Playing cards in Europe before 1377? - Buja
This note is not the result of an independent investigation, but represents in practice only a sort of appendix, a small addition to a previous study, already virtually completed. While here, exceptionally, only a small Italian town, Buja, is being taken into consideration, in that investigation, as in others similarly conducted, we looked at documents from all over the country. In that study, the element of interest in the statutes of the municipality of Buja already was presented and discussed, together with that of other fourteenth-century statutes of Italian municipalities that for us had characteristics similar. The basis of the investigation related to Italy can be considered an important book devoted to the laws on games present in Italian municipal statutes 2; in some of the municipal statutes used in that abundant harvest card games can be found mentioned for dates earlier than 1377, a date that instead turned out to be the oldest for secure testimony on playing cards in Italy.
Some cases were presented that were simply very uncertain and the conclusion of those was immediate: it would be useless to accumulate more information if they are of no value, because "zero even multiplied be six remains zero". Other cases, including Buja, were considered worthy of study, but the result was that these cases, initially selected because they had a minimum of plausibility, in the end had to be considered of zero historical contribution for our area of concern. However, among those cases studied and "resolved" just one remained, precisely that of Buja, I was not able to verify the documents and so in that case the conclusion that I had reached was based on only a poor plausibility for geographical reasons. Now, even in the latter case, we will close the matter in a definitive manner (if it was left open), after dedicating a specific study to the related documents.
2 A. Rizzi (ed.) Statuta de ludo: le leggi sul gioco nell’Italia di comune (secoli XIII-XVI) [Statutes on games: the laws on games in Italian municipalities (13th-16th [?] centuries).] Treviso and Rome 2012.
2. Preliminary information
a) The author
Vincenzo Gabriele Joppi (Udine, 1824-1900) was a physician from Friuli, known primarily as an Italian librarian and historian 3. As a physician, Joppi specialized in obstetrics and practiced his profession in Friuli. As a librarian he was above all a fervent collector of documents difficult to access, scattered in private libraries and in the antique market, collecting and studying an impressive number. This activity quickly became of public interest so that Joppi also became librarian in the municipal library of Udine, organized by him and that today bears his name 4. On the basis of the many documents he found, Joppi compiled a considerable number of studies, published separately or collected in volumes. Looking at his name in OPAC resulted in 147 publications, mostly local, reflecting a constant and careful attention to the Friuli region, with findings from the most diverse places in the region and with no time limits for their testimonies.
Figure 1 – Portrait of Vincenzo Gabriele Joppi.
(Biblioteca Civica [Public Library] “Vincenzo Joppi” of Udine, from Wikimedia Commons)
4 http://www.sbhu.it/easyne2/biblioteche/ ... i-di-udine
b) The book
Among his many publications is also one of the statutes of Buja, taken for the first time from a manuscript copy, consisting of a small book printed to celebrate the wedding of a couple of friends 5; it is a book of few pages, with the statutes reproduced from p. 15 to p. 43.
I had not considered it necessary to procure an exemplar for the study from the few libraries, chiefly in the Veneto, where it was present, given that there were no exemplars in the great Florentine libraries. But then, with the help of librarians, I was able to find a copy in the National Library in Florence 6. Ultimately, having it available in my city, I could not neglect careful consideration.
c) The historical context
For some general information on Buja (including the appearance of the Madonna on an apple tree) I would refer you to the previous note, cited above; I can, however, add some information for the years of interest, deriving directly from the Notizie del Castello di Bruja[/i] [Notices of Buja Castle], included by Vincenzo Joppi to introduce the statutes in question (my attempted translation follows].
