A very bad translation of a Franco Pratesi article on parchment naibi

#1
I present with great diffidence my very bad translation, if indeed it merits that word. I have found several references to Pratesi's idea that early naibi were on parchment (or perhaps he means something else made from skins). None of these referencesw have been in English. Sentences I am especially unsure about I have marked **
The original is
1487: San Miniato - Due paia di carte da giuchare. (01.07.2014)
located : http://www.naibi.net/A/325-RUFFELLI-Z.pdf

1487: San Miniato - Two decks of playing cards

Franco Pratesi - 01.07.2014

INTRODUCTION

I recently visited the historical Archives of the Municipality in San Miniato Basso (ACSM); and for the preliminary information on the location and on the archive I can refer to what I have I have already written in a previous note. (1) The documents that I tried first were those of the Academy of Volunteers, of the nineteenth century, but the presence in the ACSM of also some older material led me to search for news about the history of playing cards, hoping to find some new information on the naibi and on triumphs.

1. The archival collection
[ I could not translate this section as it has XV century Italian in it.]

2. The book of accounts

I began examining the accounting books in the Opera Ruffella collection, looking first at one that has a heading different from the others: instead of indicating Marchionne Ruffelli alone, it indicates him together to his companions, spezialli or speziali. (4) Here is how the book in question is presented in the Inventory. (2)

«341 (1486/1497) Journal of the income and expenditure of Marchionne Ruffelli and "special companions". Register with Rep .; cc. 142; 30x22x3; Parchment."

In Fig. 1 the title page of the book is reproduced, which also contains an indication of the content. In fact, the goods sold are even more varied than one might expect in a grocery store. There are indeed many sugared almonds, pepper, and the like, but there are also knives, cloths, and other items that you would rather think of finding in a classic village shop, where you can find for sale all sorts of things.

The information contained in this book is very copious, because the pages are all completely written, with a very minute writing, and with minimal spaces left between the lines. For as regards the spelling, I must confess that the last months passed on documents of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries my vision was blurred by those of the fifteenth century, which I read better before.

3. The two decks of cards

Among all the various merchandise of the San Miniato grocery I also found "due paja di carte da giuchare." [two decks of playing cards]. The interested person is a widow: Madonna Leonora wife was of Giunta Barbers. Playing cards fall into a list of objects inserted at different times. In this case, the date indicated is December 23, 1487, more than a century after the first news on the naibi in Florence.

As with other objects, the indication refers for more details to a previous one registration in another book of accounts. I asked permission to reproduce the text, visible in the Fig. 2, so that anyone can better enter the news in the context, reading in person all the information stored in this regard.

I also looked for any indications of other decks of cards among the goods recorded in the book, but I did not find any. As I said above, I can not exclude that an eye better exercised may instead find many there.

For now, I dwell on these two decks, as they were really the only ones documented in all this archival collection.

That the decks of playing cards were then referred to as pairs of cards is a known fact; the term a pair with the meaning of a bunch is still frequent later, even in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, there is the spelling of giuchare when we would most commonly write giocare or giuocare, but giuchare is quite understandable and reasonably common.

Of a certain importance is the fact that of these two decks of cards we find the cost. There sum of 3s. 8d. for two decks of cards corresponds to 1s. 10d. per deck, or 1L. 2s. a dozen.

Compared to what we know from sales in Florence a few decades earlier (5), this is a low price, which was found only among paper goods, like the productions of Niccolò di Calvello. ** This fact confirms the opinion that the playing cards had become over time objects of daily use, which no longer had those characteristics of finely crafted works and paintings, which only in a small part do we actually know.

4. Discussion and comments

I had to reflect on the fact that here the playing cards are called playing cards. This may not seem a point surprising enough to be reflected on: in fact, the term that would be surprising here is precisely "naibi," which in Florence was practically used exclusively, from the earliest times.

In particular, if one says card, there may be the ambiguity between a piece of paper in general and one specifically cut and painted for use as a game tool; so much so that normally it is written, as here, with the complete indication playing card, unless the context is such as to exclude other interpretations from the start.

