Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document

At the tail end of last year, I found a weird Etteilla document in the catalogue of the Wellcome Library. They dated it to approximately 1790 and described it as being similar to some of Etteilla's other works. I made arrangements to have it scanned and put online. Yesterday, I got an email from the image service saying that my order had been completed. Here are the scans if anyone is interested:

At first, I believed it to be a handwritten "book proof" for Etteilla's unpublished 1782 book that was rejected by the censors and later reworked into the 1783 book titled Manière de se récréer avec le Jeu de Cartes nommées Tarots, pour servir de troisième Cahier à cet ouvrage, which we now regard as "ground zero" for modern Tarot cartomancy. Upon further inspection, I now believe it to be something else. I'll explain my line of thinking point-by-point.


The first thing I looked at was the title page. It reads Tablette categorique des significations du Livre de Thot. I'm never heard of this title before today. Searching online, I could only find one mention of it anywhere. See page 156 of the book here: This book is from 1805, so we know that our mystery document dates from before then.

If you look at the title page closely, it's apparent that the text has been pasted over the original page.

On the back of the title page, you can see where the ink from another title bled through. The words "Cartonomantie" and "ou" are clearly visible.

According to the biography by J.-B. Millet-Saint-Pierre, Etteilla was furious about the title "Manière de se récréer avec le Jeu de Cartes nommées Tarots" being forced on him by the censors, and he continued to argue throughout his lifetime that the "real" title of his 4-Cahier opus was La Cartonomancie Egyptienne ou les Tarots. Additionally, on page 83 of A Wicked Pack of Cards DDD state that they found an archive record listing the original title as Cartonomanie Egiptienne, ou interprétation de 78 hierogliphes qui sont sur les cartes nommées Tarots. In the right-hand column of this record, someone has written, "cancelled 20 November 1782."

Sure enough, later in this document we find the phrase "La Cartonomancie Egyptienne" again. Combined with the pasted-over title, it looks more and more likely that this is the 1782 book, doesn't it?


Over time, Etteilla seemed to change his thinking regarding the placement of the Fool. In his 3rd Cahier (published in 1783), Etteilla numbers it 0 and places it between cards 21 and 22. In subsequent publications, he's changed the number to 78 and moved it to the end of the deck where it will remain for the rest of his career. This document places the Fool between cards 21 and 22, indicating that it aligns with Etteilla's pre-1783 way of thinking (see below). So far so good!

However, we must also remember that in contrast to Etteilla's other students (and Etteilla himself, in his later years), Joubert de La Salette reverted back to the older placement of the Fool in his Dictionnaire Synonimique du Livre de Thot (1791). See here:


Additionally, Etteilla made small modifications to his divinatory keywords after his 1783 publication. By the time he published his deck in 1789, several of them had been changed. Comparing the 1783 keywords with those from 1789, there are noticeable differences:

22. Un homme -> Homme de campagne
23. Une femme -> Femme de campagne
25. Bon Etranger -> Etranger

The synonyms in our mystery document seem to be closer to the later keywords, which to me indicates that it was put together sometime after the publication of Etteilla's 3rd Cahier. So much for the theory that this is the 1782 book...


Fortunately, we have a few other candidates. =)

On page 110 of A Wicked Pack of Cards, DDD mention some correspondence between Joubert de La Salette and Etteilla's other students Hugand and de Bonrecueille. In 1790, La Salette appears to have sent them an early draft of his Dictionnaire Synonimique, which they found rather disappointing. Both Hugand and de Bonrecueille had been preparing their own versions. De Bonrecueille supposedly made a copy of La Salette's manuscript out of fear that it might not be printed. So our mystery document could be any one of four things: La Salette's rough draft, Hugand's unpublished book, de Bonrecueille's unpublished book, or de Bonrecueille's copy of La Salette's rough draft.

The approximate date given by the Wellcome Library coincides with the story of La Salette's rough draft. In examining the text of the document, there are both similarities and differences to the Dictionnaire Synonimique. In the descriptions of each card, the document uses complete sentences in several places, whereas the Dictionnaire merely lists words and phrases. At the end of the Dictionnaire, there's an index of keywords. This feature also appears in our mystery document, (see below).

Although the Dictionnaire includes the zodiac signs on the first 12 cards in accordance with Etteilla, the planetary symbols which appear on Etteilla's coin cards are absent. Our mystery document includes not only the planetary correspondences but also additional astrological symbols written next to cards 62-67, which I've never seen in any other Etteilla work. The author adds the four asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta), Earth, and Uranus. At the time, these were all regarded as planets. Neptune had not been discovered yet, so it is nowhere to be found.

