Caitlin Geofroy, and the C order

In 1557, more than a century after the Trionfi cards were first invented, Catelin Geofroy, a cartier of Lyon, set out to print and sell decks of tarot cards in France, the first to do so, I believe. For the suit cards he copied from a then new deck made by Virgil Solis of Nürnberg, with lions, parrots, peacocks, and monkeys for the four suits. For the trump cards, he must have had some Italian deck he copied: no French tarot deck earlier than his survives, nor is there evidence of one. He numbered his trumps, and his order can be called a type-C order, in Dummett's system. So his Italian source deck was likely a type C one, from Milan or thereabouts. But his order is not exactly the same as any earlier surviving deck, from Milan or anywhere. The first five trumps are in the same order in all type C sources (with one exception), and Geofroy follows that order, but for the next nine trumps the order is different in various C sources, and Geofroy is different from any. Since many of Geofroy's cards are missing, we will first have to guess what his order was. Here is a table of these nine trumps, in the known type C sources.
c-order full RW590.jpg
c-order full RW590.jpg (94.61 KiB) Viewed 76 times
The first gap in Geofroy is position VIII. It must have been filled with some trump now missing. Perhaps it was trump XV, the Devil, or some trump with an even higher number, but this is not likely, as there would be no source for doing that, anywhere in the tarocchi world, and furthermore, of those who copied Geofroy, no such thing is found. Among tarocchi orders, it is mostly the virtues that move; for the Devil card to jump all the way from XV down to VIII would be very odd indeed. So we can rule out Devil or anything beyond that in position VIII. Therefore VIII must be Justice, Strength, or Wheel. If VIII is not Wheel, then Wheel must be X or XI, which is after Hermit at IX, so Wheel and Hermit are switched, and that is a change that is not just moving virtues. However, since all the cartiers in France who came after Geofroy, copied his order (except Viéville who we will discuss in a bit) and do have Wheel after Hermit, we can say that Geofroy most likely did move Wheel after Hermit. Since position VIII is not Wheel, it is either Justice or Strength. Of these two virtues, Justice is most likely, as both the Italians before him and the French after him, have Justice as the first virtue. So we conclude that trump VIII is Justice.

There remains to guess (of these nine trumps) only X and XI. It must be Strength before Wheel (like his Italian sources), or Strength after Wheel (like his French copiers). Which is most likely? Geofroy has made a major shuffle of his Italian source; cards got re-ordered in the range VII to XI. If Geofroy did not put Strength after Wheel, then it must have been AP who did it, re-ordering in the range X to XI. It would be an unlikely coincidence if AP, who elsewhere copies Geofroy's order exactly, happened by pure chance to make a shuffle of Geofroy in the same spot where Geofroy shuffled his Italian source. It is more likely that Geofroy did it all: having moved Strength and Wheel, he also switched them. So I think Geofroy made all the order changes, that were made, and the AP did not make any. Therefore Geofroy had Strength after Wheel, as his exact copiers have it.

The innovation in terms of order, that Geofroy made, was to put Hermit before Wheel. He also, maybe, put Strength after it. (He switched Hermit and Strength, in other words). Both innovations prevailed in France, and still do. A switch of Hermit and Strength, on either side of Wheel, is an interchange of trumps IX with XI. Getting the Roman numerals backwards is quite common in woodblock printing, due to the fact that right and left are switched between carving the wooden block, and what's printed from it. It's just a possibility, but maybe that happened in this case: IX was carved into the block for the 9th trump, and XI was carved for the 11th trump, and they came out switched. Note that Geofroy writes 4 as IIII rather than IV, but he writes 9 as IX.

