Michael Dummett wrote an occasionally cited article on tarot history for the journal "FMR" (the initials are those of the editor, Franco Maria Ricci). Since this article does not seem to be readily available online, I am transcribing it here. If any copyright holder protests, I will remove it. It seems to be from Jan/Feb. 1985, issue no. 8.
Readers should know that there has been new information since 1986. The earliest record of a deck called "trionfi" is now 1440 Florence, and the earliest use of "tarocco" for a deck of cards is June 1505 in Ferrara, followed by "taraux" in December 1505 Avignon (the relevant documents are cited elsewhere on this Forum). There is evidence that ordinary playing cards were used for sortilege, the "reading of fate", in 16th century Italy and Spain; tarot cards were used for that purpose at least by 1759 in Marseille (see Ross Caldwell's "brief history of cartomancy," online) and around 1750 in Italy (Franco Pratesi documents this on trionfi.com). Queens appeared in non-tarot decks in Italy as early as 1424, as cited in St. Bernardino's 1424 sermons (Ross points this out on THF somewhere). But in general this is a masterful condensation of 500 years of tarot history.
Since probably some errors are present, I give here scans of the original pages with text (omitting those with pictures, which I do not have)
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Tarot triumphant: Tracing the tarot
by Michael Dummett
Tarot — played with an ordinary deck of cards to which twenty-one trionfi (trumps) had been added —was a European passion for centuries. Indeed. the creation of the decks grew to be a miniature industry: painters were employed fulltime by noble families to design and paint the cards. The game's popularity and its regional variations are detailed here by Michael Dummett, professor of logic at New College, Oxford.
Tarot cards are now known best as instruments of divination, supposedly embodying occult symbolism. However, this is not how they were originally regarded. The practice of fortune-telling with playing cards began during the eighteenth century. and tarot cards were first used for this purpose in the 1780s in France. It was in France, too, that the occultist interpretation of the tarot developed during the nineteenth century; it did not spread outside France until the late 1880s, when it was taken up in Britain by the Rosicrucian secret society, the Order of the Golden Dawn, to which some well-known literary and theatrical people belonged. But there is no evidence for esoteric interpretations or uses of the tarot pack before 1780. All the literary references to the pack. from fifteenth-century Italy and sixteenth-century France on, mention the cards only as an instrument of play. The twenty-two trionfi were added to the pack so that a new card game could be played. For three and a half centuries. nobody had any idea of using the cards for other purposes. This is not to say that there was no occult symbolism inherent in the trionfi. The designs of many playing-card packs contain symbolism unrelated to the intended use of the cards: and the Renaissance was the high point for the occult sciences in Europe, which were respected by scholars and tolerated by the Church as never before or since. But any occultism in the iconography of the tarot pack was either widely overlooked or quickly forgotten.
The earliest known mention of the tarot pack is from Ferrara in 1442. By the time it reached the French, Swiss, and Germans. it must have appeared as something altogether strange: the Italian suit signs were unfamiliar to them. To Italians of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, however, the pack's origins were evident. They knew it to be an ordinary pack of cards to which twenty-two cards — the tarocchi — had been added. It is further distinguished by having four court cards in each of the four suits: a queen as well as the usual king. cavallo. and fante.
Tarocchi was not the original name. It came into use during the sixteenth century— the earliest known occurrence being again from Ferrara in 1516. The derivation of the word is unknown, a fact remarked on as early as 1550 by the Ferrarese poet Alberto Lollio. The twenty-two additional cards were previously known as trionfi. a term also used for the game played with the augmented pack, which was referred to as carte da trionfi.
The designs of the playing card are standardized to ensure that a player can identify each card instantly. However, because card playing is carried on at the local level, different "standard" designs came to be used in different regions. Just the same was true of tarot cards: and since the tarot pack in Italy was, and was seen as, an ordinary pack with extra cards added to it, the same designs were used before the eighteenth century for the suit cards of the tarot pack.