62. Pallas
63. Ceres
64. Uranus
65. Vesta
66. Earth
67. Juno

68. Part of Fortune
69. Cauda draconis (ascending lunar node)
70. Caput draconis (descending lunar node)
71. Saturn
72. Jupiter
73. Mars
74. The Moon
75. Venus
76. Mercury
77. The Sun

That's all I've found for now. I might start transcribing the text so that we can put together a decent translation. That might reveal more clues as to document's identity.

Re: Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document


You and Mike know I can't add anything to your expert discussion of Etteilla, but here is a reversed picture of the reverse of the title page, where I make out at the bottom "les Eleves instruits."

So it is "Cartonomantie"
..... "ou"
"Des significations"
....." interpretation"
..."les Eleves instruits."

It was a very full title page. This cover-up is like catching the censors in the act. It's wonderful! Wonderful that it is a manuscript, too. Clearly never printed. I can find no trace of those words in combination in OCR Google searches. "Cartonomantie" alone does exist.

Re: Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document

I would assume that the annotations are by Etteilla, as stated in the title. Below is a simple of his handwriting. It seems close enough. (I am trying to upload an image but not succeeding. You have to click on it to see it. I have had this problem forever, but just uploaded it elsewhere and put a link. But I don't think that's as good as putting it here, because the "elsewhere" might disappear.)
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Here is another sample
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I also have handwritten notes from a letter he sent to Grenoble, but it's not signed. Added later: I have more on that letter in my next post. Some of the writing seems similar.

I will be very interested in your transcription; if nothing else it may teach me how to read that handwriting.

I notice that de la Salette's book of synonyms also has the Fool as 0, between 21 and 22. D'Odoucet's does not.

I'm not sure when the change to 78 happened. In the 2nd Cahier, 1785, it's still at 0 between 21 and 22. But I recall from somewhere that it happened in the same year, in another book. I just can't find where at the moment. And it may be that even as 78 it still also went between 21 and 22.

Since the book refers to the synonyms, I would guess it to be rather late in Etteilla's life, if Etteilla participated. 1791 sounds about right.

Re: Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document

Looking further, Hugand is a strong possibility, at least for one of the writers. In his 1789 essay "Faites-mieux, j'y consense, ou Les Instructions d'Isis, Divulgees par un Electeur de la Commune de Lyon, en l'annee 1789" he still has the Fool as 0, and he seems to take the arithmetic seriously. The handwritten notes I have refer to 12 as expanding to 78, and that is what we see in Hugand's essay, too, in his inverted pyramid. See my blog, section entitled "The Pyramids".

De la Salette was then in Grenoble, the Timeline tells me, so he would be the addressee of the letter I have scans of. Hugand was in Lyon, not far away. So was De Bonrecueille, (until 1791, my timeline says). Decker says De Bonrecueille wrote de la Salette in 1790, giving a quote: "Brother Hugand has indeed received your epistle on the synonyms of the Book of Thoth, but according to the announcement made by Monsieur Etteilla, we had presumed that you had composed something more complete about it" (Decker, The Esoteric Tarot, p. 197, citing Robert Amadou,"Alchemie et Societe Secrete, L'Autre Monde, no. 99 (1986) p. 20). So de Bonrecueille is not ruled out.

In favor of Etteilla's involvement, the word "SITUS" for the Uprights is used exclusively by Etteilla, as far as I can tell. Also, he wrote his comments by putting the page number on the left of the comment about that page, at least he does that commenting on Hugand in the second part (signed by him) of "Faites-Mieux..."

John: not counting the very neat large lettering, would you say there are two people writing longhand or just one? The annotations are said to be by Etteilla, but there is more in longhand than just annotations.

The reference to "etudiants" in the title suggests at least 1790 for the book, after the founding of L'Ecole.

The letter I referred to in my previous post makes reference to "an 1", year 1. Year 1 started Sept. 22, 1791, but I don't think that nomenclature came about before June of 1793, with the "Constitution of the Year 1". De la Salette was still in Grenoble in 1794, my timeline says. We still don't know who wrote the letter. Could the handwriting in it be identified as that of the author of some of the notes in your book? If so, Etteilla wouldn't have written them, since he was dead before "an 1". The letter also has a return address; perhaps you recognize it.

