Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#1
Ross G.R. Caldwell and Marco Ponzi

"The oldest Tarot deck. - Tractatus de deificatione sexdecim heroum is the only known work by Marziano da Sant’Alosio, better known as Marziano da Tortona, secretary to the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti. It describes the structure and symbolism of a new kind of card game with a new kind of cards. In addition to four suits of number cards headed by a king, the deck has a fifth suit, the deified heroes of the title, which serve as trump cards in the game. This set of permanent, ranked trumps, is nowadays associated with Tarot, which had not been invented when Marziano wrote. Therefore, as the first deck to have this feature, it has been justifiably described as the oldest known Tarot."
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http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/scholion? ... NrieRRdo8Y

https://books.google.fr/books?id=DO-kDw ... ne&f=false
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#2
Ross,
Just ordered this yesterday - looking forward to it. I've referred to my copy of your "Explaining the Tarot: Two Italian Renaissance Essays on the Meaning of the Tarot Pack" often.

As for Place's deck - I wish he would have tried to emulate the style of Pizan's Othea illuminations or those of an early 15th century Boccaccio genealogia deorum manuscript. Instead it looks Rider-Waite-ish. Not that I think Kaplan's missing tarot card "reproductions" are very successful, but an attempt at something that looked contemporary to Marziano would have been nice. Oh well....

Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#3
Ideally I would have liked to find an artist who would imitate Michelino's style. There are enough examples of his persons, birds, and other animals, for a gifted and erudite artist to do it. But who do I know who would undertake it, even if they could? It wuld have to be a labor of love, since I do not think it could be a profitable production. I thought of the Bulgarian, Atanas Atanasov, who can do a fine quattrocento style, reminiscent of the Borromeo frescoes, but I've never contacted him. Others come up in searches, who do medieval and Renaissance styles, but again, its seems impertinent to bother them with a "request," if I have nothing to offer them, really.

But Robert approached me, actually. He imagined that the deck had been made into a popular product of the 15th century, and then updated it for the 21st century, of course in his own distinctive style, clear and elegant. We corresponded on some things, especially if it were appropriate to add a queen, which I said was fine, and even found a justification in Livy for taking "reges" as "king and queen" (even the whole royal family a couple of times), so that it was not absolutely impossible to imagine somebody in the 15th century having done it. Of course I don't believe that there was in fact a queen, or Marcello at least would have mentioned it.

But of course anybody can make a version, if they want. Nobody owns inspiration. Anyone can make their own translation too, if they want, now that the Latin is out there. The Latin text is the real gift to the world, and a testament to Marziano. Along with the Barzizza funeral oration, which I put up in 2006 but revised a little for this book.

The book is physically small, but actually the text (14.5x8cm) is about the size of the real manuscript text in both cases, where the Paris text is 13x7cm, and Brescia is 15x9cm. I wanted it small so that people with the cards could carry it around in their pockets.
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#4
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
29 Jul 2019, 17:46
Others come up in searches, who do medieval and Renaissance styles, but again, its seems impertinent to bother them with a "request," if I have nothing to offer them, really.
C'mon, you'd be letting them in on the ground floor of the burgeoning historical tarot reproduction market. ;-)

Funny, but I almost tried my hand at this - I was researching Saint-Domingue (French colonial precursor to Haiti) and wondering why there was no "Vodou" tarot. All I could find was some terrible deck based on New Orleans themes. I started collecting French revolution card images, contemporary images of the French colonial Caribbean, the leaders of the Haitian revolution, and at some point pretty much had a good idea of what my court and trumps would look like. But then like you would have needed someone to execute all that in a c. 1791 style (considerably easier than mimicking Michelino, but still). I collected a small library regarding this subject and instead of following through on the deck I went down a rabbit hole and wrote a film script on the fascinating subject. I still need to complete edits I paid for from a film professor at a local arts college, but I'll let you know if anything ever comes of it. Tarot does make an appearance - the main characters are "free people of color" (liberated bi-racials who formed a sort of middle class and provided the local militia that the white colonial administrators relied on to control the vast slave population - this is all very historical) - one of the bi-racial clique of women who the story partly revolves around is famous in Le Cap, the main city (bigger than Port-au-Prince back then), for her "wicked deck of cards" (I have her in possession of a deck of Sola Busca, certain cards shown during a reading that pertain to the plot). Anywho, back to the historical research that always seems to keep my interest over my fiction....or is there a difference?

Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#5
There is evidence of Minchiate, maybe also a form of Tarot, in New Orleans in the mid-19th century, which must have arrived earlier, so you are not wrong to imagine it played in Haiti. It comes from William Pinkerton, an Irishman who had been a sailor:

“With all its variety of cards, tarocchi is a childish, insipid, monotonous game. I have often seen it played in the coffee-houses of New Orleans, frequented by the Creole descendants of the French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana. The great point of the game is to form verzicole, or sequences; the Matta or Fool representing any other card, of which its holder might be deficient, to form the sequence.”

First post in the thread (from Michael Hurst), with references and links
https://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=88767

Here is my best response on that thread. Sorry I can't see the date on that, since Aeclectic is a reference only site now.

Hi Michael, Philebus et al.,
I was also quite struck by Pinkerton's mention of seeing tarot played in New Orleans, and the term "verzicole", which AFAIK is unique to Minchiate.

Since the term is purely Italian, it makes me wonder how it could be used by French speakers. The term is adopted into French as "Brizigole" by the time of the earliest printed rules "Regles du Jeu des Tarots", in 1637 - "Si quelqu'un a les quatre hautes ou les quatre basses de triomphes, ce qui s'appelle Brizigole, gaigne une marque de chacun." ("Regle" in the booklet for the Vieville tarot, p. 12, and note 15; see also http://www.tarock.info/depaulis.htm p. 6)(translation: "If somebody has four highest or the four lowest trumps, which is called Brizigole, wins a point for each one.")

Since it doesn't seem plausible that it was "re-Italianized" by the early 19th century in Louisiana, it appears that Pinkerton is really reporting a purely Italian term, from the game of Minchiate, in mid-19th century Louisiana. It is possible that the French players of this game were using a French 18th century rulebook for Minchiate. Here's something from Dummett and McLeod, "History of Games Played With the Tarot Pack" (Mellen, 2004) -


"Not only did Minchiate spread from Florence to other parts of Italy, to Rome and the Papal States, to Sicily and Liguria: it also became known abroad. In France, Nicholas de Poilly produced a Minchiate pack with highly non-standard designs in 1730, and in 1775 an instruction booklet Regles du Jeu des Minquiattes was printed. At least two descriptions of the game were published in German. One such was included in the second edition of the Die Kunst, die Welt erlaubt mitzunehmen in den verschiedenen Arten der Spiele (Nuremberg, 1769); this was a translation of that given in Il Giuoco Pratico. A separate account, which appears to be independent, was published in Dresden in 1798 under the title Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels (RMS); this is a very careful description, more explicit than any of the Italian ones and painstaking in its reproduction of the Italian terminology, which, however, it sometimes misspells. It is unlikely, though, that the vogue for Minchiate outside Italy was ever very widespread.


"The game of Minchiate is generically similar to that of Tarocchino. In both cases, the principal form is a four-handed game with fixed partnerships. In Minchiate, as in Tarocchino, there are scores for special combinations of cards, both when held in the hand of one player and declared at the beginning of play, and also when contained among the cards won in tricks by a pair of partners; and, as in Tarocchino, these scores swamp the points won in tricks. Both games have a bonus for winning the last trick; and neither has any idea of a special bonus for winning it with the trump I. In detail, however, the two games are very different." (pp. 327-328)


Unfortunately, Dummett and McLeod don't give an account of the French version's rules, so I can't say whether the Italian terminology was preserved, as it was in the second German account (RMS) mentioned by them. I suspect it would have, since there seems no indication that the game ever became naturalized and lost its Italian roots. There is no hint of a long independent development of the game in France, so the terms probably came straight from Italian. Thus, there is no problem in seeing French-descended Americans in New Orleans in the early 19th century (thanks Julien for asking about Pinkerton, and thanks Michael for finding the answers, because it tells us how he might have got to the port-city of New Orleans and about when. If he were a sailor early in life, that might mean he started about age 16, which would be (depending on the date of his birth, given in the two accounts variously as 1809 or 1811) around 1825 or 1827. If we give him a decade or two at sea, he might have seen the game played in New Orleans anywhere from 1825-1845) playing Minchiate with Italian terms.


It is doubly fascinating for me to find evidence of tarot (or Minchiate) in America. A while ago I asked on various groups if anyone with German ancestry in America could research family archives to find evidence of tarock coming over with the first immigrants. I suspected it would be in the Mid-West primarily. I never thought to look in French New Orleans! (Duh) I'm sure there must be other early evidence of tarot in America - or French Canada.


Ross
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#6
Anywho, back to the historical research that always seems to keep my interest over my fiction....or is there a difference?
I'd say that the difference is how many stories we use to fill the gaps between the facts. Like an archeologist assembling pottery fragments, sometimes there are enough that you only need a bit of glue and it can hold water again; sometimes there are only a few, and reconstructions demand a lot of speculation, and there will be arguments.