If instead we talk about naibi, the ambiguity is of a different kind. None of the historians who have been interested has questioned that the naibi were playing cards, but the attributions were divided between those who saw in these particular papers those "original" or we might say "Islamic" cards, with some little figurines for childish games, ** and those who - erroneously - identified them with the triumphs, indeed especially with those particular cards of the triumphs that were usually later referred to as the major arcana by specialists (of course, not by serious players and historians). **

The main problem with the naibi, considered from the point of view of the terminology, is that it is not a word belonging to the Italian lexicon but it would seem introduced from the outside, presumably together with the objects called by that name.

There are several Italian cities where playing cards were called cards from the beginning, and the term naibi does not appear in any document. Over time, even when they used the term "naibi," it was paraphrased with the more "Italian" term of cards. In Florence the term of naibi resisted longer than elsewhere.

But were the naibi really the same thing as ordinary playing cards? By now you can be sure that the sometimes suggested distinction of naibi as triumphs has no reason to be maintained. Personally I agree with the experts who for many decades now consider naibi as the first "ordinary" playing cards used in Florence.

In short, one can pass from the use of the term naibi to that of cards to indicate the same object, or at least one that was very similar and usable as an alternative. The point on which I am found to reflect is just this: were "cards" really identical to "naibi" or were they only one updated version?

I have no valid reasons to support the hypothesis, however, it is not impossible, that between naibi and cards there were also differences in the total number of cards in the deck, or in the images depicted on them, in particular a different distributions of the "numeral" cards and those higher, the face cards. We admit, however, for simplicity, that they were just the same elements, with the same numbers and the same figures.

However, I still have doubts about the identity of the two objects. In particular I am inclined to assign a "normal" paper substance only to playing cards and not to naibi. Many historians have suggested that the naibi were painted parchment sheets. Well, if the naibi were parchment, and cards were paper, this may already be a reason that is sufficiently valid for the introduction of the two different names for similar objects.

The transformation of parchment material to paper may have occurred at different times in the various places and, above all, that the previous processing of the paintings on parchment is kept only in places where the production of objects of that kind was in full development.

One point that seems important to me is that already in the middle of the fourteenth century we find a large importation of argenpelli [pieces of silver-gilt leather] and gilded leather, as well as other leather from the Iberian Peninsula, probably starting from Morocco and maybe beyond. (6) About the gilded leather, or even gold leaf, one can remember that golden background was a typical feature of the finest Florentine cards.

Even the natives who arrived in Rome in 1428 by sea were part of an shipment including hide bundles. (7) ** If that association was consolidated, and as long as the naibi were products in the field of leather goods, there was no reason to call them cards. Only when it became convenient to replace the parchment with the "bambagina paper" it became natural to use for those objects of a name deriving from the material with which they were made.

In short, in my opinion, if in San Miniato in 1487 we find two paja di charte da giuchare instead of the "usual" naibi, this means that by now the use of paper had long prevailed also in the manufacture of those objects and therefore the term used to indicate the cards originally no longer had any reason to be used.

I do not think that the difference in the term was due to the fact that it was quite far from Florence and therefore the typically "Florentine" term of naibi was not used so far away.

CONCLUSION

At the end of 1487 two decks of playing cards are recorded in the books of a grocery store of San Miniato. Here we discuss the indication, the cost, and the terminology used, comparing these data with those known for Florence in previous times of a few decades.

The spelling of this register does not allow a fluent reading and it is possible that others recordings of this kind have so far escaped the attention of those who consulted it.

