Court de Gébelin / Etteilla Translations

As some of you already know, a period translation of the Tarot works of both these authors has recently resurfaced online. The translation was done by Charles Rainsford, a prominent English Freemason who had a lot of contact with European Masons, and who attended the congresses of the Philalethes, among other things.

Rainsford’s manuscript translation includes Court’s essay, the essay by de Mellet, and not a few writings by Etteilla. What the current catalogues miss is that approximately 3 and a half of the 4 volumes are in fact of Etteilla’s works, including most of his 4 Cahiers. The university website where it may be found is here: ... 6033503681&
and the PDF files may be found here, courtesy of John:

I have prepared a preliminary catalogue, to be published on my blog soon, but I thought I would put it here first as I am neither a specialist of Etteilla, nor have I read Rainsford’s 4 volumes in their entirety. If there is anything missing, or if anyone has any insightful comments on the material, I will be glad to add it to my presentation. I will add some further comments later. The links I had included to the originals have vanished unfortunately, but here is the list at any rate.

The Contents of the Work
• Court de Gébelin’s essay, “An Enquiry into the Origin of the Game of Tharot”, is found in volume 1 from pages 1-144; and corresponds to pages 365-394 of vol. VIII of "Le Monde Primitif".
• This is followed by an “Appendix to This Treatise” on pages 145-150, by Rainsford himself, providing further insight into his research into the subject, including references to the contemporary historical articles by Roger Gough and Daines Barrington, published in the eight volume of Archaeologia.
• De Mellet’s essay “The Book of Toth” is found on pages 150-221; and corresponds to pages 395-410 of vol. VIII of "Le Monde Primitif".
• Etteilla’s “The Method of Playing with the Pack of Cards called Tarots” is from page 222 on until the end of the first MS volume, and continues in volume 2 until page 17. This corresponds to pages iii-96 of the First Cahier of the "Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots" (1783).
• On pages 19-174, we find the Supplement to the First Cahier, which corresponds to pages 97-182 of the original.
• The second part, “The Game of Cards called Tarots”, begins in Volume 2 of Rainsford’s MS, from pages 1 [page 176 after the first section, or page 181 of the PDF], and continues to page 135 of Volume 3 of Rainsford’s MS. This corresponds to the Second Cahier of the "Maniere de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées Tarots" (1785), from pages 2-154.
• This is immediately followed by the "Chronological and Genealogical Table from Holy Writ", from pages 136-149 of Rainsford’s MS, and which corresponds to the table inserted between pages 154-155 of the original French.
• Next, we find the “Instructions for Drawing the Cards Called Tharots”, being the Third Cahier of the "Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots", from pages 150-254. The last few pages were left untranslated by Rainsford (pages 55-58 of the original French), as he says: “The rest does not seem of Importance to attend to.”
• The Supplement to the Third Cahier follows on pages 257-230 [the pages are misnumbered from page 328], and corresponds to pages 59-124 of the original. Pages 124-142 of the original have been omitted.
• It is, however, followed by the “Fragment Upon the Sublime Sciences with a Note Upon the 3 Sorts of Medicine administered to Man, one of which is improperly [laid?] aside”, on pages 231-246 of Rainsford’s MS, corresponding to pages i-viii of the original, "Fragment sur les hautes sciences, suivi d’une note sur les trois sortes de médecines données aux hommes, dont une mal-à-propos délaissée". This comprises the preface to this brief work, and ends Volume 3 of Rainsford’s MS.
• The “Fragment Upon the Sublime Sciences” proper is continued in the fourth volume of Rainsford’s MS, from pages 1-83, corresponding to pages 3-60 of the original, with the last few pages (61-64) omitted once again.
• Next we find the “The Game of Tarots or The Book of Thot Opened After the Egyptians To Serve For the Interpretation of Dreams & Visions by Day or by Night” on pages 84-161, being a translation of "Jeu des tarots, ou le livre de Thot ouvert à la manière des Égyptiens, pour servir ici à l’interprétation de tous les rêves, songes et visions diurnes et nocturnes", corresponding to pages 1-12 of the original.
• The “Book of Thot” follows, on pages 102-110, corresponding to pages 1-4 of the "Livre de Toth" (1789).
• “The Amusement of the Game of Cards called Tarots”, being the Fourth Cahier of the "Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots", is on pages 1 [page 111 of the MS, or page 130 of the PDF] to 141, ending abruptly on what corresponds to page 92 of the original. This means that Rainsford translated approximately 2/3 of the Fourth Cahier, and omitted the Supplement to that volume entirely. The blank pages following this section, and the lack of an end note or colophon, suggest that Rainsford intended to return to this translation, but for reasons unknown, never did.

