and Fortitude X and XI, which
is quite unlikely.

While literally true, it is somewhat misleading
to say that ten or eleven distinct orders were
known in Italy before the eighteenth century.
The variations within type B are very minor ones.
Those within type A are more considerable: but

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 401

if we set aside the Tarocco Siciliano, in which we
know that some dislocation occurred, the major
deviation is seen to occur in the Bolognese order,
in which the Virtues are placed after the Chariot
instead of before it; for the rest, the variations
within this type are, so far as we know, again
comparatively minor. We may thus regard
Italian Tarot players of the fifteenth to
seventeenth centuries as having observed three,
or perhaps four, distinct basic orderings of the
trumps, with small variations from one area to

So far we have paid no attention to the
numbering of the trumps; it might be thought
that this followed automatically from their order,
but this is not so. If we study the various
numberings, we find very little in the way of any
close association of numbers with particular
subjects. Almost the only such association is that
of the number 13 with Death. Even that is not
invariable: but it occurs more frequently than the
association of a particular number with any other
card, even that of the number 1 with the Bagatto.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the
cardmakers, or those for whose tastes they were
catering, regarded this association as particularly
appropriate, and strove to arrange for it. Even
today, some superstition attaches to this card
among certain card players: a student who
played French Tarot with lorry drivers in France,
using a Tarot de Marseille pack, reported that
they considered it bad luck to be dealt trump
XIII, and would not, in such an event, enter the
bidding, however strong a hand they otherwise

Now if one has the trumps arranged in an
order of type A, and begins the numbering with
the lowest trump, Death receives the number 14.
This can be seen from the Rosenwald pack,
where the numbering stops at 12: if it had been
continued, the number 14 would be assigned to
Death. It is probable that this consequence was
accepted in the alia Colonna pack; it must have
been accepted if the order in that pack was truly
of type A, and none of the cards of the middle
segment was promoted above Death. But there
was a solution which allowed Death to be
assigned the number 13 in an ordering of type A,
and this can be seen from the Tarocco Bolognese.
In the Tarocco Bolognese, only trumps 5 to 16
are numbered: but if the numbering is continued,
it will only reach 20; the Moon will become no.
17, the Sun no. 18, the World no. 19 and the
Angel no. 20. This is because Love, as no. 5, has,
not four, but five cards below it. We could not
number the Moors, because they are all equal:
but, if they were numbered, they would occupy
positions 1 to 4, leaving no number for the
Bagatto, which would thus have to be regarded
as an unnumbered card ranking below thfe
numbered ones, like the Miseria in the Tarocco

We can see that the principle of starting the
numbering with the second lowest trump,
followed in the Tarocco Siciliano and, in a
concealed fashion, in the Tarocco Bolognese, also

402 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
underlies the numbering of the Charles VI
trumps. In that numbering, the Angel holds the
highest place, and has the number 20. There is
no other card which could possibly rank above it
as no. 21: the World is numbered 19, and Justice
is numbered 8. On the assumption that the
Popess and the Empress were present to occupy
between them the positions numbered 1 and 2,
the numbering must have begun after the
Bagatto, in order to bring Death out as no. 13.
The numbering of the Catania cards provides
another example.

The Orfeo pack presumably supplies yet
another instance of the practice: there can hardly
be any cards other than the five unnumbered
ones to rank above the highest-numbered one,
the 15, so that, to have a full complement of
twenty-one trumps, there must be nine cards
below the lowest-numbered one surviving in any
of the packs, the 9. If the Orfeo packs are
representative of the type of 78-card pack from
which the Minchiate pack was derived, there are
two possibilities. The sequence may have
continued down from 8 to 3 as in the Minchiate
pack, with 4 and 3 as the two Emperors, and then
have had two corresponding Empresses as nos. 2
and 1, and, below them, an unnumbered
Bagatto. Alternatively, it may have run from 8
down to 1 exactly as in the Minchiate pack, the
Bagatto thus being numbered 1, and have had
some unnumbered card ranking below the
Bagatto like the Miseria of the Tarocco Siciliano.
Of these two possibilities, the former seems a
little more likely; but yet others are thinkable,
and it would throw great light on the history of
the Italian Tarocco pack in the seventeenth
century if a complete Orfeo pack were to be

In orders of types B and C, one of the Virtues -
Justice in type B and Temperance in type C - is
promoted higher than Death, with the result:
that, when all the trumps are numbered in
sequence from the Bagatto up, Death comes out
as no. 13, without the necessity for any special
device to secure this result. In consequence, we
never find a trump sequence of either of these
types that leaves the Bagatto unnumbered and
starts the numbering with the next card. It is for
this reason that it has been possible to classify the
incomplete Rouen set as exemplifying type B. In
the Rouen pack, the Star is numbered 16. If the
pack is at all like others that are known, there are
only two possible explanations of this. Either
only four cards rank above the Star, in which
case the numbering, must start with the card
above the Bagatto; or five cards rank above the
Star, and, in that case, one of them must be
Justice. The former possibility, seems, in the
Rouen pack, to be ruled out by the fact that the
Pope and Emperor are numbered 5 and 4

We have now to enquire in which areas the
different orders were observed; and we must use
whatever, clues, we can extract from the four sets
of late fifteenth-century wood-block printed
sheets for popular Tarot packs, numbered (21) to
(24) in Chapter'4. Just as there is a temptation to
say, at first glance, that there was no fixed order
for the trumps in Italy before the eighteenth
century, so there is the parallel temptation to say
that no standard pattern was adopted for the
Tarot pack, because, among the early cards that
survive, one can scarcely find two sets exhibiting
the same type of design. This temptation is
equally to be resisted. We have seen it to be a
universal law, applying to Indian and Chinese
cards as much as to European ones, that in any
locality any specific type of playing-card pack
very rapidly assumes a stereotyped design to
which all cardmakers conform, for the simple
reason that players need to be able to recognise
each card at a glance. There is no ground
whatever to suppose that the Tarot pack was any
exception to this rule. The variations in design
that we can observe amongst surviving cards are
to be explained in the same way as those between
different orders of the trumps subjects, namely as
representing different standard patterns used in
different regions. This does not, of course, apply
to the hand-painted packs, which were luxury
items, nor to obviously non-standard packs
such as the Rouen one or the Sola-Busca tarocchi:
but, though we can never with certainty identify a
design as a standard pattern when we have only
one example of it, it is highly probable that each of
our four sets of sheets (21) to (24) exemplifies one
of the standard patterns in use towards the end of
the fifteenth century in some particular locality.
We must therefore investigate whether it is
possible to identify the areas in which those
standard patterns were used, simultaneously with
our enquiry into the regional associations of the
various trump orders.

The easiest set of sheets with which to start is
the pair divided between the Ecole des Beaux
Arts and the Rothschild Collection (no. 23).

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 403
Detlef Hoffmann describes these as Minchiate
cards, and W.L. Schreiber, presumably with the
same idea in mind, assigns them to Florence;
Stuart Kaplan characteristically hedges his bet,
describing them as 'Tarot or Minchiate cards'. (15)
Hoffmann mentions, only to reject, an
identification of them by Sylvia Mann as
Tarocchino cards; but a comparison between
them and a modern Tarocco Bolognese pack will
at once bear her out,- revealing striking
correspondences in design. If, instead, the
comparison is made with the seventeenth-
century standard single-ended Tarocco
Bolognese in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the
designs will be found to tally in almost every
detail; the one exception is the Devil, the design
of which on the Rothschild sheet is completely
different from that of the later Tarocco
Bolognese. The resemblance between the
seventeenth-century pack and set no. (23) is
overwhelmingly close in the cases of the Angel,
the World, the Sun, the Moon, the Star, the
Tower, the Hermit and the Chariot; note
particularly the rayed arcs which appear in the
upper corners of several cards in both packs.
Death in the later pack faces the opposite way,
but is otherwise similar, down to the band at the
top of the card, save for the position of the horse's
head. The direction of motion of the Wheel, and
a few other details, differ in the later card, but
they are still fairly similar. The arms of the
Traitor or Hanged Man of the later pack differ
from those of the earlier one in being bound
behind him, instead of hanging down grasping
money bags. It is only in the design of this last
card in set no. (23) that there is any similarity
with Minchiate cards, whereas, on the eight
cards singled out above, detail after detail
corresponds exactly with the Bolognese cards.
This is not, indeed, to endorse Miss Mann's
characterisation of these as Tarocchino cards,
since the use of this term presupposes that the
pack had already been shortened to 62 cards, and
this, of course, we cannot judge from twelve
surviving trumps; on the whole, it is probable
that the shortening had not yet taken place. But
we can confidently assign set (23) to Bologna,
and conclude that the standard pattern used
there from the seventeenth century to the present
15 D. Hoffmann, op. cit., p. 66; W.L. Schreiber, Die altesten
, Strasbourg, 1937, p. 104; S.R. Kaplan, op. cit.,
pp. 128-9.

day was already in existence by the end of the
fifteenth century. It will be recalled that the
single sixteenth-century unnumbered Devil card
by Agnolo Hebreo in the British Museum (no. 27
above) resembles that on the Rothschild sheet,
and is therefore presumably also to be assigned
to Bologna: the change in the design of this card
must have occurred between the mid-sixteenth
and the mid-seventeenth century.