In the above table, I included an order derived from the positions of the cards on the Cary Sheet. This assumes that the carver of the block carved the images in order, and carvers do tend to do that roughly, but not always exactly. In the Rosenwald sheets, the carver follows the order closely to start with, although he gets every Roman numeral backwards. But then Strength and Justice are both numbered VIII (Actually, they are both numbered IIIV). Then the next few cards are misordered compared to their own numbers and to any known A order, and then from Devil onward they are correct again, but he gives up on numbering the cards after card XII (actually IIX). Such departures from order occur in most sheets. Most typically, the carver, instead of doing the card he should have done, does the one next after it, or he does one a few spaces further ahead than that, but conceptually related to the one he should have done, such as doing one virtue instead of another. Copiers of medieval manuscripts made similar errors: it is known as haplography. The carver of the Cary sheet has made two or three such mis-orderings: compared to all other C orders, the Cary sheet has Hanged Man and Hermit switched, and has Strength three positions too early, as if the carver meant to carve Justice, but accidentally carved the other virtue, Strength. He may also have carved Pope where he meant to carve Popess. These mis-orderings on the block may be meaningless: it makes no difference to the deck of cards produced, in what order the cards were laid out on the block: it is just that they often are laid out in order, more or less, and this benefits us, the tarot nuts of half a millenium later.

Like the first five trumps, the last seven trumps show no variation at all in order within type C.
last seven RW590.jpg
last seven RW590.jpg (26.64 KiB) Viewed 76 times
Putting it all together, we can say there is a consensus Italian C order. Viéville has it exactly, Susio only switches Popess and Empress; Piscina has it exactly but groups the four Imperatori e Papi together. Alciati only switched Strength and Chariot. The Cary sheet carver followed this Italian C order with two or three mistakes. These departures probably don't mean real variation in play. The Susio poem for example, puts Empress before Popess; no other C order does this. The actual rules of play at the time, are probably those indicated by the Piscina 1565 source; the four Imperatori e Papi are grouped together; they probably had equal rank, a rule known later in the Tarocco Bolognese. Susio was not giving the rules of a game, he was writing a satirical poem, which purported to be about 21 prostitutes. He described these working girls one after another, so he had to put them in some order. Even if the four cards were equal in play, so he didn't know the order from his own indulgence in cards, it was easy to guess that Pope outranked Emperor, and males outranked females [in 1550]. It was also easy to guess that since Pope outranked Emperor, Popess should outrank Empress. Easy but wrong. So I don't put any weight on Susio putting Empress first. Concerning Alciati's Latin poem, I think there is ambiguity in getting a trump order from these Latin sentences; He says Fortuna's wheel will always trump the victor's chariot, but we can't necessarily read from this that Chariot is immediately before Wheel. When we read these poems and try to derive an order from each one, there are small variations, but no variation occurs in more than one poem. I don't think this means that each Milan player used a slightly different order: that would make no sense in a game. In sum, I think Milan had some trump order that everyone knew and used, with the four Imperatori e Papi ranking equally, and I see no reason to think that any place in the northwest of Italy played tarocchi in any other way. Compared to this order, Geofroy switched the positions of Hermit and Strength, (Wheel is between them), and moved Justice to after Chariot.

Since the order started by Geofroy and later used in all of France, differs from the Italian C order as found in the poems, only in the range of trumps VII through XI, I will speak of common C order when I am talking about trumps outside of those. When I need to, I will distinguish Italian C order, from French C order.

The Cary sheet, as actually carved, differs from the Italian C order by having two or three things switched, and Geofroy differs from the Italian C order with two things switched, but completely different things than the Cary sheet. So there is nothing Geofroy-like about the Cary sheet's order. It is an Italian C-order deck, with typical departures from exact order in the carving, that may have meant nothing for play.


This will be followed by a post, which I will post as a reply to this one, on the differences between Jacques Viéville and Jean Noblet.

Re: Caitlin Geofroy, and the C order

I meant to include some references but I forgot.

Cary Sheet

Alciato poem :

Susio poem
Dummett's mention : ... cards.html
(this includes an excellent table by Marco Ponzi.)

A good reference by "mmfilesi" for many source documents concerning order is here:
but no link to an online text of Piscina. I will look more.

Catelin Geofroy
700 px images : ... 1557-lyon/

Anonymous Parisian BnF calls this deck 1600-1650

Jacques Viéville BnF calls this deck 1650

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests