Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

This post presents the final, at least for now, essay on 18th century books discussing how to play minchiate. It is the third one in this thread and the ninth overall since 2018, if the others translated at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2737 are included. This one, in German, is from Vienna and Nuremburg. Franco managed both to read the old Gothic script and to translate it into modern Italian.

The result is all rather readable, except, at least for me, "rules" IX, X, and XI, which deal with penalties involving the "refusal," that is, refusing to follow suit in a trick. It is allowed not to follow suit if one has no cards in the suit, according to rule VI. But is that the same as a refusal? If one doesn't have something to give, it is ordinarily not that one has refused to give it: there was nothing to refuse. And what if one simply doesn't notice that one has a card in the suit? That's not normally a refusal either. But then there is the problem of how to tell innocence from guilt. The nuances of this gaming term and the associated penalties in this text elude me, and when I turn to online presentations and even Dummett and McLeod's book, I see nothing that helps. Perhaps the term was dropped later, I don't know.

Franco's original here is "1756 Vienna, e Norimberga – Il gioco delle minchiate," at, posted by Franco on May 5, 2025. As usual, comments in brackets are mine, in consultation with Franco, the numbers by themselves in the left margin are page numbers of Franco's pdf.

1756 Vienna, and Nuremberg – The game of minchiate

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

Continuing to search for old texts with the rules of the game of minchiate, I found a little or unknown treatment in one very old manual on games. It is a thick volume of over five hundred pages printed in Vienna in 1756, [note 1] in Vienna and Nuremberg in the same year, and reprinted several times thereafter (at least in the years 1769 and 1789). There aren't many game manuals older than this one.

Its printing in Vienna does not happen by chance; indeed there is a justification for it in the very long title itself, which is sufficient to illustrate the entire content: The art of bringing the world with you into various types of games, as are common in higher-ranking societies, especially in the imperial and royal residence city of Vienna. Of course, Vienna was then much more than the Austrian capital and welcomed personalities and fashions from all over Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.

There are almost a hundred games for which the rules are provided, and many of these are card games. Games from all over Europe are represented in the list, and a good number are typically Italian or French, as well as, of course, German. An entire chapter is dedicated to minchiate, [note 2] which will then be found unchanged not only in subsequent editions with the same title, but also in different collections, [note 4] even in Berlin in the year 1800.

It is not easy to identify the author of the book; some inventories indicate Georg Bauer (1721-1769), who, however, appears as the bookseller-publisher. However, I noticed that at the end of the long preface, we read Die Verfassere, that is, the authors, thus indicating a multi-handed editorial team. For several games, the compilation copies, entirely or almost completely, a description already present in other texts from various publishers.

I continue by translating the entire chapter on minchiate in this book. I will insert some notes in the translation, including some comments, and then I will move on to the conclusion and an appendix about a particular episode in which minchiate and the emperor of Vienna were involved.

2. Full translation of the text
This game has been found in Italy, like many others like it. In Bologna and Naples, it was introduced as a parlor game. [note 5]
It looks like a fight in which two enemies fight each other and one tries to overcome the other. It is played with very special cards, which, however, are not easily found in Germany [“German-speaking countries,” or “Germany in contrast to Austria”?]. It is usually [note 6] played with 97 cards, in which there are 24 that count and bring points; however, all the remaining ones are called empty cards, because they cannot count for anything.

This game can be played in different ways, that is, each for himself, or two and two together. It can also be played with two, three, or four people. Each time one plays with a partner, or
1.Die Kunst die Welt [erlaubt - in some ed.] mitzunehmen in den verschiedenen Arten der Spiele, so in Gesellschaften höhern Standes, besonders in der Kayserlich-Königlichen Residenz-Stadt Wien üblich sind.
2. All pp. 217-228 in the two editions of 1756. [In Google Books, you may find this in Band 2 of 2.]
3. ... ,151&q=min All pp. 119-128.
4. ... frontcover
5. We would have expected Florence and Rome instead. Either the authors are not correctly informed, or they distinguish the environments by reporting those of Bologna and Naples as more exclusive or elitist, which is not true, at least for Rome.
6. The “usually” is strange. It is probably due to a form of caution due to insecurity; but there remains some suspicion that, on the contrary, some minchiate game variants – or decks – were known to the compilers and then forgotten. I don't think it can refer to the not very common minchiate decks, perhaps of 69 cards, used in Lucca (Dummett, McLeod, A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack, 2004, p. 354).

just for oneself, however large the number of players may be. The most usual way to play this game is with four players, between two pairs of players. [note 7]

If there are fewer than four players, 25 cards are dealt to each, but if there are four, each player receives only 21 cards, but the last one must in any case be shown to all the players; if this last card is a counting card, whoever receives it scores for himself as many points as the face-up card is worth; However, if the face-up card is worthless, no one can score points.

If everyone plays for oneself and is dealt bad cards, one may not play if he chooses, but throw his cards away [gettare le carte a monte = take the cards out of play], with this condition, however, that in the end he must pay some points, as fixed beforehand, to the one who makes the last trick. The person who threw away his cards, even if he doesn't play, can still claim the penalty of the points that any player loses. The penalty usually to be paid is the following: whoever is in the lead, if he does not want to play, pays 20 points, the second 30, the third and fourth 40 points. [note 8]

The dealer, after giving the cards to everyone, must look to see if there are any counting cards left in the cards that remain, and if there are, he can exchange them with as many of his own, and in this case, it is customary to say playing with the fola, which means nothing else than all counting cards are present in the game.

All the cards are divided into either tarocchi or cartiglia. The cartiglia are then divided into four different types, that is, into swords, batons, cups, and coins; none of these kinds of cards count except the King, which is worth 5, and is a counting card. [note 9]

In all the suits, the higher cards take the lower, except in cups and coins, in which case the lower surpass the higher, if they are not face cards; because the face cards always surpass the numeral cards, and only the numeral ones have the freedom to prevail over those of a higher number.

There are 40 tarocchi, and 41 with the Fool, [note 10] and the lower are always taken by the higher. Each of these tarocchi is numbered up to 35, but the other 5 beyond these are not numbered and are called Arie; however, they are distinguished from the others through their figure, given that the lowest one represents the Star, the second the Moon, the third the Sun, the fourth the World, and the fifth the Trumpets; and these are the highest cards in the game.

Three cards of those that count, i.e. from 1 to 5 inclusive, the Ten, the Thirteen and the Twenty, and from the 28 to the 40 excluding the 29, if they are in sequence, form a verzigola; [note 11 if they are in sequence, even 4 or 5 cards make a verzigola; [note 12] the following cards also make a verzigola: Fool, Trumpets, 1, 13, and 28; [note 13] 10, 20, and 30; or also 20, 30, and Trumpets, as well as three Kings; in this it is, however, to be noted that the fool can be used for all the verzigole, [note 14] although it is the lowest of all the cards, it cannot, however, take any of those, and alone cannot make any verzigola if it is not united with the Trumpets. [note 15]

Each verzigola counts 5 points, [note 16] except the 4 Papi, which only count 3, and the other [note 17] 5 Arie, which count 10 points each.
7. This form of the game was documented as early as the sixteenth century, but only at the time of the book was it becoming practically the only way of playing minchiate, in parallel with similar ways of playing that became popular with tressette and then whist.
8. The ascending sequence is different in other descriptions, e.g. 20, 40, 50 and 60 in Minucci's Note.
9. In subsequent variants, the ability to choose the cards from the fola is auctioned off among the players.
10. Usually the fool is considered a separate card and not the 41st tarocco.
11. Usually Italian authors are uncertain between versicola and verzicola when writing this word that is not encountered outside of the game of minchiate; here the uncertainty is resolved differently and I do not change the spelling.
12. In the following, the author limits himself to giving examples of verzigole with three cards.
13. Here the 1 in the middle of the five numbers seems to belong, separately, to both the first three and the second three; the verzigole in fact include two of three cards: 1, Fool, Trumpets and 1, 13, 28.
14. Said like this, it would leave open the hypothesis of the Fool being able to replace any missing card in the series; instead, it can only be added to the verzigola, increasing its length and contributing its value to the overall score.
15. Here one could glimpse a non-existent verzigola of two cards (perhaps reading the series of five elements listed above together for the verzigole as 2+3); if this is not the case, as we know from all the other sources, it could equally have been written that the Fool cannot form a verzigola if it is not united with the 1.
16. Implying for each card that forms it.
17. Perhaps he means the 5 Arie among the “other” tarocchi. There are no other Arie.

It is customary to count the verzigole three times, once before the game begins, that is when it is only declared before the game, because after the first cards have been played it can no longer be shown or counted. But at the end of the game you still count twice if you took it home.

Whoever cuts [literally, raises] the cards, after they have been shuffled, can take the raised card [card at the cut, in the upper part] in front of him, if it is a counting card, and all the others that follow it, in which case the dealer will have to compensate for what is missing in his portion, with those cards that were moved by the one who robbed them and placed them in front of him.

Of those extra cards left, i.e. when all the players already have their cards, the dealer must remove all the counting cards, not excluding those that are above 20, otherwise these would not be used to make verzigole, which must also be understood for the Twenty-Nine. [note 18]

Whoever replaces the cards must always dispose of [note 19] [discard to the "mountain" or fola] any other cards that are not counting cards, because these cards must necessarily remain in the game.


If a player, either through carelessness in receiving his cards, or through forgetfulness in substituting them, has played with more or fewer cards than he should, he must necessarily pay the penalty and then cannot score anything, except the last hand, if he makes it, and the cards he takes; which penalty is also inflicted on his partner, and this mistake cannot be remedied if the first card has been played. However, if the first card has been played, and someone has noticed that he has one more, in this case, he could remedy the damage, if he said that this card which he played, would be a card that he wanted to replace, in which case he gets 19 [points - added in brackets by FP], [note 20] the transfer is granted, and the penalty must be requested from the dealer; but this does not apply if he had played a counting card. [note 21]

Whoever makes a mistake in the distribution must pay a penalty of 20 points for the first card and 10 for all the others, up to the sum of one resto; if the mistake happens to everyone, whoever made the mistake must pay everyone, and it may happen that one has to pay one resto for every mistake in dealing the cards.

Whoever has the cards due, but given to him by mistake, can exchange the cards at his pleasure, but he must play only if he does not make mistakes in the exchange; and if he has less, before playing he must ask the dealer how many he lacks and the dealer must without delay give from the rest of the deck how many he lacks; that only has to happen before he's done the fola. You can also oblige the dealer to pay a penalty every time he forgets to deal the right cards face up. [note 22]

The Fool can be played any time at the player's pleasure, but not on the occasion in which one of the players has played a cartiglia for the first time, and on which the player who follows him has played a tarocco, having no cards in the suit, because then whoever has the King, if he has not yet played, must play it, even if he has other cards of the suit or even the Fool; however, this can only happen during the first trick [of that suit] and not at other times.

The player must follow the suit that is played each time, and if one had played coins, [and] the other puts a tarocco on it, while he had the suit to follow, then he must pay one resto
18. He mentions the possibility of 29 entering the verzigola and counting.
19. To replace the ones "robbed."
20. The number is not clear - perhaps it is a printing error instead of 20, implying points, but it is preserved in subsequent editions.
21. Because counting cards cannot be discarded, and therefore the excuse would not be valid. (However, it should be kept in mind that only the dealer and the person who cuts the deck before the deal have the right to take and replace cards.)
22. That is, to reveal the last card of the distribution.

to each of his opponents; however, only the person who did not follow the suit must pay this penalty and not his partner, as happens for those [note 23] other errors.

If one does not follow the suit played it is called a refusal, i.e. refusing the suit. But the player who no longer has cards of the suit played must play a tarocco as long as he has some; and if he no longer has any, then he can play a card of his choice.

Sometimes players can lay their cards on the table (to free themselves from the danger of refusal) and give players the option to take a card of their choice, in which case they can no longer play their cards in this game, because they are considered as lost; however he cannot do so if he still has a King [note 24] in his hand.

If one does not recognize having captured [note 25] a counting card from his opponent, in addition to the penalty of two resti [note 26] at the end of the game, he must return the captured cards to the one from whom he had taken them, which he must also do with those other cards in addition to his [presumably those of the other players taken in the trick].

For the refusal to be called this, the person to whom it happens must have had to play several times [i.e. tricks after the refusal], and for this reason, it is not enough that the trick has already been made and covered [i.e. the cards put face down in the pile of captured cards], except in the case that this had happened to the person who committed the refusal [unclear: that he acknowledged his mistake quickly?].

The player also can avoid the penalty of refusal if he noticed the refusal before playing again, but with the condition that he pick up his tarocco again from the cards on the table where the refusal occurred. However, if he leaves the tarocco on the table as well as the cards of the refusal [i.e. the other players’ cards in the trick], one must not believe that he has placed the cards of the refusal [the tarocco?] on the table to improve [his situation], but to play again [perhaps meaning, postponing playing the correct card until more cards have been played], and then he will have to pay the penalty.

Each resto consists of 60 points. If, after the first time, he also did not recognize, or denied it, the second time, he must immediately after the discovery pay 2 resti or double penalties.

The Fool can be given to anybody, or not, because this card can be played whenever you want, and because it represents all the figures, except that it cannot take. It may happen that the person holding the Fool in his hand does not make any tricks and finds himself at the end of the game without cards that he could play instead of the Fool, in which case he must play the Fool, even though it is a counting card, therefore the death is not counted. [note 27] But if he were forced to play other counting cards instead of the Fool, because he has no others, the death of such counting cards is immediately marked.

Anyone who starts playing, or lets others play, before declaring can no longer declare; but the verzigole must at the declaration be placed [on the table] and shown openly.

The cards that count are the following:
Arie count 10.
The high tarocchi cards 5.
The Kings 5.
Papi 2, 3, 4, and 5 count as 3.
23. It is not clear whether those others are few or many or all; However, it seems to refer to the previous case in which the partner instead had to pay.
24. In other rules it is specified that, in addition to the Kings, there must be no tarocco.
25. Does not score the corresponding points.
26. Rule that does not appear to be present in other manuals and which would provide an incredibly high penalty.
27. This preferential treatment for the loss of the Fool is not reported in other texts.

However, many other cases can happen in this game, which are impossible to include in a single rule, because this would require an entire book.

Die Kunst die Welt mitzunehmen . . . Vienna 1756, p. 218.
3. Comment and conclusion

A first comment should be made on the form of the text. If one thought of using Google Translate or other programs to easily switch from German to Italian, one would be disappointed. In fact, before inserting the file into the translator, some laborious preliminary operations would probably be necessary: retouching the pages for greater contrast and definition, switching from Gothic to Roman characters, and also switching from a relatively ancient German to the current language. There are also some words, fortunately few, whose meaning has been completely lost. It is to be expected that several passages of my translation will be improvable by competent readers.

Note the division into two parts of the discussion, a first with explanations on the game modes, a second, here with numbered articles, reserved for the laws to be respected in the case of errors or questionable situations, indicating the relative penalties for those who do not observe them. This second part in other cases is the only one present; that is, in those cases, knowledge of the game is taken for granted and only the rules to be respected are provided, in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable discussions and arguments between players.

This description of minchiate, presented in German in 1756, is one of the first we have of the game; even the game of tarocchi, the founder of the family, had only had a first description printed in German a couple of years earlier.

In Italy itself, there are few previously published works: The Regole Generali of Luigi Bernardi [note 28] published in Rome in 1728 and 1742 and republished in Macerata in the same 1756; the book by Francesco Saverio Brunetti, Rome 1747, on minchiate, ombre, and chess, of which many copies are preserved (also thanks to the unusual literary content) [note 29]; finally, The Capitolo of Pio Enea degli Obizzi, published only four years earlier in Livorno; [note 30] no Florentine edition (apart from the previous description by Minucci which was, however, only a long note in a 1688 book on a different topic [note 31]).

It is not clear then what the source of this description could have been, which does not coincide exactly with any of the previous ones known to us; perhaps a lost Italian manuscript was circulating, or some German traveler had collected and passed on the rules of a game he had seen in life and liked. However, regardless of the literature on the game, the fact that in 1756 itself, 144 decks of minchiate were exported from Florence to Vienna, may be indicative. [note 32]

There also remains some uncertainty regarding the date, i.e. whether the modality of the game corresponds to that in vogue in those years, especially in Florence and Rome. The imperial capital of Vienna had direct connections with both cities, but one can imagine a delay of a few years before the rules of a game that had only been Tuscan until recently were printed in Vienna, even if it was already widespread at the time in other cities, and in Rome in particular.

The very fact that the book talks about Bologna and Naples would suggest instead that the primary sources for this information were still different. However, an important connection between minchiate and Vienna can be found in none other than Francis I, who was the emperor resident in Vienna but who, among other titles, also had that of Grand Duke of Tuscany. Even if the emperor followed the government of Tuscany only from afar, the Florence-Vienna route was frequently passed by various court officials.

Equally remarkable is the fact that, subsequently, a book which in its detail surpassed all these descriptions also appeared in German in Dresden in 1798, before being translated into Italian in 1830, again in Germany. [note 33] Even the Florentine Accademia dei Germini today mainly uses this German edition to illustrate the rules of a game that it undertakes to propose again to renew an ancient local tradition. [note 34] In short, one would say that the typical fussiness of
28. The Playing-Card, Vol. 48, No. 3 (2020) 96-102.
29. The Playing-Card, Vol. 49, No. 2 (2020) 64-69.
30. The Playing-Card, Vol. 47, No 3 (2019) 176-179.
32. Ludica, 24 (2018) 20-38. ... tt2018.pdf.
33. The Playing-Card, Vol. 47, No 3 (2019) 176-179.

German-language writers was needed to better complete the complex framework of the rules of this extraordinary game, starting from the deck of cards used.

The description translated here is quite complete, albeit in its brevity, taking into account that it contains both the description of the game and the rules of behavior in case of errors, with the related penalties; it does not add much to what is already known from other editions, but this information is useful because in almost all other publications only the variant played in fours between two pairs is discussed (which spread from Rome throughout Europe), while information on the everyone-for-oneself variant under consideration here is rare.

4. Appendix. Emperor and minchiate in Rome

To show that it was possible for the same emperor on the throne in Vienna to come into contact with minchiate, I add an episode that no longer concerns Francis I, but his son Joseph II, emperor in Vienna since 1765. The fact is described in a letter from the Milanese abbot Giorgio d'Adda, sent to his brother from Rome; the date is 3 June 1769, the day before the coronation of Clement XIV, which was probably the occasion of the emperor's arrival in Rome.