The next in order of difficulty is the
Rosenwald set (no. 22 of Chapter 4). This is
certainly not a Minchiate pack, since it has only
twenty-one trumps. But, although the Swords
are curved, it has several Minchiate
characteristics: (i) the Cavalli, in all four suits,
are centaurs, like those in Swords and Batons in
the Minchiate pack; (ii) the lowest court figures
in Cups and Coins are Maids, whilethose in
Swords and Batons are Jacks; and (iii) the Kings
in Swords and Batons wear short tunics, those
in Cups and Coins long robes. It is true that
there is no close relation between the designs for
the trump cards and the corresponding ones of
the Minchiate pack, save for a noticeable
similarity in the case of the Hermit and the
Hanged Man; but the order of the trumps is of
type A, nearly, though not quite, corresponding
to that of the Minchiate trumps when the twenty
additional ones are removed (the positions of
Fortitude and Justice, and, apparently, those of
the Chariot and the Wheel, are reversed). It
therefore seems probable that the set represents
an early form of that standard pattern for the
Tarot pack on which the Minchiate designs were
later based, or some closely related pattern. The
Rosenwald sheets are thus very likely to have
been made in Florence (or possibly in some other
city of Tuscany such as Piistoia). (16)

The type A orders are associated with
Florence (by the Minchiate and Orfeo packs,
and, on the basis of its resemblance to the former,
by the Rosenwald one); with Rome (by the alia
Colonna pack, which was certainly made there,
and also by the Minchiate pack, which was
16 The statutes of Pistoia exempt triumphi and a game called
la diricta from the general prohibition on card games (Statuta
Pistoriensium libri septem
, Florence, 1579, Lib. V, rubrica LX,
p. 152). Whether the word triumphi refers to Tarot or to a
game with the regular pack is unclear. 1579 is very late for the
use of the word in the former sense, but the statute may be
much older than the collection; it is repeated, word for word,
in the Leges Municipales Pistoriensium nuper mandante serenissimo
Cosmo III Magno Duce, Florence, 1682, p. 210.

404 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
popular there, though it originated in Florence);
with Sicily; and of course with Bologna. The
Charles VI and Catania packs were probably
made in Ferrara, but this does not help us, since
in both cases the numbering was added later,
presumably by an owner of the cards, and we do
not know their early history. The Charles VI
numbering does show, however, that type A
orders go back to the fifteenth century, and the
Rosenwald pack takes us back to the same date
(or possibly a little later, since it could be..from_
the early years of the sixteenth century). We
know by documentary evidence that Tarot cards
were in use in Bologna in 1459; of course, we do
not know what order was there observed for the
trump cards at that date, but, in view of the
intense conservatism of Bolognese players, it
seems more probable than not that it was already
of type A. Type A thus had an early origin; as
shown by the alia Colonna and Orfeo packs, it
lasted through the seventeenth century, and
survives, in the Tarocco Bolognese and the
Tarocco Siciliano, down to the present day. The
Sicilian pack provides further evidence that type
A orders were observed in Rome, since it was
probably from Rome that the 78-card pack was
introduced into Sicily in 1663, together with the
Minchiate pack. It may not have been until the
later fifteenth century that the game of Tarot
reached Florence, and it was almost certainly
from there that both Minchiate and the 78-card
game travelled to Rome, probably some time in
the course of the sixteenth century. Florence is
thus likely to have been the place of ultimate
origin of all those type A orders other than that
observed in Bologna (which, as noted, differs
from the others in placing the Chariot below the
Virtues). Although we have no direct evidence to
this effect, it is also probable that some type A
order travelled to Piedmont by at least the
seventeenth century; on no other hypothesis is it
intelligible that, after the reintroduction of the
78-card pack from France, Piedmontese players
. should have insisted on treating the Angel as
ranking higher than the World.

We have now to consider the orders of type B.
In the only other set of early popular Tarot cards
in which the trumps are numbered, the sheets at
the Metropolitan Museum (no. 21 in Chapter 4),
the order is of type B. This is the only set of early
Tarot cards that has stylistic affinities to any
surviving regular cards. There are two sheets
(1-1009 and 1-1010) in the Cary Collection at Yale
University, evidently for the same pack, no cards
being duplicated on the two sheets. In an article
about them written in 1939,iT Cary illustrated
them, together with other copies from the Magyar
Nemzeti Museum in Budapest, which I have been
told are no longer there, and of which he stated
that duplicates (which I have not seen) were sold
to the Metropolitan Museum in New York
in 1922. By comparison of Cary's sheets and
those at Budapest, it can be seen that
together they made up a complete regular pack of
48 cards (that is to say, without the 10s). The
three sheets of the Metropolitan Museum Tarot
pack include no numeral cards of any of the suits,
but they have three Kings, three Queens, all four
Cavalli and two Jacks. The Kings from the two
packs are highly similar, though not identical: in
both they wear short tunics and sit beneath
arches. The Cavallo of Batons (not quite complete
in the Budapest sheet) appears to be identical in
the two packs, a rather curious design in which
the mounted knight holds the open-mouthed
head of some animal. The Cavallo of Coins is
quite different: on the Budapest sheet, the knight
appears to be riding an ostrich, whereas, in the
Metropolitan Museum Tarot pack, he is
mounted more conventionally on a horse, and
holds one coin while another is at his horse's feet.
Not enough of the other two Cavalli on the Cary/
Budapest sheets can be seen to be sure how far
they resemble the Metropolitan Museum ones.
The Jack of Cups on the Cary sheet is identical
with that in the Metropolitan Museum Tarot
pack: he is drinking from a cup held in his left
hand, and carries a pipe in his right hand. The
Jacks of Swords in the two packs are, however,
quite unlike: that on the Cary sheet is in the act
of sheathing his sword, while the Metropolitan
Museum one bears his upright.

Other early Italian cards survive having close
affinities with these two packs. In the Benaki
Museum at Athens there is a 3 of Cups identical
with that shown on I-1010, and therefore
probably from an identical pack; it appears to
have been discovered in Egypt, and hence to be
from an Italian pack exported there during the
Mamluk period. (18) Also in the Cary Collection is
17. Melbert B. Cary, Jr., 'A stencil sheet of playing cards of
the late 15th century with two related uncut sheets of cards',
The Print Collectors' Quarterly, vol. 26, 1939, pp. 392-423.
18 See M. Dummett, 'A note on some fragments in the
Benaki Museum', Art and Archaeology Research Papers (AARP),
no. 4, December 1973, pp. 93-9.

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 405
another sheet (I-1008), discussed by Cary in his
1939 article, and again with another copy then in
Budapest and with a duplicate in the
Metropolitan Museum. This is not a sheet for the
same pack, the sizes of the cards being different,
and the sword on the Ace of Swords being held
by a lion instead of by a human hand as on
I-1010; but there are close similarities. I-1008
shows only numeral cards, of Swords and Batons,
and includes 10s of both suits. Finally, there are
four sheets, all for the same pack, in the Fournier
Museum in Vitoria (no. 1 in the Italian section of
the catalogue). Although a few cards are
damaged, they together make up a virtually
complete regular pack, again of only 48 cards.
The Kings are again highly similar both to those
on I-1009 and to those in the Metropolitan
Museum Tarot pack, without being identical
with either; the Jacks and Cavalli bear no
resemblance to those of the other two packs; the
Ace of Swords seems to be identical with that on
1-1010, and those of Batons and Cups highly

There are two distinctive features on the
numeral cards of Swords and Batons in all these
packs, save for the Metropolitan Museum Tarot
pack, of which, as remarked, no numeral cards
survive. In all three of the other packs, the
Swords, though curved (save for the odd straight
one) and mostly extending the length of the card,
are arranged so as not to intersect, being concave
towards the nearest edge of the card; on the
higher-numbered cards, one or more swords are
often placed horizontally at top or bottom. On
I-1008 and in the Fournier pack, the swords are
encircled by a crown; on I-1010, they are tied
together by a scarf. In all three packs, the
numeral cards of the Batons suit bear a scroll on
which is written in full the number of the card.
The pack in the Fournier Museum is dated 1462
in the first edition of the catalogue, but this is
presumably due to a misreading of the scroll on
the 2 of Batons, which should probably be read
duobs: on I-1008 the form used is duobs, and on
1-1009 duos. A safer dating would seem to be 1490-