NOTE [ If you want to follow any of these links I suggest you do so from the original .pdf - sandyh ]
1. http://naibi.net/A/324-PULCINELLI-Z.pdf
2.http://ast.sns.it/index.php?id=13&uid=5 ... gati_CA_27
_Operepieecompagnielaicali&L=0
3. ASFI, Regia Consulta, Prima Serie, 456, c. 169 r.
4. ACSM, Opera Ruffella, 341.
5. http://naibi.net/A/123-SILKPUR-Z.pdf
6. The Playing-Card, 26 No. 2 (1997) 38-45; http://naibi.net/A/64-ORPELLI-Z.pdf
7. http://trionfi.com/evx-oldest-known-nai ... rt-to-rome

Re: A very bad translation of a Franco Pratesi article on parchment naibi

#2
Nice, Sandy. I actually once discussed the translation of terms in this essay--notably, "orpelli", but didn't post what I had, because of problems with the par you skipped. He said "argenpelli" meant "silver gilded parchment" and "orpelli" was gold-gilded parchment, or gilded with either. In fact in one of the links, an article in The Playing Card with an English-language summary (http://www.naibi.net/A/64-ORPELLI-Z.pdf), he defines, in the English part, orpelli as "leaflets of parchment covered by a thin film with the aspect of gold or silver".

I can't remember what Franco said about "pellame" and "pelletteria", whether he meant animal skins in general or the stretched animal skins known as parchment in particular. Maybe I didn't ask.

Otherwise, I only saw two errors. You translated "naibi" as "natives" once, surely just a typo. And "figurine" would be "sketches" or maybe "little figures", as opposed to "figurines", which in English are little statues.

Also, I think the reader unfamiliar with Italian could have used a little more help. So for clarity:

Franco begins the section "The two decks of cards: by focusing on the phrase due paja di carte da giuchare.

First, although this is easy to figure out, the word "paja" in " "due paja di carte da giuchare" in modern Italian means "pair". So it needs some explanation in this context. It doesn't mean two pair of cards. That is why Pratesi says (and here the words in brackets are mine]:
That decks of playing cards were then referred to as paia [paja in modern spelling, "pairs" in modern Italian] of cards is a known fact; the term paia with the meaning of "bunch" is still frequent later, even in the eighteenth century.
Second, there is the discussion of the term guichare, not a word in modern Italian.
On the other hand, there is the spelling giuchare when we would most commonly write giocare or giuocare [to play, playing], but giuchare is quite understandable and reasonably common.
Then comes the discussion of the combination. Sandy's translation could be mystifying to someone unfamliar with Italian. I suggest:
I had to reflect on the fact that here playing cards are called carte da giuchare [literally, cards of playing]. This may not seem a point surprising enough to be reflected on: in fact, the term that would be surprising here is precisely that of naibi, which in Florence was used almost exclusively, from the earliest times.

In particular, if one says carta, there may be the ambiguity between a piece of paper [carta] in general and one specifically cut and painted for use as a game tool; so much so that normally it is written, as here, with the complete indication carte de guichare [playing card], unless the context is such as to exclude other interpretations from the start.
This is because in Italian, unlike English, the word "carta" (singular of "carte") can mean either a piece of paper or a playing card. In English, "card" means something relatively small made of paper, usually with writing or a picture on it, or intended to have writing or a picture on it, and with the paper stiffer and more durable than usual. Playing cards, greeting cards, calling cards, card-stock, etc. It is not the same in Italian.

So when Sandy's translation speaks of "the term card" that corresponds to "the term carta", i.e. the more ambiguous term in Italian, not the less ambiguous term in English.

The term naibi, however, always meant "playing card". Why did the term naibi die out, to be replaced by the term "carta"? First, what were included under the designation naibi. Pratesi says,
If instead we talk about naibi, the ambiguity is of a different kind. None of the historians who have been interested has questioned that the naibi were playing cards, but the attributions were divided between those who saw in these particular carte [cards or pieces of paper] those "original", we might say "Islamic" cards, with some little figures [or sketches] for childish games, and those who - erroneously - identified them with the triumphs, indeed especially with those particular cards of the triumphs that were usually later referred to as major arcana by specialists (of course, not by serious players and historians).
In other words, naibi included more than triumphs, but cards for playing games generally.