The letter in question is reproduced in a book by Felice Calvi, [note 35] and from the same text, I copy the passages of interest in this context, preceded by two other passages copied from the introduction, to frame the environment and the personage.
Abbot Giorgio d'Adda-Salvaterra was another of those Milanese patricians who sought wealth, honors and fame in the Roman prelature. However, d'Adda did not complete the entire desirable journey: he did not reach the nunciature; nor could he boast the purple. He was apparently a man of lively spirits, mannered, and a lover more of happy living than of intense study; he preferred the dapper society of Roman princesses to the reading of dusty folios. Coming from the branch of an illustrious family whose members Emperor Leopold I had decorated with the feudal titles of the Holy Roman Empire, he began his career as a prelate with the task given by Benedict XIV (28 October 1753) to bring, as apostolic legate, the cardinal insignia to one of our acquaintances, the Nuncio in Paris, Monsignor Carlo Durini. He is therefore Referendary of both Signatures; then showered with favors and pensions by successive popes, he dies as Prefect of the Signatura in Rome. Monsignor d'Adda spent the best years of his life in the noble city of Rome, when it was even more than today the desired meeting place of the most distinguished families in Europe for their opulence and great social position. (p. XXIV)

The chronicle of the Vatican and the arrival of princes and princesses of royal blood in Rome is a favorite theme of our Abbot. He suffers all the prestige that surrounds those personages. Emperor Joseph II, with a kindness that moves him, deigns to be occupied with him and the game of minchiate, and the Archduchess Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ferdinand of Austria-Lorraine, governor of Lombardy, gives him the recent news from Milan. Being continuously worried about his own fate does not, however, affect his constant good humor, his exuberant benevolence for the world in which he lives, the unalterable optimism with which he judges that cloud of foreigners, that flourishing nobility, which descends from the North and stops in the capital of the Catholic world. (pp. XXVI-XXVII)

Rome, 3 June 1769.
Dearest Brother,
I believe that by now the Emperor will be there, and you will have the pleasure of recognizing one of the wisest and most lovable Princes around. I had proof of this here, having deigned one evening in Casa Sforza to stand behind my chair while I played
35. F. Calvi, Corrispondenze segrete di grandi personaggi. Milan 1878.

minchiate, he constrained me to remain seated and continue my game, asking me various things concerning the same game. He has edified [?] everyone here with his supreme piety, he has gratified many with his generosity, and he has generally stolen the hearts of everyone, both Nobles and plebeians. In Casa Corsini I also had the honor of having dinner at the table where he sat, and not far from him. In Milan, I hope that perhaps his arrival will not be indifferent, and that the State will feel relief from it. (p. 322)
Florence, 06.05.2024

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

This post is devoted to a translation of Franco's note, "Firenze fine Ottocento – Conti di gioco," posted May 19, 2024 at It is a study of wins and losses at various games, all studiously recorded by the player himself. The "Conti" of the title refers to his accounts, preserved over the past 125 years and more in the Florentine archives. There might be a pun here, since "Conti" could also be translated as "Counts of Games," meaning noblemen of a certain title, as it turns out this individual was.

As usual, comments in square brackets are mine, in consultation with Franco, who was also consulted about various points in the translation. That is not to say it is perfect, or even as good as can be, and any errors are on me. These translations are corrections of what Google Translate spits out, often time-consuming but at least not wearing out the fingers; there may be erroneous but plausible wordings that I don't notice. As usual, numbers by themselves in the left margin are the page numbers of Franco's pdf, and the notes are found at the bottom of these pages.

Florence, late nineteenth century – Gambling accounts

Franco Pratesi


Let us imagine a passionate card player who can dedicate a few hours every day, or almost so, to his favorite pastime. Let's imagine we can follow him from behind while he plays cards. Imagine being able to record all his wins and losses for about twenty years. What would be the result of our fantasy? Before concentrating on imagining the scene, a preliminary distinction is necessary: what kind of games and players are we talking about?

It is clear that, if our player limits himself to tavern games with the win or loss of a few glasses of wine, the result, even if it were skewed towards an overall loss, would not lead to the ruin of the family. If, however, he were strongly unbalanced towards winning, this could perhaps lead him to exaggerate towards cirrhosis; however, these would be exchanges of money of minimal size, which would not even justify their registration.

However, there are, and have always existed, card players who did not play as a pastime, or just as a pastime, but who paid great attention to the aspect of possible income deriving from the game. In this case, the passion for gambling could push behavior to be destined to certain losses beyond reasonable limits. There were then recommendations on the destinies of some games: suitable only for princes or rich aristocrats, able to withstand enormous losses without having to change their lifestyle, by the simple fact that they had extraordinarily high fixed incomes. At the other extreme, there were professional players who, even without reserve capital, managed to earn at the gaming table, thanks to superior experience, and perhaps with incorrect practices, which also required a certain professionalism.

Let us then set limits to our imagination, and to facilitate the task, let us imagine an intermediate case closer to our times. Let us imagine a gentleman from a rich Tuscan family in the last quarter of the nineteenth century who lived on an income and took every opportunity to dedicate himself to the pleasure of gambling. We can then glimpse him playing in city clubs with the same companions, and also playing in similar environments every time he is in different cities. Wherever he is, he does not give up his almost daily occupation. We would like to guess which game he plays in particular and what his balance of losses and winnings is. Well, as much as we can reflect, we struggle to reconstruct the situation in a convincing way.

Here, however, we find an incredible booklet with all this precise data, systematically recorded by our gentleman for all that time, and then we really have to follow his activity.

For now, we are only missing one important piece of data, the certainty about the name of our player, who certainly belonged to the noble Florentine family of Alessandri, or Degli Alessandri, but he could have been called Carlo or Giovanni. His account book, preserved in the State Archives of Florence, [note 1] is a kind of agenda or diary of limited dimensions (about a current A6 format [roughly 4” x 6”]) and, above all, with very thin sheets, so much so that in a small thickness the written pages exceed one hundred.

Not only that, a twin diary is preserved in the same archive unit; Copies de lettres is stamped in gold on the spine of the first, and Notes on the second, which is reserved for recording travel expenses; even the most minute are listed there, such as some tips and barber expenses. Furthermore, the two twin diaries are written by the same hand, and the dates of the trips correspond exactly to the places and days that we find recorded in the first diary, the one of the games, on which I will focus my attention.

If we are not certain of the player's identity, we have a lot of information and archive documents on the Degli Alessandri family. In reality it would not be included among the oldest noble families of
1. ASFi, Alessandri, 2066.

Florence, but this is simply due to the fact that it was a new branch of the prestigious Albizzi family, as we read in Spreti's Encyclopedia. [note 2]
In the year 1372 Alessandro and Bartolommeo di Niccolò degli Albizzi renounced the Consorteria, changed their coat of arms and called themselves degli Alessandri. From the assumption of the new surname, they gave 21 Priors and 8 Gonfaloniers of Justice to the Republic, and two Senators to the Principality.

. . . Gregory XVI wanted to confirm the comital title (mf.) to GAETANO di Simone and his descendants in 1845, and the Grand Duke recognized this concession with a rescript dated 28 February 1846. The Alessandri family wore the habit of Malta in 1628; and in 1752 there was described in the Golden Book of the Patricians of Florence (mf.)
a) GIOVANNI di Cosimo and desc.[descendants] (Patr. Di Firenze [Patrician of Florence] mf.).
b) CARLO di Gaetano and desc. (Count, mpr, Patr. Di Firenze, mf.).
The ASFi Alessandri collection contains 2082 archival units and 218 parchments. A large part of the collection is dedicated to the administration of the family's farms, located in several parts of the Tuscan territory, but documents from other families that arrived in the Alessandri archive following marriages also appear.

In the relevant inventory N/486, the archival unit in question, among the latest in the collection in the Miscellaneous section, is cataloged as follows.
2066 - (fn 1601) 1. Travel expense diary presumably of Cosimo di Gaetano Degli Alessandri (1859-1883); 2. Gambling expense diary presumably of Carlo di Gaetano or Giovanni di Cosimo Degli Alessandri (1875-1891); Travel expense diary presumably of Carlo di Gaetano or Giovanni di Cosimo Degli Alessandri (1878-1892)
------------------------------------------------------------------------1859-1892 [first and last years of entry]
Of course, the element of greatest interest to us is No. 2.
Florence, late nineteenth century – Gambling accounts
ASFi, Alessandri, 2066, 2 and 3. The two agendas studied
(Reproduction prohibited)
2. V. Spreti, Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana Vol. 1. Milan 1928.

Of the two personages suspected as authors of the diary of our interest, we read that Giovanni di Cosimo di Gaetano Maria (1852-1894) married Anna Maria Palffy Daun de Erdöl (1864-1927), who was guardian of their children Cosimo and Ginevra after her husband's death. Inheritance documents are various. Instead, for Carlo di Gaetano Maria di Simone (1829-1895) only a book of income and expenditure of the estate for the years 1894-1908 is listed, therefore actually relating to his inheritance (a check, however, showed that it was not his estate but that of Giovanni di Cosimo, bequeathed to his minor children, initially under his administration).

At this point we run into the problem that if the death dates given for the two characters are correct, neither of them can be our player, because the diary entries continue until 1897, by which time both candidates would have been long dead. If there was an error in the death dates indicated in the Inventory, this error would only be possible for Carlo, because Giovanni's widow was active as guardian of his children in years prior to 1897. The alternative, if the dates are correct, moves towards the search for a third candidate. We will then see that, thanks to the numerous documents preserved in the Alessandri collection and what can be found on the internet, it will eventually be possible to trace precisely the identity of Carlo Degli Alessandri for our player.

2. Summary of the game accounting

The numbers recorded are in such quantity that it is impossible for me to reproduce them in full, and therefore for the time being, I will limit myself to inserting a table with the final results of the balance sheet of this activity, year by year, recorded as in Florence, for centuries, all commercial activities and farm administrations were.

____________________YEAR___ WINNINGS___LOSSES ______BALANCE____

______________________________ANNUAL BALANCES

3. Principal details

Registration begins on 1 October 1875 and the gaming venue is the Casino Borghese (a stone's throw from the family palace in Borgo degli Albizzi) and remains so until the entire month of the following February with two exceptions: a stay in Rome from 10 to 18 December with Caccia indicated as the playing venue, and then from 17 to 31 January in Monte Carlo. On February 27th the Club Ecarté appears, and in the following months we see it regularly alternating with the Casino Borghese as the Florentine gaming venue. In this case, we have information on the game as well as the place, and it is not strictly a gambling game. From 10 to 14 March we find Monte Carlo again, where the daily figure is not recorded but that overall. In the first visit, he had recorded a loss of 18,000 lire; in the second he reports, let's say unexpectedly, a win of the same amount.

In April another game, Goffo, appears in several different places in Florence: we mainly read about a Club Goffo, but Strozzi Goffo and Riccolellis Goffo also appear. Also Roma Goffo, the first two days of May. In the middle of the month two more days appear with Rome: the first Ecarté, the second Goffo. However, the main venue is again the Circolo Borghese. On 7 August, he lost 1,400 lire in Livorno at B.; in December, a win appears, at the unusual billiard club, and from the 19th to the 28th we find our player back in Monte Carlo with daily records of wins and losses often exceeding ten thousand lire, but with an overall win.

In February 1877, he recorded a total loss of 30,000 lire, again in Monte Carlo. New games appear in May, in particular Club baccarat, and Montughi macau. For Christmas and the following day he loses 8,000 lire at the Casino Risorti.

January 1878 he began in Monte Carlo from the 10th to the 19th; he won 1700 lire on the first day but lost more than 20 thousand on the following days. The Club whist appears at the end of February. In which – as with Ecarté, also a trick-taking game – wins or losses are less important. The fixed gaming venue in Florence becomes the Accademia dei Risorti, sometimes indicated with the specification of baccarat, and continues for 1879 and 1880. In July 1880 we find, without indication of the days, a loss of over 2,000 lire in Paris at Cercle International. From 1881 to 1885 the Ecarté Club prevailed, but with frequent appearances by the Baccarat Club as well.

In 1886 the Goffo joined the Ecarté with a few exceptions of other games. In July we read of a loss of 400 lire in Lucerna-Baraque. In 1887, mixed records appeared, i.e. with the win or loss figure for the same day divided into two games, such as for example a loss of 10 lire explained as Ecarté +100 and Goffo -110. Goffo, especially, and Ecarté prevail; among the exceptions there is a loss of 950 lire on August 20th in Lucerne - Baccarat.

In 1888 even Ecarté rarely appears, while Bezique appears several times, always with Goffo the main game. On September 3, a win of 644 lire was recorded at Lausanne Baccarat.

In 1889 Bezique and Goffo continue to dominate at the beginning of the year, with also mixed recordings such as

a win of 120 lire divided into Bezique -145 and Goffo +265. Then Baccarat prevails, also in Florence after the experiences abroad, which begin on July 18th in Lucerne, to continue from August 21st in Spa and from September 4th in Paris, almost two months of Baccarat which continue in November and December at the Club Borghese, after and before the Florentine practice of other games, Goffo especially.
ASFi, Alessandri, 2066, 2 (Reproduction prohibited)
1890 continues with Goffo and Baccarat, and Pharaoh also appears a couple of times. In 1891 Baccarat found itself in Lucerne from 17 July to 7 August with four days of play and four losses, but less strong than usual. In Florence, Ecarté reappears as a secondary game alongside Goffo in addition to Baccarat. In 1892 Baccarat seems to become the main game followed by Goffo, which however takes first place again in the years 1893-95 when there is greater alternation between various clubs and games.

In 1896, an unusual series of entire weeks dedicated to Ecarté and Whist appear, which are not gambling games, and in which our player seems to be able to assert superior gaming practice, so much so that winnings are the rule; Unfortunately for him, they are usually not as big wins as those that were possible at the betting and banking games.

1897 is the last year present in the register and continues the trend of the previous year with Ecarté as the main game. The last date of registration is March 6, 1897.

ASFi, Alessandri, 2066, 2 (Reproduction prohibited)

The first comment goes not to the game and the player but to the accountant. In Florence, keeping daily account books was a universally widespread practice in shops and families, already in the late Middle Ages. All citizens, or almost all, were able to keep these accounts, because the abacus schools of Florence were very good and very popular, on par with or perhaps better than the schools where reading and writing were taught. Later, most of these account books were recycled or destroyed, but even today more are found in Florence than in other Italian and foreign cities. Only this traditional habit, continued in the family with the administration of the farms, can explain the care with which our player recorded and preserved the information written in his diary.

Still with reference to accounting, it seems necessary to understand how heavy the losses and winnings recorded were. Today we are no longer familiar with the value of the lira at the time, but the necessary information can be found on the internet. The period of time considered is large enough to suggest significant variations in the value in question. The approximate today value of one lira of the years indicated is shown in the following table. [note 3]
3. ... &year=1875

________________________________________YEAR - EURO
As can be seen, the variation over time is negligible, because a rough approximation is more than sufficient for our purpose. Then, as an indication, it will even be enough to evaluate one thousand lire of the entire period concerned as five thousand euros today; which brings the numbers involved to a high level, but not such as to be reserved only for a few princes, or characters of similar importance and wealth, as had been the case in the past for games of this kind.

A comment should be reserved specifically for card games. It seems clear that the selection of games recorded is affected by two different forces: on the one hand the personal choice of our player, and on the other, the temporary fashion for the diffusion of the various games in urban clubs. It is not too surprising that we never find the most popular trick-taking games indicated, those which were played by the majority of Florentines and which belonged to the families of Tressette, Briscola and Scopa. In these environments, reserved especially for citizens of above-average education and wealth, even games had to have something superior, better if they arrived as a fashion that came from abroad, or from France, especially, or more recently from England, and Whist (which no one would play in taverns) eventually became the favorite game. So they played Ecarté, and to a lesser extent Bezique (and that wasn't Bazzica) and finally Whist, just as a couple of generations later we would play Bridge.

As far as betting games are concerned, here Goffo reigns supreme. Many years ago I studied the literature in Italian and saw that books with instructions for this game had been published in various seaside cities, Genoa first. [note 4] The fashion for Goffo has some unusual characteristics, because it was not a new game. In particular, it is not clear whether there were substantial differences between Goffo, already remembered in the Renaissance era, and the Goffo that appears, or reappears, in a series of games apparently derived from Primiera. It seems that players, as soon as their favorite game was banned, changed some of the rules and the name, so as to be able to claim that it was a new game that was not banned; and so Bambara, Buia, and then Goffo saw the light, among others.

The fame of each of these games was erased by the next one, and it happened to our Goffo, too; later the same fate occurred when one or another form of Poker was imposed on an international scale, in years when the USA was now dictating the law on the matter.

Last, we encounter the banking games, which in reality should be the first in the ranking for an assiduous player of this type. Especially with these games you can play hard, with bets at the limit of what is bearable for a gentleman and completely unacceptable for an ordinary citizen. To try to win you have to be ready to lose significant sums without losing your composure, and this requires above-average personal assets and strength of character. An invitation to get involved comes precisely from this ability to feel among the few capable of "playing" at these levels. This type of game can no longer be considered a pastime but only maintains the character and tension of a challenge, a challenge above all to one’s luck but also to one's own experience and specific knowledge, which is often overestimated.

The long history of banking games seems to begin with Lanzichenecco or Zecchinetta, which would give rise to the Bassetta, and then to Pharaoh [Faro], the first of the series to appear in the case in question. Pharaoh had introduced at least a couple of advantages compared to Bassetta: instead of the thirteen cards for each better, there was the dealer with a single series of thirteen cards of one suit in front on which to place the bet, which was decided by each bettor and could also be split across two or more cards. Pharaoh had its greatest diffusion in the eighteenth century and by then [Alessandri’s time] had been forgotten almost everywhere.
4. L’Esopo, No. 41 (1989) 65-74.

Baccarat was a further element in the series, evidently the most popular at the time considered here. There was Monte Carlo, the Mecca for players of this type, but gaming venues where one could play Baccarat existed in all the main cities, and even in Florence there was more than one of them, including those that one would not have imagined, at least in times with greater rigor in controls on gambling.

Baccarat has only been documented since the 19th century in France and has split into multiple variations, some of which are still played in casinos around the world and even online. The main rules of the form played in the nineteenth century are the following. Two or three decks of 52 cards are used, which count only for the numerical value, going from 1 to 9 for the numeral cards and becoming 0 or 10 (which is the same thing because in numbers with two digits only the second is considered) for the 10 and the three figures. The bettors are divided into two groups, one to the left and one to the right of the dealer, but the game takes place between the dealer and one bettor per group, then moving on to the next pair of bettors. The dealer usually deals two cards to two players and the same number to himself. At the time, it was possible to ask for a third card, and in any case between the dealer and the bettor, the one who gets closest to 9 wins. The dealer only sees the possible third card of the two bettors and the bets made, which are clues capable of guiding his decision whether or not to ask for a third card. The sum of the bets of all the players cannot exceed that put into play by the dealer. It is possible to ask for Banco, that is, a bet equal to the total put into play by the dealer, and this bet has priority over the others.

If you want to better understand the game and its variants, you can find many details in the specific literature, [note 5] including the pages of on the Internet, [note 6] which can also be used for all the other card games named. You can also find an extensive discussion of gambling games in a historical perspective, up to the Second World War, with special attention to the environment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. [note 7] For more recent times, the literature becomes extensive, the principal origin is in the USA, but it goes beyond the period of interest here.

5. Identification of the Alessandri involved

A final comment is needed for the player himself. He was evidently a real enthusiast of playing cards. It is astonishing that he was able to move without distinction from one environment to another and from one game to another, even of very different types. As far as the environments are concerned, however, this is not unusual, because we never imagine him in a tavern gambling away a glass of wine. The company in which he found himself playing was still that of gentlemen, capable of welcoming fellow citizens, or even foreigners, as long as they were decently dressed and perhaps introduced by some members of the group. Even abroad one could find the right environment, just as passing foreigners and foreign residents who were of a fairly high social class could play in Florence.

In Florence, different environments of this kind could be found, often with centuries-old traditions, starting from the ancient academies which sometimes excluded, nominally at least, games (and gambling ones even more so) from their activities, which were mainly theatrical or literary. and artistic in general. Only the Lorraine grand dukes fought an open war against gambling, with notable results; before and after, the relevant laws, however severe, often remained on paper.

My impression is that he was a member of the noble Alessandri family, but from a cadet branch or something like that, so that he had a good income, but few obligations and commitments and therefore had been able to dedicate a large part of his thoughts and time to satisfy his passion for games. However, not to the point of dispersing his assets, but always with satisfactory control over the limit of the losses.

However, I wanted to make sure by carefully examining an enormous file of documents preserved in Carlo's name in the Alessandri collection. [note 8] I must admit that the surprise was great. It is
5. D. Parlett, The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford 1990.
7. M. Zollinger, Geschichte des Glückspiels. Vienna 1997.
8. ASFi, Alessandri, 308. Documents relating to Carlo di Gaetano Maria degli Alessandri: confraternities, charitable works, diplomas, political elections 1870-1885.

not possible to indicate all the commitments, positions and titles of this personage. Certainly count, commander of the order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, (and so far one could have foreseen), but also member of the national Parliament, major of the National Guard, fighter in Trentino with Garibaldi, vice-president of the Banca del Popolo of Florence, president or honorary member of a huge number of institutes, associations, bodies with active participation in their respective proposals and decisions. Something truly incredible.

A notable part of the documents concerns the national elections for Parliament, in which he was a candidate for the constituency of San Casciano (which also included the municipalities of Greve, Barberino, and Montespertoli). He was elected twice, in 1874 and 1876, while in 1880 he withdrew his candidacy in favor of that of Sonnino. In this regard, there are many letters both of congratulations and of supplications and requests for intervention to support local needs. There are also documents on some fraud that occurred in the elections, with much more detail than what appeared in the Parliamentary Acts later, in which it was discussed whether or not to annul his 1874 election. [note 9]

Searching the internet we find that as a boy, he was present among the pages of the grand ducal court [note 10], while we will later find him among the conspirators against the grand duchy. An important piece of data that we find on the internet [note 11] is his date of death, March 17, 1897, so the initial dilemma is resolved in Carlo's favor, and there will be no need to look for a third member of the family.

In a folder with a few documents in the same archival element 308, with the title “Personal curiosities,” I identified a loose sheet of paper that resolves all doubts; a true unicum that establishes a connection between the player's diaries and the parliamentary documents. It is a copy of two short letters in French from June 1878 [note 12] in which it is clarified that the rumor was incorrect that a player (not Alessandri, but a certain Wurtz Wuncler or a similar name) had been excluded in Paris from the Cercle de la rue Royale, while the one-month deadline for his permission to access the games as a non-member foreigner had simply expired, and at the same time his irregular way of playing had been explained only by an insufficient knowledge of the rules, so his winnings were confirmed.

In conclusion, we can now unify the two separate documents and recognize that this important and famous personage, extremely active in the social field of every circle (at least political, military, administrative, philanthropic, sporting, theatrical, musical and who knows how many others), was exactly the same personage who, surprisingly, found time to play card games so often, up to ten days before his death.

Florence, 05.19.2024

9. ... frontcover
10. ... frontcover
11. ... frontcover
12. Lettres de Mr. Le Duc de La Trenouille à Mr Wurtz Wuncler. Copies.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here is another note of Franco's documenting types of card games played, this time in 18th and early 19th century Florence, in the aristocratic assemblage known as the Academy of the Immobile. Again there is the threefold classification of trick-taking games, betting games, and banking games. The documents show the negotiations between the Academy and the authorities that led to the shifting fortunes of the various games involved. This is a translation of "Firenze nel Settecento - Giochi di carte al Teatro della Pergola," posted on April 3, 2025, at

Franco uses italics to set off his quotes, but without indentation of long ones. Since the practice on this Forum is to indent long quotes, I do so, while also preserving his italics. As usual, comments in square brackets are by me, in consultation with Franco, to clarify some things for non-Italian readers.

The Forum software is not letting me post the whole thing, so it will be divided into two posts.

Florence in the eighteenth century - Card games at the Theatre of the Pergola

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

In the past, I studied card games in Florence for a long time and collected a lot of information about the grand ducal era in a book. [note 1] The main places where card-playing was allowed in the two centuries in question were the Casino of the Nobles [Casino dei Nobili] on the Lungarno and the Rooms attached to the Theatre of the Cocomero [Teatro del Cocomero], currently Niccolini, in Via Ricasoli. However, at the time, and even previously, there were several academies in which card playing was allowed, even if sometimes only a few rare traces of this activity remain in the city chronicles. For example, only recently was I able to track down receipts for purchases of playing cards at the Casino of Santa Trinita, because they had not been reported in the balance sheets of the official registers. [note 2]

The present study is dedicated to the gaming activity connected to the Academicians of the Immobile [Immobili] and their Theatre of the Pergola. To my knowledge, no studies have been published regarding this activity with specific documents reported. Recently, the Archive of the Academy of the Immobile [Accademia degli Immobili] (A.A.I.) has been reorganized with all the registers and documents on the theatrical activity, and related others, culminating with the publication of a complete inventory. [note 3]

I hesitated for a long time before asking for authorization to conduct research within the A.A.I., because examination of the book cited clearly indicated that documents that did not exclusively concern the construction and maintenance of the Theatre and connected buildings – and most of all, theatrical activity – were very rare. The clear impression was that all the documentation on card games (if it existed at the time, as seemed certain) had then been dispersed as material of little value, not worthy of being preserved in the A.A.I. In particular, the only document I had identified was a letter from Luigi Pitti on the game of Pharaoh, which I will present later together with other materials found. In addition to the numerous documents of the A.A.I., others are preserved in Florence in the State Archives - in particular in the Della Gherardesca collection - and in the Moreniana Library, but in these I have not identified any documentation relating to games.

Bearing in mind that dates before 1750 written according to the Florentine calendar in documents have the New Year set for March 25th, I transcribe them according to modern usage. As is known, at the time the accounting units were usually indicated with four figures separated by points: the scudo (or ducat, or zecchino) of seven lire, with one lira of twenty soldi and one soldo of twelve denari.

2. The fashionable card games in Florence

Before describing and discussing the documents examined, some information on the succession of card games preferred by Florentines over time appears useful. For a detailed description, with particular regard to the game in eighteenth-century Tuscany, one can rely on an important academic monograph on the topic. [note 4] For useful information on card games of the time one can usefully turn to the books by Giampaolo Dossena [note 5] and David Parlett [note 6] and, in general, to a dedicated website. [note 7]

In reality, alongside changing fashions, which have always existed, in this case there was an intrinsic need for changes in games. Especially in the gaming rooms attached to the theatres, the card games had to be played quickly, also because the rooms usually closed after the

1. F. Pratesi, Giochi di carte nel Granducato di Toscana. Ariccia 2015.
3. L’Accademia degli Immobili (ed. Alberti, Bartoloni, Marcelli) Rome 2010.
4. A. Addobbati, La festa e il gioco nella Toscana del Settecento. Pisa 2002.
5. G. Dossena, Giochi di carte italiani. Milan 1984.
6. D. Parlett, The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford 1990

end of the shows. Understandably, therefore, the players' preference was usually directed towards gambling games and not the traditional ones known as trick-taking or commerce [commercio: i.e., taking and giving, as in commercial exchanges], such as minchiate. But against gambling there was an increasingly incisive action by the government and, while the grand dukes of the house of Medici had granted various exemptions to the prohibitions, with the Lorraine dynasty there was an increasingly rigid restriction as the years passed.

However, the succession of documented card games can be schematized with the players' attempt to maintain the practice of their favorite games for as long as possible even when they were prohibited. Generally, when a game was banned, the players invented another one that was sufficiently different to have its own rules, and above all its own name not included among the prohibited ones. So from the forbidden bassetta they moved on to pharaoh, again a similar banking game. When banking games were prohibited, betting games were resorted to, and also in that case they moved from primiera to bambara, and then to buia. After the banking games, betting games also ended up being prohibited and for a few decades only trick-taking games remained permitted, first of all, the ever-present game of minchiate, but also other long-lasting ones such as picchetto, ombre, and tressette. Finally, with the more restrictive law of 1773, the majority of gaming environments, starting with coffee shops, moved from card games to billiards. [note 8]

As in other gaming environments, transformations of this kind were also followed in the Academy of the Immobile, but maintaining for longer some exemptions, granted by sovereign grace, which still allowed the practice of games within it that were now prohibited in almost all urban environments.

Unfortunately, today only traces of these transitions can be found, without that continuity in documentation (as can be found both for the Institute of the Nobles [Istituto dei Nobili] and the Theatre of the Cocomero [Teatro del Cocomero]) which would be useful. In short, for the Rooms of the Theatre of the Pergola we must resign ourselves to collecting scattered documents, faint traces that we can interpret and use for a broader reconstruction, above all thanks to what we know from other similar environments.

3. Beginnings of the Academy of the Immobile and gaming activity

To recall the initial activity of the Academy I use for brevity what the academics presented in 1763 to the Grand Duke so as to renew their sovereign protection.
A.A.I. 113 p. 5 - Minutes October 1763
Origin, Progress, and Present State of the Academy
Around the middle of the 17th century, a Conversation [i.e. gathering or club] of Florentine nobles, mostly employed in the service of the extinct Royal House of Medici, began under the auspices of the Most Serene Lorenzo, Prince of the same Royal Family, to train in one of his casinos located in the street called Parione, in Chivalric Exercises, and in the Performances of improvised Comedies.

Said Most Serene Prince Lorenzo passed away on November 14, 1648, and his Casino was sold to Marchese Bartolomeo Corsini to incorporate it into his Palace; said Conversation was moved to a house rented by it from the Ughi family in Via del Cocomero: and it is the same one where the Theatre of the Academy of the Infocati is today: and there under the protection of the Most Reverend Prince Giovan Carlo Cardinale de Medici, continuing to practice Gymnastics and Representations of Comedy, the aforementioned Conversation took the form of an Academy under the title of the Immobile, with the assumption as Device of a Windmill with the motto - In Its Movement it is still.
The possibility of such assistance from the sovereigns for the Academy was not limited to some additional income, but extended to exemption from taxes, prohibitions, and even from the courts, leaving it subject only and directly to the Grand Duke. It is therefore clear that the response a few years later, with the continuation of protection, was greeted with great relief. In the Minutes of 14 March 1766 (A.A.I 113) we read that: S.A.R (His Royal Highness) is happy to receive the supplicants under His

Special Protection in the way that his Royal Ancestors deigned to do, and he will always meet with pleasure all the occasions to contribute to the good and decorum of the Academy.

At the beginning there is no information on games connected to the Theatre, and even when the possibility was approved in a proposed statute in 1720, the related vote did not reach unanimity of consensus. Evidently, there were academics who would have preferred that the activity be limited to theatrical performances, with their already heavy organization.
A.A.I. 110 p. 59 - Minutes of 8 August 1720
A draft statute is submitted to the Academy for approval, voted on chapter by chapter. The sixteenth is about games.
Chapter Sixteen. Of playing games, and doing other recreations
All non-prohibited games are admitted to the theatre and its properties with the permission of the Magistrate; provided that a continuous practice of any game is not introduced.
Any authentic Academician with permission from the Magistrate may perform Dances there for honest recreation, Dinners, and similar entertainment as he pleases.
This sixteenth Chapter was sent to a vote and passed despite three blanks.
As stated, I have not been able to reconstruct with continuity the game activity associated with the Theatre nor to pinpoint its beginnings precisely. I therefore believe it is useful to divide the information according to the games involved.
Insignia of the Academy of the Immobile. The black one is printed on many pages of the minutes
(Archive of the Accademia degli Immobili | Teatro della Pergola of Florence)
Reproduction prohibited

4. The Game of pharaoh

The game of pharaoh had extraordinary success throughout Europe, before finding the most fertile ground - under the name of faro - in the territories of the American Far West; only poker managed to replace it in the country where card games were most widespread, and particularly those in which large sums of money are at stake.

The game appears to be of French origin, and its diffusion from there to the whole of Europe took, understandably, only a few years; it has some resemblance to roulette, as you bet on the outcome of one or several combinations of cards after placing the bets on the table corresponding, in this case,
to the thirteen cards of a suit (usually spades) of a deck of fifty-two. There were platforms dedicated

to this game with the figures of the thirteen cards inlaid on the surface of the table in a 6+1+6 horseshoe pattern. In addition to bets on a single card, bets on two or more neighboring cards were allowed. The gaming environments were the most varied, from the exclusive ones reserved for the highest classes to gambling dens of the lowest order (the latter being typical of the American frontier).

The banker [dealer] statistically had some advantages, as in all banking games, but among these it was one of the fairest; however, these theoretical benefits were either increased or decreased for frequent intervention of various tricks and sleight of hand, always possible both on the part of the dealer and the players. To at least partially control the possibilities of illicit intervention by the banker, a mechanical device was usually used to extract the cards which made them come out automatically without direct manipulation by the banker. We only have traces of pharaoh in the Rooms of the Academy for a limited period of time.
A.A.I. 112 - Minutes of 3 February 1737
(On the occasion of the Second Opera) and on this evening all the Masks were introduced as well as the Game of Pharaoh, and the Game of Pharaoh admitted in all the other evenings of performances and dance parties until the end of Carnival, all with permission and License of S.A.R. [His Royal Highness, like English HRH] our Royal Sovereign and Protector.

A.A.I 5.26.4 Undated, but preserved among documents from 1737
Note of what the SS:ri [Signori] Impresarios have reclaimed from the Signori Academicians
For the quarters of No. 4 Women at 6 scudi per Month, and No. 1 Men at 3 scudi per Month in 3 1/2 Months scudi 94.3.10.-
For the Carriage, which was to be taken for service of the Virtuosi, 15 scudi
For the rent of the two rooms of the Game of Pharaoh at L 20 per evening scudi 65.5.-.-
Total Scudi 175.1.10.-

A.A.I. 5.26.10 [Most Illustrious] Signore,[] Most Respected Signore Master
I am hereby to inconvenience Your Excellency and to inform you that by the Ill:mo [Most Illustrious] Signore Marchese Luca Casimiro degl'Albizi I am [?] precluded from taking advantage of the grace granted to me [he passes at once from I to he] by S.A.R. [His Royal Highness] of the Game of Pharaoh, with being closed for this purpose; therefore I beg [literally, he begs] V: S: Ill:ma [Your Most Illustrious Lordship] to be willing to grant it for this effect for the 21st next, subjecting himself however to all the burdens, which will be declared just by their Ill:ma [most illustrious] Academy, and with submission your most humble Servant I give myself the honor of signing below
Florence 20. June 1737
From VS: Ill:ma e Servitore [Most devoted and most obliged servant]
Luigi Pitti

A.A.I. 112 - Minutes of 5 December 1737
It was then suggested that in above-said Concession of 1732, the above [Signore Marchese] Albizzi had obliged himself to cover all the costs of adjustments and changes that were necessary for the current works... at present there was no need and therefore in the future Carnival it would be better to pay to the Academy Fund instead of making another New Stage some sum of cash, as well as the fact that the building of many Rooms to house the musicians and also two Rooms for games having been completed, that for these he would also give the Academy another sum of cash, ... for the Game Rooms he said that as there was no certainty of obtaining the License to Play the Game of Pharaoh, he promised that he would pay the Academy some sum based on the evenings in which the above-said Game of Pharaoh will be played.
Afterwards, no more information is found about pharaoh, but something was recorded about games in general, as in the following case.

A.A.I. 112 p. 161 - Minutes of 7 September 1744
Restricted budget of our interests
In the budget there are five income items and the same number of expenses. The total is 451.5.11.8 scudi of which remain in the cash box. Among the revenues the following item is notable.
From Pinacci for the Theatre Game Rooms and Dance Scenes for the summer and Carnival scudi
5. The game of thirty-one

The name of this game derives from the maximum score that one had to reach with the cards received from the dealer (usually three, with the possible ability to change some of them), with the condition that one would lose either with a score lower than that of the banker [dealer] or, however, if the limit of thirty-one was exceeded with the face cards counting ten, the ace eleven, and the others their numerical value.

There were similar games, and identical names, in other countries, such as trente-et-un in France and thirty-one in England. Game historians are, however, sure that there were more or less significant differences in the details of the rules, both from country to country and from one era to another.

What appears certain is that it was one of the most popular games and, at the same time, one of the first bank games to be banned. It was also prohibited in Tuscany in 1730, but as usual with the exceptions granted by the grand dukes of the Medici family. So it was that the Academy of the Immobile defended itself in this regard so as not to "prejudice its rights of possession."
A.A.I. 112 pp. 173-174 - Minutes of 4 March 1745
On the morning of 22 February, while the Convened SS.ri [Signori] Academicians were awaiting the No. [number] necessary for deliberations to be made, our Honorable Prince of the Academy was informed that Doctor Casali, Secretary of the Signore Fiscal Auditor, had been at his home, and having found him gone from there, went in search for him at this Theatre, to represent him in the name of the Above-named Sig. Aud.[Auditor], that he came with a Note from Sig. Gaetano Antinori, wanting to know if in the three previous days allowed for entertainment, the game of thirty-one had been played in public places and theatres against the provision that was supervising it, and as it was understood that in our theatre there had also been a game of thirty-one on the evening of Tuesday [;] he wanted to know with what motives and reasons the academy had allowed playing the same, in order to be able to inform those ministers from whom he could believe had been asked to write that note, and whom he had to see that same morning, to which replied by our Prince, [who took the opinion of a few Academicians who had already attended] that he thanked the Auditor for the competent manner in which he made this known to the Academy and that in their name he should reply that our Academy as it was composed of 30 Knights under the protection of the Sovereign, had never been included in the general prohibitions, but always was distinguished by all the more particular Signs of Love, of protection, by His Sovereign who on all occasions had always shown to favor and benefit it, never from 1730 onwards, had anyone who enforced this prohibition prevented the Academy from profiting from a game which, being one of the best incomes of the same, enabled it to cover the serious daily expenses, where it would not have been able to cover the same if removed.
After a few days, another opportunity to meet taken, our Prince was informed by the Lord Auditor that said game was not appreciated by some Ministers, nor was it believed that this distinction should be admitted to the aforementioned Academy, but the Prince insisted on uninterrupted possession, and in not wanting to deny the continuation of the Same without an express and particular prohibition by the Council of Regency so as not to jeopardize the rights of possession that it enjoyed; the Auditor concluded by replying that the note by Signore Antinori was not in the name of the Council and that for now he had no other orders from any of the members to bring to mind the prohibition in force to the Academy, as he intended to have done; not wanting to be a guarantor, that one would not move on to further orders which finally have not come up to this day, for which reason they continued to allow playing 31 in all 4 the last evenings of Carnival.
There is no subsequent information on thirty-one, but some games in the Rooms continue.

Last edited by mikeh on 22 Jun 2024, 03:15, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)


6. The games of bambara and buia

Bambara was in turn a later variant of primiera, a game that was long appreciated in all European environments from the courts to the taverns, as long as the possibility of playing it lasted. By the eighteenth century, bambara had taken over, at least in Florence, and the rules of this game can be usefully obtained from a note by Antonio Maria Biscioni, of the time and place of interest to us, as follows.
Bambara is usually played by three or four or five players. Otherwise, everyone discards as many cards as they want, to receive as many from the dealer of those that have not yet been taken from the deck: and tries to make either Flussi or Primiera in the second time, according to how the first cards have arranged the suits. After this, each player decides his game: and there being no one with either flussi or primiera, the one who has the most points wins, in two or three cards of the same suit. The value of the card points in the game of Bambara game is this. The face cards count ten each, the ace, that is, the one, sixteen, the two twelve, the three thirteen, the four fourteen, the five fifteen, the six eighteen, and the seven twenty-one: and whoever puts the three largest numbers together, that is, ace, six and seven of the same suit, equals fifty-five, which kills a primiera, that is, wins the stake, even if others have declared a primiera.[note 9]
A.A.I. 5.37.2
Sig:r March:e Giov: [Signore Marchese Giovanni] Corsi Sig:re mio Sig:re [Most Illustrious Signore] my Lord and Most Respected Master
The Regency has instructed me to tell VS: Ill:ma [Your Most Illustrious Signoria] that Bambara being one of the games prohibited by the laws of His Imperial Majesty, may it be content to give the necessary orders, so that in the future it will also be considered prohibited in this Theatre in via della Pergola; with the usual distinct respect I below sign myself
From the Secretariat of State on 27 January 1748
From Your Most Illustrious Most Devoted Servant Gaetano Antinori
Answer inserted together: Copy
Signore Cavaliere Gaetano Antinori
Dear Sir, my Lord, Most Respected Master
In fulfillment of the most venerated order of the Imperial Regency sent to me by Your Illustriousness with your most revered paper dated yesterday, I have made prohibited the Game of
9. ll malmantile racquistato di Perlone Zipoli colle note di Puccio Lamoni e d'altri, Florence 1731, pp. 270-271.

Bambara, and I have taken the necessary measures to ensure that such a law is promptly executed and respected. And with obsequious submission I have the honor of declaring myself
Of Your Illustriousness – From the House, the 28th January 1748
Buia was a later variant of Bambara, and it has not been reconstructed with certainty what the differences were in detail. Its success, although not long-lasting, was due precisely and solely to the fact that, after bambara was banned, players could legitimately claim both that they were not playing that game and that the new one was not listed among the forbidden ones. It took some time (in general longer than would appear from this privileged environment) before, after bambara, buia was also prohibited.
A.A.I. 5.37.3
Signore Marchese Giovanni Corsi. Dear Sir, my Lord, and Master
The Regency has declared that the game called Buia should be considered one of those prohibited by His Imperial Majesty, being worse than Bambara, and in the class of gambling games [literally, games of hazard], and therefore I bring the news to Your Most Illustrious Excellency, so that you are content with giving the necessary orders in this theatre in via della Pergola. And with the most distinguished respect I confirm myself
From the Secretariat of State on the 6th February 1748
From Your Most Devoted and Most Obliged Servant Gaetano Antinori
Together, a copy of the response from Sig. Marchese Corsi
Signore Cavaliere Gaetano Antinori
Just as the Academy of the Theatre of Via della Pergola has prided itself on always venerating the Laws of His Imperial Majesty, and interpreting its orders with the most scrupulous restriction, so it may please you, Your Excellency, to assure the Council of Regency, that the Game of Buja was never practiced after the prohibition of that of Bambara. Nonetheless, the necessary precautions will be taken by me to ensure that such a signal remains rigorously followed; While I have the
honor of constantly declaring myself Of Your Illustriousness.
Florence, February 8, 1748
A few years pass before we find any news about the Game Rooms, but what we read implies indirectly an increase in activity.
A.A.I. 113 - Minutes of 18 June 1763
To which Messrs. Academics it was proposed, and asked by Messrs. Deputies at the Factory, that the authority granted to them by the Vote of April 11th be increased by the Academy, that is, to make a Staircase, which from new corridor lead into the threshold of the Game Rooms, and if possible lead into the Diacciatina Room: and to make a new path in the threshold of said Game Rooms, and once this proposition was sent to the table, it remained counted with all votes in favor.

7. The new rooms and trick-taking games

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the situation is difficult to reconstruct, especially because we know that with increasingly restrictive laws the government's battle against gambling had been won some time ago. But at the end of the eighteenth century, instead of the Habsburg-Lorraine, the Tuscan government was ruled by the French, and for a while things changed. In this new situation, the Academy of the Immobile undertook the construction of new rooms for games. It seems likely that the academics were counting on some special concession to make that investment pay off; in the Petition, copied below, they point out the need for gaming to be permitted in the Rooms. The answer can be considered positive or negative, because it allows the game, and thus prevents the new Rooms from remaining inactive, but specifies that "non-prohibited games" can be played there, with which

the possibility of the greater revenues of other times, linked precisely to gambling, disappears. This license for trick-taking card games is already something that in recent decades almost no longer existed in coffee shops where only billiards and trucco were allowed.
A.A.I. 11.3.186
Cover: 1802 - 8 September
Petition presented through a Deputation to His Majesty to obtain permission for Games in the new Rooms of the Theatre
See - Academic Deliberation in Filza N. N - Registers in Protocol of Letter I to p. 149

No. 11. Draft.
The Academicians of the Royal Theatre of the Immobile of Via della Pergola of the City of Florence Humble Servants and Subjects of Your Majesty, with the deepest respect represent them as having undertaken a vast Building to serve as an annex to their Theatre, and for the joint relief of Poor families, this is almost at its end.
Having to open the new Rooms, this will not be able to have a good effect or meet the Spirit of
Public, if it is not allowed to have the diversion of Games, that therefore
They earnestly implore the Innate Goodness and Clemency of Your Majesty to deign to allow Games in said Rooms as has been granted on other occasions to Their Academy, and in accordance with modern times has been pleased to grant to other Theatres and Academies for an Honest Treatment of the People who will participate, That of Grace etc.

A.A.I. 11.3.191b
Signore Head of the Academy of the Pergola
Most Illustrious Signore, Signore Most Respected Master,
His Majesty, who was informed of the prayers submitted by the Academy of the Royal Theatre of the Immobile, in view of the particular circumstances, has deigned to allow that in the new rooms recently built, which form an annex of this Royal Theatre, can be taken the honest entertainment of non-prohibited games, in accordance with what is practiced in the rooms of the other Theatre of the Cocomero.
In participating in this Sovereign Resolution by notice and Rule of the aforementioned Academy, I have the honor of confirming myself with the most distinguished respect
From the Royal Secretariat of State Li 28 October 1802
Of your Most Illustrious Lordship Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant G.B. Nuti
The possibility of opening the Rooms for gaming was taken into consideration by the Theatre impresario Gaetano Contini, who on 21 December submitted the offer to the Academy to take on the commitment of managing the activity for a year at a fee of forty zecchini. However, he concludes the offer as follows.
A.A.I. 11.3.197
He is willing to make the offering to Their Most Illustrious Lordships of Forty zecchini for a Year, that is for the next four Seasons of Carnival, Lent, Spring, and Autumn, reserving the right to produce before Their Most Illustrious Lordships in each Season the Accounts of Income and Expenses made, and hoping that in case of Loss they will not want to allow that he, in addition to lending himself with his Person, must also be subjected to Sacrifices, for which he is entrusted to the protection of Their Most Illustrious Lordships and to the magnanimous Heart of the entire Noble Academy, pass with distinct respect to pay them most devoted reverence.

A.A.I. 11.3.197
Cover: 24 December 1802

Gaetano Contini Impresario rents the new Game Rooms of the Academy for the time and terms of one year with the obligation to provide the Cards and other Games, and illuminate the same, as well as remaining at his responsibility the Expenses of the Ministers, and with having to correspond to the Academy at the end of the Year Zecchini Forty by way of Canon and with other agreements expressed in the annexed Writing. See Academic resolution in Filza NN 16.21. Register in the Protocol of Letter I at pp. 155-157.
In the attached Writing there are additional details, such as, for example, the closing of the Rooms at the end of the show and the need to provide bundles of firewood for the fireplaces, and that the Gentlemen who ask for them will have to pay two Crazie [unit of money] for each Bundle. (However, there is no mention of possible reimbursements in the event of a management deficit.)
A.A.I. 11.3.197
The Games permitted in the rooms of the R.[Royal] Academy of the Pergola in the form of the Note of the R. [Royal] Secretariat of State dated 28 October 1802 are the only ones not prohibited by the Government, that is, those so-called Trick-taking, Chess, Royal Tables [precursor to backgammon], Billiards, or Trucco.
Access to the aforementioned Rooms will be given to those who have access to the Door, provided they are decently dressed.
The Game will not begin before the Ministers and the Guard have arrived at the entrance door to the Theatre; and must end at the end of the Show, of which object the Players will be notified by the ministers half an hour before.

A.A.I. 11.3.198
Cover: 26 December 1802
Illustrious Signore Marchese Gio. Batt. Andrea Bourbon del Monte with a note headed to Ill. Signor Marchese Franc. Ant. Corsi Salviati, Secretary of the Academy, makes him aware of the injustice received by one of the Royal Guards of the Corps, to whom, like all the others, access had been denied to the new Rooms of the Theatre for the purpose of completing the necessary Works entrusted to the Care of said Signore Marchese del Monte. See Protocol of Letter I on p. 155.
With attached documentation. Today we can see the episode positively: if there are players ready to force the barriers to enter the new Rooms, even before the work is finished, we can expect a rosy future for the management. However it would appear differently from the next documentation.
A.A.I. 11.4.206
Cover: 4 April 1803
Determination to keep the game Rooms of the Theatre closed in part to avoid the expense of
Illumination, which becomes useless due to the lack of gathering for the same.
See Academic Deliberation in Filza N, N 27. Register in Protocol of Letters, I to 162.
It contains a Demonstration of Entry and Exit of the Game Rooms of the Royal Theatre of Via della Pergola for the 1803 Carnival Season, as shown in the Original Book kept by Mr. Franco Scutellari Cashier, and a similar one for the Lent Season. The accounting situation is not rosy: Carnival ends with a loss of 721 scudi and Lent also ends with a loss of 160 scudi. To know the details of gambling expenses, it is a big obstacle that one cannot find the original book cited, like the others of the genre, with perhaps even the receipts for minute expenses. There is only one note here, undated.
N 73. Note of evening expenses to the Ministers of the Games Rooms of the Theatre of Pergola
to Giuseppe Loi-------------------------l. 2.-.-
To “ Stagi--------------------------------2.-.-
Filippo Calvi, Help----------------------1.6.8
Two Masks of the two Entrances
at said Rooms at S.13.4 each----------1.6.8
8. Billiards

Billiards is destined to become an essential tool for games in the Rooms, but speaking of it began even before card games were strictly limited.
A.A.I. 6.14.17bis -12 September 1764
Ill:mi SS:ri
Santi Biagi Humble Servant of their Most Illustrious Lords represents them with every respect, as the orator has contracted the Galleries from Giuseppe Compostoffe, and the game of the Noble Signori, and since the game is so desolate, that the Petitioner would lose His own; Therefore he decided to include the game of Billiards to further decorate the game rooms as well as for his own interest; Who therefore appeals to the Clemency of their Illustrious Signorie to grant him the faculty of putting in said billiards; that of Grace etc. Quam Deus etc.
This Memorandum was read by our Prince at the meeting of 12 September 1764 from which what he asked for was not granted to the Petitioner, as was the case with the Current Book of Votes, at 358.
After the law of 1773 against card games, the transition from card games to billiards became a rule in Tuscany in coffee shops and the like. You can feel the atmosphere even in the exclusive environment of the Academy. If we were only interested in gambling games, we could put an end to the search here, at least as far as documentation still accessible is concerned.

However, with billiards you can completely eliminate playing cards from the rooms, but not gambling, if you want. There are no traces of it in the case of the Immobile, but in environments of this kind, even if obviously the active players in the Rooms had become few, the spectators could have been numerous and, however surprising, it seems that they were often very involved in the game and intent on betting vigorously on the outcome of the matches.

In the specific case of the Immobile, it seems that even billiards did not bring profits to the impresarios.
A.A.I. 113 p. 236 - Minutes of 23 December 1774
And finally having heard the request of the Impresario Andrea Campigli, with which he asked to be able to put Trucco and Billiards in the Game Rooms, and to be able to give a Dance Party in the future Carnival on the evening of the penultimate Sunday; it was proposed to the Party of Academic Members, and was overwhelmingly won, that they should also hold the Dance Party, and put Trucco and Billiards in the Game Rooms, provided that they validly oblige themselves to relieve the Academy from any damage that could arise to the Same both in relation to the Walls, the Boxes and the Bricks, to be called Guarantee through their Chancellor. And so the meeting was dissolved.

A.A.I. 14.2.492 1812
For the Honorable Superintendent and Academicians of the Imperial Theatre of the Immobile known as of via della Pergola.
Luigi Magherini Most Humble Servant of Their Most Illustrious Lordships with the most humble Respect represents you as from more and several years in which he has exercised [as] the Billiard Marker at the Rooms of the Above-said Theatre in via della Pergola, and always with very small remuneration; as for three years now, the tenant Signore Luigi Dreoni has given you a good sum of his own money every year, both due to the changed
circumstances and to the too burdensome fee of the Rent, for which reason he would now have come to the decision to divest himself of said Rent, and to cede everything to the Exponent under different conditions.
But for the same reasons mentioned above, the Exponent cannot be able to accept such a Transfer to his notable detriment, if he is not relieved of the Fee of said Rent so that therefore He begs the Supreme Kindness of Your Excellencies Lordships to deign to take this matter into consideration in the next Collation of the New Undertaking of said Theatre and to relieve the Exponent of the rent, so that he will be able to work hard to earn something for himself and his family, and will be able to keep the billiard rooms with greater decorum and cleanliness as he solemnly promises to their Illustrious Lordships, and hoping in Their Charity on the example of similar Grace granted a few years ago for similar reasons to the tenant of the Cafe of the same Theatre; that of Grace etc.
I Luigi Dreoni approve in my own Hand.
On the cover we read ... Rejected for the reasons of which in the Academic deliberation in Filza O No. 170 See Letter Protocol I at p. 366-367.

9. Conclusion

The Academy of the Immobile has a long tradition that has manifested itself above all with the prestigious activity of its Theatre of the Pergola. This activity is richly documented in its archive, recently reorganized and provided with a detailed inventory. An activity that in past centuries was often associated with theatres was that of the attached gaming rooms. In this specific case, it was evidently a secondary activity, but not as much as the few documents preserved in this regard would suggest. If one had not delved deeply into the documentation, one could have concluded that games were played inside the theatre premises on very rare occasions, and only for short durations.

In this study, however, several fragments have been identified and transcribed which allow us to reconstruct (with the help of what we know from similar environments, and completing it if necessary with a little imagination) a practically continuous gaming activity, even if with the Grand Duchy of Lorraine there occurred, also in this environment, a gradual transition towards games with an increasingly smaller gambling component.

Florence, 04.03.2024

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

The next two translations will feature poems about two different card games. I am going to post a translation of his second one first, because it is the easier of the two, both to translate and to read. It is a translation of "Firenze nel Settecento – Ottave sulla bassetta," posted May 3, 2024, at It concerns bassetta, a banking game that has little to do with tarocchi except as a contrast. It is a game of chance in which losers far outnumber winners, but where the winnings could be spectacular, if one had deep enough pockets to survive the losses.

In the versions of the game reported later, the banker, called in French the tallière, begins by exposing the bottom card of the deck. This word tallière has no other meaning in French, although there is the word taille, meaning "cut." But how is he a cutter? In this poem, it seems to me, we see the origin of tallière. Exceptionally among accounts of the game, the banker fende, splits, the deck and lifts the part at the split to expose the bottom card: this action is known in English as cutting. He is a cutter, Tagliator or Tagliatore, and says "taglio," I cut. The word Tagliatore, with French spelling, continued even as the action describing him - now not "splitting" but merely lifting up the deck to expose the bottom card - ceased to do so and was merely the term for the banker. Such a person stopped being called even that in casinos (at least American ones today), but rather the "dealer," representing the "house."

Comments in brackets are mine, in consultation with Franco. Numbers preceded by "Page" are those of Franco's Italian pdf. Other numbers by themselves are the stanza numbers. For the reader's convenience, I have placed Franco's notes on particular stanzas immediately below the corresponding stanza, instead of at the bottom of the page as in Franco's original.

Florence in the eighteenth century – Octaves on bassetta

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

This study can be considered the continuation of one communicated a little while ago on other octaves composed on the game of ombre. [note 1] Here we are in a different environment, because the card game at the basis of the poetry is now a gambling game, and we are no longer in the seventeenth century. Although in neither case is the location defined with certainty, it is clear - also from the documents preserved together - that we are again in the city of Florence, or at least its territory.

In reality, the historical process of the fashions of card games in Florence would have led us to predict a reversed presence, in the seventeenth century, gambling and in the eighteenth century, the so-called games of commerce or trick-taking. However, we are still probably in the Medici grand duchy, when the laws intended to combat gambling were applied with various exceptions, many exemptions, and poor controls. It will then be the Lorraine grand dukes who will most effectively combat gambling, which we still see prevalent here.

I intend to copy in full the poetic text of the manuscript preserved in the Central National Library of Florence [BCNF, Biblioteca Centrale Nazionale di Firenze], [note 2] inserting a few notes in comment [in this translation put after each stanza], before providing some other information on the game and concluding the presentation.
Florence, BNCF, Fondo Nazionale, II. VII. 51, N. 19
(Reproduction prohibited)
2. BNCF, Fondo Nazionale, II. VII. 51, last insert.

Page 2

2. The octaves
1 N° 19. On the game of Bassetta. Octaves.
Thirty-one cries, and bambara moans,
primiera has its brow good and wet; minchiate
weeps; [note 3] and Checkers [note 4] languishes, and trembles
[along with] sbaraglino and toccatiglio [note 5]:
In short, all the games cry together,
Because they already had a rigorous exile,
while in the evening everyone hastily runs
to place [note 6] their money on Bassetta.
Notes on stanza 1:
3. The main card games of all families are recalled, trentuno of banking, bambara and primiera buona of betting, minchiate of trick-taking. Soon pharaoh will take the place of bassetta.
4. Checkers was certainly a very popular game, but there is little information about it before the important manuals of the nineteenth century.
5. Sbaraglino and toccatiglio, properly toccadiglio, were board games of the so-called “racing” variety, later represented especially by backgammon.
6. Because they are placed physically, or via tokens, on top of the card being bet on.
The one who found such a game was for certain
a Distinguished Thief, or rather an Assassin of the Street,
since he taught robbing little by little
without holding his hand to the Arquebus or Sword,
and to rob in any place whatever
alone and defenseless, without a criminal mob,
only fearing a little the Eight, [note 7] or the Quarconia [note 8]
Because the Ban went, but [only] for ceremony. [note 9]
Notes on stanza 2:
7. The Eight Guards and Bailiffs were a Florentine magistracy in office from 1378 to 1777 with duties of control over various forms of crime.
8. Large building near the Palazzo Vecchio where poor street children were gathered.
9. Clear representation of the poor following of the law. The spread of gambling could not decrease significantly with strict laws that could be easily circumvented.
At the head of a small table, around which
Stand many people, with discomfort and worry,
There is a mountain of money, high and Trivial,
Which urges every soul to possess it,
Here sits the Cutter [Tagliator], who liberally
showing himself to each, intrigues each.
He is called the Cutter, but perhaps
Would be better called the cutpurse [tagliaborse].

So starts shuffling the cards
The Cutter when every point is full, [note 10]
And then he fixes his eye everywhere
Inviting [you] to play with a pleasant face
Then he says, I cut [taglio], and with dexterity and art
He splits [fende] the deck, and turns it over in a flash,
but that one who sees his own point in the face
Suddenly becomes afflicted and emaciated. [note 11]
Notes on stanza 4:
10. When all the bets have been placed on the cards on the table.
11. The first card raised [at the cut, or at the bottom of the deck] gives the dealer an immediate win.
To do, he says; and all the others meanwhile
hope that it is under their bet;
but only one person has the boast in order to gain it,
the others exclaim, it's my misfortune,
and someone adds, who is near to the other one
it's not misfortune, no, but madness.
He who thinks he will get rich is a great fool
if only that [number?] below [his bet] wins.

At this time the first victor
Folds back [the corner of] the card, [note 12], and then shouts paro [pair];
paro replies the Cutter, and proudly
makes another heart become bitter;
This one sighs, and then haughtily adds,
Go again, but that Go Again costs him dearly,
since if he wins one, he loses many,
and is quickly reduced to broke.
Note on stanza 6:
12. This is the signal that you intend to bet on that card again, without withdrawing your winnings.
If by luck the card comes in favor of
the one who had the face [the same as the raised card?], he adds, it's done,
Then everyone passes him off as lucky,
Because if he doesn't win it, at least he has a draw
And he keeps luck in his arms.
The one who challenges [boldly] in this way
Then in the long run loses both,
He earns a Horn and wastes an Ox.

Full of hope, that one who awaits the pair
Also resolves to make seven for raising, [note 13]
joyful in thought, desires, and claims,
with a small sum, to want to break the bank:
the card comes badly, and the Cutter
takes the money, and that makes him grumble.
He's crazy, then, say the more astute ones,
Page 3
He who risks his own to gain that of others.
Note on stanza 8:
13. Another bet made on the winning card without withdrawing the winnings. [See also stanza 11.]
Such a one, who acts as Satrap, [note 14] and Sage
States that contentment is necessary,
But if this Lord stays to play,
With all his knowledge, he comes out fencing: [note 15]
The Cutter laughs to himself
Because he has nothing other than firm hope,
With such a tasty and useful game,
To make everyone remain without a quattrino [coin = 4 denari, so, “penniless”].
Notes on stanza 9:
14. Authoritarian figure beyond his merit, from the satraps of the Persian empire.
15. First he invites others to calm down and then he finds himself in a dueling situation.
Therefore he [the Cutter] seeks to make pairs
And give the face [?] to the best better
That he accept the money on the trios
Each one ascribes to singular favor;
But the person who puts it there realizes it, and regrets it
With fiercer disgust, greater pain,
While he almost thinks the bet safe
And until it comes out bad, he's not afraid.

To make the paro, the Tagllatore urges,
Seven for raising [levere], and fifteen for putting [porre], [note 16]
And in this way, with careful kindness
Some money won, from [his] hand, [the cutter] knows [how] to take away.
Shouts someone, don't enter this put,
one who doesn’t himself have the virtue of knowing about putting.
Another replies, cancer to Barzini, [note 17]
Who doesn't teach you how to win money.
Notes on stanza 11:
16. Technical terms for the next two bets on a card, placing a bet instead of withdrawing the winnings. [See Franco’s later discussion.]
17. In the second half of the seventeenth century, for many successive years, Francesco Barzini had calendars with astrological predictions published in Florence; he declared himself a professor of astronomy but there is no trace of him in the Biographical Dictionary of Italians.
As this graceful celebration continues, [there is he]
Who blasphemes, who shouts, and who gets angry,
Who bites his hand, and who scratches his head,
Who raises his eyes to Heaven, and who sighs,
Who runs out of money, and who lends it,
Who leaves, who enters, and who turns around [note 18]
But at the end there is not a single one among a hundred,
Who leaves from there happy and contented.
Note on stanza 12:
18. Many “who’s” to make us imagine the continuous and frenetic coming and going of people with continuous transfers of money.
Even though it contains so many disadvantages,
However, this game is so delicious,
that descend upon it every day, the learned and the Wise,
The miser, the bigot, and the ambitious; [note 19]
Because everyone hopes with great advantage
To win with little, and become wealthy;
but he who persists in gambling knows in vain
that he threw away his money, as into the Arno.
Note on stanza 13:
19. Even personages who as a category should logically better resist the temptation to gamble are well represented at the gaming table.
To play it, some people pawn, and sell,
Others take latches, [note 20] with usury,
another who wants to get rich like this
Runs up as much debt as he can get.
Someone, who in another vice, never spends,
In this, wastes without measure
The clergyman plays there, and the Jew,
The Citizen, the Nobleman, and the Plebeian. [note 21]
Notes on stanza 14:
20. Loans that are unlikely or impossible to repay.
21. Around the gaming table there are categories of people who would have no other possibility of finding themselves together.
But everyone at the end of the year
cannot boast of moving forward,
but bring from it shame and damage,
And insult the Saints with blasphemy.
Let the Sect [religious fanatics?] come, and Sickness,
Cancer, and Rabies to the Bassettanti [followers of Bassetta]
Whoever doesn't want to lighten his bag and his brain,
This Bassetta, by now, send to the brothel. [note 22]
Note on stanza 15
22. Definitely an unusual ending. The author evidently takes advantage of the feminine gender of the game's name to personify bassetta and send her to work in the brothel, without considering, however, that she could cause loss of money and other damage from there too.

3. Information on the game of Bassetta

I consider it appropriate, also for a better understanding of some passages of the octaves, to provide some elements on the game of bassetta, based mainly on an excellent book on card games from all countries. [note 23] Bassetta is a bank game introduced in Italy as likely
23. D. Parlett, The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford, 1990. [In, on p. 77.]

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derived from landsknecht or zecchinetta and then spread throughout Europe, especially appreciated by high-ranking people who could better bear the losses, often high in this game.

Each of the betting players, in varying numbers but usually four, has a row of thirteen cards in front of them on the table, all those of one suit from the deck of 52; of all the cards only the numerical value from 1 to 13 counts. The dealer has a complete deck of 52 cards in his hand and decides the value of the bet that the players can make (unlike the game of Pharaoh in which the bettors set it) by placing the corresponding number of tokens on one or more of the thirteen cards.

When all bets are in place, the dealer turns over the bottom card of the deck and immediately wins bets made on that card – the same will happen with the last card of the deck [counting from the top]. Then he begins to reveal two cards at a time [dealing from the top of the deck] by placing them in front of the table, one on the right for himself, one on the left for the players. For each pair discovered, the dealer wins all the bets equal to the right card and pays all those equal to the left card. If the two cards are equal they have no effect (while for Pharaoh the dealer would win half the stake).

The player who won, instead of withdrawing the winnings, can bet it again on the same card. This manner of playing is indicated by folding a corner of the card; it is called sept-et-le-va, because in case of a win the player receives seven times the stake. If desired, the same procedure can be repeated three more times, folding other corners of the card and increasing the winnings to 15, then 30 and finally 60 times the initial bet, respectively. The bettor who then loses at any stage pays only the initial stake. Obviously, a winning player believes he has a lucky moment to exploit and so ends up, with rare exceptions, losing even when he had won.

4. Conclusion

The octaves presented can be considered one of many expressions produced against gambling. Card games in other families can find writers and poets who defend them and underline their merits, but for gambling games it is just a vast range of condemnations ranging from the most rigorous to others that are quite reasonable. These octaves as a whole appear rather balanced. The damage to morals, to civil life, to assets, was real, and there is no exaggeration in exhibiting them. But the octaves go further and make it clear that the evil was not in the technique of the game, but in the end was found mainly in the psychology of the player who was unable to give up the chance of winning even when reason would have indicated that it was becoming too meager.

After all, in a game like bassetta, the advantages to the Bank wouldn't be too great. For this game to remain within the limits of an acceptable pastime, two conditions would have been necessary which almost never occurred. The first is, as said, that the player managed to maintain reasonable behavior, and the relative deficiency is well illustrated in the octaves. The second, and this is not highlighted in the poem, is that the dealer maintained correct behavior without resorting to tricks and manipulations capable of greatly increasing the Bank’s advantages.

In short, if it is true that the octaves commented on here express a condemnation of bassetta, it is also true that they could have been even more severe.

Florence, 03.05.2024
Last edited by mikeh on 03 Jul 2024, 01:10, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

This post presents a translation of Franco’s "Firenze nel Seicento ‒ Ottave sul Gioco dell’Ombre," posted April 17, 2024, at The game in question is a now-defunct version of Ombre for five players called quintilio in its Italian version.

Translating this work poses particular problems in that the rules for this game are not precisely known, nor the precise meanings of some of the particular technical terms used in the poem. So several terms will be left untranslated, although with some suggestions in brackets, mine in consultation with Franco. This is a rather unsettling result. Understanding these terms, moreover, would seem to require knowing a little about the game. Franco gives the bare bones in his note, but I think more is required, albeit at the risk of introducing confusion: in particular, what happens in the game at the end of the hand.

For tarot history, the significance of ombre is threefold. First, it is a continuation of the trend, apparently initiated in Spain, to apply tarot’s idea of trumps to the ordinary deck, in this Italian case of 40 cards. In hombre, called ombre in Italy, one of the ordinary four suits is made trumps, chosen by the player who wins an auction at the beginning of play. (In addition, there are a few permanent trumps - actually even more powerful than ordinary trumps, because they do not have to be played if one is out of the suit led.) It is the earliest known game to have such bidding, in a devepment that included even a variant of tarocchi, the so-called "tarock-l'hombre." The different bids in ombre need not concern us, except that there is more than one, so one player can outbid another. There are different technical terms for bidding. In the poem, we see “gioco” – I play - and “pongo” - I put - the latter certainly a bidding term, the first possibly.

The bid, among other things, is to win the hand. In all versions of the game, the winning bidder is called the “hombre” or “ombre” – the man. In the five-person game, he/she chooses a partner (see English wikipedia on Ombre); it is their combined number of tricks won that matters, according to the 17th century booklets. There are 8 tricks. How many must the pair win? 5 certainly will win. But is 4 ruled out, if none of the other players get more than 3 tricks each? It depends on whether the team has to win a majority of the tricks or just more than any other player individually. In the three-person game in English sources, it is the latter. English Wikipedia says that in the five-person game, five tricks were necessary; but the source it cites (Parlett) says nothing on this issue. For understanding the poem, the precise number is not important. What matters is what the win is called. In the three-person game, as described on Wikipedia, the win is called sacada, Spanish for “pulled.” Sacada is not used in the poem. However, there is the term tirar, which in Italian means “pull," and the context in the poem seems to fit winning.

Then there are the types of losses. Unfortunately, I have not found any source for the five-person game's terminology except the poem itself. In the three-person game, the ombre can lose in two ways. If an individual opponent of the ombre wins more tricks than the ombre – or is it a majority of the tricks? - he/she wins by codille (in French). A majority would be 5; but 4 tricks would be enough if the rule is that he has to be the high scorer, if he had 4, the ombre had 3 or less, and the other player had one. Codiglio is mentioned by our poem, so that type of win by an opponent of the ombre partners existed in the five-person game. But what was it? I don't know; but surely it involved beating the ombre partners in some way. In a five-person game, winning 5 tricks out of 8 surely beats the ombre, but would that 5 a combined total of the three other players, or one player individually? Or is it that one player individually has only to win more tricks than the ombre and his partner? If those two played a really bad game, that might be easy to do. But might 4 tricks by one player be enough? Again, it doesn't matter; what matters is that the game ends with a winner other than the ombre partnership.

The second type of loss is that called the “puesta” – Spanish for put - or, in an English text of 1660, the “repuesta” – Spanish for “put again” or “put back.” In French the term seems to have been "remise." That outcome is when there is neither of the other two. So in the five-person game, if the ombre and partner win 4 tricks and the others combined won 4, that might be the “repuesta.” Or if they won 3 and nobody else more than 3, that might count. What probably applies, in the three-person game and quite extendable to the five-person, is that in this case the penalty is that the ombre and his partner have to put in the same amount into the pot as is already there, and it stays there until someone wins it in another hand; so the amount in the pot has been “put again.” In the poem, neither “puesta” nor “repuesto” is used, but there is the term “riporre,” which in Italian has the past participle “riposto.” I think that "riporre" is the poem's name for this type of loss; Pratesi, more cautiously, does not commit himself, as what is meant might be something else, given that besides "put again," the term has other meanings, such as "put back" and "lay down."

My sources: The Royal Game of Ombre, 1660, p. 6 in; English Wikipedia on Ombre; David Parlett, and The Oxford History of Card Games, pp. 197-199 in; and Thierry Depaulis, "Un peu de lumiére sur l'Hombre (3)" The Playing-Card 16, nos.1-2 (Aug.-Nov. 1987), p. 51. I do not think that the 1660 work has been generally available very long: it is only mentioned by Depaulis (part 1 of his essay, Playing-Card 15, no. 4, p. 109, note 13) and Parlett as a lost work referred to by Chatto; from whatever source, it was put on on Nov. 15, 2023.) I have not read thoroughly all of Depaulis's three-part essay, so please correct me if I have left out anything important. For "remise" as a doubling of the pot, applied to a different game but said there to derive from ombre, there is also John McLeod, "Rules of Games - No. 5, REVERSIS," The Playing-Card 5, No. 4 (May-June 1977), pp. 32-35.

With that introduction, I give you Franco.

Florence in the seventeenth century: Octaves on the Game of Ombre

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

I transcribe and comment on a sixteen-octave poetic composition on the game of ombre, as the game of hombre - of Spanish origin but widespread throughout Europe, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - was indicated in Florence. It is found in a voluminous manuscript collection of poems preserved in the Moreniana Library. [note 1]

The gaming environment that we find illustrated here does not appear surprising once we have various pieces of information about it from the literature of eighteenth-century narrators, and in particular from the numerous foreign travelers who crossed Italy for their historical and, above all, artistic education. However, the version of the game indicated and, even more so, the other compositions in the same manuscript, rather indicate an earlier dating, which remains uncertain but would be better placed in the middle of the seventeenth century. This is confirmed by archivists who already reported the manuscript as follows.
N. 311. Paper, XVII century, mm. 205x145. Pp. 517. Pp. . . . are blank. The notebooks of various numbers of pages that make up this codex are written by various seventeenth-century hands, except for the quad. [quaderno: notebook, but here a file or folder] formed by pp. . . . which are perhaps writings from the end of the 16th century. . . . Modern binding in ½ leather.
XXX - 15. All’Ombre in quinto giocar sol le donne [At Ombre in five only women play] (482a - 485b ). The Game of Ombre. Octaves.
2. Essential literature on the game of ombre

A fundamental study on hombre, and on its history in particular, was published by Thierry Depaulis; [note 2] for the development of the game throughout Europe and for the related literature I can refer to that work. A concise presentation can be found in a book by Giampaolo Dossena with rules and historical notes [note 3]. More details, including its variants and their diffusion, have been provided by David Parlett. [note 4]

Rule booklets on the game were also printed in Florence; in particular, the well-known Bibliografia [Bibliography] of Lensi [note 5] lists three editions of a manual dedicated only to ombre. The related dates are in fact later than the poem under examination here, and quintilio [the five-handed version] is not discussed (at least in the first edition), but I think it is useful to talk about it to complete the framework of reference.

Of the first edition of 1807, of twenty pages, I have found only one copy, in the Classense Library, and not even this one is present in OPAC SBN. [note 6] Surprisingly, at least for me, I have not found any copy of the reprint of the same year, with a few pages more; however, I am not surprised by the fact that I did not find the third edition of 1852, because Lensi himself had only noticed it as an indication from a bookseller's catalog.

As evidence of the coexistence of ombre with calabresella, we can cite another Florentine booklet from 1822, which was in fact dedicated to calabresella, or terziglio, but with Chapter X devoted to “Ombe calabresellate,” a variant introduced in the Rooms of the Theatre of the Cocomero. [note 7] It would seem to be a less rare edition, given that three copies are reported in the Nazionale
1. Biblioteca Moreniana, Moreni N. 311, at ff. 482-486.
2. Th. Depaulis, The Playing-Card, Vol. XV, No. 4 1987, pp. 101-110, and Vol XVI, No. 1 1987, pp. 10-18 [and 44-53].
3. G. Dossena, Giochi di carte internazionali. Milan 1984.
4. D. Parlett, The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford 1990.
5. A. Lensi, Bibliografia italiana di giuochi di carte. Florence 1892. Reprint: Ravenna 1985.
6. https://scoprirete.bibliotecheromagna.i ... RAV1291600
7. Trattato del giuoco calabresella e ombre calabresellate diviso in capitoli. First edition. Florence 1822. Pp. 70+12.

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Centrale and Laurentian libraries in Florence, and in the Library of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana in Rome.

3. Elements of the game

In a nutshell, it can be observed that the game was born in Spain as a game for four players called hombre, soon to give rise to variants for three players, renegado, and for five, quintilio.

Renegado replaced the original game everywhere, maintaining, however, except in Spain itself, the old name of hombre or its derivatives. In Florence, but also in other European cities and states, over time it was first accompanied and then replaced by tressette for three players, or calabresella, and then definitively by the transition to four-player games in pairs, with the same tressette and then with whist, which followed one another in the fashion of the players.

Ombre was typically a game for three players, and there were specially built triangular tables. One of the interesting aspects of the game is the evaluation of what conditions are acceptable for playing alone against the other two, depending on the cards received with the distribution of nine cards. There are also various possibilities of drawing or not from the group of thirteen cards left undistributed.

The game is characterized by rather complicated conventions on the value of trick-taking cards in the various suits, which vary depending on the trump suit. The complexity already begins with the three major cards, the mattatori: the highest, the spadiglia, is always the ace of spades, whatever the trump suit; the second, the maniglia, is the 2 of trumps for batons and swords, or the 7 of trumps for cups and coins; the third, the basto, is always the ace of batons. A consequence is that the fourth card in the order of tricks can be the ace of trumps only for cups and coins, before using the descending sequence of face cards and numeral cards for all suits (with the exception of the low cards of cups and coins for which the trick-taking order decreases from 2 to 6).

To give an idea of the complexity of the scores and related wins and losses. I reproduce the two summary pages from the Florentine book of 1807.
“Winning Points” [note 8] ___________________
8. From: Regole generali per il giuoco dell’ombre. Florence 1807.

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However, since the octaves in question talk about the game with five, I reproduce what has already been copied in the study cited by Depaulis from a very old Italian book. [note 9]
Another way of playing with five [players] has also been introduced, but it is called quintilio, that is, all the cards in the deck are taken [distributed], eight for each, with the ability to buy the right of the partner's hand [?], and also the ability for one, who wishes to play and become Ombre, to call as his assistant and companion one of the other four, who cannot refuse the invitation.
In short, the game was normally played with two against three, but in cases of particularly favorable distributions, it could also be played with one against four. There was a ranking of commitments to control the game, so that a second player could take on the more onerous commitments and thus acquire the right to set the trump and name his partner.

4. The text

I reproduce a detail of the poem and then transcribe it in full below.
Biblioteca Moreniana, Moreni N. 311, XXX, 15, pp. 482-485. Detail.
(Reproduction prohibited)
9. Del giuoco dell’ombre con alcune osservazioni aggiunte. Rome 1674. [Depaulis quotes it on p. 51 of the third part of his three-part article cited in n. 2]

Page 4
At ombre in five [note 10] only the Women play
in private and public feasts and to
satisfy their greedy desires;
Cavalier Zerbini [elegant and ostentatious young men, so-called from a character in Ariosto] stand above them.
On each trick a rigorous examination
these are wont to make, with three thousand bows;
many there are, to take away that taste [for the game?],
who more than once make them riporre [literally “put back,” technical game term].
Note 10, to stanza 1. Quintilio was evidently still in fashion.

Ombre is a beloved and delightful game
that comes from Spain, and in France is used
and also in Italy little by little;
but here in particular, it has expanded,
so that there is no casino, no redoubt, no place,
where one plays, where it is not played;
and there is no lady, whether ugly or old,
who does not take it for her game every hour.

At first this game seems a little difficult
for a girl, or rather a wife;
but if she begins to take it and enjoy it,
only when she plays does she find rest and peace,
more indeed than a husband makes grumbling,
if in supporting his wife in such a thing
he ruins his estate, and he languishes afflicted
if she sucks from him his most perfect blood.

Then if it happens that she loses every evening,
it's up to her husband to fill her purse,
nor can he contradict her with a proud face
if he loves her at all, or if she also is beautiful.
Indeed, nowadays the Woman is so haughty
that if her husband rebels against her in
this matter, she sells the best she has with great advantage
whether to the one who takes her arm, or to the Pedant, or to the Page.

But to get back to the game; The one whose turn it is
to deal the cards then deals only eight;
This must be done from above [from the top of the deck], and she won't accept it
if she notices anyone ever from below.
One who has the hand with a tight mouth
observes her game without making a fuss,
and If she has not long [in the suit she would choose as trumps?] as she would like,
she makes various faces, and then says, pongo [technical term: usually “I put” outside the game].

So the others follow. and there is one
who tells the knight [Cavalier] who stands above,
So much it is I want to test my fortune,
Perhaps [chissà, or who knows that, chi sa] the dice to my favor reveal
Slowly; he answers, there is no trick;
to dare, she says, here the knowledge is used;
it is enough that riporlo [technical term] doesn't seem strange to her,
he adds, while she has codiglio [technical term: ombre opponent’s/opponents’ winning hand/hands] in her hand.

She takes the die [singular of dice] and then boldly adds,
Ladies, to you I throw the stone;
the lady who sees must give help;
she says ironically, she's also polite,
I have the sheet there; and she incites
the Cavalier, to whom the blame is given,
to apologize; that one [he] replies, I advised you in vain,
I have nothing to do if you throw stones into the Arno.

If it is her turn to give to the one who helps her,
if she has that suit, she trumps in her face [in front of her].
If the other one, who claims to be astute
sees the higher [card] in the hunt beaten,
some dispute always arises between them,
so that more than one Zerbino quickly tries
to get in the middle, and with his
proofs to make both of them remain appeased.

There is one who hears from the Zerbino
that her game is good in essence;
if she plays [gioca, possible technical term for becoming hombre] and loses, she usually shouts, I am foolish
to believe anyone anymore; he says, patience,
you will be better served another time;
she replies with a bit of fervor,
I thank you, this is a good comfort
That [?] I said it [the trump suit] was too short [referring back to stanza 5?].

If it happens that one has in one’s hand the three majors [note 11]
With more trumps, or Kings, she plays it alone;
to observe her plans, or errors,
the others play without saying a word
if badly teaches her the Cavalier outside,
slowly he retreats from the table.
They all piantano [?]; the Lady then shouts
Indignantly, after they had thrashed her.
Note 11, to Stanza 10. Spadiglia, maniglia, and basto.

But if by chance she wins the pot,
the Cavalier ascribes it to his knowledge;
therefore he puffs up, and with a cloying act
he wants to be considered a virtuoso [very expert]
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but the Lady, who knows what happened,
tells him in haughty words, he should
not boast anymore, for it was an odd chance
to achieve the goal with such a game in hand.

There is one who, having a good game [i.e. hand]
doesn't have the courage any longer to play it alone,
therefore, Grando [?] says, I'm giving you a gift;
and they all have the desire to help her;
If it happens that she loses it; the other exclaims, I
who denied them, they make me faint,
she scolds her beloved, they make us, you know, gifts,
Ladies who give bestial pain.

All the Ladies, whenever they can,
have the desire to take the plate,
they reveal the corners of the aces, and turn red
in the face if someone tira [literally “pulls”: wins] and doesn't call them [chiama, technical term for choosing a partner?];
such a one complains as much as she can
and with a sour face at the end exclaims
to aspirarvi [aspire to it?] I was the beautiful fool,
a bargain that is good does not concern me.

To have beyond the plate also poglia [technical term, batches of tokens won on different occasions, in addition to the usual plate – 90, 60, 30 are mentioned in the printed pages]
there is such a one who demands it in full;
To fulfill such a just desire the Cavalier uses
every art and method, but if his thought fails,
with sorrow to his beloved he says straight away
that evil fate takes pleasure in best
making us remain in the lurch.

If one has the hand, and has a mediocre game,
and wants to tirar [literally “pull,” technical term for winning], every now and then the other
who is below [plays after her] tells them alla de mas [higher bid], so
that she makes a face of fire, and then shouts, throws out the words,
now that I had it certain, to be forced to give up
the place [technical term for being overbidden?]; then one who pretends to be learned says
Lady, you should not be disgusting,
you too will have a similar taste.

With such speeches the Ladies and Knights
Pass the evening playing ombre;
a great fair of plaster Pigeons clutters
the perimeter of the table; there is
shouting over a game for a whole hour,
either when they put in [si mette dentro], or when they take out [si sgombra],
nor are other whispers heard among the ladies but
tirar, riporlo, or Codiglio.

5. Comments and conclusion

Not everything is clear in these octaves; there are, as often happens, unusual terms that are justified as poetic license, but we encounter others that are typical jargon of the specific game or of players in general. To understand the text word for word I would have to insert an explanatory note for each line, or almost, but I am not competent enough to do this exhaustively. However, even if we ignore some details, the situation appears very clear to our eyes, as well as lively.

Obviously, playing two against three lends itself to livelier matches than usual, with greater possibilities of complaining about the play of one’s partners, up to the possible appearance of heated arguments. The poem in question even reflects its typical environment, and we know that we cannot place all the blame on the fair sex, as these octaves would like to suggest.

Despite the fact that the passion for this game on the part of girls and ladies of the time was also testified by other sources, it is probable that there were not many women with gaming experience comparable to that of men, especially if, as would seem certain, we are still dealing with the seventeenth century, when the "casinos, redoubts, and places where people gamble" were not yet numerous.

Probably also a lower propensity for gaming disputes is responsible for the greater favor later found by the variants for four players divided into two fixed pairs, so that in Florence they also moved from ombre to tressette and then to whist.

Florence, 04.17.2024 

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

The poem on ombre presented in the post before this one spoke occasionally about the "Zerbini" knights that would stand behind the seated ladies playing ombre - named after an elegantly and ostentatiously dressed character in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. The current note documents an occupational hazard of such creatures, namely, the jealous husband watching from a distance. While in former days the incident recorded here would have certainly led to a duel, in these more civilized times it leads to an adjudication by one whose profession is the "science" of chivalry.

The following translates "Un marito geloso," posted by Franco on May 16, 2024, at Page numbers are those of Franco's pdf. Comments in square brackets are mine, added to explain some of the terms in Italian that don't quite translate into modern English. It was certainly a different world from today's.

Florence 1713 - A jealous husband

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

I recently presented a poetic composition on the game of ombre found in a manuscript of the Moreniana Library. [note 1] From another manuscript of the same library, [note 2] I now intend to present a text of a different type, but which refers to the same environment in which the noble ladies flirt with knights while playing cards. In this case, it is a scene in which a jealous husband and an obliging knight become offended in such a way that it can only be resolved with the intervention of a well-known expert on chivalric matters.

Archival unit No. 11 contains three volumes. The part of interest is issue 8 of Vol. I, Writings and Opinions on Chivalry by Signore Abb.te [Abbot] Pietro Andrea Andreini, with the title written in a modern hand. (I don't think that the author was also an abbot, although there were many abbots without abbeys in circulation at this time.) On the file, in the Inventory [note 3] we read the following.
8. Opinion. dated 1713/14, around the settlement of a dispute arising from the behavior of a knight towards a lady at a gaming table. Folios 130a -131a contain the Agreed Fact, which is immediately followed by the 2nd Opinion, finally signed by Pietro Andrea Andreini. (ff. 131a -141b ).
Moreniana Library, Bigazzi, 11 vol. 1, f. 130r
(Reproduction prohibited)
2. Biblioteca Moreniana, Bigazzi, 11 vol. 1.
3. I manoscritti della Biblioteca Moreniana di Firenze, Florence 1903 et seq. On p. 418.

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2. Report of the fact

Fortunately we can use the entire report of the event as compiled by the judge, who undertook to write it in such a way that it was approved by all the parties involved. It is not excessively verbose, it is completely clear, and therefore it seems appropriate to me to copy a part of it and transcribe it in full.
Agreed fact

A Lady playing where there was a large gathering of Nobility, a young Knight, Florido, stood at the back of her chair, every now and then extending his hands over her cards, whispering in the Lady's ear, making jokes, and laughing. And as her husband Pompeo remained at a distance, observing for quite some time these acts of excessive domesticity, it seemed to him that others were similarly observing them. [note 4] Burning with indignation, he begged Lucido, his relative and a friend of Florido, to let him know that these are not terms from a knight, and from a friend of his, that he should instead stand aside from his wife.

Lucido, after various apologies, realized that if he didn't get Florido out of there, the jealous Pompeo would easily embark on some upheaval, unsuitable on that occasion; he thought it better that he make an embassy to invite Florido to go with him to another, happier gathering, but seeing that Florido did not want to accompany him and that he persevered with the same domesticity towards the Lady, he pulled him aside, begging him in the most discreet manner to get out of there, since at a more opportune time he would have told him the cause.

Florido replied that, for the same reason, he intended for him to specify this cause at the same time. But Lucido, after prolixly begging him in vain to get out of there, and there would be no lack of time, found himself forced to say that since he wanted to hear it, he should know that it seemed to him that Pompeo was all apprehensive and unsettled, because he [Florido] took care to remain with some extraordinary domesticity next to his wife.

Then Florido, in a voice so loud that two Knights not far away could hear him well enough, said “Sig. Lucido, if you tell me this as yours, it will be one thing; if you instead have a commission from Sig. Pompeo to speak to me in this way, please be content to answer him from my side, that he does not know what he is saying, and therefore he mente [word with the modern sense of “lies,” but here more that of “speaks with falsity,” in a very generic but accusatory sense, as in “he’s out of line”, i.e. not in accord with prevailing custom]. [note 5] Then observing that those two Knights had heard, turning to them he said, "Gentlemen, you have heard the reply that I am sending to Pompeo." And having said this, he returned to the side of the Lady.

Lucido, considering that such an answer and [accusation of] mentita had been made public, begged these two Knight witnesses to give him their word not to speak about it, and warned Pompeo, who held, and holds, that he was badly accused [mentito], civility, purity, and modesty, with which each Knight must behave with a Lady, being for him [i.e. being in his favor].

In response, Florido replies that the common custom of Knights conversing with Ladies in this City of Florence (postponing these sophistical moral subtleties) gives him the right to be able to serve in this way, with the candor of a true Knight, and remain next to a Lady. And in proof, he gives the examples of such and such Ladies with such and such Knights of what they did and do, with their husbands being present or absent; and of having with this same Lady with the same feelings of honor, practiced acts of greater confidence and consequence, without Pompeo, even if he was present in his own house, or in conversations, having ever given any sign of displeasure; now he [Florido] doesn’t know why
4. This is a fundamental point; in addition to the direct influence there is also, and perhaps above all, the indirect one, because public ostentation raises fears of possible malicious judgments behind the husband's back.
5. It should not be overlooked that, as we will see, the accusation of mentire was the most serious that one could inflict on the opponent, so much so that as a rule in previous years it led directly to the duel.

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he [Pompeo] should be offended by it; but when he [Pompeo] wants to use it as a pretext, he [Florido] will clarify it, Pompeo being freed [first], however, from the mentita [the accusation of falsity] given [by Florido] to him [Pompeo] in defense of his [Florido’s?] honor.

It is asked what could be the most prompt and honorable expedient to put to rest this Complaint, which in word of honor is still buried between the Principals, and the two Knight witnesses, Lucido, and two others invited on each side by Florido and Pompeo, to support their respective rights on a point of honor.
3. Legal opinion and comment

The legal expert summarized the event as it had happened and reported by multiple people, in order to obtain a complete and impartial account. The situation is clear but perhaps requires some highlighting. Why is the intervention of the expert necessary, who, with the assistance of witnesses and a person summoned to defend each of the two contenders, must resolve the issue? Because society has progressed to the point that the traditional way of resolving disputes of this kind is no longer acceptable, which was only one and did not require a legal expert but only two seconds to assist in the modalities and procedures of the inevitable duel. So you can also appreciate the social progress that was emerging. But up to a certain point. Because medieval chivalry still retained a substantial part of the strength of its rules.

Among the various aspects here there is one that is most striking of all, and that is what they call the mentita, which appears to be something more than lies or slander, a very serious thing and on this particular, I intend to quote the words of this expert who is entrusted with the role of judge. I will do so exceptionally, because I have not the slightest intention of copying that judge's entire opinion, both because it is very long - tiring even just to read - and because it is very rich in technical terms and quotations from the texts of treatise writers of all eras. So, starting from the mentita, I will try to transcribe some short, more significant passages, adding just a few additional words.
It will therefore be true that Lucido's talk not only had more than enough color, but the right impulse to provoke and then justify Florido's [accusation of] mentita. It happens that all the propositions that could make a man appear to be dishonest force him to defend himself by demonstrating that he is not lacking in the thing repugnant to the honor of the Knight who is accused of it. This is so true that for the sake of pretension [appearance] and for the sake of one's honor, it is permissible to give [respond with] a mentita, even though the injury is doubtful.

However, I rather follow the common opinion among all Knights, who in writing of the most noble Science consider the mentita to far surpass in atrocity any other insult, since it is greater in measure than wounds, slaps, spitting in the face, the club, the cane, the cruet, being covered in filth, owing to the fact that a man is insufficient without having Truth, which is the strongest pillar of honor;
. . .
To confess the truth on my own (without others kindly saying it) I cannot presume to make judgments in this sublime science, and especially where mentite are involved; a very difficult subject for the most elevated spirits, and hateful to me due to the fact that it makes me continually pray to Heaven to keep me away from hearing about it.

Since Florido's [accusation of] Mentita was neither Conditional nor Verified, but rather disdainful, insulting, disorderly, and so vain, and devoid of the power to charge, the entire complaint is reduced to Insult alone; so since I need to go and investigate the importance, I will see if I will be able to derive it from degrees of contempt, since these are the scales that are commonly used there.
The judge's final opinion is rather Solomonic; after finding behavioral defects in both parties, he ends up proposing that Pompeo let Florido know that his presence in his home will no longer be welcome, and this slight renunciation will have to be accepted without

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too much regret from Florido, as it was enough to put an end to the complaint and all the discussions. The judge's very long opinion ends as follows.
And if anyone is still not willing to understand the naivety and respect with which I have attempted to proceed, let him at least remember that the Seconds, Lawyers, Confidants, or whatever the term may be that you please me to give, must inflame the causes of honor, not out of bad intention but in order not to accede (as I have done) in the slightest thing that is in the interest of honor to his Principal; so that without respect he defends it by giving reasons, giving exceptions, protesting, removing difficulties, clarifying doubts and doing whatever else is appropriate for the benefit of the cause, with the aim, however, of not exceeding in postures and ways prejudicial to the other Principal, and his Second, if he does not want to give an account of it to the Lord of the Field or steccato [word applying to any fenced-in area, including arenas], as was customary in the times when the Duel was held. However, it is not already so when exceptions and reasons are brought as a just defense, even if they pierce the adversary and the Second, but with the truth; otherwise, he would be failing in his office and in his conscience.
Pietro Andrea Andreini

4. About the author

A portrait of Pietro Andrea Andreini (Florence, 1650-1729) can be seen in a medal attached to his name on the Google Images site. The main source of information about him is found in the Funeral Oration spoken in the Etruscan Academy in Cortona on 1 December 1729 by Ranieri Tommasi. [note 6]
R. Tommasi, Funeral Oration, title page __________________
6. R. Tommasi, Delle lodi dell’abbate Pier’ Andrea Andreini nobile fiorentino accademico etrusco. Florence 1730

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Stripping this very rare text of the rhetoric of the time, it seems to me that we can derive not only a long life for Andreini, but also one divided into several successive phases. Born in Florence in 1650 of a noble paternal family and even more so on his mother's side, the patrician Busini family, he was soon orphaned. He married and had two daughters, but was widowed soon after and devoted himself to his studies full-time throughout his life.

After his wife's death, he surprised friends and acquaintances with his behavior: everyone thought he had reached the height of erudition.
He spent entire days and nights with this study; this was his entertainment and most attentive occupation, and this, in short, was what, having made him appear so pale and emaciated, finally demonstrated that the love of study and varied erudition had made Andreini forget about caring for himself.

. . . Not content with having filled his mind with varied and considerable knowledge, he abandons the homeland where he was born, and following the example of Plato, Pythagoras, and Democritus, he travels to various distant cities with the sole object of acquiring new [knowledge]. Now what do you think? Would you have ever believed that since he was capable of teaching rather than learning, there was so much belief in him that he had little or no knowledge?
In short, Andreini still deeply felt the need to learn, despite all that he had gained from prolonged reading, and wanted to see with his own eyes other environments of elevated and stimulating culture. So he spent many years away from Florence, seeking other educational stimuli in cities rich in history that were also capitals with a very advanced social and cultural life, also enriched by the presence of foreign scholars who dedicated long studies to Italian art. It is therefore not surprising that once he left Florence, his attention subsequently turned to Naples, Venice, and Rome.

In these cities, his deep studies of antiquities and meticulous exploration of the cities and their surroundings in search of ancient relics resulted in transforming him into an active collector and connoisseur of antiques. The thing developed in both directions: the main one was the collection of ancient finds and in particular of artistically worked gems, cameos and similar objects, so much so that years later he was able to create a real museum in his palace in Florence, which attracted visits by illustrious experts, including foreign ones. After his death, the precious collection was purchased by the Grand Duke and became a notable part of the collections of the prestigious Grand Ducal museums.

His competence as a connoisseur was appreciated in Rome, even by illustrious figures such as Queen Alexandra Christina of Sweden who "from then on did not want to purchase any Gem or Cameo to enrich her Royal collection that she had not first subjected to the opinion of Andreini." In particular, he was able to immediately unmask countless counterfeits. “Nor was it ever an easy thing to put before his eyes adulterated Medals, or modern works, by many very arrogant desecrators of authentic memories - who with impunity, deserving of every punishment, strive to upset the truth of history and deceive the most attentive Scholars – of which Andreini did not distinguish the fraud."

But his activity did not stop there, because (it would seem after his return to Florence - at least in the most widespread form for which he became famous) his erudition in general and his expertise in particular on matters of chivalry meant that more and more people requested his judgment to resolve the disputes that were commonplace among nobles. Even the Grand Duke relied on him to resolve such matters. We must not be fooled by the fact that only two pamphlets have been printed in his name, which have become very rare. [note 7]

An interesting page of commentary on our author was then written by Atto Vannucci (1810-
1883) for whom, also director of the Magliabechiana then National Library, it was easy to consult his numerous writings that had not reached the press. What you read can be considered an objective
7. P. A. Andreini, Parere cavalleresco intorno al rifacimento de’ danni dovuti dall’offensore all’offeso. Florence 1721; P. A. Andreini, Risposta ad una lettera cavalleresca d’incerto autore. Lucca 1724.

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presentation expressed at the distance of a century. [note 8] Essentially, Vannucci reverses the situation: only a few experts had been aware of his activity as an antiquarian, which however was very valid, so much so that he still deserved to be remembered for this; on the contrary, his legal opinions on the most complicated questions of chivalry had great resonance at the time, which when read after a century showed the underlying emptiness of the rhetoric of the time. The same Vannucci gives a peremptory opinion on these legal opinions. “He left voluminous manuscripts on these subjects which by good fortune were never printed.”

In short, our author was famous as an expert in chivalry, considered capable of deciding any chivalric question. Perhaps he should be defined as a specialized legal expert, that is, on the laws of chivalry, but in his time there was even talk of the chivalric "science." Today, the association of science with this subject sounds decidedly curious, and reading his prose, we get the impression that we are very far from science. But after all, even today there are institutes and faculties of theological "sciences," for example, and so we must be ready to truly accept the term in a broad sense.

We can certainly say that even Andreini's expertise in matters of chivalry was not improvised, but was based on a profound study of the most important texts on the subject, which he cites at every step in support of his thoughts, also in the particular case examined here.

Florence, 05.17.2024

8. E. De Tipaldo (ed.) Biografia degli italiani illustri nelle scienze, etc. Vol. VI. Venice 1838, pp. 448-449.

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

This translation begins a series of three notes (so far) by Franco on manuscripts detailing card tricks, all gleaned from Florentine public collections. This one is a translation of "La Magia bianca - Giochi di carte," posted at on June 6, 2024.

Again, comments in brackets are mine, in consultation with Franco, for explanatory purposes. Page numbers in the left margins are those of Franco's Italian pdf, as are the footnotes at the bottoms of the pages.

White Magic – Card Games

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

I present here the first of three handwritten books of magic tricks which contain a notable part dedicated to card games [i.e. card tricks]; they are all preserved in the National Central Library of Florence, unlike a similar manuscript book, compiled in an earlier age, which I had recently found in the State Archives. [note 1] I will limit myself to briefly describing the contents on the basis of the titles of the various games, of which I report only a few examples.

Many years ago I published a study on ancient printed books, especially pamphlets of a few pages, dedicated to the topic. [note 2] I was in fact surprised that a complete book on the subject, with a rather extensive bibliography, cited very few. [note 3] The author, Carlo Rossetti, died in 1948, but his book has been reprinted several times without updates; I have not found more recent works that are more complete than this one, which, however, describes many games, but without presenting them in a historical perspective.

In fact, I don't feel the need for a more extensive collection of games with ways to play them, because already in this edition we often find more ways of playing the same game. What I'm missing is a historical overview of the evolution of these games. I have read indications of some old editions that seem useful, but I have not found copies in accessible libraries.

It is known that today the USA is the large country in which all these games have had the greatest diffusion and the most significant developments. Even the Italian book mentioned above, when it lists the literature and publishers, refers to the USA much more than to any other country. However, the USA did not exist when these games were born; when the first ones spread within Italy and Europe, in America there were only Native Americans, who didn't even know playing cards.

So a reconstruction of progress both in the introduction of new games and their diffusion from one country to another must begin in Europe, unless we want to look even further back to the Middle East or even ancient China. From a historical perspective, this specific literature is of considerable interest because when one finds early writings that describe card games in detail, the type of games illustrated is precisely this; only later did manuals on the traditional use of cards at the gaming table begin to appear.

In short, I lack a book written by a Michael Dummett on these games and this has the unpleasant consequence that if I encounter a new text, I never have sufficient basic knowledge to understand when it is a question of truly new and original games or if in some way tricks and procedures that have been known for some time are repeated.

So I felt I couldn't go beyond the simplest and most concise presentation possible, based on the game titles. If, for the individual game, the "rule" or solution is the same or different from other notes, it will have to be checked in the manuscript by those interested. In addition to the indices, I will report only an extremely small number of games.

2. The book La Magia Bianca [White Magic] [note 4]

In the Library Inventory, we read “White Magic, be they either games of sleight of hand with chatter, or an introduction to the game of bussolotti [the game of cups and balls], with various joking games for pleasure and enjoyment of conversations. Ms pp. 153. Gift of Prof. C. De Stefani.” In fact, the pages were subsequently numbered from 1 to 160.

Opening the book you will find the long title reported in the Inventory on the title page; the manuscript has its folios numbered like pages in a book, and the games are listed with successive numbers. Those that involve
2. L’Esopo, N. 50 (1991) 67-76.
3. C. Rossetti, Magia delle Carte. Milan 1958.
4. BNCF, Nuove Accessioni, 131. La Magia bianca o siano giochi di lestezza di mano con la ciarlata o sia introduzione al gioco dei bussolotti con vari giochi burlevoli per piacere e divertimento delle conversazioni.

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playing cards are found from the beginning and continue, interspersed with games of other types that I don't take into consideration.

In this case, the writing is very elementary, almost in block letters, and also in terms of vocabulary and grammar, there is minimal education. Compared to other collections of games [i.e., tricks], here we notice a more frequent use of the complicity of one or more companions, and even of the owner of the house in which the show takes place. Everything appears more amateur and familial [i.e, in a private house, with an audience of relatives and neighbors] in nature than usual. There are no illustrations in the book.

It is impossible for me to propose a date for the writing of this book, although I realize that this would be essential information. The handwriting could perhaps date back to the beginning of the 19th century, but it appears more likely to be from the 18th century; on the other hand, the credulity indicated by the "secrets" would suggest an eighteenth-century environment, or perhaps earlier.
BNCF, New Accessions, 131. Title page (Reproduction prohibited) 3
These "secrets" are found at the end of the manuscript, specifically on pages 132-148 and 157-160, and consist of strange drugs and remedies, but also recipes for paints, varnishes, and soaps. It seems useful to me to give an idea, simply indicating some ingredients of the various remedies proposed: root of the mallow, belly of the rooster, head of the lizard, dung of the chicken, skin of the hedgehog, and I think that is enough.

However, one of the secrets appears more important to us than the others, certainly not because of the prescription, but because it has a precise reference to the source: a Sienese author of the sixteenth century, Pietro Andrea Mattioli. [note 5] The story concerns a hermit in the Roman territory who, with a kind of spell, healed from afar anyone who had been bitten by a viper.

This quotation from a printed book does not serve us, as it usually does, to be able to affirm that the manuscript text of our interest could not have been earlier than this medical work, because there was already no doubt that it had to be later. The problem is: how much later? At most, one could even today find a curious episode like this in an ancient book like this and report it, citing the source. However, as the temporal distance increases, the probability of having an old edition at hand and wanting to use it decreases in parallel.

It would be normal to find such a reference in the seventeenth century, and already moving to the eighteenth century seems like a rather long leap. One could therefore reasonably think of the date in the first half of the eighteenth century. In particular, this collection could precede that of Pietro Rusca's book, printed in Milan in 1743, [note 6] which presents many more of these card games than are found in the older printed editions.

A comparison between the manuscript and Rusca's book has shown that there is certainly a close relationship between the two works. Parts of one correspond to the latter, or almost, to parts of the other. One must think that one author copies the other, or that both are based on a previous source. Certainly, both authors also write a part of the work that does not depend on the other. The indications that suggested an earlier date for the manuscript were rather weak, and one can therefore imagine that the compiler of White Magic had the printed book at hand, and in addition some previous manuscripts, perhaps notes of games introduced in person.

3. The card games [i.e. tricks]

On pages 149-153, there is a table of contents which, however, stops at the first 56 games. I use it to summarize the content of the book, completing it with the titles of the subsequent games, as present in the pages of the manuscript. Each entry in the titles and table of contents is actually preceded by "Game of,” which I do not reproduce in the following list, where the initial number is that of its place in the succession of games appearing in the manuscript. The number on the right in parentheses corresponds to the number with which the same game appears in Rusca's book. (It is possible that I have missed some of these correspondences and that the games in common are more numerous.)
4 making all the aces come together
5 divining all the cards in a deck
7 making a card disappear from your hand or deck
9 making a card appear inside an egg (51)
11 divining the cards in someone’s pocket as many as you like
12 divining the cards drawn from the deck
14 making a card transfer to under someone’s hand or foot
15 divining how many points are under 3 stacks of cards
5. I discorsi di m. Pietro Andrea Matthioli sanese, medico cesareo, ecc. Venice 1568. Among the numerous sixteenth-century publications, this is one of the few with page numbering that includes the cited p. 1513 (as folio) in the manuscript. But others also report the episode in question. Some old editions can be found digitized online, and the entire work has been reprinted several times, even recently.
6. P. Rusca, Il maestro de’ giuochi piacevoli. Milan 1743.

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16 calling three cards whichever you want and having them be the ones you call
17 saying his card will be at such a number
18 divining what number a card in the deck will be at
19 3 tokens and divining who took them
22 divining how many cards remain on a table
23 divining how many points are under six piles of cards
24 making a card remain on a table
25 divining a card that is seen by 4 or 6 or more people
30 making a handful of sweets or something else appear in someone’s pocket instead of a deck of cards
31 making a card disappear from the deck by placing your hand on it
33 making a deck fall to the ground and whichever card you want remains in your hand
34 throwing a deck of cards onto a table and making sure that the one you want jumps out by itself
35 finding a card blindfolded with the tip of a sword
36 making the card pulled out come to be written on a white sheet with a pinch of tobacco [note 7]
39 making the imprint of a card come onto a white sheet or a [someone’s] cheek
40 making it that they all come out primiera [four cards of different suits, as in the game of that name]
41 throwing a deck of cards in the air and taking the one you want with a blow [note 8]
42 divining which ones are court cards and which ones are not in the dark
46 making a card from the deck disappear with a breath
50 knowing if they have placed a card yes or no by smell
51 divining a card by means of banderoline [little flags?]
59 making court cards become other suits
60 making 3 piles of cards, and at the time you make said piles, tell them to think of a card. and divine what card they thought of
61 having them touch any card and let the one they touch be theirs
62 divining a card they think of during the time various piles of cards are made
63 making 4 rows of cards of 10 in each row, going away, and having them touch a card and knowing which they touched (74)
64 giving 4 or 5 cards or as many as you like to several different people, but always one by one, then putting on a table a sign [some small object, such as a key, a coin, a pen, etc.] going away, and divining who took it
73 of the Clock
75 divining a card taken from the deck (19)
76 divining more cards taken from the deck (20)
77 having a card removed, and divining it without seeing or touching it (21)
78 finding a card in 3 cards placed on a table (22)
79 finding the top or bottom [?] card of the deck (23)
80 to remove a card from the deck, allowing the deck to be shuffled, and find it with as many cards as you want (24)
81 making a card turn over in the deck (25)
82 having only one card be drawn by three people (26)
83 having some person think of a card, then have another person take one, and that card taken be the same one that was thought of by the other (28)
88 how actually one card is changed into another (42) [note 9]
89 how to change a single card into three cards different from each other (43)
90 how to change four 3s into four aces (44)
91 making the cards of two persons change so that the one has that of the other (45)
92 divining a card before it has been drawn (46)
93 joking game of changing a king of clubs into a donkey [note 10] (47)
7. Used as an alternative to the usual magic powder for the sole purpose of setting the scene.
8. Blow from a whip or strap, but from the context [in the solution], it turns out to be a gunshot.
9. Games 29-39 of Rusca are not card games [i.e. tricks].
10. Card with a donkey drawn on it.

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94 having one person divine a card drawn by another without seeing it (53)
95 divining 3 cards at the bottom of 3 piles before taking them out
96 making a card to be found inside a lemon
97 divining how many points are under different decks of cards, however many you want
98 divining a card just touched (74)
99 to throw a deck of cards in the air and take back the card that had been drawn in the time they are in the air
100 to throw a deck of cards onto a table, and two cards drawn go into someone’s pocket
101 to find all the decks of cards that may be in a house missing one card
102 from a deck of cards, making 3 piles and in each one find the card that has been drawn
103 in two decks of cards making the card come out of one deck and go into the other
111 finding 3 jacks together with a queen
123 arranging 30 cards on a table and divining what is imagined by two people
126 divining the point value of a card, and the card itself, which someone has drawn from an entire deck of cards
128 making cards come out by themselves from a deck of cards
131 divining a card that someone has imagined from an entire deck of cards
132 to find two cards that two people have taken from two decks of cards
133 divining 20 cards that more people will have taken
134 tearing a card into tiny pieces and then having it found whole
137 divining where a coin has been placed there being multiple cards arranged on the table (54)
138 divining from a deck of cards which of those will be a court card without observing them (91)
140 arranging 16 cards into a table and in each row there is a king, a queen, a jack, and an ace of different species [suits] in a row vertically, horizontally, and diagonally (84)
141 divining a card by means of a needle placed in water (40)
As you can see, there are several numbers missing from the list, corresponding to games in which playing cards are not used. The numbered games are 146 in total and the card games are just over half.

4. Examples

19. Game of 3 Tokens. [In the ms., the number is set off in the left margin: see the sample pages shown later.]
Take 24 cards and give to 3 people: to the first one, to the second 2, and to the third 3; then you put 3 different tokens on the table and have them taken one by one by all 3, giving them the name tacitly, to the first token A, to the second [token] E, and the third [token] I. Then whoever has taken the token A is told to take from the cards that are left as many cards as are in his hand, whoever has token E takes twice as many, and whoever has token I to take 4 times more, making sure to name the tokens, and not the letters which must be used by you as a rule; however, you must keep them silent, and from the number of cards remaining on the table, find whoever took the [who took which] tokens. The remaining cards must not be more than 7 nor less than one [note 11]. If for example one card is left over you will take the vowels from the first word [in order]; if two are left over you will take the vowels from the second word, and so on until as many as there are of them, which vowel letters let you know which [of them] took [which of] the tokens, and the words are. Allegri Beati Ardire Respira Merita Stivale Minerva.

59. Game of making court cards become of other suits.
Take 4 cards, and they are arranged half court cards and half cards of other suits [number cards], that is, one card is half of one sort and half of another in this way [small drawing in the figure below] that when leafed through on one side they represent one thing, and turned [and leafed through] from the other side
11. The two limiting cases of the 24-6 remaining cards are in fact 18-(1x1+2x2+3x4)=1 and 18-(1x4+2x2+3x1)=7.

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show another, and keep them arranged like this for when you want to do the game, making sure to keep another card on top, face down so that they don't see the others, which are half of one sort and half of another.
BNCF, New Accessions, 131, p. 45 (Reproduction prohibited)
62. Game of Divining a card that they think of in the time that you make several Piles of Cards.
Take the 40 cards and make piles, starting by placing one card at a time in a row, then starting again by placing another one on top of the first, and so as a rule, there will be 4 in each pile; and in the time that said piles are made, they are said to think of a card, and to say which pile it is in, and that pile is placed at the last, and you start again from the beginning making 10 other piles; with the same rule as before, ask them which stack their card is in, and knowing that it will remain on top of one of those piles, then take all the cards and shuffle as much as you want, so that since you have seen the card you will find it again whenever you want, being able to direct the game even in greater confusion.