The similarities between all four packs,
including the Tarot pack at the Metropolitan
Museum, imply an origin from the same locality;
and the use of identical designs for some of the
cards in different packs must surely indicate that
they all came from the same studio, one
employing a selection of alternative designs for
the court cards and Aces. In his article, Cary
proposes Venice as the place of origin of the three
sheets he is discussing. He quotes the Budapest
museum as describing their copies as Venetian,
and cites two authorities on prints, Campbell
Dodgson and Franz Schubert, as concurring with
his attribution of them to Venice; the catalogue
of the Fournier Museum also assigns the pack
there to Venice. The only reason given for this
attribution by any of these writers is, however,
one advanced by Cary himself, namely that the
form diexe used for the word 'ten' on the 10 of
Batons of I-1008 belongs to the Venetian dialect,
the modern Venetian form, in use at least by the
sixteenth century, being diese. Though linguistic
evidence of this kind is perfectly valid, it would be
pleasant to have a broader basis for the
attribution, especially as some of the linguistic
forms used seem distinctly odd (one cannot in
general expect very accurate spelling from
cardmakers). In default of any other evidence,
however, we may resonably fall in with the
prevailing opinion, and agree in regarding all
these packs as Venetian; it is very plausible that
the pack exported to Egypt, from which the
Benaki card comes, should have been made in

We may thus tentatively assign the
Metropolitan Museum pack, no. (21), to Venice,
and regard it as exemplifying, if not exactly a
standard pattern, at least a general style of Tarot
pack in use there at the end of the fifteenth
century. There is a curiously persistent tradition
in the literature on playing cards of referring to
78-card Italian Tarot packs as 'Venetian Tarots',
as distinguished from Bolognese Tarots and
'Florentine Tarots', i.e. Minchiate packs; often
the term 'Venetian Tarots' is applied even to
packs made in or after the eighteenth century
with designs derived from the Tarot de
Marseille.(19) Venice is definitely not among the
places in which the game of Tarot was played
after its reintroduction from France in the
eighteenth century, and there is no clear evidence
19 The latest to follow this tradition is Mr Stuart R.
Kaplan, op. cit. On p. 49, under the heading 'Tarocchi of'
Venice', he speaks, rather oddly, of 'the so-called Tarocchi
of Venice or Lombard pack ... more commonly known as
Piedmontese tarot', and illustrates this type on p. 48 with a
pack in the Fournier Museum made in Gorizia, captioning
it 'Piedmontese or Tarocchi of Venice Cards'. The pack is
no. 12 in the Italian section of the Fournier catalogue, where
it is also described as 'tarocchi de Venecia' and assigned the

406 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
that it was ever very popular there in the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, so the tradition of
speaking of 'Venetian Tarots' is a thoroughly
misleading one; in the Metropolitan Museum
sheets we have the one example of a popular pack
that may plausibly be described as a Venetian

We have now established one tentative
association of the type B orders, namely with
Venice. This is corroborated by. the Rouen pack,
which also has the trumps arranged in a type B
order, and has also been associated with
Venice. (20) There remain the three literary
references. Unfortunately, I know no way of
assigning a geographical origin to the Steele MS.
volume of sermons. Tomaso Garzoni's Piazza
Universale was published in Venice, but that is not
very significant, since Venice was a great
publishing centre. He himself, though he studied
law at Ferrara and Siena before joining the
Lateran Congregation in 1566, was a native of
Bagnacavallo, near Ravenna, and also died there.
As for the Bertoni tarocchi appropriati, they relate
to the ladies of the court of Ferrara. Ferrara was
never within the Venetian dominions, though it
was very close to their border; but the Sola-Busca
tarocchi, made by a Ferrarese artist but dated
from the foundation of the city of Venice, testify
to a link between the traditions of Tarot play in
the two cities. Ferrara was, of course, one of the
principal centres where the game of Tarot was
played in the early period, and very likely the
birthplace of the game; the Bertoni poem
provides incontrovertible evidence that the type
B order prevailed there. It seems quite possible,
therefore, that the type of design exemplified by
the Metropolitan Museum sheets, which we have
assigned to Venice, was equally characteristic of
Ferrara; indeed, we should keep open the
possibility that those sheets are not from Venice
but from Ferrara. In any case, it seems safe to
assign type B orders to Venice as well as to
date 1650; Kaplan more cautiously says 'circa late 17th to
mid-18th century'. It has inscriptions in French, and
represents that adaptation of the Tarot de Marseille used in
Lombardy, but made in a wide range of areas, different
from the adaptation characteristic of Piedmont; it can
hardly be earlier than 1740.
20 See Pompeo Molmenti, La Storia di Venezia nella vita
, vol. II, Bergamo, 1906, p. 525. Francesco Novati, on
p. 19, fn. 1, of the first of his articles cited in footnote 22,
expresses the same opinion. How well founded it is, I am not

Ferrara, and they probably prevailed in the
whole of Emilia except for the city of_
Bologna. On the evidence of the Steele sermon,
type B orders go back to at least about 1470-80;
since they are associated with Ferrara, they quite
possibly go back to the original invention of the
Tarot pack. On the evidence of Garzoni's book,
they lasted until at least the late sixteenth

That leaves us with the type C order and the
Cary tarocchi sheet,- no. (24) of Chapter 4. Susio's
poem, which is our only source for type C orders
in Italy, concerned the ladies of the court of
Pavia. (21) This city was in the dominions of both
the Visconti and Sforza dukes of Milan, who
styled themselves Princes of Pavia and for whom
it was a second capital; it contains a great
Visconti castle, begun by Galeazzo II and
completed by Giangaleazzo Visconti, who also
founded the Carthusian monastery near Pavia
and began the building of Pavia's Cathedral, and
was the first to bear the title of Duke of Milan.
We may therefore reasonably assume that it was a
type C order which prevailed not only at Pavia
but at Milan, the second great early centre, after
Ferrara, for the game of Tarot. Now despite the
variations that occurred, all the trump orderings
used by French and Swiss cardmakers were of
type C. If we had no evidence that an order of
this type was ever used in Italy before the
eighteenth century, we should most naturally
infer that it was invented in France or
Switzerland. But, as it is, we are forced to
conclude that either the French or the Swiss, or
both independently, picked it up from Italy. Even
if we did not know of Viévil's pack, the
occurrence in both Susio's trump order and in
the Tarot de Marseille of the intrinsically rather
implausible placing of Temperance between
Death and the Devil would seem unlikely to be a
coincidence. Indeed, this is another case in which
a conjecture made in the original version of this
book received additional confirmation while it.
was in proof: for the almost exact agreement
between Vi6vil's trump order and that given by
21 In my earlier discussion of this subject, 'The Order of
the Tarot Trumps', Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. II,
no. 3, February 1974, pp. 1-17, no. 4, May 1974, pp. 33-50,I
made the mistake, for which I cannot now account, of
saying that the Susio poem was about the ladies of the court
of Mantua. S.R. Kaplan, op. cit., pp. 30, 373, also cites
Susio's poem, though he gives no reference, and also makes
the same error; possibly mine was the source of his.

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 407
Susio, presumably used in Milan in the sixteenth
century, ^converts a plausible hypothesis into a
certainty. The modification of the Milanese order
which resulted in that used in the Tarot de
Marseille had obviously occurred by the mid-
sixteenth century, without gaining universal
acceptance in France for another hundred years:
whether it originated in France, in Switzerland
or even in Milan it is hard to judge.

If the French and Swiss did pick up the type C
order in Italy, by far the likeliest place for them
to have done so is Milan. Charles VIII of France
invaded Italy in 1494, originally on the invitation
of Lodovico Sforza (il Moro), Duke of Milan.
Louis XII, the grandson of Valentina Visconti,
claimed Milan by right of succession, and
launched a second invasion in 1499; the city was
then under French rule until 1512, when Louis
was defeated at Novara by an alliance which
included the Swiss. Up to 1515, when Francis I
secured their exclusive services, Swiss
mercenaries played a prominent role in these
wars; and from 1512 to 1515, Duke Massimiliano
Sforza was maintained in power by Swiss arms.
In 1515 the French, under Francis I, again
invaded Italy, defeated the Swiss at Marignano,
and once more occupied Milan until 1522.
Especially during the reign of Francis I (1515-
1547), there was a great vogue in France,
centring upon Lyons, for Italian culture. The
period of the French incursions into Italy, from
1494 to 1525, may therefore well have been the
time when the game of Tarot first entered
France. It may have reached Switzerland
independently in the same period, for, as we saw
in Chapter 10, certain details of Swiss Tarot play
suggest a direct derivation of the game from
Italy. If this is true, of France alone or of both
France and Switzerland,, it must surely have been
a Milanese style of Tarot game, and a Milanese
version of the Tarot pack, that were adopted;
with them would naturally go the order of the
trumps observed in Milan. If the game of triumphe
played by Duke Rene II of Lorraine in 1496 were
truly one played with the Tarot pack, his
knowledge of the game may have been due to his
contact with the Swiss, with whose help he had
achieved his great victory in 1477 outside the
walls of Nancy against Charles the Bold, Duke of
Burgundy, who was killed in the battle. Even if
this is so, the adoption in the sixteenth century of
the French version tarots of the new term tarocchi
argues a continued contact with Italy in the
domain of card play as in other spheres.