The reason for naibi is that playing cards weren't just made of paper in the early days, but also parchment, which in fact (as we learn from another of Pratesi's essays, I think) was the material used for images of the saints. Sometimes it was plain parchment, sometimes gilded parchment, either silver or gold, or even gold leaf. So:
One point that seems important to me is that already in the middle of the fourteenth century we find a large importation of argenpelli [silver-gilt parchment] and orpelli [gold-gilt parchment], as well as other pellame [parchment?] from the Iberian Peninsula, probably starting from Morocco and maybe beyond. (6) About the gilded parchment, or even [that with] gold leaf, one may recall that golden background was a typical feature of the finest Florentine cards.

Even the naibi that arrived in Rome in 1428 by sea were part of an shipment including bundles of pellame [parchment, or perhaps hides]. (7) If that association was consolidated, and as long as the naibi were products in the field of leather goods, there was no reason to call them carte. Only when it became convenient to replace the parchment with "bambagina paper" [called in English "Amalfi paper", a particular kind of paper made from rags] did it become natural to use for those objects a name deriving from the material with which they were made.
I am not sure if by "bambagina paper" he means rag paper in general or the particular type made in Amalfi.

Re: A very bad translation of a Franco Pratesi article on parchment naibi

#3
Thank you much for your kind and forgiving reply.

Paying more attention to what someone who knows even less than me, will make of what I write, is something I can learn to do. My carelessness is probably incurable.

You provide one answer I was looking for, that orpelli and argenpelli were used for images of saints. I couldn't figure out what they were used for. There was quite an industry of exporting them without the saints already on them, I gather, and Pratesi says proudly that Florence produced the very best. Do you know about how big we are talking about? I have seen gold backgrounds for art works (seen online) but I don't remember much about them.

I knew about both the "bunch" meaning lasting to the 18th cent, (from that paper you quote), and there is also another paper where Pratesi suggests a paia di carte was called that because it was printed on a pair of woodblocks. Both explanations are not needed: if paia can mean bunch, it does not also have to mean a pair of scissors. (Although I am quite willing to believe that ordinary naibi were indeed printed with 2 blocks, and naibi di trionfi with those two, plus a third.)

As for naibi indicating parchment, and carte (when applied to games) meaning rag paper, Pratesi's own later research makes this improbable, since decks called naibi are too cheap.

Now we come to a form of argument which, if accepted, is quite powerful, even dangerous. If we look at all the retail account books, and we assume that at some date around the transitioin there were some parchment decks and some rag-paper decks in many merchants' shops, that is a fact that the merchants would need to record carefully. But there is not the consistency of use of the terms, or a correlation with price. A notion that Fino implies parchment, does not seem to work. I call this a dangerous form of argument, because it might be used like this: suppose (as Pratesi thinks somewhere else) that Italy shifted at some point, from decks with 56 cards (or anyway 4 face cards as Saint Bernardino of Siena denounced in 1423, and as John of Rhein-something-or-other praised in Basel in 1377 (or maybe 1423)) to 48 card decks at some point, like those of the Rosenwald sheets. Then there must have been a time when retailers had some 48 card decks, and some 52 or 56 card decks, in their shops. With so many attributes carefully reported, they could hardly have thought it not worth noting, the one attribute that would make some customers think they had been cheated of 4 or 8 cards.

In fact, I don't believe the Italians played with 48 cards in the XV century,, (and if they did later centuries I'd expect to have heard about it.) All the same, I'm not quite sure I can accept negative arguments from merchant's cash-books.

Now maybe I'll post Nuts, Waffles, and Aniseed Muffins

Re: A very bad translation of a Franco Pratesi article on parchment naibi

#4
CORRECTED VERSION

The original is
1487: San Miniato - Due paia di carte da giuchare. (01.07.2014)
located : http://www.naibi.net/A/325-RUFFELLI-Z.pdf

1487: San Miniato - Two decks of playing cards

Franco Pratesi - 01.07.2014

INTRODUCTION

I recently visited the historical Archives of the Municipality in San Miniato Basso (ACSM); and for the preliminary information on the location and on the archive I can refer to what I have I have already written in a previous note (1). The documents that I tried first were those of the Academy of Volunteers, of the nineteenth century, but the presence in the ACSM of also some older material led me to search for news about the history of playing cards, hoping to find some new information on the naibi and on triumphs.

