Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Ross wrote,
Franco's remarks about "giuocho" meaning something besides a literal "game" are correct in the case of Rosselli, at least as art historians understand it. But his new discovery of a "paio" of Petrarch's Trionfi adds another wrinkle to the question, then. Could paio have the same range of meaning as giuocho?
Well, that was my thought, about "paio". I confronted him with the GDLI, p. 381, the fourth definition. ... arola=paio. This is the continuation of the definitions of "paio", which started on the previous page.
4. Disus. Complesso di parti o oggetti o pezzi che concorrono a formare un tutto unitario e organico.
Vasari [D’Alberti]: Far che la pittura paia più presto un tappeto colorito o un paro di carte da giocare che carne unita e panni morbidi.
Crusca, IV Impress. [s. v.]:
Talora si dice ’ paio ’ a un corpo solo d’una cosa, ancor­ché si divida in molte parti, come un paio di carte da giuocare, un paio di scacchi.
4. Disus. Complex of parts or objects or pieces that combine to form a unitary and organic whole.
Vasari [D'Alberti]: To make painting look more like a colorful carpet or a set of cards to play than solid flesh and soft cloths.
Crusca, IV Impress. [s. v.]:
Sometimes we say 'pair' to a single body of one thing, even if it is divided into many parts, like a pair of cards to play, a pair of chess.

"Paio di scacchi" seemed to me fairly parallel. He had no serious objection, but wasn't ready to support it himself. But I don't want to quote his explanation without permission. Things get lost between languages.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here are Hind's comments on the engravings. Note that there were several versions. There is A.I.18-23, in Vienna. Hind thinks the B series, of which the first reworking (i.e. the second state) is what the British Museum has, is what corresponds to the inventory. The BM has one plate of it, he says. it seems to have been reworked twice. There is also a version of all six on one plate. And a fragment of another Triumph of Divinity, Hind's A.I.16. Here are his comments on the B series:

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

And on the A series, starting with A.I.16 on one page, then Vienna on the following: Hind gives attributions for neither of the series, but seems to identify the B series with Rosselli. The A series are the ones at ... orence.jpg, 20 years earlier than the ones we're talkng about.

The B series engravings are at ... d=Rosselli, scattered among Sibyls and Prophets, with some commentary that appears newer than Hind. And also at ... s_triumphs. The A series is wider than it is high. The B series is higher than it is wide.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

From the discussion of the B series of engravings, what I found of interest is this, on p. 131:
The dimensions of Love are, he says on p. 133, 260x173 mm. Chastity is 257x164. Death is 262x172. Fame (p. 134) is 262-172. Time is 256x174. Eternity is 260x173. So three plates.

In the inventory, it is important to note that of the objects the first 30 are wood, then 31-79 metal. This is not stated, but Hind argues:
But why it would be divided into first 30 and then the rest? Why not interspersed? He translates "forma" as "plate" (in his comment on item 75)

but items are described as "forma" even in the first 20.
Part of the answer is in his notes: he recognizes some of them from his study of woodcuts.
But even the ones with "forma" in their description?

The game of the Apostles and Jesus and the game of the seven virtues are numbers 1 and 4. He calls them as "note packs." I am not sure what that means. Not packs of playing cards for gambling, because Savonarola wouldn't have approved. Seven cards is not much of a pack. Perhaps "set."

But as far as "set" or "series," there are lots of series described in the inventory, and only three of them are called "giuochi."

Well, Zucker endorses Hind. It is a very tidy idea: it is clear that the Triumphs were engraved on two sides of three plates, and here we have triumphs and three forms, even if it doesn't say, as it often does, that the "forma" is "dopi," i.e. cut on two sides (above, comment on item 75). Not only do we have an explanation for what this item is, but it is confirmation that Rosselli did it, as Zucker says it proves. Two birds with one stone. It seems to me there are some loose ends. Perhaps there always are, I don't know.

It is nice that Hind explains how big the sheets are:

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here are another couple of finds by Franco, still rummaging through the Biblioteca Moreniani. The first is an erudite mock defense of playing cards, "Carte da gioco difese in accademia e in chiesa," The author would seem to be a high-ranking member of an "academy," more like a social club, in Florence, a "Very Reverend" ecclesiastic, no less. In fact, as I discovered trying to identify the sources of some of his Latin quotations, it is taken almost wholly from a book of such academy speeches authored by one Gian Francesco Loredano (or Loredan) published in Venice in 1638, the Bizzarie academiche di Gio. Francesco Loredano, ... &q&f=false. English Wikipedia has a long article on Loredan. He is not mentioned in the Florentine account, that Franco can find. It is entertaining nonetheless, and I haven't seen it mentioned in playing card history sources before. [Added 5/15/2024: Huck has corrected me on this point, for which see his post following.]

The second is even less original than the first, in that it tells a story that can be found in numerous sources. Some have been mentioned in the "Plush Parlor" section of this Forum recently. It is that of the poor soldier whose deck of cards serves as his Bible. Franco notes the few bits that might be original, as well as running down some of its history.

Comments in brackets are mine. Numbers in the left margin are the page numbers of Franco's pdf. The translations of the quotations are standard ones; but in a few cases Franco has corrected them, or we worked out a compromise or bridge between the literal meaning and what is given. The quotations were the hardest part of this translation, especially the Martial, figuring out how they (the authors of the translation I found on the Web) got that from that (the Latin words on the page). But it was also fun - Google is such a great tool for finding arcane stuff.

Playing cards defended in academy and church

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

This study examines two handwritten documents on playing cards preserved in Florence in the Moreniana Library. [note 1] In both cases these are attempts to show that something favorable can be discovered in playing cards, in contrast with all the opinions of wise men and legislators, not to mention clerics, who have always seen in these objects essentially a dangerous or diabolical instrument.

2. Setting of the academic Discourse

The first document is an academic Discourse. Before transcribing it in full, I think it is useful to provide some data on the context of the academy and the author of the speech.

The academy in question is that of the Immutables, established in Florence in January 1805. This date is evidently not recent, dating back more than two centuries, but at the same time it can be considered considerably late compared to the typical origins of Florentine academies. A register with the initial composition of the members is kept in the Moreniana Library. [note 2] To render an account of the literary production of this academy, two enormous manuscript collections present in the same Library are sufficient, containing poems and other literary compositions. [note 3] The Discourse in question is found at ff. 592-594 of Vol. I.

To get an idea of these 47 academy members, it may be useful to examine the list copied into the inventory from the 1805 manuscript cited; [note 4] among these, we note the presence of two categories of people who were much less present in older academies: women and clerics. I reproduce below, directly from the source, the initial part of the list.
1. ;
2. Biblioteca Moreniana, Palagi, No. 203.
3. Biblioteca Moreniana, Bigazzi, No. 2, Vol. I and Vol. II.
4. I manoscritti della biblioteca moreniana, Vol. 1, Fasc. 11. Florence, pp. 321-322. [ ... frontcover]


Finding something like four ladies and twenty clerics out of forty-seven academy members corresponds to a truly unusual percentage. [In the first twelve, number 3 is a lady, and 4-8 are clerics. The complete list can be found in the Catalog of note 4.] It must also be remembered that in that period, clerics had begun to lose part of their prestige and heritage, so much so that, regardless of their intentions, to us an academy with that composition practically appears like a closed fortress in defense of the past, "immutable" precisely. Even the author of the Discourse in question, Giuseppe Falchini “Il Faceto” [the Witty], is a cleric, or rather perhaps one should say a prelate, given that he is indicated not only with Rev. but with Very Rev. Even his position among those at the beginning of the list [number 5], with the position of Deputy Censor, demonstrates his importance among the members.

Searching for information on this personage in the bibliographical repertoires, one finds with his name only the author of a book on bee breeding, printed in Florence in 1747: [note 5] The date seems too early, and above all the profession of beekeeper does not fit perfectly with a religious career, for which one would conclude that it is only a namesake.

However, here we meet a Very Reverend of the active ones, a poet, a man of letters, an orator, and who knows what else. As a poet, in the previously mentioned Vol. 1, can be read more than fifty of his sonnets and also other poems. As a speaker, you can get an idea from the titles of other speeches he delivered in the same academy: Dissertation in honor of study; Heraclitus cried, Democritus laughed; there is no greater unhappiness than being loved; whether it requires more strength to fall in love with a beautiful crying face, or a beautiful singing face.

Ultimately, it won't be too surprising if, in the Academy, he even defends playing cards, as we will see.

3. The text of the academic Discourse.

/f. 592r/
What morality can be drawn from playing cards.

The kindness and goodness of God is so full of inexhaustible mercies that in the most terrible evils invented, whether produced by the malignity of nature or by the malice of our Genius, he wants man to try remedies for his Health and Relief for his affliction, whereby he allows that at the same time they offend, they are beneficial, similar to the little worms of the fig, which have the poison in their belly and the antidote in their wings. Those plants which are very bitter in their leaves, have sweetness in their fruit.
5. G. Falchini, Nuova e vaga istruzione per lo governo, ed accrescimento delle api da miele. Florence 1747.

Scorpions and Vipers bring with them death and life. The Sun attracts vapors and dries them up. The Earth, which is the cradle, is also the tomb of monsters, and it produces them and buries them.
There is no evil more pernicious than the game of cards, in which anger, deceit, blasphemies, and all the vices are included and united, so blamed by the Scholars that Seneca pretends that Emperor Claudius, for being addicted to playing cards, was condemned by Aeacus as Judge of Hell to a punishment similar to that of Sisyphus: that as Sisyphus perpetually turns over a large stone /f. 592v/, so Claudius perpetually handled the cards. And Dante makes that Gambler from Navarre respond to Virgil in this way.

___Io fui del regno di Navarra nato:
___Poi fui famiglio del buon Re Tebaldo:
___Quivi mi misi a far baratteria,
___Di che i rendo ragione in questo caldo.

___[I in the kingdom of Navarre was born . . .
___Then I domestic was of good King Thibault;
___I set me there to practice barratry {i.e. abuse of public office for personal gain}
___For which I pay the reckoning in this heat. {Inferno 22:48, 52-54, trans. H. W. Longfellow.}]

It is so harmful that it is prohibited by civil laws, which in order to extinguish it completely do not allow any action against anyone who was deceived or beaten in the game. Cicero, wanting to put in his epilogue all the faults of Antony, called him Gambler.

___O hominem nequam, qui non dubitaret alea ludere.
___[O worthless man, who does not hesitate to gamble. {Philippica 2, 56 (XXIII)}.]

Finally, Martial [Epigrammata XIV.18].

___Alea parva nuces, et non damnosa videtur
___Saepe tamen pueris abstulit illa nates.

___[Gambling with nuts {often used as dice} is thought to be a harmless game,
___But it has often damaged boys’ buttocks {and so produced welts similar to the outer shells of nuts}.]

Despite all this, so abhorred by the learned, so pernicious to customs, so abominated by the Laws, it nevertheless contains within itself so many allegorical meanings, so many moralities, which equal, if not exceed, the evils that are caused by it.
/f. 593r/ The cards themselves teach the players not to touch them, and whoever first gave them the name of cards, perhaps had this thought, almost as if they were cards full of warnings, which teach us to avoid the dangers of the self-same cards. What else do those coins mean, if not those which are thrown away, which are lost, which are dissipated in gambling? One who gambles often remaining poor and naked.

___Nudaque per lusis pectora nostra patent.

___[Through games our hearts are exposed naked. {Ovid, Artis Amatoriae III.372}]

What else do those Cups show us, other than that the Players lose their intellect and reason, like drunks? What else do the sticks and swords warn us about, if not the constant brawls, the disdain, and the implacable enmities, which often cause death to the Players? Listen to Horace [1 Epist. 19, 48-49].

___Ludus enim genuit trepidum certamen, et iram; Ira trues inimicitias, et funebre bellum.

___[A game may beget dreadful strife and wrath; wrath, savage enmities and murderous war.]

Lovers draw warnings from the game of cards. Whoever wants to win at cards should strive to have more points than others. The Lover, who craves possession of his beloved, will achieve victory if he has more points, i.e. more money than the others. Duro certandum [I continue steadfast: Plutarch, Moralia, “De Garrulitate” 8], said that good female [Laeana, who, loyal to her lover, did not reveal secrets under torture]. There is a game called who makes the most loses. The same is experienced in things of love. The grasses, once they sow the seed, dry up, said Seneca. Soldiers and War Captains learn from playing cards to win, and enjoy earning /f. 593v/ victory while still playing. There were those who said of Augustus:

___Postquam, bis classe victus, naves perdidit Aliquando, ut vincat lusit assidue aleam.
___[Having lost twice with {his} fleet, to win at last, he gambled assiduously.] [Seutonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, LXX, 124.]

Clerics learn temperance, poverty, and patience from the game of cards, since it is not necessary for an excellent cleric to desire other wine, desire other money, use other weapons, or use other sticks than those which are pretended in the cards.
Playing cards teach politicians, because they show them what they must teach in peace and in war. Sought in war to repress the violence of the enemy, weapons and Soldiers are symbolized in Swords and Coins. In peace, they want Justice and abundance; and these are expressed in Cups full of wine, and the stick, symbol of Justice: for this purpose, the Romans brought their branches before Caesar, and the scepter of Kings is nothing other than a stick.
The game of cards teaches Princes not to be so proud of their greatness, because finally what happens to the court figures in the cards happens to them: when played they also mix with those of the most minimal
points. Once the game is over, the cards are all placed back in the deck without any ranking. Death makes everyone equal, nor do the bones of a King have greater veneration than those of a simple private individual. The wind thus scatters the ashes of Irus, like that of Agamemnon. Listen to Horace: [Odes I, 4]. /f. 594r/

___Pallida mors quo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas Regumque turres
___[Pale Death whose foot kicks in the huts of paupers and the towers of Kings.]

With the game of cards all men are finally made to consider their miseries, that to be happy, they also need the favors of something as vile as cards. How truly sad is the condition of that Man, who has to sigh for the encounters of good fortune in a most vile card.
The cards of the game, depicted with coins, cups, swords, and sticks, symbolize that the acquisition of riches, goods, scepters, and armies are jokes and mockeries of fortune, of which, as things of little moment, we should not become proud.
It can be said that the four seasons of the year are understood in the game of cards. The swords indicate the spring, in which all princes take up arms. The coins represent the summer, in which the grains are harvested, and the income. Cups filled with wine signify autumn. The sticks are a symbol of winter because the trees in winter are naked like sticks; especially since in winter sticks are needed to keep warm. I could say that in the game of cards there are the four main virtues. In coins we mean justice, which suum unicuique tribuit [confers to each what he deserves]. Temperance in the cups. In the sticks prudence, which, however, was imagined by the Egyptians with one eye on a rod; and in the swords fortitude.
But let their kindness excuse me, if I have too boldly abused the excesses of their kindness, which with such grateful silence have pitied and honored my imperfections.

3. Commentary on the discourse

The first comment that comes to mind concerns the title of the academic discourse: the problem lies in the adjective. Maybe I'm wrong, but to my ears the term “academic” sounds in two very different ways, perhaps linked to the eras. If I hear about an article or an academic monograph of today, I believe a priori that they deserve all my respect because the author's university level guarantees me a minimum of professional seriousness and rigor, as does not often happen with an amateur author. But there is a different meaning of academic, as opposed to practical, constructive, scientific: that is, something written, or uttered, to show one’s ability to discuss any topic, even a far-fetched one, in a purely rhetorical manner, without any practical use, without a real problem, without progress in knowledge. My impression is then that, in this case, the academic is precisely of the second type.

Examining the text, it is quite surprising to find recurring quotes in Latin on the subject. On the one hand, we could expect them from a Very Reverend, whose education had certainly had a good foundation in Latin language and literature. The problem, however, is that the Latin classics, even if they discussed some games, certainly could not talk about playing cards, which, for them, were still in the distant future. In short, our lecturer considers valid what he finds in the classics regarding games and transfers it to the cards.

However, it is not surprising that in this Discourse, already in the nineteenth century, there is no trace of the use of cards to predict the future, and in particular of the recent French "discoveries" about the tarot. The Immutables did not follow trends, by definition. Instead, our “Faceto” does not hesitate to take inspiration from similar old treatises on the game of chess, in which the association of the game pieces with corresponding categories of men is commonly found: precisely in these cases we read, for example, of kings and pawns who are placed in the same box after the game.

With all his efforts, the Very Reverend only fails to praise playing cards to the full extent that they can be useful to the Catholic religion; he limits himself only to the four virtues. The soldier in the following document will take care to broaden the picture.

4. The text of the soldier's defense

Still in the Moreniana Library, we find in a large manuscript (Palagi, No. 357, and Fasc. 28 inside it) a single sheet written on both sides with the following text.
Reply from a Regimental Soldier Over a Deck of Picchetto Cards

Being in church one Sunday with the rest of the Company to hear Mass, instead of taking a Book of Devotion, he took a Deck of Cards out of his bag, and frankly spread them out in front of the Sergeant, who was near him, as if he had had a Book of Prayers. Having viewed similar impropriety, said Sergeant ordered him to put the cards in his pocket, pointing out the scandal and indecency of such a thing. Receiving the Sergeant's advice, the Soldier listened without saying a word, and continued with the same seriousness to hold the cards in his hands.
Once the Mass was over, the Sergeant ordered him to be conducted before the Major and made an exact explanation of the impertinence committed by the Soldier, who was seriously reprimanded by the Major himself.
And he replied thus.
I am a poor Soldier who has only five Baiocchi a day, which, not being sufficient for the necessary sustenance, Your Illustrious Excellency must not be surprised that I don't have that with which to buy an Office, or another Book of piety.
And taking the Cards out of his pocket, thus he spoke.
When I see an ace it represents to me the one God of all Things.
When I see a two I am reminded of the two Thieves, who were crucified together with NSGC [Our Lord Jesus Christ] [note 6]
In the three I contemplate the Holy Trinity.
The four reminds me of the 4 Evangelists.
6. Among the subjects associated with 2 in the different versions, thieves are rare (the two natures of Christ are more common). The 1778 text offers four different attributions for the 2 of the four suits; none of them coincide with this one.

The Five reminds me of the five Wise Virgins whose Lamps were lit and deserved to enter the Hall where the groom was (Psalm of David).
I see the 6 and remember that God created the World in six days.
Seven teaches me that he rested, and that we too, in imitation, must rest to pray to him and adore him.
The eight shows me the eight righteous People, who were saved from the Flood, that is, Noah, his wife, and his three children with their wives.
The Nine reminds me of the nine ungrateful lepers who did not thank God for the grace they received.
The ten reminds me of God's Ten Commandments.
If I take the Lady [Queen] in my hand, I remember the Queen of Sheba, who came from the ends of the Earth to meet the Wisdom of Solomon.
The King reminds me that I must obey and be faithful to my Sovereign. [note 7]
And the Jack represents to me this B.F. [note 8] of a Sergeant who came to accuse me.
If I then count the points of the Cards I find that they are 365, which were the Number of days of the Year.
Likewise, I find 52 Cards that form the Number of 52 Weeks, so a deck of Cards serves as a Bible, an almanac, a book, a meditation, and a game, when I like.
Surprised by the spirit of the soldier, the Major gave him a Coin, saying that many people who have spent their lives with cards in their hands have never been able to find such a beautiful and witty explanation.

7 Another unusual association, present in English versions of the mid-nineteenth century, but also as the fourth king in office, together with Clovis, Charlemagne, and Saint Louis, already in one of the attributions of 1778.
8. I'm surprised not to find a convincing choice of insults with these two initials.

5. Comments on the soldier's defense

The document in question is a brief defense of a soldier awaiting punishment for having used a deck of playing cards during mass as if it were a prayer book. While I had never found information about the previous document, I am certain that I have read a printed version of this one: however, I am uncertain whether what I read on these two pages of a manuscript sheet corresponds exactly to what I read many years ago.

Two versions printed in French, in Brussels in 1778 and in Paris in 1815 (after a broadsheet of 1809 also cited for Paris), were recently presented, with the relevant references, in Tarot History Forum. [note 9] This is a large version, already with many details. It's not easy to trace the source of its history, which could even be from the previous century, as D'Allemagne would propose in his great work [note 10]; however, historians who have studied the question agree with 1778 as the date of origin.

In particular, a Parisian edition of 1811 compiled by Hadin was widely distributed, with an example also present in the library of Stuart R. Kaplan. [note 11] Among other things, it appears that this French variant of the story immediately enjoyed considerable popularity, with presentation and discussion also in the periodical press. [note 12]

The soldier protagonist is identified as Louis Bras-de-fer in Brussels, Grenadier Richard in Paris, Richard Middleton in England, and usually becomes a Prussian soldier in Italy. On the various editions that appeared in many European states, a very old article by Johannes Bolte is still fundamental, [note 13] which reviews around thirty variants in various languages, printed and handwritten; for Italy, he reports, with transcription, only a loose sheet from the Salani Printing House in Florence, published around 1866.

However, as regards the manuscript sheet in question here, it is unfortunately impossible to date it with precision. The other manuscripts preserved in the same archival unit are disparate and of such different ages that they cover at least three centuries. The most plausible hypothesis is that a version arrived in Italy, and Florence in particular, from France; one can naturally think of those years when in Tuscany the French government took place instead of the grand ducal government. The most direct route would seem to be through the newspapers that summarized and commented on the Paris edition of 1811, but the associations of the characters with the card numbers are not identical.

If this manuscript copy is different from those printed in Italian (and it certainly is, compared to the Florentine ones from the Salani Printing House in which the Prussian soldier appears), it would be a useful contribution. If it is just a copy of an Italian version already printed that I don't know, the importance would be less, but it would retain a minimum of importance as evidence of the diffusion of this defense of the soldier.

However, it is not clear whether the drafting, here schematic at best, corresponds to a very reduced copy or to a simpler and older drafting. However old one can imagine it, I do not believe, also due to the handwriting, that this document could be prior to 1778, and therefore I have transcribed the entire handwritten text, with the intention only of adding an element to the known series.

6. Conclusion

In the literature, it is easy to encounter discussions and sermons contrary to playing cards in a absolute manner. Even legislators in much of the world have been engaged for centuries in the difficult task of separating permitted games from prohibited games, sometimes resorting to the only easy way to resolve the alternative, which is to prohibit any use of playing cards. In this abundance of negative approaches, it is rare to meet someone who discovers useful elements in playing cards. In Florence
9. viewtopic.php?t=2735&p=26491#p26491.
10. H.-R. d'Allemagne, Les cartes à jouer Tome I, Paris 1906, on pp. 486-488.
11. S. R. Kaplan, The Encyclopedia of Tarot. New York 1978, on p. 359.
12. For example, Journal de l'Empire, Vendredi 15 Mars 1811, in several pages.
13. J. Bolte, "Eine geistliche Auslegung des Kartenspiels." In: Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde. Vol. 11, 1901, pp. 376-406.

there were those who praised the first naibi for their educational role towards children, [note 14] but even that positive opinion was short-lived.

Therefore it is worth pointing out cases such as the two presented here, in which cards are considered objects capable of also teaching us something. Nowadays, however, I think that we have reached the opposite extreme, given that many are even looking to playing cards for the solution to serious life problems, and in tarot cards in particular, starting with an overall easy reading of the future. It turns out that the most difficult thing, also with playing cards and their meaning, is, as always, finding the right balance.

Florence, 04.04.2024
14. Istoria fiorentina di Ricordano Malespini coll’aggiunta di Giachetto Malespini e la Cronica di Giovanni Morelli. Florence 1718, on p. 270.
Last edited by mikeh on 18 May 2024, 10:48, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

mikeh wrote: 14 May 2024, 00:32 Here are another couple of finds by Franco, still rummaging through the Biblioteca Moreniani. The first is an erudite mock defense of playing cards. The author would seem to be a high-ranking member of an "academy," more like a social club, in Florence, a "Very Reverend" ecclesiastic, no less. In fact, as I discovered trying to identify the sources of some of his Latin quotations, it is taken almost wholly from a book of such academy speeches authored by one Gian Francesco Loredano (or Loredan) published in Venice in 1638, the Bizzarie academiche di Gio. Francesco Loredano, ... &q&f=false. English Wikipedia has a long article on Loredan. He is not mentioned in the Florentine account, that Franco can find. It is entertaining nonetheless, and I haven't seen it mentioned in playing card history sources before.

The command .... loredano
.... shows, that Andrea Vitali mentioned Loredano.
"Procedendo nella disamina, risulta difficile, se non impossibile, conoscere il reale significato dei semi delle carte attraverso le descrizioni degli uomini di quel tempo, dato le diversità interpretative che ci hanno lasciato. Nell’opera Bizzarrie Accademiche di Giovan Francesco Loredano, troviamo discorsi e versi che furono letti e recitati presso l’Accademia degli Incogniti, fondata dal Loredano stesso."
There are other notes about Loredano at, if you use the command at the browser address field.

In the "Bizzerie etc. " it seems, that only the pages 11-15 are related to playing card topics.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Thanks, Huck. I had forgotten. I even translated that essay, a dozen years ago, It even provides a couple of quotes, the parts about the four seasons and the four cardinal virtues in relation to the four suits.

It was only pp 11-15 that I supposed the Florentine academician to have lifted from Loredano.

Andrea quotes Loredano again at, in Italian only, from another of his works, four quatrains on the theme of "epitaph to a gambler."

In relation to the other tale that Franco transcribed, that of the soldier and his "Bible," Andrea posted another version, which I translated in 2013 at

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here is another find of Franco's, from the same Biblioteca Moreniana as in his preceding notes: "Minchiate, un campo troppo vasto per l’Accademia," This time there is a mention of a hitherto unknown minchiate designer, which Franco's sleuthing makes it not too hard to trace to a known minchiate. If you want to try your luck yourself, save the comments that I've added at the end (in my own voice) until you've done so.

The comments in brackets are mine, but they are mostly based on Franco's answers to questions I put to him for clarification. In this case, there were so many footnote so far away from the text they were commenting on that I decided to insert them at the end of every two paragraphs, or one if there were a lot. That will make it easier to jump from text to note and back.

Minchiate, a field too vast for the Academy

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

Recently I had the opportunity to present an academic talk on card games preserved in the Biblioteca Moreniana in Florence.[note 1] In the same library, there is another similar speech, or rather a "cicalata," this time dedicated to the game of Goose.[note 2] I thought I would find useful information on the origin of this popular game, also because it seems that the first known reference dates back to Francesco I de’ Medici,[note 3] but in the end, it seemed to me useful to transcribe only the part of the speech that concerns, again, playing cards.

We do not know the author, date, or even the academy in question. It seems, however, that the era is that of the eighteenth century, perhaps the first half. The game of Goose had already been the subject of an academic discourse, and the author of the current Cicalata [as these burlesques were called: Jabber] criticizes the approach and proposes to intervene again on the subject. However, in preparing the outline of the speech, he finds many reasons for hesitation among various alternative games to illustrate, and the part that particularly interested me is that on card games, especially minchiate. In a nutshell, I find many features of this traditional game and its practice recalled, as well as some information on the side of great interest, such as, in particular, information new to me of a pack of Florentine historical minchiate.

2. The text

I reproduce below a detail of the text and transcribe the part of interest below.
Forence, Moreniana Library, Palagi [section], No. 65, Fasc. 8. Detail
(Reproduction prohibited)
1. https://cittametropolitanafirenze.05505 ... -moreniana;
2. Biblioteca Moreniana, Palagi [section] No. 65, Fasc. 8.
3. G. Dossena, I giochi da tavolo. Milan 1984.

. . . I was heartened when my vast mind suggested to me the Game of Pelacchiù;[note 4] I had already made up my mind to trace its origin from the Parsnip Islands, [note 5] or from the Molucchas Islands; but the writing in the book on which I founded my opinion was so battered and faded that after I had slipped away, and almost lost my eyes in it, I could not distinguish whether it said either Parsnips, Crumbs [Molliche], or Molucchas; a gnat leapt at my nose, and I tore that little book in rage; for I was anxious to make a sure and not dubious discovery, and I did not wish to understand fireflies for lanterns around such matters deserving to be treated with care.

And then it was, academicians, that I, as if roused from a deep lethargy, raised my head, and, all cheered and laughing, I said to myself: Why am I here uselessly wasting time, lye, and soap [note 6] around certain games which are nothing more than games and amusements of shop-assistants and runaway boys, whatever his very subtle chirping Encomiasta [speech of praise] on the beautiful game of Goose might want to pretend to prove to the contrary [note 7] If I, too, have the itch to jabber away [cicalare] about the dignity and nobility of some game, why don't I choose that of Primiera? [note 8]
4. A. Milano, “Giochi su carta,” in Come giocavamo, Florence 1984, pp. 21-24. Game with dice similar to Goose.
5. A legendary location, as if from the ends of the earth.
6. He adds time to the lye and soap that are associated in the idiomatic expression.
7. It refers to an earlier talk given in the Academy, which I do not know.
8. The first had lost some of its prestige due to the laws against gambling, but it had also been a game appreciated by high society.
And if I don't like this, since Francesco Berni wrote a Chapter in praise of it, [note 9] why do I not take into my own hands the rules and chapters of the game of the Three Sevens, [note 10] which were printed in this City in the last year, that is to say, in the year of a century that is the most enlightened, the which is ours? For if I have the pleasure of doing myself honour, [why] do I not soon read this golden book, and after having studied it well, make some additions, or some erudite and well-reasoned commentary, and then recite it before my fellow Academicians in order to amuse them profitably and gracefully?

It is also known that the Librettine [note 11] were put in ottava rima [eight-line rhyming stanzas] by a certain I don't know who, who made much credit for himself with the Literary Republic; I too, therefore, could reduce the Chapters of the Three Sevens into tercets, and read three or four of them at our Academy, making them serve as a Cicalata, as Dr. Lorenzo Bellini practiced [note 12] in an excerpt from the Academicians of the Crusca, to whom, having to talk after dinner, he read a great passage from his Bucchereide? [note 13]
9. Capitolo del gioco della primiera [Chapter of the game of Primiera], Rome 1526, Venice 1534.
10. In Lensi's Bibliography there is listed at No. 20 an unobtainable Chapters of the Muscovite tresette, of 9 pages, undated. This is probably just a later variant, but there are no convincing alternatives.
11. The first book used in school to learn arithmetic as a child was called the Librettine.
12. ... ctionary)/
13. The Bucchereide di Dr. Lorenzo Bellini, Florence, 1729.
Thus I discoursed with myself, and I had almost made up my mind to this work when the game of minchiate clouded the idea I had conceived: it pretended to be preferred over any other game. [note 14] Capers! I was sorry for this, and this new theme for the Cicalata put me in great confusion and broke three strings of my chitarrino [small guitar].

That reflection, that I had to explain the origin of this noble game, [note 15] and that being obliged to rediscover the true meaning of so many tarocchi, [note 16] I am bound to raise myself in imagination to the empyrean Heaven, [note 17] and to enter with thought into the houses of so many Planets, [note 18] into that
14.Reasonable claim only for Florence.
15. It would not have been easy to explain the origin, even if it was less distant then than from today's perspective.
16. Only the top forty cards were called tarocchi. There are several authors who are still committed today to trying to explain their "true" meaning.
17. Traversing all the skies to the highest.
18. I think he means as Planets the twelve signs of the zodiac.

reasoning of the verzicole declared,[note 19] the murdered Popes,[note 20] the hanged Kings,[note 21] the dead airs,[note 22] the little-esteemed virtues, [note 23] a madman who is seldom lost and who counts more than the Sages, and enters into everything, [note 24] saying, in short, that he counts as a Sixth Pope;[note 25] that there are others who always give cards;[note 26] that there are some who never pay the remainder:[note 27] that there are many who are afraid of the thirteen [note 28] and few of the Devil:[note 29] that, finally, there is no lack of people, who, promising themselves in every scuffle sure victory, then return with trumpets in the sack.[note 30] All this, in short, and many other things more, which I had to say in speaking of minchiate, made me sweat at my temples, and shiver down to my tail-bone, and put me in such apprehension, and frightened me so much, that I could not see, I went totally out of my mind, I found myself startled and thought I was almost falling down from a heart attack. The subject was beautiful, there is no denying it, but the field was too vast; and I, because of the shortness of time, saw myself squeezed between a door and a wall.
19. Verzicole are specific combinations of three or more cards that are counted before, during, and after the end of the game, earning points.
20. The Papi are the lowest tarocchi and therefore can easily be captured by higher numbered tarocchi, even if the latter earn fewer points.
21. One rule of the game dictates that the king must be played, losing it, in response to the suit led, if a tarocco has been put on the table. [Here is how John McLeod explains the rule on his site: “If on the first occasion that any particular suit is led a player trumps and a later player to the trick holds the King of the suit, they must play the King to the trick.”]
22. The Aire are the five highest tarocchi, but captures can naturally occur within this series as well.
23. The seven virtues have the numbers 6-8 and 16-19, and are therefore allocated quite low in the sequence.
24. The Fool counts 5 (more than the wise, i.e. probably the Papi, who count 3), and if it ends up in a hand won by the opponents it can be replaced with a worthless card. It can also be added to each verzicola to increase its score.
25. Pope Six does not exist, the series ends at 5; it means counting as nothing [as something that does not exist].
26. A frequent conservative tendency of not taking a trick so as to postpone playing high cards.
27. A remainder is the unit of payment and is reached with 60 points; In a game, you can win and lose multiple remainders.
28. Card No. 13 of the minchiate is Death.
29. The Devil is 14, so only a third of the way through the sequence, and it's not a tarocco with points.
30. In analogy to the popular saying "le pive nel sacco" [with disappointment for not reaching the desired goal]. The Trumpets are those sounded by the Angel, the highest card of the tarocchi, which would correspond to No. 40. It guarantees the winning of the trick in which it is played, but not that of the game.
O, do you see what it has cost me in travail and sorrow to think of a subject for the Cicalata. I was at risk of putting my skin on it [i.e., dying]. Fortunately, I drove away this thought of minchiate with such fury; and although I was reminded of the historical minchiate [note 31] devised by Doctor Angiolo Maria Ricci,[note 32] also that modernly invented, if I am not mistaken, by a good French author,[note 33] even that name of minchiate raised me so much out of order and disconcerted, that I did not even want to know about these, whether smelling or burnt; and I said between my teeth the Ave Maria of the Bertuccia [note 34] for having entered with my thought into the thicket, into the labyrinth, into the mess of Games.
3. Comments on the text

As stated, the text examined is not an entire academic discourse, but only a part that could be considered secondary. However, this part is of some interest for card games, and mainly for minchiate. The author emphasizes various aspects of this traditional Florentine game, both basic and detailed. To begin with, one encounters the claim that it is a noble game, a rare attribute for card games and usually reserved for chess.
31. This is probably the most important piece of information for us in the whole thing: I don't know this version of the cards.
32. Information later.
33. This engraver perfected his craft during his seven years of work in Rome. His mid-seventeenth-century French minchiate is well known, but it does not seem very plausible that it had become popular in Florence. Unless it is the well-known book with figures of cards, C. O. Finè de Brianville, Jeu d’armoiries des souverains et etats d’Europe, Lyon 1659.)
34. To say the Barbary macaque's Hail Mary was to blaspheme between one's teeth.

In addition, some problems soon arise that are impossible to solve, and in particular how one could reconstruct both the historical origin of those cards and their intrinsic meaning.

However, even in the uncertainty about the comprehension of these cards, it is clear that they are not just any products but objects of high quality, even with references to the high heavens. In short, having to talk about it, one cannot avoid discussing high-level philosophical and theological questions. One even forgets that, after all, it would be a game.

But even if one "descends" into the typical game environment and listens to the players engaged in their game, one again encounters numerous other difficulties. Here, it is the practice of the game that presents problems, and the technical expressions used by the players certainly do not help one comprehend it.

One will encounter words that are very clear in their everyday meaning, but that in the practice of the game become terms of technical jargon. Then there are also words used only in the game and incomprehensible in general, such as verzicole, which in fact we find several times referred to as versicole.

In the end, the author sees the presence of all these difficulties as a justification to change the subject and discuss a different game more thoroughly. This is evidently only an excuse, also because in the author's own language, unusual and typical local idiomatic expressions recur one after the other; but the difficulties listed are not fictitious, so much so that they are the same ones still debated by experts today. On the contrary, for us there is a bit of regret that even in an era not too far from the origin of the game, the answers to the questions indicated had already been lost.

A positive result of this unknown presentation of the game remains, however, and it is important: in fact, the hunt for Angiolo Maria Ricci's historical minchiate opens! In this regard, I can only provide a kind of introduction, with some information about the character and a direct confirmation.

4. Angelo Maria Ricci (Florence 1688-1767)

We can begin with the portrait of Ricci, engraved in copper by Sac. Antonio Pazzi, his pupil, who was grateful for the teaching and encouragement he received.[Note 35]
Portrait of Angelo Maria Ricci. From the Book of Note 35 ________________
35. Dissertationes Homericæ habitæ in Florentino lyceo ab Angelo Maria Riccio ... Volumen tertium. Rome 1741.

On the life and works of Ricci, who was a priest, professor of Greek, and academician of the Crusca, we already find detailed information in its Biographical Dictionary.[note 36] We are lucky enough to find other traces in the Moreniana Library. For now, we find his presence in a vast collection of personal information about the members of the Crusca Academy preserved in the Palagi section.[note 37] Unfortunately, the entry dedicated to him only contains a letter in which Ricci recommends keeping secret the document sent containing his biography.

On the other hand, in the Bigazzi [section], we find two handwritten versions of his autobiography, one of which would seem to be the sequel to the other;[note 38] for us, the first is enough.
Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana, Bigazzi [section], no. 282. Frontispiece
(Reproduction prohibited)
If we wanted, we could extend our knowledge of the personage beyond that obtained from the Biographical Dictionary, adding details about his life, career, and professional production, but this is a commitment that I think should be postponed until someone has tracked down his historical minchiate.

The autobiography is written in clear professional handwriting, but in Latin, and this would not be the worst of evils. In fact, I can't attribute to an insufficient knowledge of that language (mother or grandmother of the one I speak) the fact that it took a bit of effort for me to look for a trace of minchiate. To tell the truth, I had little confidence in finding simple playing cards mentioned, even if with them he would have committed himself to depicting historical events or personalities. And yet evidently the fact was not to be kept silent, and the author himself also speaks of it, towards the middle of his autobiography.
36. ... ctionary)/
37. Biblioteca Moreniana, Palagi, 382.R.
38. Biblioteca Moreniana, Bigazzi, 282 and 282bis.

Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana, Bigazzi [section], no. 282. Detail of f. 28r
Ludum Minchiatarum, quas vocant, historicarum depictis figuris, subiectisque explanationibus excogitavi, quas vel in tabulis duabus explicatas, vel in folia fugitiva iisdem archetypi Ludi Legibus discretas ad eruditam animi relaxationem adolescentibus proposui. Iis vero elementa historica Regnorum Assyrii, Persici, Graeci, atque Romani compendio collegi.

I invented a game of Minchiate – as they call it – with scenes depicted and explanations underneath, which I proposed separately to young people for an erudite relaxation of the soul, either on two big sheets or in [normal-sized] loose sheets, with the same rules as the original game. With these, in effect, I summarily collected the historical elements of the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman kingdoms.
So the information in the cicalata was correct for real! The author even talks about two different versions of his pack of minchiate. One version is clear: printing on [normal-sized] loose sheets, and the uncertainty is only whether it is made of thick paper or, more plausibly, of normal paper to be glued on cardboard before cutting out and packaging the playing cards. Also, it seems to me, there is uncertainty as to whether the cards are to be sold already cut out or on the loose sheets. The big sheet version could be the same, but divided into only two sheets [i.e., with 49 and 48 cards each].

The four ancient kingdoms seem to correspond to an original way of distinguishing the four suits of the cards. But we can only speculate about the transition to the final deck of cards, as well as about the spread and use of this game. of which all information was lost (at least to my knowledge).

5. Conclusion

A part of interest was presented for the playing cards of an eighteenth-century academic "cicalata" in which the game of minchiate is also briefly discussed. In form, it is a good document in the Florentine dialect of the time, with many popular and idiomatic expressions.

Of special interest is the news of a pack of historical minchiate designed by Angelo Maria Ricci, priest and professor of Greek. The date is not indicated, which can be assumed to be in the thirties of the seventeenth century. In an autobiography of the author we read that he had proposed these, with information on the main kingdoms of antiquity, for the "erudite relaxation" of young people.

So, while the description closes, the hunt is on for the hitherto unknown pack of minchiate. Good luck!

Florence, 13.04.2024

My (mikeh's) addendum to the above:

I remembered seeing such a minchiate described by Kaplan (Encyclopedia of Tarot vol. 2, pp. 257-261), mentioning the four suits as the four "monarchies" and the rest. He says that the deck can be dated to 1721-1731, based on the tax stamp and signature, that being when Anton Giovanni Molinelli had the concession. He says the inscription on the unnumbered card in the deck reads "engraved with the assistance of C. Migelli." The back design is a crown above an escutcheon and Maltese cross. The cards are wrapped from the back to form the border decorated with dots. He adds that some of the dates in the historical texts are from a pre-Gregorian calendar. I don't know if that helps date the deck or not.

I also recalled a page in Christie's 2006 auction catalog of the Kapaln Collection. (I've seen it online, too, but it seems to be down at the moment.) The catalog is in "Ask Alexander" via my IPCS membership, where I can download it. It reads, p. 101:
Minchiate of Ancient History, circa 1725, Florence, Anton Giusepppe Molinelli, 90 of 97 cards, includes 34 trumps (lacks XXI, XXII, XXIX to XXXI, XXXVIII), and 55 suit cards (lacks 8 of coins), copper engravings in black except trumps XXXIII to XXXX in red, square corners, wrap around spotted paper edges around each card, trump XXXII has black stamp monogram of MGM between two lions beneath the Florentine lily and signature in brown ink of Anton Giuseppe Molinelli, holder of the playing card concession from 1721 to 1731. Trumps are full length-figures, Roman numerals, extensive Italian text, describes historical places, persons, events and objects including, for example, I Tower of Babel, II idolatry, III Semiramis, V Zoroaster, VI Amazons, XXIII Ulysses, XXXX Rome, etc. Suits are full length figures, Roman numerals, Italian titles and descriptions devoted to ancient nations, swords relate to Greece, batons to Rome, cups to Persia and coins to Assyria, suits of cups and coins are yellow tinted, one index. The deck was designed by A. Pazzi with assistance of C. Mogalli as evidenced on the unnumbered card, Statua Vedutada Nabucco. Backs are wood block printed crowned coat of arms of the Medici family. Size 4 in. (10 cm.) high, 2 3/8 in. (6 cm.) wide. Slightly worn, a few minor worm holes. Kaplan II, 257-261.
By Franco's information about the portrait, Pazzi would have been the engraver, perhaps also responsible for the drawings from which the engravings were made. The text and conception, from Franco's investigation, would appear to be Ricci's, not previously credited that I can find. Christie's has a few low-resolution pictures.

But where do they get the information that Molinelli was publisher as well as tax collector? And for that matter, where does "A. Pazzi" come from? Is it on the card?

There is also information on Gallica, with a high-resolution set of scans, but just of trumps 1-32 and no other cards: ... k=171674;4

They say:
Title : [Série des atouts d'un jeu de Minchiate istoriche] : [jeu de cartes, estampe] ([Exemplaire incomplet avec dos aux armes de Médicis])
Publisher : Anton Giuseppe Molinelli (Florence)
Publication date : 1725
Relationship : Notice de recueil :
Relation : Appartient à : [Collection Georges Marteau. Recueil. Cartes à jouer]
Relationship :
Type : image
Type : still image
Type : engraving
Language : Sans contenu linguistique
Format : 32 cartes à jouer : gravure à l'eau-forte ; 10,1...
Format : image/jpeg
Format : Nombre total de vues : 65
Description : Ancien possesseur : Marteau, Georges Edgard...
Anton Giuseppe Molinelli's signature, with tax stamp, is on card XXXII, Aratro, ... 63.highres.

Unfortunately they don't say where the "publisher" information comes from, or the date. Perhaps it is from Mr. Marteau, the well-known collector and playing card manufacturer (he headed Grimaud for a time).

Reading more about the Molinelli family of card makers and concession owners (often simultaneously), I see that Giambattista Monzali, The Playing Card 50:1 (July-Sept. 2021), says on p. 21, about Anton:
In the first example, together with the signature of Anton Giuseppe Molinelli affixed to the XXXII triumph (Aquarius) are the initials AGM placed between two rampant lions and surmounted by a lily as a symbol of the stamp Fig. 19. This stamp and signature remained in effect for three contracts from 1721 to 1735.
Yes, we can see the stamp on the Gallica image. This extends the range that Kaplan gave by 4 (or 5?) years.

But is it accurate? Monzali tells us that Anton Guiseppe died in Sept. 1731, after being awarded the contract through 1735. The concession passed to his sons, Monzali says (p. 20), Gio Francesco Gastone Molinelli and Pietro Xaviero Molinelli, "who do not change the stamp. Only the name of their uncle, their will tutor G. Domenico Molinelli, is signed." If "is signed" implies Domenico's signature, this contradicts what Monzali himself says on p. 21. The signature on the card clearly reads Anton Giuseppe Molinelli. I leave the matter there.

I have one more comment. Ricci does not seem to have been the first to have had the idea of assigning the four suits to the four empires. John of Rheinfelden writes about such a deck. As I wrote in this Forum recently enough to remember it (viewtopic.php?p=20657#p20657):
There were four empires discussed in relation to playing cards. John of Rheinfelden assigned one to each of the suits of the moralized 60 card game. He called them monarchies, because of course his suits only went up to kings. . . .

Arne Jönsson writes, of Johannes' suits (“Card-playing as a Mirror of Society. On Johannes of Rheinfelden's Ludus cartularum moralisatus,” In O. Ferm & V. Honemann (Eds.), Chess and Allegory in the Middle Ages, 2005, pp. 359-371, on p. 370:
As regards the four suits, they represent, in Johannes’ opinion, four kingdoms, namely the four successive world monarchies, Babylonia, Persia, Macedon (or Greece), and the Roman Empire. As his symbol the Babylonian king has a man’s head, the Greek king has bells, and the Roman king an eagle. Johannes tells us that he does not understand the Persian king’s symbol.
I went on to speculate that this division might have influenced Marziano's four divisions, or at least two of them: virtues (with eagles) and riches (bells= German suit corresponding to Coins), as well as "VIII Imperatori". But that is neither here nor there. The date of the allegorical treatment of minchiate summarized by Andrea Vitali is 1747, so after Ricci's deck and probably influenced by it.

In an 1847 allegorization of minchiate summarized by Andrea Vitali at speaks of the four suits as representing the same four "empires," as he calls them. It probably was influenced by Ricci's deck, but the four ancient empires, each conquering the one before, seems to have been a tradition of sorts.
Last edited by mikeh on 18 May 2024, 10:45, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here now is another, "Firenze 1783 ‒ Il giallo del Diavolo," As usual, comments in brackets are my additions (in consultation with Franco) for explanatory purposes. Numbers in the left margin correspond to those of his pdf. I have a few comments afterwards.

Florence 1783: The Mystery of the Devil

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

This note is part of a long series dedicated to card games and playing cards. In this case, the cards involved are few and perhaps none of them are real playing cards, neither the Devil's card nor the few others present together. In fact, these are only images of playing cards painted on two letters of invitation that a gentleman unknown to us sent to a Florentine couple about whom some information can instead be found. The locality involved is Baccano, which in this case must be identified with Via di Baccano, in the old center of Florence.

In short, we have two letters of invitation, we have the recipients, we have the place of departure of the letters and of the announced reception. However, we do not have complete information on the sender of the invitations, apart from the name of Devil with which he identifies himself, which, however, is very stimulating in itself for undertaking a "police" search to try to track him down.

2. The two letters preserved

I reproduce and transcribe both letters directly.
First letter from the Devil
Florence, Moreniana Library, Palagi [section], No. 359, Ins. [Insert] 11, f. 1
(Reproduction prohibited)

Our very vicious associate,
The Devil got it wrong this time. He believed that by often coming into your hands he would cause you displeasure. Let this Beast be sufficiently convinced of His Poor ability while he has still not managed to penetrate the future. The visits he made to you at night are exchanged for a day of pleasure. Hence the proverb is very true that the Devil is not as bad as he is painted.
Therefore on Sunday 12 1783 at the first hour of the afternoon you are awaited, our most vicious Associate, with your Consort, in the usual residence of Casa Ferrini to enjoy the table prepared for you by the Devil, who himself has bothered to invite you.
Expect a Devil's lunch: don't make yourselves wait; goodbye.
House number 15
The Secretary of the Devil depicted
Second letter of the Devil
Florence, Moreniana Library, Palagi No. 359 Ins 11, f. 2
(Reproduction prohibited)
Our very vicious associate,
Next Sunday, the 16th of February, the Devil wants to come to table again, in the usual House placed in Baccano, because it seemed to him that he had postponed the well-satisfied Conversation, and now he yearns for it much more, because these Baccanali days are consecrated to him, and he is more in fashion than before. But he would not like to be seen, because we must know that he worked much less than last time, as a consequence he is thinner, in view of which he thought of taxing everyone's purse in an equal portion, to provide himself with a little fodder to fatten up, and thus by putting on meat he hopes to make you happy, to send you home well fed.
The Secretary
In His name at your feet now here it is
That I place the memorial, and also himself.
Now you make it so that he doesn't remain dry,
Because in that case he will come after me,
And he will tell me that I am the cause
And that I didn't express myself politely,
Because I'm a certain stupid Ambassador,
That I didn't know how to explain his desire well;
The recreation will go to waste
We will be left with dry teeth, you and me.
From House No. 15.
With the help of a perpetual calendar, the full dates of the two Sundays come out as January 12 and February 16, 1783, five weeks apart. The addresses of the two letters are similar, with the only difference that the wife’s name Francesca (who was also invited in the text of the first letter, without mentioning her name) appears only in the second, next to that of Giovanni Felice Mosell

3. Information about Giovanni Felice Mosell

If tracing the sender is a rather difficult task, finding information on the recipient is relatively easy. He was in fact a fairly well-known musician, son and brother of musicians active in Florence in important positions. Let's be clear: internationally, they are always second-rate musicians, but locally, they made notable careers. We do not find our Giovanni Felice in the great Dizionario Enciclopedico Universale della Musica e dei Musicisti [Universal Encyclopedic Dictionary of Music and Musicians] of the UTET, but he appears as follows in its Appendix
Mosel, Giovanni Felice. Italian violinist and composer. (Florence, 1754 - ? , after 1812). He studied violin with his father, who had been a pupil of Tartini, and made his debut as a child in his hometown, where he later perfected himself with Pietro Nardini. He was a member of the orchestra of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and, upon the death of his teacher, in 1793 he succeeded him in the role of director, holding the position for some years. In 1812 he was director of the Teatro della Pergola; afterward, we have no further news of him.
To frame Mosell in the environment it may also be useful to read what Gandolfi writes in one of his studies on the Grand Duke's musical chapel.
Pietro Leopoldo (1765-1790), always intent on the serious cares of the Kingdom and of useful reforms to the State, could only slightly concern himself with music; however, he did pay a few distinguished professors of that art for his services. One of them was the famous Pietro Nardini from Livorno, a delicate and pleasing violinist representing the Padua School in Florence, who included among his best students Giovanni Felice Mosell and Luigi Campanelli, who succeeded him in the office of First Violin and Director to the Sovereign. [note 1]
Among others, some documents preserved in the State Archives of Florence [note 2] are of some interest, with payments to the court musicians paid by the court in the early seventies: rarely one or the other of the three Mosells (Antonio, Giovanni, and Giovanni Felice) is present in the periodic performances at the main churches of the city, but all three regularly participate in those held during public lunches.

The situation will change later with Ferdinand III, but our Mosell maintains a prominent position.
1. R. Gandolfi, “La Cappella Musicale della Corte di Toscana.” In Rivista Musicale Italiana, vol. 16. 1909, pp. 506-521.
2. ASFi, Imperiale e Reale Corte, 5434.
3. S. Gitto, “La collezione musicale di Palazzo Pitti (1): il catalogo del 1771.” In Fonti Musicali Italiane, vol. 17, 2012, pp. 175-192.

Ferdinando III dedicated particular attention to the musical life of the Florentine court: in 1792, he reformed the entire Royal Chapel and Chamber following the “Proposition of the new establishment of music and of the employees to serve there,” suggested by the then chapel-master [i.e. orchestra director] Salvatore Pazzaglia. A detailed comparison table describes, in economic and artistic terms, the differences between the “Ancient State,” i.e. the Leopoldian years, the “Proposed New State,” and the “New Rectified State,” i.e. the new structure approved by the Grand Duke, thus giving us a series of important pieces of information on the management of palatine music in Florence in the ten years that divided the Habsburg government of Pietro Leopoldo from the Franco-Bourbon government of the Kingdom of Etruria. The document describes in detail the renewed court music sector through the hiring procedures, obligations, and tasks of the musicians, the fees and their names - to whom. contrary to past customs, a single instrument is entrusted. The list of orchestra musicians appointed in 1792 is reported from this document.
Bowed instruments
First Violin Pietro Nardini with pension
Second Violin Giovan Felice Mosell
More violins
More information on Mosell's musical activity can be found in various places, including some printed and manuscript scores. More than fifty entries appear under his name as an author in OPAC SBN [on this digital entity, see], but these are mostly librettos of operas in which he was orchestra director or first violin.
Much more remembered than any detail of his professional activity, is however an episode that speaks of him in particular, discussed in several books, even with the reproduction of the related documents: [note 4]: his sale in 1793 of a Stradivarius violin, which was part of a precious set of five stringed instruments that had been given to Ferdinando dei Medici. Mosell is usually harshly criticized, even in older writings, [note 5] for having sold this instrument, of which he was only the custodian; but we also read some defenses, such as the following.

Even if it would be easy to align with the widespread lack of consideration towards Mosell - who sold the instrument for fifty sequins to a rich English gentleman in 1794 (see V. Gai, The instruments..., p. 25 f.) - it would not be honest, objectively, to draw any conclusive negative judgment, given that the very well-founded doubt always remains that the first court violinist had become, through a previous grand ducal donation, the owner of the precious Stradivarius instrument. [note 6]

The subsequent transition from the grand ducal orchestra to a stable position in the Teatro della Pergola (where he had also previously conducted the orchestra) is easily explained by the arrival of the French government in Florence and the removal of the court, but the fact that he remained there for many years as director can indicate his notable practical and managerial ability in addition to his purely musical technique. Among other things, from the titles present in OPAC SBN, he would appear in his usual role as first violin and director of the orchestra also in the spring of 1814, with the performances of L'ambition delusa [Delusional Ambition] and L'Italiana in Algiers [The Italian woman in Algiers].
4. V. Gai, Gli strumenti musicali . . . Florence 1969; M. Branca, Il Museo degli strumenti musicali. Livorno 1999.
5. C. Gervasoni, Nuova Teoria di musica, Parma 1812; F. Sacchi, Il Conte Cozio di Salabue. London 1898.
6. Antichi strumenti. Florence 1981.

Unexpectedly, no traces of this important final activity at the Teatro della Pergola were found in the Archives of the Academy of the Immobile; also, in the Inventory [note 7], we find only one, and only once, in 1817, the last descendant of this family of musicians of Lorraine origin, Egisto Mosell. But if it is true that there are no traces of them in the Inventory, it seems impossible to me that there aren't any in the minutes of the meetings and in the recordings of the performances; it would be enough to search more thoroughly.

4. The identity of the Devil

What do we know about the Devil? The professional comments on the handwritten letters indicate these characters as "merry-makers," which suggests a jovial environment. In fact, on the cover of the fascicle we read the following.
N. 2 Curious invitations "from the Devil" to Gio. Mosell, "very vicious member" of an association of merry-makers who met at table during the Carnival of 1783. At the top, the figure of the devil is badly painted between two playing cards.
Maybe. The Devil, however, is not a stranger between the two cards because in fact his figure, although "poorly painted," represents a tarot playing card, and in particular a card of minchiate, given that we are in Florentine territory; to confirm the attribution with certainty we read the number XIV which corresponds precisely to the devil of minchiate. But wanting to indicate it like this, flanked by two numeral cards, it should have been associated with those of clubs, swords, coins and cups, instead of the more recent French suits. The two associated cards are two pairs of sevens, which are also the highest cards in primiera. (The first card would be the Seven of Coins, the most important card in the games of the Scopa family; but we are not certain that those games were already widespread, particularly in Tuscany. [note 8])

Were perhaps sacrilegious rites also celebrated around those dining tables? Were perhaps the playing cards used for some fortune-telling type of use? We cannot know, although the choice of the devil as a mask and the mention of insufficient reading of the future (lack of ability while he has not yet managed to penetrate the future) leave us with some suspicion for now.

The only valid clue to further the research is that this Devil writes from his home, Casa Ferrini in Baccano, where he invites guests. The number 15 of the house certainly cannot be verified with the numbers on today's streets, but, as far as Baccano is concerned, in this case it is Via di Baccano near Calimala, a few steps from Piazza del Granduca (the current Signoria).

Where Calimara ends, the Via di Baccano ends, perhaps from the bacchanal, if it is true that in ancient times bacchanalian games were played there on carnival days. But it was also thought that this name came from being a place full of traffic and much frequented by shop assistants. It was already called Via de' Cavalcanti, because this family had their home and loggia there. In some of Baccano's shops, Bernardo Cennini had his workshop, and the Medici their counter. [note 9]

The Devil was perhaps a lover of music; he was certainly a fan of playing cards. Unfortunately, these are very weak clues, but the surname Ferrini remains an important clue to his identity,. Therefore I carried out some surveys in the Gazzetta Toscana, with good results, which make it clear to us that nothing diabolical or sacrilegious appears in that company.
Last Saturday a new literary Academy was started under the title of the Faticanti [Laboring] with a very select concourse of nobles and virtuous people in the salon of Signore Ferrini located in Baccano, whose opening was made by Signore Abate Catani with a well-reasoned,
7. L’Accademia degli Immobili, ed. Alberti, Bartoloni, Marcelli. Rome 2010.
8. The Playing-Card, Vol. 24 No. 1 (1995) 6-12; No. 2, 56.
9. P. Thouar, Notizie e guida di Firenze e de’ suoi contorni. Florence 1841. On pp. 473-474.

and erudite dissertation followed by other poetic compositions that were interspersed with
by beautiful musical pieces. [note 10]

The present season of Advent, being appropriate for the academic amusements of these “Faticanti” Gentlemen, was given on Sunday evening in the salon of Signore Giovacchino Ferrini, one of the members of the said Academy, with chosen others and numerous contributors to an Academic Conversation of Poetry, Sound, and singing, where members Gio. Mosel, [note 11], Brocchi, and Giuseppa Fineschi, distinguished themselves, and some arias were heard with great pleasure, excellently sung by a certain gentleman Babbini Tenore, who is passing through here on his way to Bologna. The instrumental and vocal concerts and the extemporaneous poetic faculties, no less studiously refined by art, form a completely harmonious and varied entertainment, which is only typical of the Florentines, and which is at the same time interesting and attractive. There is no place for doubt that this Academy, which has not been founded for even a year, and which is still nascent, so to speak, will soon reach the eminent level of the other similar ones established here, which form the ornament of our City. [note 12].
To frame this Academy of the Faticanti within the Florentine academic environment of the time. an overview such as the following may serve.
The Academies are in large numbers in Florence. The famous Academies of Crusca, Fiorentina and Apatisti have their residence in the same place. In addition to these Literary Academies, there are many others which serve during Lent to provide some entertainment to the Nobility and Citizens of both sexes.
They are known under the names of the Ingenious, the Harmonious, the Laboring [Faticanti], etc., etc. Only the first of these enjoys the honor of Royal protection. All the others have simple approval from the Government. Their meetings consist of some little arias and duets performed by good musicians, in concerts with all sorts of instruments, and other similar things; the entertainment is interspersed with poetic compositions, where everyone is free to recite, and which serve to give a convenient rest to the teachers of singing and sound rather than forming the main object of the Festival.
You cannot enter without a printed ticket, on which is written the name of the Academician who distributes it, and the person for whom it is intended: some are reserved for foreigners of rank, who ordinarily still pass without the ticket, especially when they have been recognized and distinguished by the Ministers of their Nation resident in Florence.
The Ladies participate elegantly dressed, and for a singular use in Lent in such circumstances a richness and magnificence is flaunted that is overlooked in Carnival through the incognito of the mask.
It seems at first sight that these Academies of simple entertainment have acquired greater credit than those that were established for the growth and splendor of letters and sciences. [note 13]
As can be seen, information was found, in particular on music, and we also met either Giovanni Felice Mosell in person or at least one of his brothers. In short, the mystery of the sender of the two letters has been solved without a shadow of doubt, and all that remains is to add something about the Devil, that is, as we have seen, about Giovacchino Ferrini.
10. Gazzetta Toscana N. 13 p. 50 (01.04.1775).
11. Without the double name he is probably a brother of our Giovanni Felice.
12. Gazzetta Toscana No. 13, on p. 197 (16.12.1775).
13. ... ll_Ital/E-

Searching OPAC SBN with his name, numerous publications appear. In reality, only one seems to have been compiled by him as the author, while the others were printed with Ferrini, who appears as a publisher, bookseller, and stationer, with a shop in Piazza del Granduca.

I would limit myself to examining his moral-poetic work, [note 14] from which I copy the chapter dedicated to games. It's logical to feel curious to hear an opinion on the game directly from the Devil, instead of the usual preachers.

This is what must be observed in games.

With an illustrious Lord it is not allowed to
___Set up a game; just play when
___He commands it, or he himself has invited us to the game.
When playing, do not show greed
___To gain from it: this indicates
___Baseness of spirit and cowardice.
Whoever doesn't have a sweet and yielding nature
___It is fitting that he abstain from every game
___For whatever inconvenience may follow.
To discover whose character you desire,
___Or his virtues to know, or his vices,
___Let Cards, or dice, as they say, be given into his hands
Continuous attention must be applied, and not without
___Very accurate keeping to the order [i.e. following the rules] of the game
___And never losing through complacency.
And this so as not to seem stupid, and again
___To demonstrate to the one with whom one plays,
___That he is honored with all possible care.
If joking at all times is little
___Commendable, it will be thereafter very little
___Plausible to make fun of any in the game.
To either sing or whistle is uncivilized
___In the game, and also in a low voice, like
___The habit when someone is idle.
Neither with your hands nor with your feet to play
___Is given, with the feet to go beating the ground,
___And with the fingers to play the tambourine.
If the game is Ball, and if one is occupied
___With Trucco, or Ball, or Maglio,
___Keeping dirty postures with the body is not suitable.
If any despondency in the game happens,
___As often happens, not rudely does one persist,
___But complacently one recovers and gives in.
To sustain a kick or a blow, one lets the case
___Faithfully be reported, and in peace, and that decided,
___One appears to remain satisfied.
Because everything in the game sweet
___And peaceful must be: making oaths
___Is a cowardly thing, and it is a grave sin.
They still sin, and already the great Chrysostom
___Said it, speaking of games___
___That there are mixed [with it] blasphemies and thefts and fights.
Once the stake is won, civilly
___Let it be collected without much heat,
___But with all sweetness, and coolly.
If someone failed to place the bet,
___This should not be said to him: one must only say:
___It seems that all the Bets are not placed.
When the bet is lost, so let it be given
___Quickly to those who want the money, and never
___Wait for it to be requested by the Winner.
It is a mark of a well-born spirit
___Quickly to pay what is owed in the game,
___Without showing difficulty and restraint.
It is also still of a generous spirit
___Not only in the game, but in everything else
___To be ready to pay without delay.
Two things make a man lose credit.
___The Persian says: one is to be a debtor,
___The other is to deny the creditor the debt.
If someone is playing with you
___Much greater, if losing hurts him,
___Continuing the game is civility.
If fate shows itself against us,
___To withdraw from the game is praiseworthy,
___And to manage with our own strength.
It's a risk to encounter mockery,
___And I still despise those who do [by continuing to play] out of complacency
___What their state [losing what little they have] does not allow them.
If anyone goes into anger in the game,
___One must not make retorts to his words;
___But pity him in his transports.
If it is a Lady, this is done much more;
___Everything must be accepted on the good side
___And have for her respect and civility.
If anyone comes higher [socially] than you and has an itch
___For the game, you must be ready
___To withdraw and give the place up to him.
14. G. Ferrini, La gioventù istruita nel buon costume, 2nd edition. Florence 1792 (1st ed. 1787).

Playing with discretion is done like this:
___There is still another precept in the game;
___That you don't have to play every night and every day.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, it is written:
___There is a time for the Dance, and a time for the Game,
___But there it is also prescribed the time to pray.
If you were looking for a trace of the devil, you just can't find it here; indeed, just read the end of the chapter to understand that we are on the other side. I have been interested in the question because of the Devil's link with playing cards, and since this link has not yet been confirmed, I think I will present other information. Perhaps the only link with what we have seen so far is the Via di Baccano.

5. Final digression on Girolamo Cocchi

So far, no explanation has been found for the connection between the Devil and playing cards. A different possibility is that Girolamo Cocchi was somehow involved with the Devil. If we look for a personage with this name in the usual online repertoires, we find one (indeed more than one from the same family of Bolognese printers) involved in the printing of popular prints, and no connection with our environment can be glimpsed.

However, I had met a Girolamo Cocchi while studying the licenses granted in Tuscany for gambling in coffee shops, barber shops, academies, and other establishments. The connection with playing cards is strengthened by the fact that it is he himself who goes to the Stamp Office in Florence to pay the tax due to authorize the game in his shop. . . in Baccano. [note 15] At the time I thought that it was in a place by this name near Fiesole, but now it is clear to me that it was instead in the center of Florence, right where the Academy of the Laboring met.

Here we are at the main indication for making Baccano smell of some devil odor among the playing cards. Another Girolamo Cocchi also appears, whom we also find involved in Florence with gaming licenses. His position is very different: it is not of a business owner asking for a license for his shop, but a contractor with whom the Royal Tax Office, and in particular the Tax Stamp Office, has signed a concession contract in the eighteenth century to grant licenses, upon payment of an annual fee. [note 16]

Searching more deeply in the archival documents, I concluded that the two characters were the same person. But how could a simple shopkeeper obtain the contract for all the licenses in Tuscany? The answer is easy: he wasn't just a shopkeeper! The Girolamo Cocchi who showed up to pay a high tax to allow the playing of low cards in "his" shop in Baccano was certainly the same one who showed up to pay the tax for "his" shop in Sdrucciolo di Orsanmichele, also completely in the city center, and even a shop in Prato.

Furthermore, a Gaetano Cocchi is found with the same function for the Arcadia [Academy] at Canto alla Macine, who then appears for the Baccano workshop to replace Girolamo, perhaps a brother or father. In short, these Cocchi, and Girolamo in particular, were professionally involved at a high level with playing cards in multiple locations in the city, including Baccano. Now we know that this Girolamo Cocchi could not have been the same Devil, already identified with certainty, but it seems to me that he could at least have belonged to the same company of "merry-makers" if, as happened in other academies, playing cards were also used during members' meetings.

Florence, 04.20.2024
15. ASFi, Camera e Auditore Fiscale, N. 3016 and 3017;
16. A. Addobbati, La festa e il gioco nella Toscana del Settecento. Pisa 2002, p.178.

My (mikeh's) comments:

The corresponding minchiate card can be seen at ... 96-0501-41, a "Poverino" deck whose tax stamp on card XXVII Aries indicates that it is from the period 1780-1800. The particularly feminine, or at least effeminate, appearance of the Devil is characteristic of woodcut minchiates of this period from Florence. What is different is the direction of his/her stride, left instead of right, and so a mirror image of the actual card. I suspect an arcane significance to this change, in particular a kind of reversal of the expected negativity. My speculation is that the two 7s are associated with luck, as in dice games, with in the first invitation black associated with bad luck and red with good. So it is in the interest of the recipient to accept the invitation. The second invitation then reverses this association, perhaps to dare the recipient to come anyway, as the first intimation was simply a joke. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this speculation is true.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

The find now is a new kind of minchiate, or at least that is the claim. It is in the same vein as the ancient history minchiate of a previous note. The original, "1748 – Minchiate incomplete di un pastore arcade," is dated May 1, 2024, and is at

The "Arcadian" of the title is a member of an academy, presumably that of Arcadia, with the shepherd's pipes in its emblem. I need to say something about a couple of the words. Besides cards, the author also proposes board games, where the board is divided into "caselle," boxes. The word, with its equivalent in English, applies to both three-dimensional containers with flat sides and to two-dimensional ones with straight sides, in this particular case ones containing words. While we would normally call the divisions on a chessboard "squares," the author here seems to want to emphasize its role as a container of words, an essential part of the games he proposes. Then for the cards, which are on large sheets ready to be cut out, he again speaks of them, when they are on the sheet, as "caselle," boxes - they, too, contain words -, but quickly switches to "quadretti," which ordinarily means "squares," but can mean "quadrangles," according to the online Grand Dizionario de la Lingua Italiana. Once a box on a sheet of paper is removed from that sheet to become a card, it apparently ceases to be a box. Of course, his cards are rectangular, not square. So, strictly following the dictionary, I translate "quadretti" as "quadrangles."

After the presentation of this translation of Franco's note, I will have a few more things to say. Again, notes in brackets, unless indicated otherwise, are mine, for clarification (after consulting with Franco).

1748 – Incomplete minchiate of an Arcadian shepherd

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

This study was motivated by the very recent discovery of the existence of a pack of historical minchiate from the eighteenth century of which information had been lost.[note 1] I hope to have put several interested researchers on the trail and that this unusual deck of cards will soon be found and described. I, too, have committed myself to this research, for now without getting any closer to the goal. [Fortunately, the treasure hunt soon turned out successful with the Addendum by Michael after his translation. F.P.] However, to my renewed surprise, I found that the research situation has been made incredibly more profitable by the digitization of library and archive inventories. And then, trying to use these valid tools, I came across not the minchiate I was looking for, but another pack of minchiate that seems to me to deserve a presentation.

Still using the powerful means available today for online searches, I fortunately found a presentation of the work at the time of the release of its first part, and while they were preparing the second, and also a subsequent review that clarifies the method and value of the entire recreational-educational system. I therefore could not resist the temptation to use both of these sources, copying more or less extensive parts of them. This allows me to summarily add my comments and conclusion.
Furthermore, I found the same work presented in a Milanese exhibition of games and toys and I also collected some useful information from the rich catalog of that exhibition.

2. Presentation in the periodical press

News of the Republic. For the 21st December 1748. Venice.
New Method invented by the Abbot of S. Giacinto Enea Gaetano Melani Sienese Apostolic protonotary and Ecclesiastic of Jerusalem called among the Arcadians Eresto Eleucanteo, to make the hated aspect of the Schools amiable. … Venice, Gio. Battista Recurti, in illustrated folio.
Ingenious and praiseworthy is the new theory proposed to young Italians, who, abhorring the ordinary and rigid aspect of the schools, wish at the same time, through a private and sweet Entertainment of Games, practice in the apparatus the most serious sciences as well as the two languages, Italian and Latin.
Signore Abbot Melani, who in addition to the new historical description that he gave to the Public of the Plague of Messina in sdruccioli verse [where the accent falls on the third to last syllable], is also known for various Sonnets and Poems printed of the Sermons of the famous Fr. Cavalcanti given in Malta, after a long effort suffered by him to combine the theory he conceived with practice, which in every direction becomes difficult and very rough, here in three large sheets gives us the idea deciphered, with an evident essay on the study of the Holy Scripture, which youths can easily learn in the combination of Games to be played in different Boxes [Caselle], or Lessons, whether by way of Chessboards, Dice, or Cards.
The first Sheet therefore instructs the reader on what is necessary to know before approaching the reading of this new proposed Method. Then in the second, with the distribution in 32 Boxes [Caselle] (each of which is marked with colors, Alphabetical Letters, chronological notes, and various numbers), we are given a juicy compendium of the Facts reported in the Old Testament, starting from the Creation of Adam; and with a pleasant interweaving of Italian and Latin verses, the author looks to teach what is most beneficial to Christian youth.

In the third sheet, with the same method, the remaining History of the Old Testament is given to us in as many Boxes and Lessons: those places being observable where Tradition is spoken of and the wonderful usefulness that comes from the Sacred Scripture, considered as
Of Faith Master, and of customs Rule:
The Author adding,
It is the escort
For loving and fearing our God
It softens the troubles of our exile,
And ultimately leads us to the beautiful Kingdom of Peace.
We will point out that the object of Sig. Abbot Melani is to subsequently give with new Sheets and cards engraved in copper, not only the following History of the New Testament, but also Geography and sacred History, Moral Philosophy, Chivalric Science, Administration, and other useful sciences.[note 2] However, in order to facilitate the undertaking, especially in the serious expense of drawings and Copper plates to be engraved by the most expert in the Art, the means of Subscription is planned; therefore every scholar who in this and the next Month of January places 11 Paoli in the hands of the Bookseller Recurti, will obtain, in addition to the three Sheets, the 52 illustrated Cards for the Holy Scriptures, which will already be perfected within 5 Months.[note 3]

3. The specimens preserved

This is a pack of minchiate that is not only unusual but very strange. At the same time, no loose deck of cards is known of this minchiate; there are only sheets to cut; but this would not have been a problem. Of these sheets I have found information on only two examples in the whole world: one is preserved in the library of Munich [note 4] and is now accessible on the Internet, [note 5] and one was part of the collection of Alberto Milano.[note 6] Of the second, we only have the reproduction of one sheet out of seven; of the first, we have the complete reproduction online, but it is not easy to read due to the low resolution and large size of the sheets; in both cases, it is not certain what is to be understood as the entire printed work.

The total is just a few large sheets with lots of writing and images on educational topics. These sheets can be hung on the walls and consulted at will, laid out on a table and used as a basis for various games (for example as a chessboard to play checkers or chess), or cutting the sheets or figures, thus obtaining playing cards, perhaps after gluing them onto cardboard. Naturally, the playing cards obtained will be completely special, very different from ordinary cards, as they retain educational writing or engravings on most of the surface.

The transformation of these instructive figures into playing cards can take place first of all thanks to their size and the frame designed as the limit of the figure, completely similar to what is typical for playing cards. Furthermore, in all the suit cards, the name of the card is printed in a box at the top left, i.e. the number for the numeral cards and the name for the court cards, and also the suit; the name of the suit is doubled because it indicates both the Italian ones of cups, coins, clubs or swords, and the French ones of hearts, diamonds, clubs or spades. With this stratagem, the same card can alternatively be part of different decks of low cards among those in use, and also of a deck of tarocchi, and even one of minchiate (not taking into account the fact that in the last two cases, the cards should be bigger).
2. The last topics indicated are absent in the sheets preserved. It seems probable that they were never printed.
3. Novelle della repubblica letteraria per l’anno MDCCXLIII. Venice 1748. On pp. 401-402.
4. E. Melani, Trattenimenti Eruditi Sopra La Geografia, E Sfera: Inventati In Grazia Della Nobile Gioventù. Venice 1750.
5. ... edir_esc=y
6. Come giocavamo: giochi e giocattoli, 1750-1960. Milan 1984.

It is stated that the total number of these cards is 160, and therefore, also thanks to the indicated stratagem, it can be assumed that any deck of playing cards is easily obtainable. However, if you move from the "normal" decks of low cards to those of tarocchi and minchiate, it is necessary to add the superior or triumphal cards to the deck. Given the simplicity with which the other cards are treated, it is easy to imagine that the problem of additional cards can immediately be solved by simply inserting the numbers from 0 to 21 for tarot or from 0 to 40 for minchiate into the usual boxes at the top left.
In fact, there are some cards with a number like this. However, in the sheets preserved in Munich, we see that the numbers present are not only not sufficient to complete the promised deck of minchiate, but also not sufficient for the typical 78-card tarot deck. So, from what we can observe, the pack of minchiate we are looking for is certainly incomplete.
It remains to be verified whether some sheets that were printed later are missing from the Munich collection, the work was not completed, or the promises of minchiate were forgotten during production. A certain result is that the parts programmed covering “Moral Philosophy, Chivalric Science, Administration, and other useful sciences” are not present in the preserved specimens.

4. Comments of the time
[note 7]
. . .
Just as the male clerics, and the female clerics in their convents, and the Students and Residents in the Seminaries and Colleges, where good taste is a principle, will be able to spend the hours of recreation among themselves with these equally erudite and pleasant entertainments!
With how much ease will children now be able, while playing, to suck with their milk the Maxims of Christian Morals, taken from the purest and clearest source, which is the Holy Scripture, to whose waters few ordinarily, approach their lips, whether through negligence or out of laziness!

How children themselves can be trained to love the supreme good and to fear the terrible God at the sight of his mercies and justice, painted with such vivid colors!
How easy it will be also to learn to read using these cards and these sheets, without the nuisance of the ABCs; and to acquire little by little and insensibly some notion of the Latin language, to the understanding of which long practice leads much better than the many precepts can do! And this is quite known to everyone; this is what everyone expresses; this is practiced by the Ultramontanists [“People beyond the Alps,” but here with a more specific reference, perhaps to the Jesuits]; this happens with all other languages; and the Author will show this in the dissertation that will accompany the sixth or seventh Entertainment.

In addition to the indicated Entertainments on Sacred Chronological History, two other large sheets have appeared to the public for Astronomy [Sfera, literally "Sphere," but also short for "Celestial Sphere"] and Geography, also purged of some misunderstandings and confusion that can be seen in some current books; which sheets are also dedicated to the Holiness of the reigning Supreme Pontiff; and together a pack of fifty-six playing cards, made with quadrangles [quadrati] cut and removed from the same [the sheets], with the four marks [of the suits] variously colored and nobly adorned.
In the notice printed on these sheets we read on the sides of the copper Engravings that “with these cards it will be licit to play even with money, both for interest and for vice; but that at least the vice will no
7. Lettera critica d’un pastore arcade intorno a’ giuochi eruditi pubblicati ultimamente in Venezia presso il Recurti, ed in Pesaro presso il Gavelli. Turin 1749. ... &q&f=false

longer be alone, and whoever loses money on the one hand will not also lose time with it; for on the other he will gain some erudition; and those who have good fortune will then make a double gain by acquiring learning and money.” And the Author is right to say this: while it will be easy for everyone who knows how to read, or who hears [others] reading, to learn something that they did not know before, even if they did not want to, and if they did not apply themselves on purpose.
However, it would please Heaven that these same eruditions, and others that will come to light subsequently, should be printed on all playing cards to ennoble them, and to make them acquire another character different from that which they usually carry.
Who can fail to praise the good order and arrangement of so many matters located in their particular quadrangles? At the top of these quadrangles in other smaller boxes the subjects treated in the body of the cards are indicated, and the proper suit-signs and details of each card itself are written, both in the Italian and in the French style, and the large and small letters in alphabetical order, and the syllables, and in some the numbers of the Triumphs, or Tarocchi (since as stated in the aforementioned notice you will be able to play Minchiate with these cards, and any other more popular and enjoyable game with decks of 40 or 52 or 97). And you can vary the games in a thousand ways as you like, both with the cards and with the large unfolded sheets of paper, as long as you read what is written there continually, to keep it in your memory.
It is true that inside Italy and outside it some games have been composed, or rather sketched out from time to time, such as that of [Coats of] Arms, that of Geography, that of Navigation, that of Fortifications, and others. But (let it be said with peace) these are very dry, are not suitably ordered and arranged; they are not conducted properly, nor can one ever derive satisfaction and pleasure from any of them, much less education and profit.

Complimentary letter from the Arcadian pastor himself
It is certainly very certain that any child with good guidance and direction, and any youngster even by himself in three or four months, playing and amusing himself, reading, replicating often everything that is expressed in the sheets, or on the same sheets, or on the cards, will learn the whole History of the Old Testament and perhaps also what is mentioned for the Profane History under the same chronology. Won't this be a huge advantage? Will the foundation of good education not thus be ensured? You just need to have a mind to conceive it.
Here is the summary of the Preface, [Instruction, and Author's Notice, which, moreover, must be read especially by the directors, and by those who wish to learn even without a director. You will not struggle as much in this reading as you struggle in translating twenty or thirty verses of insipid vernacular words into the barbaro-Latin language [corrupted Latin?], due to the daily and long condemnation of unfortunate Children, due to the tyranny and ignorance of some Pedant, whether clumsy or self-absorbed.
When we know well what belongs to the Old Testament, we will be able to move on to using the same rules on the sheets and cards of Geography and astronomy [sfera]; indeed, one will be able to play with greater freedom on the sheets of paper and with the geographical cards, as the Author suggests in the short notice that accompanies it, consisting of five or six sentences which, however, will not bring regret for reading it; rather it will offer pleasure for hearing that with the pack of Geographical cards you can play Primiera, Bassetta, and any other invitation [betting] game (which games, however, will only be permitted to adults, never to children, who must keep away from any game that smacks of vice, so as not to overturn the beautiful designs of the Author, and so as not to contravene its most noble and useful aim).

But let us suppose that there are two or more children exercising themselves with these virtuous toys. Having to play as with Goose on the first, and on the second sheet as a chessboard; here are the rules, and they are the same as those already declared by the Author in the Preface; so we can only echo him, replicating some of the things said by him.
Lay out the two large sheets ]next to each other on the table, or even just one, and it will be the shortest game. Each player is given ten or twelve signs [tokens], such as small coins, pawns, or almonds, lupin beans, and the like. Everyone places two or three of those same signs on the board, as agreed. The person on whom the lot has fallen will be the first to throw two dice (Dice that have letters instead of numbers). As many letters appear in the two faces above, the number of boxes the thrower will have to move through. He will have to read, or hear read, all or part of the contents in the box where he has stopped, at least the title at the top and the vulgar [Italian] verses. The second who throws the dice will observe the same rules as the first, and so will the others, also in accordance with what is mentioned at the foot of the same Boxes, regarding paying, going backward, going forward, etc. Whoever first reaches the last box, with the number 6, or the one with the num. 12, will win everything that is in the pot, just as is done in the game of Goose.
We now come to the illustrated sheets, and the decks of cards composed with these cut sheets, and to the declaration of what is seen in them. The first box, or illustrated card, has the large letter A at the top, and is called the box or card of A. Under A you see the mark of a Globe, or Chaos. This first card represents the Creation of the world. In this card you can see God, Adam, Animals, the Sun, the Moon, etc.

The Games will vary as desired. The Author proposes many, and many others can be invented; as long as they are innocent games, and suited to the subject.
In order to play, for example, with the illustrated cards the Game of the Patriarchs (like that of the Triumphs), or of the Judges, or of the Kings, or of the Years, etc., five or six cards will be distributed to each person. Whoever in his will find more Patriarchs, or Judges, or Kings, etc. will win.

5. In the Milanese exhibition of 1984
[note 8]

Unexpectedly, we find the sheets of the Arcadian pastor in a Milanese exhibition in 1984, of which we have the beautiful catalog published by none other than the Alinari [famous Florentine photography studio]. The brief introduction is by Giampaolo Dossena and the article on card games by Alberto Milano, who was the greatest expert in Italy on the subject of these games and playing cards in general, so much so that for many years he was the representative of Italy in the International Playing-Card Society. Entry no. 33 of the catalog refers to the work in question here, represented by an example present in his personal collection.
33. Seven sheets of educational games
Venice, circa 1748
Seven sheets measuring 55.5 x 41 cm
Engravings by A. Visentini from drawings by F. Zuccarelli.
‒ “First Sheet” ‒ “New method invented by the Abbot of S. Giacinto, Enea Gaetano Melani, Sienese apostolic protonotary and ecclesiastic of Jerusalem, known among the Arcadians as Eresto Eleucantèo, to make the hated aspect of the Schools amiable.”
Under the title, three engravings: faces of a die in which the letters of the alphabet have replaced the dots, pawns with the words "Utile col dolce," in the center the pipes of the Arcadians within a rich scroll. The first sheet contains a long "author's notice to anyone who wants
8. Come giocavamo: giochi e giocattoli, 1750-1960. Milan 1984.

to read," with all the instructions for the game "with picture cards," with dice "like [in] goose" and "Checkers and Chess." Below: “these three simple sheets will be available in Venice in the shop of Gio. Battista Recurti, where they were printed with the permission of the Superiors.”
‒ “Second Sheet” ‒ “To educate noble youth well within their own homes as much in morals as in the primary sciences and in the fine arts, for the joyful and learned entertainment of Clerics, especially Novices and residents in the Sacred Cloisters.” Three engravings under the title, in the lower part divided into 32 boxes bearing the letters of the alphabet.
‒ “Third Sheet” ‒ “Virtuous discussions on the Old Testament dedicated to the Holiness of Our Lord Benedict XIV, the happily reigning Supreme Pontiff.” At the top is a dedication to the "Holy Father," next to his engraved heraldic coat of arms. In the lower part a division into 32 boxes similar to the second sheet.
‒ “Fourth Sheet” ‒ “For discussion on the Sacred and Profane Chronological History,” 26 cards engraved with biblical episodes. The cards take up the same topics as the boxes on the previous sheets and have the same letters of the alphabet at the top. The traditional card suits are replaced by: circles, diamonds, hearts, vases.
‒ “Fifth Sheet” - 26 engraved cards that complete the deck of 52 cards. On the card marked with the letter Y: F.[rancesco] Z.[uccarelli] I. 1748, A. Visentini Sculp.”
‒ “Sixth Sheet” ‒ “Scholarly discussions on geography and astronomy invented in favor of the noble youth by Eresto Eleucanteo, Arcadian shepherd.” 28 cards with geographical descriptions.
‒ “Seventh Sheet” ‒ “Author's Notice” with explanations about the games [gioco]. 28 cards. In total, there should have been 160 cards. (Coll. Milano)
Third sheet, from Come giocavamo, [How we played], p. 39. 7
From how Milano concludes the description, I can deduce that he considered the work incomplete, because the author had promised that it would contain 160 playing cards and instead showed a smaller number, which for us is essential to conclude that our deck of minchiate, which should have been present here, was not present in these preserved sheets and, most likely, had never been present. The fact that the "complete" collections of both Monaco and Alberto Milano are identical in their "incomplete" content favors the hypothesis that in that work our minchiate was never printed in full.

6. Conclusion

The work presented was certainly the result of a demanding commitment from multiple points of view. The subject is mainly scholastic, but the description required complicated planning and realization by the teacher, the poet, the designer, the engraver, and, last but not least, the printer-bookseller who is also involved in promoting the unusual product.

In my opinion, it is not easy to give an overall opinion on the two educational and recreational aspects. Personally, I don't feel capable of judging the educational value of the undertaking; on the other hand, the extracts reproduced from the descriptions of the time provide more than enough favorable opinions in this regard. It only seems to me that only the continual assistance of a teacher as an animator and guide could have achieved the intended task. As for the games, it seems to me that they wanted to offer too many, even without counting all the ones that they say could have been added by inventing them gradually.

I can recognize that the engravings are appreciable and definitely superior to what could have been expected in this regard, so much so that one feels regret that so few of them have been preserved. I can also recognize the validity of the educational commitment and the idea of making people learn more ideas without the usual scholastic severity, and indeed trying to combine the commitment with fun, to the point of not realizing that they are learning religious and scholastic notions (which would be a good strategy in any time and place).

My problem is that I personally did not need all this education, which I already had in distant times, and also to a greater extent than necessary. I was very simply looking for a pack of minchiate: the Sienese Arcadian pastor had promised it to me, but it would seem that then this very promise, understandably rather secondary for him, he was unable to keep, or no longer considered it useful.

Florence, 01.05.2024

(Translator's supplement will follow in another post.)