On this theory, then, a type C trump order,
and, specifically, that given by Susio, was in use
in Milan; and it was from Milan that the French,
and probably the Swiss, first learned the game of
Tarot. They must, therefore, originally have used
whatever type of design was standard in Milan:
but we cannot immediately deduce what this
was, since, as we saw in Chapter 9, there were
two distinct traditions of design for the Tarot
pack in the French-speaking lands, one culminating
in the Belgian Tarot and the other in the
Tarot de Marseille. We have, however, still
to determine the geographical origin of the
sheet in the Cary collection (no. 24). After
what has gone before, this affords us very
little difficulty, because of the close_resemblance
of certain of the cards, despite their lack of
numerals or other inscriptions, to those of
the Tarot de Marseille. Specifically, the Sun
(of which the left-hand part is missing) is, so
far as can be seen, exactly like its Tarot de
Marseille counterpart; a small naked boy is to be
seen at the bottom of the card, the sun has a face
and rays and sheds the characteristic Tarot de
Marseille droplets. The Chariot, incomplete at
the top, is likewise, so far as can be seen, exactly
like that of the Tarot de Marseille. The Moon
resembles the Tarot de Marseille one, save that
there are no dogs, and the buildings are much
smaller: there is the same pool with a lobster or
crab in it in the foreground. The Tower again has
a close similarity to the Tarot de Marseille
Maison Dieu: round thunderbolts are falling
about a round, bricked tower, though no
lightning is apparent. The Star resembles the
Tarot de Marseille one in general conception,
though not in detail: a very large star,
surrounded by four smaller ones, shines on a
naked girl pouring water into a stream. The
Emperor has the same general pose and
appearance as in the Tarot de Marseille, though
the positions of his shield and sceptre are
different. The Bagatto has the same posture as
the Tarot de Marseille one, though he does not
face in the same direction, and his hat and table
are differently shaped. The Love card, of which
only the lower half survives, is particularly
interesting. Only two figures can be seen,
corresponding perhaps to the left-hand and
central figures of the Tarot de Marseille card:
but they are highly reminiscent of the couple on
the corresponding card in the Visconti di

408 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
Modrone pack (no. 1 in Chapter.4). The Wheel
of Fortune, another card whose top half is
missing, has the same orientation, and the same
handle, as in the Tarot de Marseille; and the
Empress, though again with shield and sceptre
reversed, has the same chair-back that, on several
cards, keeps threatening, in Tarot de Marseille
derivatives, to turn into a pair of wings. Not
much can be seen of the Fool, save that, as in the
Tarot de Marseille, he is striding off to the right,
a staff over his shoulder; no dog is to be seen,-
however. The two suit cards, the 7 and 8 (or 9) of
Batons, are exactly like those of the Tarot de
Marseille, save for the lack of inscribed
numerals; the Batons have just the same flat
appearance, with widened ends, found both in
the Tarot de Marseille and in Viévil's pack.
Other cards, however, have little or no similarity
to their Tarot de Marseille counterparts:
Temperance, the Devil, Fortitude and the Popess
(on this sheet, a Bishopess); of the Pope, not
enough can be seen to be sure.

These resemblances cannot possibly be
coincidence: it is evident that the French
cardmakers borrowed these designs, which thus
became ancestral to the Tarot de Marseille
pattern. It follows that the origin of the Tarot de
Marseille goes right back to the first introduction
of the Tarot pack into France, and perhaps also
into Switzerland, around the beginning of the
sixteenth century. It also follows that we can
firmly identify the Cary sheet as being from
Milan, and hence as exemplifying the standard
pattern employed in the late fifteenth or early
sixteenth century for popular Tarot packs in the
city from which came the finest of the early hand-
painted cards; that city where, as we have
argued, the French and probably also the Swiss
first encountered the game of Tarot and took it
back with them to their home countries. This
hypothesis fits well with the fact that the trumps
on the Cary sheet are unnumbered. It was stated
earlier that, of all the literary references, only the
Steele sermon assigns numbers to the trumps,
but this was not strictly accurate: the lines of the
Susio poem are also numbered, but in the reverse
order, the World being numbered 1, the Angel 2
and so on. This is the most explicit testimony
possible to the fact that the trumps of the pack in
which this type C order was used were not
numbered: if they had been, it is inconceivable
that the poem could have given the numbering in
the reverse order. In whichever form of pack
the ordering of the trumps given by Susio was
employed, the players accustomed to pjajy with it
must have had to memorise the trump sequence,
just as the Bolognese ones had to do. Because of
the affinities which both the trump order and the
designs of the Cary sheet have to the cards used
in France, it is highly probable that the kind of
pack for which the type C order was used was
that of which the Cary sheet is an instance.

These conclusions are corroborated by the set
-of six-Tarot- cards (no. 29 above) found at the
Castello Sforzesco in Milan during the
restoration work of 1908, and by others found
there at the same time; again, these were not
known to me in detail until this book was in
proof, and provided strong confirmation of the
hypotheses set out above concerning Milan. The
cards found at the Castello were cursorily
described by Francesco Novati in two articles of
1908.22 His datings tend to be uniformly too
early. He considered all the cards to date from
the fifteenth, sixteenth or seventeenth century,
whereas some demonstrably exemplify the
eighteenth-century Lombard variation on the
Tarot de Marseille. One such example is a set of
five cards (Cavallo of Swords, torn at the bottom,
5 and 7 of Coins, and 6 and 8 of Swords, the last
four all having Roman numerals at the sides)
made by the cardmaker who used the tradename
'Al Soldato' and operated in Bologna
during the eighteenth century. Another is a
Cavallo of Batons, bearing a legible French
inscription at the bottom. There is also a set of
three cards, which appear to have been trimmed
at top and bottom, and are probably from a
French Tarot de Marseille pack of the
Revolutionary period: they consist of the Sun,
numbered XVIIII, the lower inscription having
been trimmed off, the Cavalier of Cups, of which
the same is true, and the 4 of Swords, with
Roman numerals at the sides" There are also a 10
of Coins, with the trade-name 'Al Leone' on the
back, and a 5 of Cups, with the trade-name 'Al
Mondo'; both these names signify other
Bolognese cardmakers of the eighteenth century.
However, besides the set of six tarocchi
classified as no. (29) above, there are also other
22 Francesco Novati, 'Carte da giuoco dei secoli XV, XVI
e XVII rinvenute nel Castello Sforzesco', Bullettino dei civici
musei artistico ed archeologico di Milano
, anno III, num. 3, 1908,
pp. 17-20, and 'Per la storia delle carte da giuoco in Italia:
appunti', Il Libro e la Stampa, anno II (n.s.), 1908, pp. 54-69;
see pp. 65ff.