1. The archival collection [ I could not translate this section as it has XV century Italian in it.]

2. The book of accounts

I began examining the accounting books in the Opera Ruffella collection, looking first at one that has a heading different from the others: instead of indicating Marchionne Ruffelli alone, it indicates him together to his companions, spezialli or speziali (4). Here is how the book in question is presented in the Inventory (2).

«341 (1486/1497) Journal of the income and expenditure of Marchionne Ruffelli and “special companions." Register with Rep .; cc. 142; 30x22x3; Parchment.”

In Fig. 1 the title page of the book is reproduced, which also contains an indication of the content. In fact, the goods sold are even more varied than one might expect in a grocery store. There are indeed many sugared almonds, pepper, and the like, but there are also knives, cloths, and other items that you would rather think of finding in a classic village shop, where you can find for sale all sorts of things.

The information contained in this book is very copious, because the pages are all completely written, with a very minute writing, and with minimal spaces left between the lines. For as regards the spelling, I must confess that the last months passed on documents of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries my vision was blurred by those of the fifteenth century, which I read better before.
post me 1.jpg
(118.89 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Figure 1 - Title page of the book of accounts examined.
(ACSM, Opera Ruffella, 341)

3. The two decks of cards

Among all the various merchandise of the San Miniato grocery I also found “due paja di carte da giuchare.” [two decks of playing cards]. The interested person is a widow: Madonna Leonora wife was of Giunta Barbers. Playing cards fall into a list of objects inserted at different times. In this case, the date indicated is December 23, 1487, more than a century after the first record of naibi in Florence.

As with other objects, the entry refers for more details to a previous entry in another book of accounts. I asked permission to reproduce the text, visible in the Fig. 2, so that anyone can better see the discovery in context, reading in person all the information stored in this regard.

I also looked for any indications of other decks of cards among the goods recorded in the book, but I did not find any. As I said above, I can not exclude that an eye better exercised may instead find many there.

For now, I dwell on these two decks, as they were really the only ones documented in all this archival collection.

That a deck of playing cards was then referred to as a pair (paia) of cards is a known fact; the term “paia” with the meaning of a bunch is still frequent later, even in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, there is the spelling of giuchare (play) when we would most commonly write giocare or giuocare, but the spelling giuchare is quite understandable and not even especially rare.

Of some importance is the fact that of these two decks of cards we find the cost. There sum of 3s. 8d. for two decks of cards corresponds to 1s. 10d. per deck, or 1L. 2s. a dozen.
post me 2.jpg
(114.32 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Figure 2 - Original of the text under discussion.
(ACSM, Opera Ruffella, 341, c.3r)

Compared to what we know from sales in Florence a few decades earlier (5), this is a low price, which was found only among paper goods, like the productions of Niccolò di Calvello. This fact confirms the opinion that the playing cards had become over time objects of daily use, which no longer had those characteristics of finely crafted works and paintings, only a few of which have been preserved.

4. Discussion and comments

I had to reflect on the fact that here the playing cards are called playing cards. This may not seem a point surprising enough to be reflected on: in fact, the term that would be surprising here is precisely “naibi,” which in Florence was used, practically exclusively, from the earliest times.

In particular, if in Italian one says card, there may be the ambiguity between a piece of paper in general and one specifically cut and painted for use as a game tool; so much so that normally it is written, as here, with the complete indication playing card, unless the context is such as to exclude other interpretations from the start.

If instead we talk about naibi, the ambiguity is of a different kind. None of the historians who have been interested has questioned that naibi were playing cards, but the attributions were divided between those who saw in these particular cards those “original” or we might say “Islamic” cards, such as we used for our childhood games, and those historians who - erroneously - identified them with the tarot cards, indeed especially with those particular tarot cards that were usually later referred to as the major arcana by specialists (not by serious card players of course, nor by historians).