Lettera 1001.jpg
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Page 1:
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and the page that is reminiscent of Hugand's pyramid:
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Re: Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document

Tarot_John wrote:
26 Feb 2020, 15:57
The author adds the four asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta), Earth, and Uranus. At the time, these were all regarded as planets. Neptune had not been discovered yet, so it is nowhere to be found.

62. Pallas
63. Ceres
64. Uranus
65. Vesta
66. Earth
67. Juno

Ceres was the first asteroid to be discovered in 1801, then Pallas in 1802, Juno in 1804 and Vesta in 1807. So post 1807 - though I think it was quite sometime after their discovery before they were incorporated into astrology (I'm not sure but I don't think their use became popularized until the latter half of the 20th century, not really starting until an ephemeris for the first four comets was published c1973 - though they may have been used by some before that, some elements of their orbits have been published in The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris (British) since 1845. Even in modern astrology, I think their use is more in the minority than mainstream). I'm not sure when the glyphs for the asteroids were first described/used, whether at the time of their discovery or later.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Rough draft of unknown Etteilla document

Wow! I leave for a couple days, and this thread really blows up. I'll try to respond to everyone in an orderly fashion. =)

Thanks for taking a look at the title page, Ross!

If only we could examine the page with a spectroscope; it'd be a hell of a lot easier to see those obscured letters... I'll take your flipped image and see what I can do with Photoshop. I might be able to make whatever's there more visible if I play around with the levels of the image histogram.

I also completely forgot to take a look at the binding of the book! I can just make out the letters "Tablette Categori" which come from the new title.

I'm not entirely sure why the title was changed. Could be the original author simply changed his mind. Or perhaps someone was creating the title page on his behalf and screwed up. Or maybe the censors blocked the usage of the original title. I don't know... The formal layout of the title page and the page numbers throughout suggest that someone was preparing this for publication. However, I find it strange that there is no mention of a publisher. Usually the phrase "Chez so-and-so" appears at the bottom of the title page. Maybe the author was shopping around for a printer/publisher and figured this information would be added later when they did the typesetting. Or maybe the author was a printer themselves (like Etteilla's student Hugand), and felt no need to include that information at this time. I'd just be guessing.

Thanks also for doing a search on the original title! Interesting that you found other instances of "Cartonomantie." We now have three different spellings of Etteilla's word: Cartonomantie, Cartonomancie, and the later Cartomancie. Etteilla was pretty upset about his neologism eventually getting corrupted into "Cartomancie." He repeatedly emphasized that numbers played a part in his system and that the "no" in the word "Cartonomancie" reflected that. It's interesting that this document appears to follow his original intentions.

Although there's no sign of the original title of this document appearing online, the revised title does make an appearance in an 1805 auction list (see the link in my first post). The document is listed in the second Appendix, which may have been added to the book later than 1805. Indeed, a note in the first Appendix mentions a sale taking place on Monday, 14 April 1806. The list contains books from the large library of Mr. André-Augustin Du Bois Schoondorp, de Gand, and is augmented by select books from the library of Mr. Joseph de Ban, and from that of Mr. P. de Gruyter. It could be that one of these three people had dealings with the original author. I'll look into it...

Hey Mike!

I compared the numbering and placement of the Fool in various Etteilla documents.

1783 - In the Third Cahier, it's numbered 0 and placed between cards 21 and 22.
1783 - On page 39 of the First Cahier, Etteilla mentions something along the lines of the Fool being able to be placed in several locations (including at the end of the deck) but that its dominant position is the 22nd place (i.e. between cards 21 and 22).
1784/5 - In the Supplement to the Third Cahier, the Fool is numbered both 0 and 78 and is listed at the end of the deck. (See the tables showing the attributions.) Etteilla appears to be explaining the additional numbers (Elements, Days of Creation, and Signs of Death) and the astrological associations of the cards here. His placement of the Fool may have been done simply to remove the card from the range 18-67, so that he could describe these cards as having only one number and two meanings with regard to divination. In other words, he didn't specifically mean to place the Fool at the end of the deck. He temporarily moved it so he could better comment on the different groups of cards.
1785 - There is no explicit mention of the placement of the Fool in the Fourth Cahier, however a couple of diagrams show the numbering. In one diagram, the Fool is numbered 0. In the other, it's numbered 78.
1785 - In the Second Cahier, he numbers it 0 and places it after card 21.
1787 - In Science. Leçons théoriques et pratiques du livre de Thot, he numbers it 0 and places it between cards 21 and 22. On the "Temple of Fire in Memphis" diagram, he places it near cards 18-21, probably to suggest that it comes after card 21.
1788/89 - On the BnF's uncut sheet of Etteilla's original deck, the Fool card is numbered 0. Along with card 17 (Death) it appears on the last sheet of cards. Etteilla pays special attention to these two cards in his other work and seems to emphasize their separation from the other 76 cards.
1790 - In Cours théorique et pratique du livre de Thot, Etteilla associates the card with both numbers 0 and 78, but doesn't explicitly place it anywhere in the deck. In describing the Livre de Thot, he talks about 77 cards plus the Fool for a total of 78 cards. Not sure if we can interpret this as meaning that it should be placed at the end.
1791 - In the Dictionnaire synonimique du livre de Thot, La Salette continues to number the card as 0 and places it between cards 21 and 22.
1793 - Hisler publishes a German translation of Cours théorique et pratique du livre de Thot and creates a German Etteilla deck. The Fool from the German Etteilla in Kaplan II has no numbers on it at all. A later deck (currently held in the British Museum) printed from the same plates adds the number 78.