So if we have enough facts, evidence, data, sometimes they speak for themselves, and our narrative is self-evident, like when we assert that Tarot was invented no earlier than the late 1430s. There is no document that says that, but there is no other way to read the facts, both evidence and absence-of-evidence. Thus an uncharitable critic might say "It's fiction to say that Tarot was invented in Florence in the late 1430s," since that assertion or narrative is essentially the "glue" to our broken pottery. But if you know the facts, you know that it is not much glue at all, that the pieces fit together exactly as that.

A narrative is necessary, since history is not science, repeatable, testable, falsifiable. The evidence is all we have, it is accidental, and we cannot demand more. But the narrative in history takes the place of the theory in science; if it cannot be tested and repeated, it can at least suggest avenues of further investigation, where further evidence may be discovered. So the "fiction" or "story" in history has a place, and the most fruitful ones are the ones that not only use parsimony when accounting for all of the known evidence, but also risk a little bit by telling a story that can be researched (and thereby turn up evidence or not).

My own narrative or fiction of Bolognese Tarot, for instance, says that since the Bolognese played it by learning at the table for 350 years, they are the most likely to preserve the original - or an original - way of quickly apprehending the numberless sequence with no printed information. This, I assert, is what the designer had in mind when designing the sequence and choosing those subjects - to be easily recognized in groups, and quickly put into the mind. So, over those 350 years that the Bolognese had no rulebooks, there is a good chance that somebody wrote down an account of learning the game, in a diary, letter, or some other place, and that, over that time, history should have preserved a few such accounts. The problem is knowing where to look for such a needle in a haystack, and getting access, even if one has the time and money to do it.
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#7
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
30 Jul 2019, 17:15
There is evidence of Minchiate, maybe also a form of Tarot, in New Orleans in the mid-19th century, which must have arrived earlier, so you are not wrong to imagine it played in Haiti. It comes from William Pinkerton, an Irishman who had been a sailor:

“With all its variety of cards, tarocchi is a childish, insipid, monotonous game. I have often seen it played in the coffee-houses of New Orleans, frequented by the Creole descendants of the French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana. The great point of the game is to form verzicole, or sequences; the Matta or Fool representing any other card, of which its holder might be deficient, to form the sequence.”

First post in the thread (from Michael Hurst), with references and links
https://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=88767
Many thanks for the interesting info - there would certainly be a market in New Orleans where everything is touristy/occult driven (both of my sisters went to school there so been there several times). After the Saint-Domingue slave revolt many whites and "free people of color" headed for New Orleans and just about every other American seaport (from New York to Norfolk - but they couldn't stay in places like South Carolina, if they had domestic slaves with them, which did not want the "virus" of revolt stirring up their own slaves). Who knows if this game was played in Saint-Domingue proper but it was a very cosmopolitan place, with its own theater that produced the latest out of Paris (e.g., The Barber of Seville), its own scientific community and course plenty of coffeehouses. All burned to the ground. The "Pearl of the Antilles" is...well, Haiti. Not to excuse the worst slave regime that ever existed before the revolution: 400,000 slaves and 30,000 whites (with an equal number of "free people of color").

This is the French Revolution deck I had in mind - I'm sure you are familiar with it:
https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/new-p ... ic-1793-94

So important was Saint-Domingue to France's overall economy its exports made its way into this deck; the below card references the main two products of the island: sugar cane on the left (the colony was by far the biggest producer in the world) and coffee (grown in the mountains, mainly by the "free people of color" who also owned slaves, but coffee required less labor):


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Anywho, thanks again for the link and info.
Phaeded

Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#8
Phaeded, given what you know about the role of Decembrio in the Ambrosian Republic, and given that he wrote about Marziano's cards in his biography of FMV, how plausible is it, in your estimation, that Decembrio is the "enemy" that Marcello is alluding to when he says that he could not have found the cards "unless I had relied on the enemy"? So that Decembrio may have been either the source of Marcello's knowledge that the book and Michelino's deck existed, or he told him where to find it, or both.

It is further interesting to note that since it survived at all, there is the indication that much more of Visconti's stuff survived as well, falling into private collections, many items of which may have survived to this day, although many of them would not be known to have been from the looting of the castle in 1447.
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#9
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
31 Jul 2019, 16:53
Phaeded, given what you know about the role of Decembrio in the Ambrosian Republic, and given that he wrote about Marziano's cards in his biography of FMV, how plausible is it, in your estimation, that Decembrio is the "enemy" that Marcello is alluding to when he says that he could not have found the cards "unless I had relied on the enemy"? So that Decembrio may have been either the source of Marcello's knowledge that the book and Michelino's deck existed, or he told him where to find it, or both.