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 409

cards evidently dating from before the eighteenth
century, none-of-which we have any reason to
regard as being from a Tarot pack. Just as in
Bologna the same standard pattern was used for
the regular Primiera pack and for the suit cards
of the Tarocco pack, so the same may well have
been true in Milan. One of these earlier cards is a
5 of Batons, exhibiting the usual fiat shape, with
widened ends, of Tarot de Marseille Batons, but
without numerals, but only floral decoration, at
the sides. Another is a much damaged Cavallo
(of Swords?), not coinciding in design with any
known standard Tarot pattern. This may come
from the same pack as the 5 of Batons, but from
both the back design has peeled off; they may be
of the sixteenth or seventeenth century. A set of
nineteen cards, some very fragmentary, all of the
same size (102 x 69 mm.) and presumably by the
same maker, though not from the same pack, is
assigned by Novati to sixteenth-century Venice.
The back of each card depicts a classical deity,
whose name is inscribed on a scroll; nine
different deities appear on different cards. Each
back design is surrounded by a wide border with
lozenge-shaped dots, which fold over to form a
border for the face of the card.23 Of these,
fourteen are numeral cards, of all four suits; in
every case, they tally precisely in design with the
corresponding cards of the Tarot de Marseille,
save that they lack Roman numerals at the sides.
The remaining five, all fragmentary, are court
cards. They are: the top half of a King (of
Batons?), the back showing SATURNO; the top
half of a Jack (of Coins ?) and the bottom half of a
Jack (of Cups?), both backs showing
PROSERPINA; and the top half of a Cavallo of
Cups and the bottom half of a Jack of uncertain
suit, both backs showing IOVE. These court
cards do not show the same close correspondence
with Tarot de Marseille designs. In particular,
the Cavallo of Cups holds in his left hand a Cup
shaped like that on the Tarot de Marseille Jack of
that suit, instead of the Spanish-style Cup held in
the right hand of the Cavalier in the Tarot de
Marseille; while the King, who is bearded, holds,
with his left hand, a Baton (or sceptre) over his
left shoulder. Nevertheless, the Jack of which we
have the top half wears the celebrated widebrimmed
hat found in the Tarot de Marseille on
23 Compare the backs of seventeenth-century Italian cards
from the Correr Museum, Venice, shown by Hoffmann, op.
cit., as plate 7b.

the Jacks of Coins and Swords and the Cavalier
of Batons; and the King likewise wears the same
hat surmounted by a crown, as do all four Kings
in the Tarot de Marseille. These nineteen cards,
from nine distinct packs, could be either of the
sixteenth or of the seventeenth century. There
seems no reason, however, to regard them as
Venetian rather than Milanese; Swords and
Batons on the numeral cards of the Venetian
standard pattern, and on older cards assignable
to Venice, have a different shape from those
found here.

One of the oldest cards found at the Castello is
a King of Cups of which, again, the top half is
missing. The posture of the King resembles that
of the King of Coins in the supposedly Spanish
fifteenth-century pack which, in Chapter 2, we
tentatively assigned to Naples, and, more
generally, of several early German Kings; it may
be of the early sixteenth or even of the fifteenth
century. The most interesting of all the cards
found at the Castello is a 2 of Coins which bears
the scroll in the shape of an inverted S which, in
Chapter 9, we noted as always occurring
(sometimes not inverted) in Tarot de Marseille
packs, and also in the pack of Jacques Viévil. As
on the French cards, the scroll is inscribed with
the maker's name and the date; the inscription
1499. Novati cites documentary evidence of the
presence in Milan in 1508 and 1513 of a
cardmaker by the name of Paolino di Castelletto.
There is no reason to regard Paolino's 2 of Coins,
any more than the other cards just discussed, as
having belonged to a Tarot pack: it nevertheless
provides good evidence that a distinctive feature
of French and Swiss Tarot card design was
borrowed from Milan. The S-shaped feature is
found to this day on the 2 of Coins in certain
standard patterns for the Italian-suited regular
pack, the Primiera Bolognese and Brescia
patterns; in these however, it no longer has the
character of a scroll; and does not bear the
maker's name.

We have no pre-eighteenth-century Milanese
example of the 2 of Cups, which is so distinctive
of French Tarot packs, including Viévil's and de
Hautot's as well as the Tarot de Marseille. But
the curious and prominent feature of the two
dragon-heads on the French versions of the card
provide a particular reason for considering the
design to have been derived from some very early
prototype. As first remarked by Mr Jan

410 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
Bauwens, these dragon-heads have an
extraordinary similarity to the dragon-heads in
which certain of the suit-signs terminate on some
cards of the Polo-Sticks suit in the Istanbul
Mamluk pack.24 It looks as if we had here a
detail, faithfully copied for centuries, that had
originally been borrowed from Islamic cards; if
so, the design of at least that particular card must
go back to a period when Islamic cards were
familiar to European players or cardmakers.
This, too, fits very well with our conclusion thatthe
designs on which the Tarot de Marseille was
based were ones used in Milan, the birthplace of
that Valentina Visconti whose inventory, upon
her death in 1408, had listed ung jeu de quartes
along with unes quartes de Lombardie. (25)

One's first impression, looking at the various
cards found at the Castello Sforzesco together, is
of their uniformity of style. It would be a great
mistake to suspect them for this reason of all
dating from after 1700. The 2 of Coins by Paolino
proves incontrovertibly that some are much older
than that; and there is a clear criterion of
24 Jan Bauwens, Muluk wa Nuwwab, Aurelia Books,
Leuven (Louvain), 1972, booklet issued with a reproduction
of the Istanbul Mamluk pack, pp. 36-7, figs. 8-11. (It should
be noted that the reproduction pack is not a faithful copy of
the original, but involves a good deal of 'reconstruction', to a
large extent unsound: see the review by me in the Journal of
the Playing-Card Society
, vol. II, no. 2, November 1973, pp. 15-
26. This does not, of course, affect the present point, which
is a very interesting one.)
25 F.M. Graves, Deux inventaires de la Maison d'Orleans, Paris,
1926, pp. 49, 134; see Chapter 3. On p. 84 it was strongly
argued that the references to triumphe of 1482 and 1496 must
relate to Tarot games. Such a hypothesis would contradict
the idea that Tarot first entered France during the French
occupation of Milan, since, as explained in footnote 2 to
Chapter 9, the 1482 reference must concern a game played in
France proper. But there is no difficulty in supposing the
game to have spread to different parts of France at different
times and by different routes; possibly it was the non-
Milanese ancestor of the Paris/Rouen pattern that was the
earlier arrival, and would have been used in 1482. If the game
of 1482 was that played with the regular pack, the only
reasonable hypothesis is that it also had an Italian origin, in
which case an Italian game, involving trumps but played
with the regular pack and known as trionfi, must have been in
existence well before the end of the fifteenth century, and
even longer before the earliest recorded use, in 1516, of the
term tarocchi; if so, the reference to triumphi cited by W.L.
Schreiber from the statutes of Bergamo, Brescia, Salo and
Reggio nell'Emilia may not have been to Tarot games. On
balance, this does not seem to me very likely; but without
doubt the 1482 reference generates perplexity. An
examination of the document at the Archives Nationales
might yield further clues.

distinction between post- and pre-eighteenth-
century cards, the presence, or absence, of
numerals on the numeral cards of the suits, and
of names on the trumps and court cards. By this
criterion, the set of six tarocchi is to be assigned to
the earlier category, probably to the seventeenth
century. What the cards found at the Castello
together demonstrate is the absolute constancy of
the Milanese designs for the numeral cards of the
Italian-suited pack, and the equal constancy of
the-same designs as borrowed by the French
cardmakers and employed in the Tarot de
Marseille. If you ignore the inscription on
Paolino's 2 of Coins, you might think that you
were looking at an eighteenth-century card made
in Marseilles. In the same way, apart from the
absence of the Roman numerals at the sides, the
numeral cards from the set of six tarocchi, those
with classical deities on the backs, and the odd 5
of Batons are virtually indistinguishable from the
eighteenth-century Lombard pattern. This may,
at first sight, raise a doubt whether our original
hypothesis, stated in Chapter 8, was after all
correct, namely that the Lombard variant on the
Tarot de Marseille signalised the reintroduction
of the game of Tarot into Lombardy after a
period in which it had been defunct there.
Perhaps, we may now think, the Lombard
pattern was a direct continuation of the standard
pattern always used in Lombardy for Tarot
cards, and for Italian-suited ones generally, and
represented no more radical a change than a new
vogue for putting names on the trump and court
cards and numerals on the numeral cards. But
reflection shows that we have no reason to doubt
our original hypothesis. Whether that hypothesis
is sound or unsound, the cards found at the
Castello prove conclusively that the Tarot de
Marseille designs for the numeral cards had
faithfully preserved the Milanese prototypes on
which they must have been modelled in the early
sixteenth century, and that these same designs
remained unchanged in Milan itself. Given this, a
close resemblance between those made in pre-
eighteenth-century Milan and those of the later
Lombard pattern is precisely what we should
expect, even if our hypothesis is true; that we find
just such a resemblance is therefore no argument
against that hypothesis. Our original ground for
the hypothesis remains as suasive as ever,
namely that, if inscriptions had been added to an
existing pattern for a pack used to play a living
game,' they would have been in Italian; the fact

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 411
that, for several decades, they remained in
French clearly indicates that the Tarot de
Marseille designs were being introduced from
France; and that can have happened only if the
indigenous tradition had, however little time
before, died out. What the Cary sheet and the
Castello Sforzesco cards make clear is that, in
adopting a form of pack derived from the Tarot
de Marseille, the players of tarocchi in Lombardy
were welcoming home a descendant of the type of
pack with which their ancestors had played, and
a close relative of that used by their fathers.
How close a relative? The World card in the
Castello Sforzesco set suggests that, as on the
Cary sheet, the trump cards were without
(visible) numerals, just as were those of the
Tarocco Bolognese at that date; but the
conclusion is uncertain, since there could have
been numerals on all the trumps except the
highest, as in the Metropolitan Museum pack. In
any case, it is a presumption, though not a
certainty, that the trump order was as given by
Susio rather than as in the Tarot de Marseille.
Indeed, were it not for the Cary sheet, we might
suspect Viévil's pack, rather than the Tarot de
Marseille, to preserve the Milanese tradition of
design; for it will be recalled that Viévil's World
resembles that of the Tarot de Marseille, and
hence also the Castello Sforzesco card, much
more closely than it does that of de Hautot or of
the Belgian Tarot. The few pre-eighteenthcentury
court cards from the Castello Sforzesco
show that the Milanese designs of the time were
far from wholly identical with those of the Tarot
de Marseille. The French cardmakers introduced
Batons of Spanish type for the Cavalier and Jack
of that suit, and a straight-sided Cup of Spanish
type for the Jack of Cups. Probably they
departed in many other respects as well from the
Milanese prototypes, and the same may easily be
true for the trump cards. But, at the same time,
the wide-brimmed hats found in two of the court
cards of the classical deities set corroborate our
general conclusion that the Tarot de Marseille
was of Milanese origin.