Playing cards are disposable objects: when a pack no longer can be used for play. it is thrown away. For that reason, pre-eighteenth-century playing cards are exceedingly rare, and every one that survives is of crucial historical value. At least a million tarot packs were manufactured in France during the seventeenth century; of those, only three survive in whole or in part. Perhaps half a million packs were produced in France during the sixteenth century; one survives. The history of playing cards after 1735, however. is easily traced. Examples every type of playing-card pack after that date are found in museums in relative abundance.
The individual subjects used for the trionfi appear to have been standardized early in the history of the pack: with few exceptions. all fifteenth-century packs use the same set of subjects. The matto is not, strictly speaking. one of the trionfi —although it is a mistake to suppose any historical connection between it and the joker, which originated in nineteenth-century America. The remaining twenty-one cards may he divided into three groups. The lowest is the bagatto, almost always called bagatella in the fifteenth and sixteenth, centuries; the name is probably an indication of the low ranking of the card rather than a reference to its subject. A merchant or mountebank is shown seated at a table spread with his wares; in some versions customers are gathered around. The occultists' idea that he is a magician is without foundation, as is the notion that the four suit symbols are to be seen on the card. The next four are the papal and imperial cards (called papi in Bologna): the pope. the emperor, the empress. and the papessa. Occultists call the pope and papessa the hierophant and the high priestess. but the figures in the traditional pack had unquestionably Christian characteristics: however, in many later packs these Christian characters were replaced by other figures. The papessa must have been included in a ribald spirit. The earliest surviving example of this card is from the pack
Tarot triumphant [start p. 47]
painted by Bonifacio Heathy for Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan. soon after 1450. Gertrude Moakley. in The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifaeio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family (New York. 1966), has pointed out that it represents Sister Manfredi, a relative of the Visconti family who had been elected pope by the heretical sect to which she belonged, and had been burned at the stake in 1300. Possibly this was the first time the papessa appeared in the tarot pack: it may hare replaced the missing cardinal virtue of Prudence.
The next group of cards could be described as representing conditions of human life: love, the cardinal virtues Temperance and Fortitude (always referred to in early sources as la Fortezza, not. as she is now. la forza) and Justice: the triumphal car; the wheel of fortune: the card now known as the hermit: the hanged man: and death. The wheel of fortune was a well-known symbolic theme of medieval and early Renaissance Europe The animals now found on the wheel of some modern cards are a mistake of the cardmakers. In early versions they are always human figures, rising or falling in the world as the wheel turns: the mistake derives from the ass's ears or tail that signified the folly of their ambition. The other cards requiring explanation are the hermit and the hanged man. The hermit was called il vecchio or il gobbo in the early sources. He carried an hourglass instead of a lantern, though this mistake dates back to the late fifteenth century. Teofilo Folengo calls him il tempo, and Time was what he was originally intended to represent. The hanged man was sometimes called l’impiccato and sometimes il traditore. He is shown hanging upside down by one foot, a posture in which traitors were depicted. The walls of the Bargello in Florence were often adorned by such paintings. and the pope ordered the condottiere Muzio Attendolo. Francesco Sforza's father, to be so represented on all the gates and bridges of Rome: Ludovico Sforza (il Moro) gave a similar order concerning the treacherous governor of Milan. Bernardino da Corte. who surrendered the Castello to the French.
The final sequence represents spiritual and celestial powers: the devil, the tower, the star, the moon, the sun, the world, and the angel. The angel is the angel of the Last Judgment. On early cards the world is usually represented by a globe held aloft by putti or supporting a figure. There is no constancy in the representation of the three celestial bodies: extraneous details of all kinds are depicted on the lower halves of the cards. The puzzling card is the tower. This again is a modern name: in early sources it is called la saetta, il fuoco, la casa del diavolo. and l'inferno. In the celebrated French version of the pack known as the tarot de Marseille, it is oddly named la maison dieu. which may have resulted from a misunderstanding of la casa del diavolo. The card usually shows a building being struck by lightning or on fire and collapsing. In some late fifteenth-century versions, the building is in fact a tower. Without these earlier examples. one might be tempted to suppose that an event of 1521 led to a reinterpretation of the card. In that year one of the towers of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan suddenly collapsed, killing many French soldiers: lightning was said to have struck out of a clear sky. Soon after, the French were expelled from Milan. In a few versions of the card. the building is a hell-mouth, from which a devil emerges to drag a woman into hell; but this does not appear to represent the original meaning of the card.