Re: Court de Gébelin / Etteilla Translations

You cite the author as saying "“I have a pack of 93” and speculate that perhaps he means a Minchiate with a few cards missing. It is possible that he means one of the decks brought to London in 1793, as he writes at the end of your current selections
It has been published at Paris at different Times in small Pamphlets, recompiled afterwards in 2 small 8vo. Volumes accompanied by the cards, & were sold in London by a French Gentleman of Literature who came to London in 1793 to escape Persecution to an eminent Bookseller [of] Charing Cross of whom I bought the Work – and amused myself in considering it. It is called, The Recreation of the Game of Tarots By Etteilla.
That's a very attractive looking blog, I must say. And you've whetted my appetite. I didn't realize there was commentary, too. Does he say anything about Etteilla's first book, on cartomancy with the 32 card Piquet deck?

Re: Court de Gébelin / Etteilla Translations

Looking at the book itself, vol. 1 p. 8, I see that you are probably right. You can tell from the asterisk next to "78" that it is the number of cards in the deck that he is talking about.

The incomplete thought ending in "from" is picked up on the bottom of the next page, where he says "I first saw it in Naples, in the year 1771", etc. with a line between it and the rest, to make it clear that he isn't paraphrasing Gebelin.

People should be advised that this is not a very reliable translation, at least what I have read of the de Gebelin, comparing it to SteveM's (which I have checked against the original). The first few pages are more a rambling paraphrase, although Rainsford does get down to business once discussing the actual cards. Even then he leaves out important points, for example where Gebelin says the Fool is 0 (Gebelin's main point) as well as being put after 21 (he does say the latter), and while correctly having the Fool's animal as a tyger, like Gebelin, he misunderstands where the animal bites, not his shoulders but his rump. Another example: he has the Saracens burning the Egyptian libraries, destroying anything of literature or science they could find; Gebelin does not say who burned the libraries. He has Gebelin crediting the invention of chess to the Chinese, when in fact Gebelin attributes it to the Indians. And so on, although he does get the gist of it right. I will be interested in his commentary, and what he makes of Etteilla's less lucid prose. I am surprised at how legible the handwriting is, although from looking at vol 4 it appears to get worse.
Screenshot_2020-12-01 Full page photo - Ms Codex 1692 - An enquiry into the origin of the game of tharot (Volume 1) pdf.png
(687.19 KiB) Not downloaded yet

Re: Court de Gébelin / Etteilla Translations

Ronan wrote, in post 1
• De Mellet’s essay “The Book of Toth” is found on pages 150-221; and corresponds to pages 395-410 of vol. VIII of "Le Monde Primitif".

A small point, but more to Rainsford's credit: What he says is (p. 150):
It is called,
An Enquiry into the Game of Tarots - And
Divination upon Cards
The Comte de M***
which he calls
The Book of Thot.
He spells it "Thot", just as de Mellet did. It is odd that he did not translate "Thot" into the English term "Thoth".

I love the links on your website.

Re: Court de Gébelin / Etteilla Translations

I had noted the first part is more or less a paraphrase (somewhere?), and Rainsford places some the material at the end of Court’s essay towards the beginning as well, as I recall. But he veers towards a more literal translation quite quickly, and we can guess at the reasons for his presentation of the material. Also take care to distinguish the notes written in in a different ink, probably red, which has now become a less distinguishable shade of brown.

Thoth, Toth, Thot, yes, my mistake.

You’re welcome, that’s what they are there for.

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