We have, then, a surprising result: the Tarot
pack entered France with a pattern of design
ancestral to the Tarot de Marseille but with a
trump order almost identical with that of Viévil's
pack. Viévil's trump order was thus not, in the
first place at least, especially associated with the
Paris/Rouen standard pattern. Rather, it must
have been a survival from an earlier epoch:
perhaps the modified order which is found in
Geoffroy's pack of 1557, in the anonymous
Parisian pack and in the Tarot de Marseille
existed alongside the original Milanese one for a
considerable time. What, then, can have been the
origin of the Paris/Rouen pattern which finished
its career as the Tarot pattern proper to
Belgium? It has certain particular affinities with
Italian Tarot cards. The man with the compasses
found on the Star appears on the Moon card in
the Minchiate pack and the Tarocco Bolognese,
and also in the hand-painted 'Charles VI' set
(no. 4 in Chapter 4); and the woman with the
distaff on the Moon card appears in the Tarocco
Bolognese and the 'Charles VI' set on the Sun.
There is also a resemblance between the World
in de Hautot's pack and in the Belgian Tarotand
the World in both the Minchiate pack and the
Tarocco Bolognese, and also in the 'Charles VI'
set and the Catania set (no. 7 in Chapter 4). We
cannot be sure how significant this last point of
affinity may be, since the Rouen and Belgian
World seems to have been copied from the
anonymous Parisian pack, Viévil's version being
quite different. It is unlikely that any French or
Belgian cardmaker would know anything about
Florentine, Bolognese or Ferrarese cards. The
likeliest hypothesis seems to be as follows. It has
been argued that a Tarot pack with a type A
order for the trumps, such as prevailed in
Bologna and Florence, must, before the
eighteenth century, have been in use in
Piedmont. The game presumably spread there
from somewhere like Bologna, Florence or Rome,
just as the game of Minchiate had by the
seventeenth century spread from Florence to
Genoa. The designs for this former Piedmontese
pack may, then, have become the original of the
Paris/Rouen pattern; they could easily have
passed via Savoy into France, existing French
tradition being too strong to allow this type of
Tarot pack to retain its type A trump order.
(Possibly-the employment of a shortened 62-card
pack at Chambery points to Bologna as the most
likely place of origin.) On this hypothesis,
therefore, the ancestor of the Belgian Tarot was
this lost Piedmontese pattern. A small piece of
evidence in its favour is the preservation in Savoy
into the 1900s of the form Baga employed by
Viévil to name the trump I.

The Playing-Card Society is engaged upon a
definitive classification of all standard patterns
that can be indubitably recognised as such, and

412 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
for this purpose assigns numbers to each pattern:
thus the Tarot de Marseille is IT-1, the Tarocco
Bolognese IT-2 and the Belgian Tarot IT-3, the
letter I indicating an Italian-suited pattern and
the letter T a Tarot pack.(26) Numbers with more
than one digit indicate derivatives from the
pattern whose number is found by deleting the
last digit: thus the Tarot de Besançon, regarded
as a modification of the Tarot de Marseille, is IT-
1 -4, and the romanticised nineteenth-century
version, still used in Switzerland, that is its only
modern descendant is IT-1-41. The Tarot de
Marseille has lasted down to the present day,
though now mostly used for fortune-telling. The
Tarot de Besançon, which was used, though not
of course exclusively, almost everywhere in
Europe except Belgium and Italy, died out, save
for the IT-1-41 form, in the nineteenth century. (27)
Of the Italian derivatives from the Tarot de
Marseille, the earliest form of the Tarocco
Piemontese receives the number IT-1-2. It was
subsequently modified, making it less precisely
similar to the Tarot de Marseille, and replacing
the French inscriptions by Italian ones; this
second stage is labelled IT-1-21. A further
modification resulted in the double-headed
version of the Tarocco Piemontese used today,
labelled IT-1 -211. The Lombard pattern,
whether with French or Italian inscriptions, is
designated IT-1-1. In the early nineteenth
century it was replaced by a romanticised
version, sufficiently different to merit a distinct
numeral after the decimal point, and thus
designated IT-1-3, subsequently succeeded by a
slightly modified double-headed version, IT-
1-31. The IT-1-31 tradition, sometimes
inaccurately called the Tarocchino Milanese, in
its turn died out, leaving the modern Tarocco
Piemontese, IT-211, as the sole form of 78-card
pack now used in Italy. (The term tarocchino has
26 The Society issues a four-page sheet for each standard
pattern, illustrating characteristic cards, giving its history
and listing prominent makers past and present.
27 The Playing-Card Society sheet on IT-1-4 says that,
although 'it was not until about 1800 that any quantity of
these cards were made in Besançon, ... the pattern can
barely have survived the early part of the 19th century,
being replaced in most areas by the French-suited Tarot
packs'. This latter remark is certainly true of Germany and
the Austrian Empire; but, as reported in Chapter 15, a
booklet on the game first published in Besançon in 1880 still
describes it as played with an Italian-suited pack; so the
Tarot de Besançon probably survived in Besançon itself
until the end of the century or later.

been applied to IT-1-3 because of the small size
of the cards; properly it-should relate only to a
reduced number of cards in the pack.)

What, then, of the subsequent history of our
conjectural four early Italian standard patterns?
The Bolognese one presents no problems. We
know the stages through which it went: the
replacement of the old design for the Devil by a
new one, say around 1600; the substitution of the
Moors for the Papi in 1725; the introduction of
numerals on the trumps and the change to a
double-headed form in the later eighteenth
century. The Metropolitan Museum pattern,
which we have taken to characterise Venice and
perhaps Ferrara, has a single possible surviving
later exemplar, the isolated Love card in the
Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni
Poplari in Rome (no. 28 above). The design is
more complex than that of the corresponding
card on the Metropolitan Museum sheet, of
which only the top half remains. The latter shows
only a Cupid in the air aiming his bow, with a
man below on the left and a girl on the right. The
later card has an additional putto in the air, and,
below, an embracing couple on the left and, in
front of them, two musicians, one in a feathered
hat playing a viol da gamba and the other
playing a lute. This could, however, be seen as a
development of the earlier design: what makes it
probable that it represents a descendant of the
same pattern, or comes at least from a pack with
a type B order, is its being numbered VIII, like
the Metropolitan Museum card (as it would
presumably also have been numbered in the
Rouen pack and in any with the Garzoni/Bertoni
version of the type B order). The Museo
Nazionale card is cited by the anonymous editors
of Antiche Carte de Tarocchi as Venetian, of the late
sixteenth century; it. may be as late as the
seventeenth century. By Garzoni's testimony, the
type B order was still known in the 1580s. It
seems likely, however, that the game of Tarot
suffered a general loss of popularity, in Venice
and Ferrara, during the sixteenth century. The
verse diatribe by Lollio, a Ferrarese author
whose poem was published in a collection
printed in Venice, was obviously less than half
serious, like Berni's earlier derisory remarks; but
it evidently indicates a decline in the esteem with
which the game was regarded in the midsixteenth
century. Probably we shall not be far
wrong if we see the Venice/Ferrara pattern, and,
with it, the type B order, as having died out not

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 413
long after 1600.

From the set no. (29) of tarocchi found at the
Castello Sforzesco, it seems likely that the
Milanese pattern, of which the Cary sheet is the
earliest example, survived into the seventeenth
century, although the dating of that set is far
from certain. The reintroduction in about 1740 of
the 78-card pack in its IT-1-1 form represented a
revival of an ancient tradition; but it is difficult to
guess how long the interval had been during
which Tarocco had no longer been played. As for
the ancient Piedmontese pattern whose
existence, as the ancestor of the Paris/Rouen
pattern, we have conjectured, that can hardly
have died out much more than thirty years before
the introduction of IT-1-2, if there were to be
players who still remembered that the Angelo
used to be superior to the Mondo.