By the end of the fifteenth century, tarot cards were known almost everywhere in northern Italy: but the three great centers of the game, and those from which we have the earliest evidence of it, are Ferrara, Bologna and Milan. Each had its own distinct tradition of design and, probably, of play: and in each the trionfi were ranked in a different order. Since play would be impossible without a fixed agreed order for the trionfi, these different orderings must have been established when the game was first introduced into each place. Unfortunately. it is impossible to determine in which of these three cities the cards and the game were invented. My guess is the d'Este court in Ferrara. It is no coincidence that Boiardo. Ariosto, and Tasso were all patronized by the d'Este princes: the whole court lived in an atmosphere of romance and fantasy— the sort of atmosphere in which the trionfi were probably devised. However, this is only a guess; any one of the three cities may have been the birthplace of the game.
Almost all the extant hand-painted cards can be assigned. with certain or high probability, to the court of Ferrara or the court of Milan. Even making allowances for hand-painted cards' greater likelihood of survival. is hard to resist the impression that tarot began as a game of the nobility These costly packs were not intended for display. At Ferrara men devoted themselves to producing hand-painted cards as their principal profession. Duke Borso gave three such painters board and lodging at court to enable them to carry on their work. With such phrases as per uxo de la Signora the records make it plain that their products were not mere ornaments.
The earliest surviving packs are the three now usually ascribed to the Cremonese painter Bonifacio Bembo (c.1420-c. 1480), although Giuliana Algeri has recently argued the claim of Franeesco Zavattari, in Gli Zavattari (Rome, 1981). From the most
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complete of these, only four cards are missing: part of the pack is in the possession of the Colleoni family of Bergamo, part in the Accademia Carrara, and part in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Six of the trionfi are by another hand, probably a Ferrarese artist, and date from about 1470: presumably they replaced lost or damaged cards.
The other two packs by the same artist are usually known as the Brambilla and Visconti di Modrone packs, after their former owners. The Brambilla, of which only two trionfi survive, is in the Brera Gallery in Milan: the Visconti di Madrone is in the Cary Collection at the Yale University Library. They were probably both painted for Francesco Sforza's father-in-law, the last Visconti duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti. who died in 1447. In both packs actual imprints of Filippo Maria's coinage are used for the suit of denari. Both were probably painted toward the end of Filippo Maria's thirty-five-year reign. and certainly so if they were Bembo's work. The Visconti di Madrone pack diverges from the standard composition. It had as many as six court cards per suit, a male and female figure of each rank: king and queen, both mounted; page and maid, both standing. The set of trionfi is incomplete: only eleven survive. In addition to standard subjects, inchuling Fortitude, it contains the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. It is impossible to know whether this pack was unique or represents an early stage before the composition of tarot packs had been standardized.
We can be sure that an incomplete hand-painted pack was a tarot if one of the cards is a trionfo: we may presume that it was if one of them is a queen. Lacking either of these, we cannot be sure that it was not a tarot pack, since all the cards of a regular pack also belong to the tarot pack. Those hand-painted. fifteenth-century sets containing either a trionfo or a queen outnumber those that do not two to one, strong testimony to the popularity of tarot among the nobility. Most of the other hand-painted sets that we can associate with Milan include or wholly consist of cards imitated from those made for Francesco Sforza, sometimes exactly copied, sometimes with slight variations.