The year 1371, in which the statutes that concern us were compiled, does not seem to correspond to particular events or to a period of considerable political stability.Nel 1350 durante la lontananza dal Friuli del Patriarca Bertrando, alcuni Nobili coll’aiuto del conte Enrico di Gorizia, gli ribellarono quasi tutto il Friuli. Udine con pochi fedeli, mosse contro i nemici che avevano occupato il castello di Buja. La posizione di questo e le sue difese ne prolungarono l’assedio, e mentre erasi deciso di ottenerlo con la fame, un felice colpo della manganella degli Udinesi, loro aperse l’ingresso del castello, ove fecero prigioniera tutta la guarnigione. Ciò avvenne il 27 maggio 1350. Ucciso dopo pochi giorni Bertrando, durante la vacanza della sede, Buja fu data in custodia a Ulvino e Guglielmo di Pramperch (30 giugno). Eletto nel 1351 a Patriarca Nicolò, questi il 20 novembre 1355 riuniva la gastaldia di Buja al Comune di Gemona, ma nel 1357 (12 marzo), vedendo che il castello di Buja per la sua antichità minacciava rovina, lo diede con tutti i fortilizi ad Alessandro Bagni e fratelli di Tolmezzo, a patto dovessero ripararlo, obbligandosi a risarcirli della spesa. In pari tempo li investiva delle gastaldie di Buja ed Artegna col garrito e giurisdizione
per otto anni, richiedendone giuramento di fedeltà. Il castello venne rifatto con torri, palazzo di abitazione, cinta ed altro; e loro vennero pagate le spese dal Patriarca Marquando il 21 dic. 1366 in 393 Marche di denaro. Allo spirare del termine prescritto, ritornò Buja sotto il diretto governo de’ patriarchi, finché l’8 gennaio 1375, lo stesso Marquando bisognoso di duc. 1580 per ricuperare Tolmino dalle mani del Comune di Cividale, coll’assenso del Capitano d’Aquileja diede al cav. Francesco di Savorgnano ed eredi castello e gastaldia di Buja con giurisdizioni e rendite sino al pagamento del debito, accordandogli di poter riparare e fortificare la torre del castello e compire il muro del palazzo, quali opere dovevano ogni anno essere pagate a stima. (p. 9.)
[In 1350 during the siege of Friuli by Patriarch Bertrand, some Nobles with the help of Count Enrico di Gorizia, opposed almost all of Friuli. Udine, with a few followers, moved against the enemies who had occupied Buja castle. Their positioning and defenses extended the siege, and while they had decided to take it with starvation, a happy stroke occurred for the Udinesi, the entrance to the castle was opened to them, where they captured the whole garrison. This took place on May 27th 1350. After a few days Bertrand was killed, and during the vacancy of the seat, Buja was given in custody to Ulvino and William of Pramperch (June 30). Elected in 1351 as Patriarch Nicholas, on November 20, 1355, he met the stewards of Buja in the Municipality of Gemona, but in 1357 (12 March), seeing that Buja Castle for its antiquity threatened to collapse, he gave it with all the forts to Alessandro Bagni and the brothers of Tolmezzo, provided they repair it, undertaking to compensate the expenditure. At the same time he invested the stewards of Buja and Artegna with garrison (?--garrito) and jurisdiction
5 V. Joppi (ed.), Il castello di Buja ed i suoi statuti. [The Castle of Buja and its statutes] Udine 1877.
6 BNCF, 1785.7
for eight years, requiring an oath of allegiance. The castle was rebuilt with towers, a palace for living, walls and other things; and their expenses were paid by the Patriarch Marquando December 21 1366 in 393 Marche denaro. After the period prescribed, Buja returned under the direct rule of the patriarchs, until 8 January 1375, the same Marquando needed of duc. 1580 in order to recover Tolmin from the hands of the City of Cividale, Aquileia, with the assent of the Captain, gave to the cav. Francesco di Sovorgnano and heirs the Castle and stewards of Buja with jurisdictions and annuities rendered until payment of the debt, granting him power to repair and fortify the castle tower and build the wall of the palace, which works had to be paid every year by estimate. (p. 9.]