The Florentine pattern represented by the
Rosenwald sheets had, by contrast, a very
eventful history. At some time before the
invention of the Minchiate pack in the first half
of the sixteenth century, the pattern must have
assumed a partly Portuguese type of suit-system,
by changing the shape of the Swords from curved
to straight. It is, presumably, this type of 78-card
pack that is represented in seventeenth-century
Florence by the Orfeo packs. Save for the
Marchese di Villabianca, there is no known
literary reference alluding to any type of Tarot
game other than Minchiate played in Florence or
in Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Yet the Orfeo and alia Colonna packs
testify to the continued existence in both cities of
the 78-card pack. On Villabianca's testimony,
the 78-card pack was introduced into Sicily by
the Viceroy in 1663. Since the Minchiate pack
was, according to him, introduced at the same
time, it must have been in Florence or in Rome
that the Viceroy had become acquainted with
these games, and he is much more likely to have
visited Rome than Florence. This is confirmed by
the fact that the 78-card pack introduced into
Sicily must have had a type A order, and,
moreover, as we have seen, probably had
'Portuguese' suit-signs. From the alia Colonna
pack, it is apparent that in Rome the Florentine
type of Tarot pack had evolved into one using a
fully-fledged 'Portuguese' suit-system; and it
must have been a pack of this kind which was
ancestral to the Tarocco Siciliano. We know, in
broad outline, the later history of the Tarot pack
in Sicily. The Minchiate pack died out in Sicily
during the eighteenth century, but continued to
flourish in Florence until almost the end of the
nineteenth, and, in Genoa, until the 1930s. As for
the Portuguese or Italo-Portuguese versions of
the 78-card pack, descended from the Florentine
pattern, and used in Rome and Florence, we must
suppose them to have become obsolete some time
in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Though we have been forced to rely on a good
deal of conjecture, we have been able with its
help to reconstruct in outline the entire history of
the Latin-suited Tarot pack, which can be
illustrated by a diagram. For this diagram, the
Playing-Card Society numbers for standard
patterns have been supplemented by some
additional ones. A zero after the decimal point
may be used to indicate an ancestor of a singledigit
pattern: thus the postulated Milanese
pattern represented by the Cary sheet, ancestral
to the Tarot de Marseille, is designated IT-10.
The original and the later Minchiate patterns
are designated IPT-1 and IPT-11 respectively in
the P.C.S. system, the letters IP, which refer to the
suit-system, standing for 'Italo-Portuguese', while
IPT-2 is used for the early version of the Tarocco
Sicilian/), IPT-2-1 representing the later form
(from the Fortuna pack down to Modiano). It
seems better to alter these numbers so as to be
able to indicate the relationship with patterns for
78-card packs. Thus the Orfeo packs may be
designated IPT-5, the Florentine pattern
represented by the Rosenwald sheets IT-5-0, and
the Minchiate patterns redesignated IPM-5 and
IPM-5-1. It seems better to indicate a fully-fledged
Portuguese pattern by the single letter P: if the
two stages of the Tarocco Siciliano are then
redesignated PT-6 and PT-61, we can use
PT-6-0 for the alia Colonna pattern. The
Rothschild/Beaux Arts sheets agree with later
Tarocco Bolognese designs closely enough to
justify the use for them of the straight designation
IT-2, while the Venetian pattern represented by
the Metropolitan Museum sheets can be called
IT-4. The pack made by de Hautot in Rouen
obviously exemplifies just the same pattern as the
later Belgian Tarot, IT-3 in the P.-C.S.
numbering; although Viévil's pack has many
differences, in particular having a different trump
order and including the Pope and Popess, we may
use the same number for it, keeping IT-3-0 for the
conjectural Piedmontese ancestor of this pattern.
We thus arrive at the following code, where an
asterisk denotes a number not used by the

414 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards

IT-1-0*: Milanese pattern (Cary sheet and Castello Sforzesco set)
IT-1: Tarot de Marseille
IT-1-1: Lombard version of the Tarot de Marseille
IT-1-2: Tarocco Piemontese (early form)
IT-1-21: Tarocco Piemontese (intermediate form)
IT-1-211: Tarocco Piemontese (modern doubleheaded form)
IT-1-3: romanticised Milanese version of IT-1-1
IT-1-31: doubleheaded version of IT-1-3
IT-1-4: Tarot de Besançon
IT-1-41: romanticised Swiss version of IT-1 -4
IT-2: Tarocco Bolognese
IT-3-0*: conjectural early Piedmontese pattern
IT-3: Paris/Rouen pattern and Belgian Tarot
IT-4*: Venetian/Ferrarese pattern (Metropolitan Museum sheets)
IT-5-0*: early Florentine pattern (Rosenwald sheets)
IPT-5*: later Florentine pattern (Orfeo packs)
IPM-5*: original Minchiate pattern (P.-C.S. number IPT-1)
IPM-5-1*: later Minchiate pattern (P.-C.S. number IPT-1-1)
PT-6-0*: Roman pattern (alia Colonna sheets)
PT-6*: Tarocco Siciliano, early form (P.-C. S. number IPT-2)
PT-61*: Tarocco Siciliano, later form (P.-C. S. number IPT-2-1)

The diagram is principally concerned to show
where the different patterns were used, rather
than where they were made; thus, although
Bologna cardmakers produced both Minchiate
cards and Lombard pattern packs, neither is
shown under Bologna because neither was used
there. A solid line indicates that cards of the
given type and made in or for the given area
survive to us from the given period; a short line
indicates a single surviving set, a longer one
the existence of packs sufficiently close in date
to warrant a presumption of continuous
manufacture and employment. In some cases, of
course, the dates are only approximate. A dotted
line indicates the conjectural use of the given type
of Tarot pack; the grounds for such conjectures
vary in strength, and have been set out in this
chapter. Where a given pattern has travelled
from one area to another, this is indicated by a
nearly horizontal line with an arrow; where one
pattern has developed out of an earlier one which
then continued to co-exist with it, this has been
shown by a nearly horizontal line without an
arrow, whether the new pattern was used in the
same area or another; where a pattern was
replaced by a new one that had developed from
it, this is shown by a small horizontal bar across
the vertical line. French-suited Tarot patterns
are not shown. The part of the diagram from
1700 on is not open to doubt; that before 1700 is
highly conjectural. Further research may yield a
different picture. The diagram will be found on
the end-papers.

It may be asked which-of the trump orders was
the original one, that which was intended when
the Tarot pack was first devised. If we knew
nothing about the geographical associations of
the different orders, it would be natural to guess
that a. type A order was the original one, for
several reasons. First, it seems more intelligible
that the Angel, which undoubtedly represents
the Last Judgment, should be placed at the end
of the sequence than in the penultimate or ante-
penultimate position. Secondly, save for the
association of Justice with the Judgment, it seems
difficult to discern any appropriateness in the
scattering of the Virtues through the sequence in
orders of types.B and C. And thirdly, if a type A
order were the original one, it would be possible
to explain the invention of types B and C as
devices for bringing the Death card to position 13
once the practice of numbering the trump cards
had been introduced. The evidence of
geographical association shows this guess
unlikely to be right. Of the two possible
claimants for the birthplace of the Tarot pack,
Ferrara certainly observed a type B order and
Milan very probably a type C order;
furthermore, we saw that it is likely that, in Italy,
the trumps in packs with a type C order were not
numbered, so that we cannot explain the genesis
of this order in the way suggested. In the present
state of knowledge, the question concerning the
priority of the three types of order does not seem
to be a fruitful one. What the variations do
strongly suggest is that there was never any very
great symbolic significance in the precise order in
which the trump subjects were arranged. It will
be recalled that the Visconti di Modrone pack,
the earliest that has us, differed from
all later ones in having six court cards, and thus
sixteen cards altogether, in each suit, and also in
containing Faith, Hope and Charity, as well as
Fortitude, among its trump cards, and therefore,
probably, all seven Virtues. It was suggested in
Chapter 4 that it may have had as many as

The Order of the Tarot Trumps 415
twenty-four trumps, the constant factor being the
3-2 ratio of trumps to cards per suit. There is, of
course, no way of being sure of its exact
composition. It is possible that the Visconti di
Modrone pack was no more than a freak, and
that what was later the standard composition of
the Tarot pack was standard from the time of its
first invention. But it is also possible that the
Visconti di Modrone pack represents the original
form of the Tarot pack, and that the 78-card pack
as we know it is the result of a modification
adopted early in its history. If so, the standard set
of twenty-one trumps must itself be the slightly
mutilated remnant of the original, and possibly
larger, set. In that case, we could not expect any
ordering of the trumps in the standard set to
make perfect sense; even if there was any
particular symbolic intention underlying the
original sequence of Tarot trumps, which there
may not have been, we could expect fully to
understand it only if we knew which subjects the
original set contained and in what order they
were arranged. It is unlikely that we ever shall.