The main problem with “naibi,” considered from the point of view of the terminology, is that it is not a word belonging to the Italian lexicon but was seemingly introduced from the outside, presumably together with the objects called by that name.

There are several Italian cities where playing cards were called cards from the beginning, and the term naibi does not appear in any document. Over time, even when they used the term “naibi,” it was paraphrased with the more Italian term of cards. In Florence the term of naibi resisted longer than elsewhere.

But were the naibi really the same thing as ordinary playing cards? By now you can be sure that the sometimes suggested distinction of naibi as the tarot trump cards has no reason to be maintained. Personally I agree with the experts who for many decades now consider naibi as the first “ordinary” playing cards used in Florence.

In short, one can pass from the use of the term naibi to that of cards to indicate the same object, or at least one that was very similar and usable as an alternative. The point on which I am found to reflect is just this: were “cards” really identical to “naibi” or were they only one updated version?

I have no valid reasons to support the hypothesis, however, it is not impossible, that between naibi and cards there were also differences in the total number of cards in the deck, or in the images depicted on them, in particular a different distribution of the number cards and the higher ranking face cards. We admit, however, for simplicity, that they were just the same elements, with the same number cards and the same face cards.

However, I still have doubts about the identity of the two objects. In particular I am inclined to assign a “normal” paper substance only to playing "cards" and not to "naibi." Many historians have suggested that the naibi were painted parchment sheets. Well, if the naibi were parchment, and cards were paper, this may already be a reason that is sufficiently valid for the introduction of the two different names for similar objects.

The switch from parchment material to paper may have occurred at different times in different places and, above all, the old practice of painting on parchment may have been kept up only in places where the production of objects of that kind was at the highest level of development.

One point that seems important to me is that already in the middle of the fourteenth century we find a large importation of argenpelli [sheets of silver-gilt parchment] and orpelli [gold-gilt parchment], as well as other parchment and leather from the Iberian Peninsula, probably starting from Morocco and maybe beyond (6). About the gilded parchment, or even gold leaf, one can remember that golden background was a typical feature of the finest Florentine cards.

Even the naibi who arrived in Rome in 1428 by sea were part of an shipment including hide bundles (7). If that association was consolidated, and as long as the naibi were products in the field of leather goods, there was no reason to call them cards. Only when it became convenient to replace the parchment with fine rag-made paper (“bambagina paper”) did it became natural to use for those objects of a name deriving from the material from which they were made.

In short, in my opinion, if in San Miniato in 1487 we find two paja di charte da giuchare instead of the “usual” naibi, this means that by now the use of paper had long prevailed also in the manufacture of those objects and therefore the term used to indicate the cards originally no longer had any reason to be used.

I do not think that the difference in the term was due to the fact that it was quite far from Florence and therefore the typically “Florentine” term of naibi was not used so far away.

CONCLUSION

At the end of 1487 two decks of playing cards are recorded in the books of a grocery store of San Miniato. Here we discuss the indication, the cost, and the terminology used, comparing these data with those known for Florence in times a few decades earlier.

The spelling of this register does not allow a fluent reading and it is possible that other recordings of this kind have so far escaped the attention of those who consulted it.

NOTE

1. http://naibi.net/A/324-PULCINELLI-Z.pdf
2. http://ast.sns.it/index.php?id=13&uid=5 ... aicali&L=0
[ if this link fails, try: https://tinyurl.com/y9xfyzmz ]
3. ASFI, Regia Consulta, Prima Serie, 456, c. 169 r.
4. ACSM, Opera Ruffella, 341.
5. http://naibi.net/A/123-SILKPUR-Z.pdf
6. The Playing-Card, 26 No. 2 (1997) 38-45; http://naibi.net/A/64-ORPELLI-Z.pdf
7. http://trionfi.com/evx-oldest-known-nai ... rt-to-rome

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