It is further interesting to note that since it survived at all, there is the indication that much more of Visconti's stuff survived as well, falling into private collections, many items of which may have survived to this day, although many of them would not be known to have been from the looting of the castle in 1447.

Unlike Filelfo, Decembrio threw himself into the endeavors of the Republic and supposedly even had a hand in developing its banner (sorry don't have the source handy) , so its possible Decembrio was considered an opponent of Sforza...but Decembrio tried to ingratiate himself with Sforza once he became duke. Filelfo in turn blamed Decembrio often for the Republic's misdeeds and with his usual vitriol, no doubt to elevate his own position over Decembrio with Sforza. Given that reality, its hard to make an objective assessment of Decembrio during the waning years of the Republic and earliest years of Sforza's reign when Filelfo clearly did play an instrumental role in legitimizing Sforza internally within Milan as well as abroad (while bashing Decembrio).

My earlier speculation on who the enemy was - the Ambrosian Republic itself (of which Decembrio was never an elected "captain"):
Two questions that are vexing WHY Marcello suddenly decided to send a gift to the wife of Rene of Anjou: 1. Since it was the arrival of this person in the Sforza camp that sparked the idea, who was Scipio Caraf(f)a and why was he there? [deleted here] 2. Who was the "enemy" that Marcello (or his middle man) dealt with to obtain the Marziano deck?

I don't see how #2 is not the Ambrosian Republic, or at least that Visconti's personal effects were held within Amb.Rep.-controlled territory, if not in Milan proper (perhaps the items were auctioned off, considering how cash-strapped the Amb.Rep was): "I exerted all of the keenest ingenuity for it, I started to pursue it night and day, how by negotiation after the death of the former prince, I might be influential for you. Indeed, for a long time it was difficult for one book and deck of cards to be able to be found among the furniture, so much of the riches and splendours of the Duke being scattered as well as destroyed in the disturbance. And because of the difficulty of things I would not have been able to investigate and to know, in any way whatsoever, unless I had depended on the enemy himself." On the strong possibility that Sforza or Marcello’s agent was behind “enemy lines” – in Milan (at the town hall of the Broletto where auctionable items were held) – to acquire the Marziano deck at auction:

“A detailed explanation of how this [auctions] was done survives from the period of the short-lived Ambrosian republic that governed Milan from 1447-1449 ….The need for a regularized system of auction sales was primarily due to the new government’s desperate need for cash to pay its mercenary armies. Everything that could be sold was put up for auction. This included the personal possessions of the deceased Visconti Duke, such as his jewelry as well as his tiles and bricks of his fortress, and the lands once under his control [has a Pratesi investigated these records for a reference to the deck?] (Evelyn S. Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400-1600, 2005: 189)
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1019&p=15253&hilit ... lch#p15253

I also don't have the source readily at hand, but I recall Bianca reacquiring the Visconti Hours through similar channels. I think Filelfo's rant against the Milanese for not observing the "funeral rites" for Filippo was in part directed at this outrage of selling off his personal effects (some of which may have been manuscripts written for the duke by Filelfo, so he'd be especially outraged).

But all of the above is putting a fine point on things: the bottom line is that the Ambrosian Republic was literally the enemy of the then-allied Venetians, under Marcello's direction, and Sforza's mercenary army (Venice only turned on Sforza the following year, yet Marcello writes as still friends; clearly he regretted Venice's turning against a personal friend in Sforza). So again, the simplest solution is an agent of the allies slipped into Milan and made various purchases at the auctions.

Phaeded

PS The Broletto in Milan, where the auctions were held, as it exists today - the first two levels would have been existing in the Quattrocento; an assembly place for a commune but basically used as a covered market in 1448 and very likely where once upon a time the Marziano deck was for sale at auction:
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Re: Tractatus de deficatione sexdecim heroum, text and translation

#10
Thanks, Phaeded. Maybe Ianziti's paper on the Vita gives more primary sources that will help give us a better picture of Decembrio's actions and thoughts during 1448-1449.

Does Welch give sources for the information about the duke's personal possessions being sold? It could be in some old journal that we could dig up, rather than unpublished archives which I don't think I could persuade Marco to have a go at. The only other Milanese I know who might have done it for me, Alberto Milano, passed away a few years ago.
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