3. The statutes in the printed book
The municipal statutes were everywhere the main collection of laws approved by the community, according to which the citizenry was governed and administered. Here is how the statutes in question for Buja are presented by the Friulian historian.
b) Chapter on gamesLa villa di Buja che erasi andata all’ombra del castello sempre più popolando, malgrado le guerre ed i frequenti cangiamenti di padrone, si era costituita sin dal principiare del secolo XIV in Comunità, nella quale teneva il primo posto la numerosa famiglia de’ nobili di Buja. Alcuni membri di questa, dietro ricevuto incarico formularono lo Statuto del Comune, che nel giorno 8 dicembre 1371 venne dal Consiglio di Buja ed indi dal Capitano di Gemona a nome del Patriarca approvato. Il governo di Buja era composto da un Consiglio di 24 persone, 12 nobili o notai e 12 popolari, che si rinnovavano per metà ogni anno. La elezione di nuovi consiglieri, si faceva da 12 uscenti e dal Massaro che era l’amministratore delle rendite del Comune. Il Capitano o gastaldo o il loro vicario presiedeva al Consiglio ed ai giudizi civili e criminali, senza voto. Le cariche comunali più importanti, oltre al Massaro, erano i due giudici o giurati che giudicavano secondo lo Statuto proprio negli affari di annona, sanità, caccia, pesca, pesi e misure, riferendosi allo Statuto di Gemona o della Patria nelle questioni di proprietà, successione e criminali portanti pena di sangue. Ne’ casi gravi oltre che interrogare la propria coscienza ricorrevano al Consiglio di persone dotte.
Lo Statuto di Buja notevole pel buon senso, mitezza nelle pene, tutte pecuniarie, consta di 68 capitoli ed ebbe vigore di legge anche durante il dominio de’ Savorgnani che più volte tentarono di usurpare i diritti del Comune, che uscì vincitore come da Sentenza del 1506 confermata successivamente.
[The village at Buja, in the shadow of the castle, became increasingly more populated, despite the wars and frequent changes of master, forming since the beginning of the fourteenth century in the Community, the top spot of the numerous noble families of Buja. Some members of these after they received the commission and formulated the Statutes of the City, on December 8, 1371 orginated [?] the Council of Buja subsequently approved on behalf of the Patriarch by the Captain of Gemona. The Government of Buja was composed of a 24 person Council, 12 nobles or notaries and 12 of the people, renewed by half every year. The election of new councilors was done by the 12 outgoing and Massaro who was the administrator of revenue of the Municipality. The captain or steward or his representative presided over the Council and civil and criminal judgments, without a vote. The most important municipal positions, in addition to Massaro, were the two judges or jurors who judged according to the Statutes in the business of Rations [?], health, hunting, fishing, weights and measures, referring to the Statute of Gemona or of the country in matters of property, inheritance and criminals bearing the penalty of blood. In serious cases as well as consulting their own conscience, they resorted to the Council of said people.
The Statutes of Buja notable for their good sense, mildness in penalties, all pecuniary, which consists of 68 chapters and had the force of law even during the rule of Savorgnani who repeatedly attempted to usurp the rights of the City, which came out a winner by the Judgment of 1506 confirmed repeatedly.
Our goals, however, are very limited, so that we can reduce our examination to a single chapter of the statutes approved in that year. I have copied below (using italics) the whole Chapter II, with the text of interest, already reported in the essential part also in Statuta de ludo.
c) First comment[Caput II] De ludentibus post pulsatama Ave Maria.
Statuerunt et ordinaverunt quod nullus de Buja, et Villarum Subiectarum audeat, vel presumat in dicta Comunitate, et Villis subiectis ludere ad taxillos, seu cartis, vel alio ludo pro pecuniis post sonum Ave Marie de secundo, nec tenere in domo ludentes, vel eos acceptare, nec etiam ludentibus vel tenere, seu accomodare, aut vendere candellas, aut aliud lumen pro ludo sub pena Marcharum denariorum duarum applicandarum pro dimidio Ecclesie Sancti Laurentij, et aliud dimidium accusatori. (p. 16.)