Other fifteenth-century hand-painted packs were made in Ferrara for the d'Este csitv: one is in the Cary Callection. one in the Museo Civico in Catania; the most famous pack in Paris (once wrongly believed to have been made for Charles VI) and a fourth in the Rothschild Collection in the Louvre.
The game of tarot developed into a whole family of games. which include many of the subtlest and most demanding card games. Moreover, the game had a profound importance. in the history of card playing. Tarot is played in tricks (prese) nail the trionfi permanently serve as do trumps (atutti) in bridge. In fact. the English trump and the German Trumpf both derive from trionfo. Trick-taking games probably entered Europe with playing cards themselves. but trumps are a European invention. Unless the game of tarot was invented as early as the second decade of the fifteenth century, it was not the first card game to use trumps. That honor belongs to the German game of Karnöffel, recorded as early as 1426 and still played in parts of Switzerland. Probably tarot and Karnöffel were invented independently; residents of an Italian Renaissance court were unlikely to have been acquainted with a game played by German peasants. In any case, etymological evidence makes it certain that it was from tarot and not Karnöffel that the idea of trumps was borrowed for other games. The word [i[Trompf[/i[ was not originally used in Karnöffel; but from the late fifteenth century in France and the early sixteenth century elsewhere. card games were called by names derived from trionfo: triumphe in France, triumph in England (the ancestor of whist and bridge), triunfo in Spain. and so on. These games were played with regular cards, not with the tarot pack. but they incorporated the idea of a trump suit — an idea that spread faster than the game of tarot itself.
Hand-painted tarot cards are not the only ones to have survived from fifteenth-century Italy. We also have some late fifteenth-century popular cards from Bologna, Milan, Ferrara, and Florence. Sixteen trionfi from uncut sheets are divided between the Rothschild Collection in the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. With one exception (the devil) these are amazingly close in design to Bolognese tarorcchi of the seventeenth century. An incomplete uncut sheet, showing a number of trionfi and the seven and eight of bastoni, is in the Cary Collection at Yale. The trionfi are not numbered: the sheet was most probably made in Milan. Three damaged sheets of rather crude popular cards from Ferrara, including most of the trionfi, are in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Theodore Donson in New York possesses two finished cards with designs identical to the corresponding cards in the Metropolitan Museum. All the trionfi are numbered except the highest card, the world, and are in the order that we know, from literary sources, to have been observed in Ferrara. Finally, three almost undamaged sheets in the Rosenwald Collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. D.C. make up a tarot pack lacking only six cards.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries yield a more meager crop. but with the aid of documentary sources we can trace the history of
Tarot triumphant [start p. 50]
tarot cards of all four traditions. That of Ferrara was the shortest lived. In addition to those described, we have two nonstandard packs from the late fifteenth century: the celebrated copper-engraved Sola-Busca tarocchi, of which several examples survive and in which the trionfi have quite unusual subjects; and, much less well known, a pack designed by Matteo Boiardo, wood engraved, witk a terzino by Boiardo on every card. In the only known example of Boiardo's pack all the trionfi are missing, but we know from his verses that they were intended to be included. Not only the trionfi but the suit signs were nonstandard, consisting of whips. arrows, vases, and eyes. Thirty curds from a sixteenth-century pack, almost certainly from Ferrara, are in the Leber Collection in the Bibliothèque Municipale in Rouen. This is a classicized pack, again nonstandard but far less deviant: the subjects of the trionfi, which bear numerals and Latin inscriptions, can easily be equated with the standard ones. The only standard sixteenth-century Ferrarese tarot cards are nine (four are numbered trionfi) in the Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari in Rome. These beautiful cards can be identified as Ferrarese by the peculiarity of the numbering, and substantiate the high reputation enjoyed by Ferrarese cardmakers of the time. There is documentary and literary evidence that the game continued to be popular in Ferrara in the sixteenth century, but it appears to have died out there (in what may have been its birthplace) by the end of the century, when the d'Este court was removed to Modena as direet papal rule was resumed in Ferrara. By contrast, the tradition has continued in Bologna with very little variation down to the present. We have only one sixteenth-century Bolognese tarot card: an unnumbered trionfo representing the devil by Agnolo Hebreo, now in the British Museum, which closely resembles the corresponding card on the sheet in the Rothschild Collection. The design of that card had completely altered by the next century. Seventeenth-century Bolognese cards are held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and, save for the devil, show remarkably little change from the fifteenth century. The tarocco Bolognese has only sixty-two cards: the cards from two to five are missing from each of the four suits. This reduction in the size of the pack may date from the first half of the sixteenth century, perhaps originally only for certain games: by the mid-seventeenth century, the seventy-eight-card pack was no longer in use in Bologna. This is an instance of a general tendency in tarot games to reduce the ratio of suit cards to trionfi.