This chapter has attempted a reconstruction,
no doubt to be improved as further evidence is
uncovered, of the history of the Latin-suited
Tarot pack. Despite two centuries of research on
playing cards, it was only very recently that this
history began to be investigated. Until then,
writers on playing cards were content to rely on a
standard traditional account, amounting only to
a static classification into types (Tarocchino,
Minchiate, etc.), as if these had all come into
existence on the eighth day of creation; among
such types, the so-called Venetian Tarocchi
formed a mere ragbag comprising all 78-card
Italian Tarot packs. The reason for this failure
has been the lack of any clear concept of standard
patterns: without this theoretical tool, a historian
cannot set aside luxury packs and other
obviously non-standard ones, and hence can
make only the crudest distinctions within the
heterogeneity of the data that then confront him.
As in other areas of the subject, such as
Portuguese-suited cards, the first steps towards
an analysis of the evolution of Latin-suited Tarot
cards were taken by Sylvia Mann. As explained
in the introduction, I have refrained from
cluttering up the preceding exposition with
repeated acknowledgments to her. Her
contribution has, however, been so substantial
that it requires more than a generalised
recognition.. This is particularly so for two
reasons: academics working in the field are prone
to underestimate the contributions of a non-
academic; and the magnitude of her contribution
cannot be estimated from her published writings.
Probably the most enduring monument to her
work will be the Playing-Card Society's
anonymous classificatory sheets, mentioned
above, a project inspired, and in considerable
part executed, by her. A great many of her ideas,
freely offered, have been incorporated into the
work of others and first expressed in print in their
writings; of that process, this book contains many
examples. I have been happy to be able to work in
this field as a member of the school of which she is
the leader.

A number of observations by her formed the
basis for my own work on the subject. She first
drew attention to the importance of the Orfeo
packs, which had escaped the attention of
everyone else, and proposed that, rather than very
incomplete Minchiate packs, they were nearly
complete 78-card ones. She also identified the
Rothschild/Beaux Arts sheets as from what she,
probably mistakenly, described as a 'Tarocchino'
pack, but at any rate from Bologna. She
emphasised the problem posed by the Belgian
Tarot, and remarked on the affinity between
certain of its cards and some of the Italian ones.
She also noticed that the Tarot de Marseille was
restricted to French-speaking regions, and that
the Tarot de Besançon was originally used in
German-speaking ones.

All these observations are, in my opinion,
sound and illuminating. But the most important
thesis advanced by her, concerning the Italian
Tarot de Marseille-derived packs, proved more
problematic. She was the first to distinguish
between the two standard patterns, that
ancestral to the Tarocco Piemontese (IT-1-2),
restricted to Piedmont, and that - with narrow
cards and fold-over backs (IT1-1), made in
many parts of Italy. (The ground for describing
the latter as 'the Lombard pattern' rests on
information from literary sources concerning
where it was used, evidence which, whenever
possible, ought to supplement that based on
place of manufacture.) She remarked that these
patterns appear to have been introduced only in
the eighteenth century, and proposed that this
was to be explained on the hypothesis that the
78-card pack, and the game played with it, had
died out in Italy during the seventeenth century,
and had been reintroduced from France.

416 Part III: Italian Games and Italian Cards
Principally because of the French inscriptions
originally used on these two patterns, I continue
to view this thesis as essentially correct.
Nevertheless, as first propounded, it was
misleading in two respects. First, it rested on the
idea that there was something describable as 'the
Italian 78-card pack', and something describable
as 'the Italian game with 78 cards'. In fact, there
has been much more interplay between the
designs of Tarot cards and the modes of play
with the 78-card pack between countries~other~
than Italy than there has ever been within Italy.
The distinct traditions of design and of play
evidently established before the close of the
fifteenth century appear thereafter to have
remained without influence on one another, and
to have evolved, in so far as they did evolve, quite
independently. What first made this clear was
the investigation into the different trump orders.
The various orders could have been established
only at a date at which there were as yet no
numerals on the trump cards; and, in each of the
different centres, the order there observed could
have been fixed only at the moment of the first
introduction of the Tarot pack, since, once a
trump order had been agreed on, utter confusion
would have resulted among players if it were to
be changed, at least so long as each trump card
was identified primarily by its subject rather
than by an inscribed numeral. But, even if Miss
Mann's thesis, as originally stated, incorporated
an error in this regard, it was she herself who
prompted its correction; for, although it was I
who carried out the investigation into the trump
orders, it was she who saw the importance this
might have and first suggested to me that I look
into it.

Secondly, the thesis suggested, what I at first
assumed, that no designs resembling the Tarot
de Marseille were known in Italy before the
eighteenth century; from this it appeared to
follow that the Tarot de Marseille was a purely
French invention. As explained above, this is not
so at all: the Cary sheet and the Castello
Sforzesco cards show that very similar designs
were in use in Milan from the fifteenth to the
seventeenth century. It therefore appears that the
Tarot de Marseille was derived from a Milanese
prototype; and this conclusion weakens, though it
does not destroy, the case for assuming that the
introduction of the Lombard pattern occurred
only after an interval during which the 78-card
pack had been defunct. Moreover, the natural
presumption is that the form of Tarot game
played outside Italy withjthe 78-card pack was
descended from the Milanese game. On this
assumption, it ceases to be of such importance
whether or not there was an interval before the
adoption of the Lombard pattern: the game
played after the interval would still have been, in
broad outline, similar to that played before it.

In the end, therefore, it appears that Sylvia
Mann's thesis rests on a slenderer base of
evidence, and has less far-reaching consequences,
than at first appeared. That is not to disparage
the importance of the step taken by her in
advancing it. For one thing, it served as a
surrogate for the realisation of the independence
of the four Italian traditions of Tarot play, by
making what is probably to be regarded as the
Milanese tradition appear as an eighteenthcentury
importation from abroad. For another, it
was a first attempt to make sense of the very
confusing evidence, which those who spoke about
'the Venetian Tarot' as a single type alongside
the Tarocchino and Minchiate packs had simply
declined even to try to interpret. At the present
stage, the history of Tarot cards in Lombardy
before the eighteenth century stands in need of
further investigation. We cannot be sure that
there was indeed an interval during which they
were no longer used. We cannot be sure that the
trump order used in the Tarot de Marseille was
really a French invention, and that, before the
eighteenth century, players in Lombardy
remained faithful to the Susio/Viévil order. In
both cases I have suggested affirmative answers;
but more evidence is desirable. We do not know
just how the indigenous Milanese trump designs
evolved, or how close they came to be to those of
the Tarot de Marseille; nor do we know whether,
before 1700, Milanese players continued to use
trumps without inscribed numerals. As for
Piedmont, the uncertainty concerning it is
greater still. We have sufficient reason to assume
that the game was known there before the
eighteenth century, and that there was indeed
some break in continuity; but it is conceivable
that this break occurred earlier, and was ended
by the introduction of Milanese designs, some
time before the latter were in turn replaced by
the earliest form of the Tarocco Piemontese.
Until these problems, and those relating to the
exact evolution of the 78-card pack in Florence,
Rome and Sicily, have been resolved, there can
be.-j no assurance that we have successfully

The Order.of the Tarot Trumps 417

reconstructed the history of Latin-suited Tarot
cards. But the first progress towards such a
reconstruction was made by Sylvia Mann, and it
would have been improper to have ended this
chapter without making clear that this was so.

Note on classical deities set

As stated on p. 409, there are now nineteen cards, of
those found at the Castello Sforzesco with back designs
of classical deities, in the Raccolta delle Stampe
Achille Bertarelli. Novati, in his article in the Bullettino
dei civici musei
, gives the number found of this type as
twenty-one; there is some discrepancy between the
numbers cited by him of cards with particular back
designs and those at present in the Raccolta. In detail,
the numbers are as follows (the figures in brackets
being those given by Novati): love - 4(7); Mercurio -
1(1); Proserpina - 4(2); Ercule-1(3); Marte - 2(0);
Pluto - 2(0); Venere - 1(1); Veritas - 3(3); Saturno -
1(1); Diana - 0(2); unidentified - 0(1). It will be seen
that the discrepancies are not all in the same direction,
which makes them very puzzling.
Location: Oregon USA
Favorite Deck: Conver/Noblet & Sola-Busca pips

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