[Rough translation (I don't know Latin!)
[Heading 2.] On playing after Ave Maria is struck.
It is stipulated and ordained that no one of Bujas, and of the Village Subjected [?], dare or presume to in said community, and to the village subject, to play at dice, or Cards, or other game for money, after the sound of the Ave Marie a second time, keeping players in the house, nor accepting them, nor also taking of them, or accomodating, or selling candles, or any other light for the game, under penalty of two March denari, half to be applied to the church of St. Laurence, and the other half to the accuser. (p. 16.)
It seems to me useful to reproduce my previous comment on the chapter of the game, taking it from the above mentioned note.
As we see, rather than prohibiting play, here it prohibits its practice at night; which lets us assume that during the day it was permissible to play cards. Rather than check the accuracy of the transcript to the manuscript, we would have to figure out what might be the correct date, if it were found instead clearly to correspond to a later insert, or that all the statute is only present in copies subsequent to the original date.
Well, one last line with a parenthesis added to p. 43, the end of the statutes examined, provides us with the necessary track: “Da MS della Biblioteca Comunale di Udine” [From MS of Udine Public Library] (Fig. 2).
At this point, finding the right clue, as might be imagined, I started also to look for the manuscript in question. As I had clarified at first, only the study of the manuscript could resolve
all doubts in a difinitive manner.
Figure 2 - End of the statutes in the book studied.
4. The statutes in the manuscript
Also for the completion of this investigation, the assistance of the librarians has been fundamental. In this case, the credit goes to Francesca Tamburlini, Head of the Section of rare manuscripts of the City Library "Vincenzo Joppi" in Udine; through her cooperation, I can present the final solution of the problem, on the basis of the same manuscript used for the transcript printed by Vincenzo Joppi.
The manuscript used by Joppi is indeed still available in the "Public Library of Udine," from whom it took its name 7. In Fig. 3 the page of interest is reproduced.
Figure 3 – Page of the manuscript of the statutes of Buja.
(Biblioteca Civica [Public Library] “Vincenzo Joppi”, Fondo principale, ms. 1490/4.)
7. Biblioteca Civica “Vincenzo Joppi”, Fondo principale, ms. 1490/4.
From an examination of the manuscript one can also derive the correctness of the transcription of the Chapter by Joppi. This concerns for example the presence in the manuscript of the two different spellings, Ave Maria and Ave Marie, but especially the word of our greatest interest; I personally had in fact a doubt on the later insertion of the word Cartis. It was more likely later, but I still had the feeling of an error read by Joppi. We know that Ludere Cartis means playing with cards or at cards, but based on what we can deduce in so far as the term was included in the municipal statutes (later than 1371 in fact!), the expression used in this regard would be a rule Ludere to taxillos, seu cartas. But that part of my doubt was wrong: Joppi had read it right.
What absolutely cannot be believed, however, is its fidelity to the original statutes of 1371, because this copy was also written in the eighteenth century. In short, the real question concerns the proper manner in which the word Cartis had been originally written in the statutes of Buja 1371; on this I personally have no doubt: in my opinion, it was not there at all.
The conclusion of the previous study was that the path along which playing cards arrived in Florence, where in 1377 they were already widespread, appeared still to be identified in detail, and the cases reported in Italy for earlier times appeared minimally helpful for the purpose; of those cases, however, there remained one, that of the municipality of Buja, whose statutes of 1371 had not been checked. Now even that case has been examined in detail and the above conclusion is strengthened. At first, only a few cases had been discarded, judging in advance that they could not contribute. At the present time, it also appears possible to ignore all the documents that were initially examined because they had minimal possibility for a useful contribution. For Italy, there is today no certain document preceding the date of the Florentine provision, adopted in March 1377. This
finding does not exclude the validity of extending the same investigation to other regions and other countries, since no one believes today that the cards originated in Florence, shortly before 1377, in an original and independent manner.
Franco Pratesi – 15.06.2016