1804 - In the first volume of Science des Signes, d'Odoucet numbers it 0 and places it between cards 21 and 22.
1806 - In the second volume of Science des Signes, d'Odoucet neglects to number the woodblock picture of the Fool, but he does mention the number 0 in the text. He places it at the end of the deck. However, later he groups it with cards 18-21 and mentions it preceding the remaining 56 cards. Go figure...
1807 - In the third volume of Science des Signes, d'Odoucet talks about how the 77 cards + 0 makes 78. Not sure if this qualifies as placing the Fool at the end of the deck.
1826 - Both the book by Aldegonde Perenna and the deck by Pierre Mongie l'aîné number the Fool as 78 and place it at the end of the deck.

1838 - Julia Orsini (Simon Blocquel) puts the Fool at the end of the deck and numbers it 78. All subsequent variants of Grand Etteilla II seem to follow his lead.
1843 - Johannès Trismégiste (Lorambert) puts the Fool at the end of the deck and numbers it 78. All subsequent variants of the Jeu de la Princesse Tarot follow this convention.
1856 - Mlle. Lemarchant/d puts the Fool at the end of the deck and numbers it 78. All subsequent variants of Grand Etteilla III follow this convention.
1857 - Johann Scheible's reprint of the German version of Cours théorique et pratique du livre de Thot numbers the Fool as 78 and places it at the end of the deck.

1874/5 - Antonio Magus puts the Fool at the end of the deck and numbers it 78. Esmaël follows this convention the following year.

As far as I can tell, Etteilla and his students are pretty consistent with putting the Fool between cards 21 and 22. They occasionally imply that it can be placed at the end of the deck, but don't state this explicitly. Hisler's unnumbered German Fool and d'Odoucet's conflicting statements in his book Science des Signes may have resulted in the permanent relocation of the Fool to the end of the deck in every version of Etteilla thereafter. There are three "branches" of decks in the Grand Etteilla I family:
  • German Etteilla (1793-present), which use the number 78 on the Fool and place it at the end of the deck
  • d'Odoucet Etteilla (1804-present), which use both 0 and 78 on the Fool and place it at the end of the deck
  • Pierre Mongie l'aîné Etteilla (1826, followed by the Grand Etteilla II family of decks), which use 78 on the Fool and place it at the end of the deck

Note: When I refer to d'Odoucet's Etteilla decks, I'm referring to both his rare 1804 deck created using woodblocks and the later set of lithographs that were based on them. The lithographs appear to have been created after d'Odoucet's death and passed through a number of different owners: Alphonse Arnoult, Lequart et Mignot & H. Pussey, and lastly, Grimaud. (And yes, Mike, I did find some evidence that supports your theory that Alphonse Arnoult may have been involved with the production of an Etteilla deck. I will email it to you as soon as I've scanned it.)

Moving on to the handwriting...

For the most part, there appears to be only one person writing longhand. I did notice a couple instances (especially in the description of Card 1) where it looked like the text had been smeared/erased and then written over with darker ink, but I'm not sure if this was done by a different person or not. They may have just used a different pen and/or bottle of ink to fix mistakes at some later date. The original ink has a brownish color to it. In my own art career, I've experimented with different inks and compared their archival quality. Some types of "black" ink will turn brown over time. Others turn blue. I've seen a few that retain the black color. It all depends on the mixture. The amount of water added to the ground particles can also vary the color. I suppose it's possible that our mystery writer may have mixed their own ink. They may not have been consistent in their process...

The "annotations" appear at the end of each card description. They look like they were written by the same person. Our mystery author may have been transcribing notes that were written by Etteilla while he was still alive.

Thanks for the additional handwriting samples, Mike! My online search only turned up a horoscope written by Etteilla. See here: ... 018&prev=1 The way Etteilla curls the top of his letter "d" looks similar to the way our mystery author writes.

I also have a sample of Hugand's writing. He published a mathematics book under his real name in either 1797 or 1798 (An VI, according to the French Republican calendar). His signature appears on one of the pages. See here for B&W: ... &q&f=false, or here for color: ... 82073.html. It doesn't look like the handwriting of our mystery author, however signatures can sometimes differ from one's regular writing. The signature could also have been written by a librarian.

Our mystery author's handwriting does have a passing resemblance to Etteilla's. However, I'm not sure if the similarities are due to them being written by the same individual or due to them belonging to a particular "style" of handwriting that was popular in that time period. I'm no handwriting expert. =) The other problem with this theory is that Etteilla is spelled "ETTEILA" (with one "L") on the title page of our mystery document. Etteilla and his students (La Salette, d'Odoucet, and Hugand) all seem to spell his name properly in their publications. I suppose this misspelling could be the fault of a third party constructing the title page on behalf of the original author.

Nice find, Steve!

I hadn't thought to look at the dates of the asteroid discoveries. Per your suggestion, I did some more digging and here's what I found in regards to the astronomical symbols/glyphs:

According to the now-discredited Titius–Bode law, there was a regular pattern in the size of the orbits of known planets. Astronomers noted that the otherwise perfect pattern was disrupted by a large gap between Mars and Jupiter and sought to explain this discrepancy. In 1800, Baron Franz Xaver von Zach, the editor of the scientific journal Monatliche correspondenz zur beförderung der erd- und himmels-kunde, organized a group of 24 astronomers to search for a hypothetical planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

A member of this group, Catholic priest Giuseppe Piazzi, discovered CERES in 1801. He named his discovery "Cerere Ferdinandea" after the Roman goddess of agriculture and King Ferdinand of Sicily. Later, astronomers dropped the "Ferdinand" from the name. I'm not sure who came up with the astronomical symbol, but Johann Elert Bode records the sickle symbol as early as 1804. See here: ... &q&f=false

PALLAS was discovered in 1802 by another member, Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers. Olbers named the "planet" after Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Von Zach introduced the spear symbol in his publication in 1802. See here: ... &q&f=false Olbers approved of the Pallas symbol, but complained to von Zach that the symbol for Ceres was too similar to the symbol for Venus. Therefore, von Zach may also have been the creator of the Ceres symbol.

JUNO was discovered in 1804 by German astronomer Karl Ludwig Harding. He named it after Juno, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Hera. According to von Zach, Harding also designed the symbol of a star mounted on a scepter. See here: ... &q&f=false

VESTA was discovered in 1807 by Olbers. As he had previously discovered and named Pallas, Olbers gave the honor of naming his newest discovery to German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, whose calculations had been instrumental in finding the new planets. Gauss named it Vesta after the Roman goddess of home and hearth, and designed the symbol, an altar with fire. Van Zach reports this in 1807. See here: ... &q&f=false

During the Napoleonic Wars, French troops burned the town of Lilienthal, which was home to the greatest observatory in the world. Although it survived the fire, the observatory was looted and important records were destroyed. After the death of the builder Johann Hieronymus Schröter in 1816, the observatory fell into disrepair. This brought astronomical discoveries to a halt. Thus, Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta were classified as planets between 1807 and 1845. Starting in 1845, additional celestial bodies were found. The discovery of Neptune in 1846 resulted in the discrediting of the Titius–Bode law and the reclassification of the smaller bodies as asteroids. The astrological symbols were changed to encircled numbers, however some astronomers continued to use the original glyphs.

Assuming that the astrological symbols weren't added by someone else, I would tentatively date this document to 1807 or later. Whoever our mystery author is, they seem to have been excited by the new scientific discoveries and taken it upon themselves to update and extend Etteilla's astrological attributions.

Altogether, the book has some features that suggest an intimate connection with Etteilla's tradition and others that suggest that the author knows very little about Etteilla. This could indicate two different contributors. I think comparing the content of the document with other Etteilla publications is our next step. I'll keep working on the transcription. =)

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