In 1725 an absurd event led to a change in the Bolognese tarot pack. Luigi Montieri, a canon, produced a geographical and heraldic tarot pack, which outraged papal authorities by the description, on one card, of Bologna as having a govemo misto. Montieri and others concerned with the publication of the pack were arrested. However, the papal authorities soon realized that to proceed with the case would cause great indignation in Bologna. Accordingly, they dropped their original objection and professed instead objection to the figures of the pope, popess, emperor, and empress, ordering them to be replaced by four Moors. This was done not only in Montieri’s pack but in all subsequent Bolognese packs.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the pack underwent further changes. The figures were made double-headed, numerals were added to the trumps from five to sixteen, and the lowest court figures in all four suits, which had been female in two of the suits, became male. Nothing further has happened to the pack since then; it is still produced in significant quantities, and the game, in its Bolognese form, is still played in Bologna and in neighboring towns such as Monzuno.
We have few Milanese tarot cards from before the eighteenth century apart from the hand-painted packs. But what we do have is enough to show that Milan had a stronger influence on tarot cards made outside Italy than did any of the other traditions. The trump order used in Milan is known from a literary source. Although it does not completely coincide with that observed in France, Switzerland, and Germany, it has the same distinguishing characteristics. It is likely that during the French occupation of Milan in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and during the wars in northern Italy involving the Swiss and the French. the game of tarot entered both Switzerland and France. The earliest known French reference to tarot cards is to their manufacture at Lyons in 1507. The two numeral cards of the batons suit and several of the trionfi on the uncut sheet in the Cary Collection strongly resemble corresponding cards in the tarot de Marseille, the most celebrated of all standard patterns for the Italian-suited tarot pack used in France and Switzerland; so do pre-eighteenth-century Milanese cards, several regular packs, and one tarot pack found at the Castello Sforzesco.
Tarot de Marseille packs from eighteenth- end nineteenth-century France and Switzerland are plentiful. Although we have none from before 1700, we can infer that the pattern was derived from that used in Milan and entered France and Switzerland with tarot cards themselves. A variant of the tarot de Marseille, known rather misleadingly as the tarot de Besançon, was used in German-speaking cantons of Switzerland and
Tarot triumphant [start 52]
in Germany. It differs from the tarot de Marseille in several minor respects and in one major one: the pope and popess were replaced by Jupiter and Juno. An early eighteenth-century example was made in Constance by J.P. Mayer.
Only one tarot pack made outside Italy during the sixteenth century is extant and unfortunately, it is nonstandard. It was made in Lyons in 1557 by Catelin Geoffroy and has suits of parrots, peacocks, lions, and monkeys, in imitation of a regular pack made by Virgil Solis of Nuremberg in 1544. The trumps are numbered; enough of them survive to show that the order was the same as in the later tarot de Marseille. Beautiful as these cards may be, we cannot assume that their trump designs correspond to those of other packs of the time.
A very fine, complete pack, made by Jacques Viévil in Paris in about 1650. is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale. The designs of the numeral cards coincide with those of the tarot de Marseille, but those of the court cards and of the trumps are completely different. The trump subjects are standard, and the trumps are numbered, yielding an order exactly coinciding (save for the position of the popess) with that recorded in sixteenth-century Lombardy. This is the only pack made outside Italy known to have a trump order different from that of the tarot de Marseille.
Of all later Italian-suited tarot cards made outside Italy each trump and court card has an inscription at the bottom giving the name in full. This practice began in the seventeenth century, and is exemplified by another complete pack made in Paris (by an unknown maker), also belonging to the Bibliothèque Nationale. The pack is again nonstandard. Viévil’s pack, on the other hand, appears to be a mixture of two standard patterns: the tarot de Marseille and a distinctive pattern known principally from eighteenth-century packs made in what is now Belgium.
Evidently, this standard "Belgian" pattern was known earlier in France as a rival to the tarot de Marseille. Probably it was used in Paris and perhaps also in Normandy, while the tarot de Marseille was used in eastern parts of the country. From the remarkably large number of literary references it appears that the game of tarot was known in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries throughout France. but from the beginning of the eighteenth century it died out in Paris and everywhere but the eastern areas. Only in quite recent times has it spread again all over France. For this reason, the rival pattern appears to have been confined to Belgium in the later eighteenth century.
We have no Piedmontese tarot cards from before the eighteenth century. and eighteenth-century examples are derivative from the tarot de Marseille. But a curious feature of Piedmontese play testifies to an earlier tradition. Present-day Piedmontese players continue, as they have done since the eighteenth century, to give to the angel, and not to the world, the high point value that, in Lombardy and everywhere outside Italy, is accorded to the world as the highest trump. This is explicable only with the hypothesis that, before the eighteenth century, Piedmontese players used different cards and observed a trump order that, like the Bolognese, assigned the highest place to the angel. This practice, unknown in other forms of tarot, argues strongly for a long-forgotten introduction of tarot into Piedmont from Bologna. A descendant of the Bolognese pattern, now vanished, may thus have been the ancestor of the Belgian tarot. During the eighteenth century the tarot pack as used by card players continued to evolve. The tarot de Marseille invaded Italy in two distinct lines. Owing to a decline in the cardmaking industry of Lombardy, it started to be imported by players there. From about 1740 onward Bolognese cardmakers began to produce their own version for the use of Lombard players: these cards closely resembled their originals, to the extent of retaining the French inscriptions on the trumps and court cards, but were narrower than French cards and had the borders folded over from the back, as was then common on Italian cards. Within a short time. Milanese cardmakers began to produce this version as well. Toward the end of the century in Milan, Italian inscriptions were substitute for the French ones. A similar decline in the cardmaking industry in Piedmont led to the importation of tarot de Marseille packs from Lyon. These cards, which remained wide and never had folded-over borders, began to be made in Piedmont in about 1735. The pack evolved into modern tarocco piémontese, the only form of a seventy-eight-card pack now produced in Italy.
In about the middle of the eighteenth century a radical change in the appearance of tarot cards was made in Germany: the Italian suit signs were replaced by the French ones of picche, fiori, cuori. and quadri. At the same time. the traditional designs of the trump cards were abandoned: henceforward they were to be recognized solely by the large numerals printed on them: in most of the early French-suited versions they bore designs of various animals. The German example was quickly followed in Belgium and throughout central Europe. The Italian-suited tarot pack fought a losing battle in Germany with its newer rival until the end of the eighteenth century. when it finally succumbed. In France, on the other hand, the French-suited pack was not adopted until the end of the nineteenth century. A type of game
Tarot triumphant [start 53]
played with fifty-four cards became so popular in Germany and the Austrian empire that it led to the production of shortened packs. The reduction to fifty-four cards was accomplished by omitting the six lowest-ranking cards from each suit. In the Austrian empire the shortened pack took the place of the seventy-eight-card pack (almost everywhere from the early nineteenth century; in Germany games with the full pack continued to be played. and a descendant of them is still played in Denmark.
The incorporation of the tarot pack into occultist theories and its use for fortune-telling stem from two essays in volume 8 of Antoine de Gébelin's vast, unfinished. rambling work Le Monde primitif. published in 1781. The two essays, one by de Gébelin, the other by the comte de Mellet, propound the preposterous theory that the cards were invented by ancient Egyptian priests to embody in symbolic form their religious teachings. Within two years the pack had been adopted for use in cartomancy by a professional fortune-teller calling himself Etteilla. He issued a version of his own, in which the order of the trumps was completely changed and many subjects had become unrecognizable. This might all have been forgotten had not the French occultists of the second half of the nineteenth century, beginning with Eliphas Levi, picked up the idea and intertwined the symbols of the tarot pack with other occultist theories, in particular those deriving from the Cabala.
For a century after its initiation by de Gébelin, tarot occultism remained virtually confined to France. In the 1880s it spread to England and then, in the early years of this century, to the United States. The only traditional form of the tarot pack known to the occultists was the tarot de Marseille, since the originators of these theories were all French. Although they repeatedly declared that the symbolism had been distorted by the mistakes of the cardmakers, they made no effort to discover the history of the cards or the designs used in other versions of the pack. During this century many cartomantic versions of the pack have been published, most of them based more closely on the tarot de Marseille than those descended from Etteilla's version. Various characteristics, not found on all versions, make them easily recognizable; the presence of Hebrew letters on the trump cards: the substitution of the hierophant and the high priestess for the pope and popess: the presence of pentagrams on the coins, and the renaming of that suit as pentacles and the batons suit as wands: the naming of the bagatto as the magician and the presence on his table of a cup, a sword, and a coin or pentacle.
At present the game of tarot, in its various forms, is generally on the decline, except in France where it is enjoying a great revival. The Italian-suited pack is now used for play only in Italy and in the Swiss cantons of Wallis and Graubünden: with sixty-four cards in Sicily (of which only sixty-three are used in play): with sixty-two in Bologna: with seventy-eight in Piedmont. Piacenza, and Como, and in the Swiss cantons. A fifty-four-card French-suited pack is used in all regions of the former Austrian empire: Austria, Hungary, Moravia. Slovenia. and Trieste. It is also used in the Black Forest for the special form of tarot game known as cego and reckoned as the national card game of Baden.
The game of tarot, with its manifold variants, not only popularized the practice of using trumps in card play but is one of the most demanding and complex of card games. The fantasies devised by the French occultists continue to enjoy a widespread vogue particularly in Britain and the United States. Inspired by them, new cartomantic versions of tarot packs, all based, however remotely, on the tarot de Marseille, are issued every year. Players and fortune-tellers alike are indebted to the ingenuity and imagination of the fifteenth-century Italian nobility and of the artists they employed.
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Pack attributed to Bonifacio Bembo, except Fortitude. Temperance. and The Sun. attributed to Pseudo-Antonio Cigognara
Pierpont Morgan library. New York City
Title page. The Hanged Man
Page 43: The Juggler, The Popess
Page 45: The Empress, The Pope
Page 49: first row: Love, The Chariot, Time
Page 49, second row: The Wheel of Fortune, Fortitude. Death
Page 51, first row: Temperance. The Sun, The Last Judgment
Page 51, second row: The Fool. The Ace of Swords, The Ten of Swords
Page 54, first row: The Queen of Swords, The King of Swords. The Ace of Cups.
Page 54, second row: The Three of Cups, The Five of Cups, The Nine of Cups
Page 58, first row: The Page of Cups, The Knight of Cups. The Queen of Cups
Page 58, second row: The Seven of Coins, The Eight of Coins, The Ten of Coins
Page 59, first row: The Queen of Coins. The King of Coins, The Ace of Staves
Page 59, second row: The Four of Staves. The Nine of Staves, The King of Staves
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