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BNCF, New Accessions, 131, p. 5 (Reproduction prohibited)
91. Game of changing the Card in the hands of two people so that one has that of the other.
Take v.g. [note 12] the two Kings of Clubs and Hearts. The King of Hearts is covered with a Club, and a Heart is placed on top of the King of Clubs, as has been taught on other occasions. Composed in this way, the two cards are placed at the bottom of an ordinary deck so that one is the fourth and the other the second. The King of Clubs and hearts are then extracted from the other deck by two people, the two
12. Verbi gratia: for example.

Kings of Clubs and Hearts are then mixed, one after the other. Having done this, place the deck in a beautiful manner, taking the other [deck] and showing the first person the card that remains underneath it, saying: this is the card you removed, and, feeling that it is not that one, you pretend to put said card on the table, but in its place, the second card is placed, said first card is quickly removed and placed in the middle of the deck, then the other card which will be underneath is shown to the other person, and asking him: and this is your Card? He will say no, it will be pretended as above to put said card on the table, however placing the second one instead of the first. Then the two people are asked what their cards are, and the first answering, it is the King of Hearts, the first card on the table is taken and shown to be the King of Hearts; the other will say that his card is the King of Clubs, then the second card is taken and shown to be the King of Clubs. Having done this, take the first card again, showing it again and saying: so is this your card? You take it and put your hand on it, and when you receive said Card, you must carefully remove that Artificial Heart, and you must do the same with the second card. This done, you add, would it be nice, my Lords, if without touching those Cards anymore, I commanded that the King of Hearts be changed into that of Clubs, and the King of Clubs be changed into that of Hearts? Observe. To you, Lord Cards, by virtue of my [magic] powder, and by force of my Command, quickly change the figure of both the King of Hearts to the King of Clubs, and the King of Clubs to that of Hearts, and having said this you will say, let each one see the Card that he holds under his hand, that the game will be done.

138. Game of divining within a deck of cards, which of those will be a court card without observing them.
To play this game it is necessary to have a deck of cards already prepared in this way, that is: After two number cards there is a court card, [note 13] then 5 cards and two court cards, then six cards and two court cards, then 7 number cards and two court cards, and finally a number card and a court card. this arrangement must be memorized, then you pretend to shuffle the deck of cards well, which you put down with ease while walking and take the adjusted one, then you have your eyes blindfolded and placing your deck on your forehead you will play your game by rubbing the cards with your fingers then smelling the fingers as if you could sense the cards by touch or even by smell.

Florence, 06.06.2024

In this position Rusca adds three [number] cards and two court cards. In both cases, it seems that the deck used has fewer cards than a complete deck of 40 or 52. Of interest is Rusca's comment that it is a valid finding “because if one does it, as is the custom for some, either in front of a mirror or by means of a companion, it Is easy to discover [learn] it.”

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

This is the second in Franco's current series on magic tricks, here called "games of cards." As usual, comments in square brackets are mine, in consultation with Franco, and the page numbers are those of Franco's Italian pdf, "Giuochi di Carte, Bussolotti, e altro," posted June 8, 2024, at

Games of cards, Bussolotti, and more

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction
The manuscript book in question is the thickest of the three recently found in the National Central Library of Florence, as indicated in a previous study in which I presented the first of the series. [note 1] The topic of the three books is again that of magic tricks, and I consider only the part of it in which playing cards are involved.

In the Vannucci Inventory of the BNCF, we read only the following about this book: “Games of Cards and Bussolotti [balls and cups], with Illustrations, quarto, XVIIII century.” [note 2] I read the book as if it were the first time; I found some games there made not with common cards but with minchiate, and I then remembered that I had reported something like this many years ago [note 3]; checking, I had to note with some amazement that it was precisely this same manuscript which, evidently, I had had plenty of time to forget. The fact that minchiate appears among the cards supports a Florentine, or at least Tuscan, provenance of the manuscript. Unfortunately, there are no indications that allow us to better specify the date during the eighteenth century, or to trace the author.

2. The book Games of Cards, Bussolotti, and more, with illustrations
[note 4]

I begin by reproducing the tables of contents relating to the use of the cards as they appear at the end of the manuscript, on pages 557-562. Instead of a single table for playing cards we find three, the first for the cards alone, the second also with applications to calculation, the third also with various tools. The asterisks before some games perhaps indicate favorites. Only the first games were numbered; the numbers on the right are those of the pages of the book; as you can see, the games are not listed in order, but I considered it sufficient to copy the table as present in the book, without rewriting the entries in ascending page order.
BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 8, p. 107 (Reproduction prohibited) ____________
2. ... 1/mode/2up.
3. The Playing-Card World, No. 50 (1987), 23-24.
4. BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 8. [Giuochi di Carte, Bussolotti, e altro con figure.]

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Table of contents, card trick games
*1 Way to shuffle cards and keep track of one of them 2
2 Way to get the card you want taken from the deck 4
3 Ways to peel off [sfogliare] the card below to get the card that comes after 5
4 Another way to peel off the card 6
5 Third way of peeling off the card 7
6 How to cut the card for bassetta 8
7 Way of doing the cut or the volata to turn one card into another 10
8 Have four different people take four cards and making one card of all or none 13
9 Divining which card someone thought of, out of three placed on table 18
10 Changing one card into another without its being realized 21
12 Way to make someone touch that card that he wants 23
13 Finding in the dark and under a hat a card taken and shuffled into the deck 25
14 Finding a card taken at the number they want 26
Making the deck be raised [cut] several times and finding all the species [suits] together 61
Arranging the cards so that in all directions they make a primiera [four cards in four different suits] 63
Addition to the game above 74
Letting someone take a card, hiding it in the deck, and putting down the deck, and, without touching it, finding the card at the number he wants 89
Divining all the cards in a deck by extracting them from a place where they are covered 90
Other games that can be played with the cards arranged for the game above 91
*Changing two cards into each other placed under the hands or feet of two people 103
Divining a card that was taken without seeing it 105
Changing one card into another in full view of everyone 108
Blindfolded, finding another card in the pocket of a third party which had been taken and shuffled into the deck 64
Finding a card hunted, being blindfolded and sticking it with the point of the sword 65
Divining by smell the card that was taken 67
Making the cards that have been taken by various people come one by one to the pile requested
Letting someone take a card from a deck, shuffling it, and after doing so, whatever card they want will become the one taken 69
Letting someone find whatever card I want in the place that he will cut as he pleases the deck with another card [like a knife, separating the deck into two parts] 70
Divining all the cards in the deck after letting the cards be shuffled 73, 113, 46
Divining all the cards in the deck after letting the cards be shuffled 61
18, 19 Passing a card from one pile to another 31,32
20 Making the King of clubs become the Queen 33
Divining from 40 cards which one has been touched 120
Having multiple people take a card and never take the one they saw 123
Always cutting the deck at the card someone wants 127
Way to always win at thirty-one 131
Making a chosen one disappear from a deck of cards and having it found in an egg 76
Changing one card into another in full view of everyone 78
Another way to do this change 79
Having one card be taken and after shuffling it into the deck, placing three on the table, showing that none of them is the one taken, and at choice [of the persons?] making one of those three become the first card 80
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Divining which of four cards laid out was touched 86
Showing everyone a card and saying it will be divined by touch and saying another card will be made to be the card you said and not the one seen by everyone 87
27 Divining by weight which card was taken 44
*28 Allow the card taken and shuffled into the deck to remain in your hand by throwing away all the others 45, 102
32 Selecting from a deck of cards the one chosen by a person under his command 50
33 After shuffling a deck, having a person without seeing them give you all the cards you will ask him 51
33a Divining which card someone thought of by making three piles 53
Making a deck of cards show all suit cards in one wat and all tarocchi in the other way57
15 Making a card that was taken and later shuffled into the deck be found stuck to the ceiling or wall 27
*16 Making a seven of diamonds [the most important card in scopa and scopone games] disappear and making it go wherever you want 24
17 Bringing 4 Kings together after placing them in various parts of the deck 30
22 Divining all or just one of the cards taken from a deck 36
23 Having a card taken from the deck and finding it again 38
*24 Giving a card one by one to several [persons], then shuffling and with only one card letting each person see his [card] [which had initially been given as different cards to each]
25 Making 4 aces become four cards seen by four people 41
Having someone take a card and shuffling it into the deck, to find it in the dark, burn it and have it reappear in the deck 111
26 Divining six cards thought of by six people 41
Giving half the deck to each of two people and having them remove a card and taking the two halves again, to find the cards chosen 58
Distributing 16 minchiate tarocchi so that in all directions they score 34 344, 45
Distributing 25 minchiate tarocchi so that in all directions they score 65 344
Distributing nine cards that in all directions score fifteen 63
With four cards showing as desired a flusso [4 cards of the same suit] and a primiera [four cards of four different suits] 71, 107

Index of Card Games and Calculation
21 Divining what card someone thought of 35, 125
Having made six piles of cards, divining the sum of those that are under them 114
Having made two piles of cards, divining what is underneath 115
Divining how many points are under more piles of cards 116
Having one person take a card and another some lupin beans or tokens and making it that this person has as many lupin beans or tokens in his hand as there are points on the card taken 82

Index of Card Games and Machines
Making appear by lot from a box containing 40 note cards a note card that indicates the card another person had taken 75
Two cards taken by two people, making them seen under a microscope one at a time 84
Having a card taken disappear from the deck and appear painted on a ring on your finger 106
Finding a card with a wand blindfolded and in the dark 110
Making the card taken and shuffled into the deck to be left attached to a wand, however, touching them one by one 99

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Putting a deck of cards in someone’s pocket, turning it into confetti or something else 93
Making the card taken by a person appear in an egg 289
3. Examples
p. 35. Guessing what card someone has thought of.
First of all, you notice which card is at the bottom of the deck, then you say, think of a Card, and count to what Number it is, and keep it in mind, then take the deck, and pretend to shuffle the Cards, but don't do anything other than placing the Cards on top of the others, and then cut as much as you want, and then looking at the Cards, and having them tell you at what number it was, starting to count from the Card that was originally at the bottom, you will find it at the same number as the Card thought of.

p. 38. Having someone take a card from the deck and find it again.
Put together in a jumble all four suits, and placing them thus in the deck you will have them take a card; if they take one from the middle downwards of the deck, give them a dozen Cards from above, and if they take one above, give them a dozen Cards from below, by telling them to mix the card they took with those cards, and then having them returned to you easily you will find it again, because if you have placed all the red cards from the middle down, you will find a black card, and so the game will be Done.
BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 8, detail from p. 9 (Reproduction prohibited)
p. 50. Game of finding a card taken by another, making it move without touching it.
Have them take and look at a Card, and then have it returned and placing it at the bottom of the Deck you will use a Hair prepared in your hand with a little wax, and you will attach it to the Card, and after placing the deck you will tell them to call that card, which will come out to your obedience from the Deck, and if you do it with skill the game will be beautiful, but it must be observed that when the Card comes out of the Deck, you take it, and remove the hair with wax so that no one can notice it.

p. 57. Making the cards show all tarocchi in one way, and suit cards in the other way.
You place a tarocco and a suit card in such a way that the tarocchi are higher than the suit cards as much as the size of a thaler, and therefore leafing through them from the top, they show all tarocchi, and from the feet all suit cards.

p. 61. Recognizing that a Card is missing from the Deck by reviewing it only twice. [This title appears to be missing from the table of contents.]
All the Cards count 220, evaluating them up to 7 for the Number cards, what they are, and the Jack 8, the Queen 9, and the King 10, and therefore at the first glance you will see what number is missing, and at the second you will recognize precisely the quality and the suit of the missing card.

p. 63. Arranging the Cards in a formation that in every direction makes Primiera [in the game of Primiera, four cards of all four suits].
Arrange the Cards in the shape seen below, signified by the words. [S = Spades, H = Hearts, D = Diamonds, C = Clubs]
To play the game, you usually take the 12 court cards and the 4 aces.

p. 73. Way to divine all the cards in the deck, after giving them to be shuffled.
When the deck is returned to you, first of all observe with skill what the first card is, and then carrying the deck behind your shoulders, you will carry with your thumb and index finger the card you have already seen, and in the palm of your hand you will have laid out [i.e. exposed] the card that follows, and at the time you will say: the first will be such a card, and you will throw it on the table, you will look at the other one that you have in the palm of your hand, and so you will go back to the beginning, and If you want, you will be able to guess them all, observing that you never turn your hand in such a way that the card arranged from time to time behind your shoulders can be seen.
Florence, 06.08.2024

Re: Franco Pratesi, new publications (since 2023)

Here we have the final of the three notes on books of magic tricks, "1712 - I giochi di Lorenzo Stecchi, posted June 10, 2024, at As usual, notes in brackets are mine in consultation with Franco, and the page numbers are those of Franco's online Italian pdf.

1712 - The games of Lorenzo Stecchi

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

I present here the third of the three manuscript books that I recently found in the Central National Library of Florence; like the second, this third book is preserved in the Targioni Tozzetti collection, which "preserves the manuscripts and papers resulting from the scientific activity of Giovanni (1712-1783), Ottaviano (1755-1826), and Antonio Targioni Tozzetti (1785-1856), as well as some important codices by Pier Antonio Micheli (1679-1737).”

The three manuscripts can all be found in the library inventories by searching for "giochi di carte" [games of cards], but in these cases, we are not talking about traditional card games, as minchiate typically is in Tuscany, but about magic tricks. Some general considerations in this regard are present in the studies relating to the first two books and I refer anyone who is interested to those. [note 1]

2. Lorenzo Stecchi's book. [note 2]

Unusually, for this 107-page book we have the author, Lorenzo Stecchi, and also the date, 1712. This is information that we find directly on the title page of the book where we read the following. “1712 Rules for learning to play all sorts of games of sleight of hand, Bussolotti, ribbons, and cards no longer seen, written by me Lorenzo Stecchi and tested, one by one.” Almost verbatim the same information is found in the Vannucci Inventory of the BNCF. [note 3]
BCNF Targioni Tozzetti, 120. Cover and title page (Reproduction prohibited) _______________
2. BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 120. [Regole per imparare a fare tutte le sorte di Giuochi di destrezza di mano, Bussolotti, di nastri, e di carte non piu visti, scritti da me Lorenzo Stecchi et esperimentati, ad uno ad uno.]
3. ... 7/mode/2up

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If we look for information on Lorenzo Stecchi, we encounter a professor from the University of Pisa with science studies, or natural philosophy, and in particular his book on meteors. [note 4] However, nothing confirms that it is the same person, also because, in reality, the teacher is indicated as Giovanni Lorenzo. The handwriting also leaves some doubts in this regard, because on the one hand, the handwriting appears more professional than usual, but on the other hand, rather incorrect forms are frequently noted. The comparison of this text with that of an autograph letter by Professor Giovanni Lorenzo Stecchi, preserved in the Riccardiana Library [note 5] was decisive: the calligraphies are decidedly different, and therefore the hypothesis of attributing the book in question to the Pisan professor also falls short.

In this book, the games that use playing cards are not found at the beginning but are grouped together in a second part, as listed below. The games are not numbered; the initial numbers are those of the corresponding pages. The overall number of these games is significantly lower than that encountered in the two books described previously.
56 Making a card be taken and divining what card it is by smell alone and without seeing it
59 Having a card removed and then making two piles of the rest of the cards and leaving the room, divining which pile the card was placed on, and also having the person who removed the card cover it with the back of his hand, and showing him another card from the other pile and placing it in the palm of his hand, making it so that the card he removed comes to the palm of his hand and that which is on the palm goes under the back of his hand where the one he had previously taken out was before.
64 Having someone think of a card from the deck, and after having made it be thought of, without his telling anyone, divining what card was thought of, making three piles of them.
66 Having five cards be drawn, so that all five are the same as the one that he will draw last.
71 Having a card taken out, and then mixing it with the others, and then throwing the deck of cards in the air, making it that the card taken out remains attached to the ceiling or a window shutter.
73 Having a card taken out and then making it go into a girl's shoe or someplace else.
76 Throwing a pack of cards onto the fire, and after they are burnt, making them come back down from the chimney, naming them card by card.
78 Making the Ace of Clubs disappear, and making it become the Ace of Hearts, or making the Jack of Spades disappear and making it become the Jack of Diamonds, or something else.
80 Taking five cards from a deck and showing them to everyone, and then making them all blank, being first colored like the others.
85 Having a card be taken out, and then having it returned and mixed with the others, making said card walk over the table.
89 Blindfolding your eyes with a cloth, and then taking a deck of cards, and divining which is a court card and which is not a court card.
90 Taking a minchiate deck and making a bird come out of it, or indeed other gallantries.
102 Having a person make three piles of a deck of cards, in the form you will see below, and then, taking the rest of the cards, knowing how many points are under those piles.
3. Examples
64 Having someone think of a card from the deck, and after having made it be thought of, without his telling anyone, divining what card was thought of, making three piles of them.
To play said game, take twenty-one cards of which the person is made to think of one, and after having thought of it, make three stacks in this way, as you see,

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
4. Delle meteore libri tre poema filosofico di Gio. Lorenzo Stecchi lettore di filosofia nell'Universita di Pisa. Florence 1726.
5. MS Ricc. 3452/6 c. 275.

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10 11 12
13 14 15
16 17 18
19 20 21

but one above the other, that is, the four above the one, the 5 above the 2, the 6 above the three, the seven above the four, the eight above the five, the nine above the six, and so on, that in essence there are only three piles as you can see; and then tell him that he should look at which pile the one he thought of is in, and saying so, put that pile where the card thought of is in the middle of the other two piles and start again from the beginning, and count again, as above i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc. and ask again which pile the card thought of is in, and place that pile where it is in the middle of the other two, and again count 1, 2, 3, as before and be told again which pile the card thought of is in, and similarly putting in the middle, and then counting, that card that will come at No. 11; that is that card which was thought of; that is how the game is done.
BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 120, p. 65 (Reproduction prohibited)
Page 4
BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 120, p. 80 (Reproduction prohibited)
73 Having a card taken out and then making it go into a Girl's shoe or someplace else.
To play this game you must have two similar cards in the deck, that is, two 5s of hearts, or whatever you want, and one of these you must give to some Woman of your correspondents and friends, so that in some way, and under some pretext, she must put it in a shoe of one of those girls who are to be at that evening party, and after having put she must tell you, and then you propose the game, and take the cards and put the similar card underneath, which you then have to put in the middle, slanting as usual, and having that double card taken out, and then having it given to you, and putting it in the deck, talking about some nonsense while you are shuffling, pretending that you have forgotten which card he has drawn, and you look carefully in the deck two or three times and say that you can't find it there, and you don't remember what card it is, and so begging the one who drew it to say what card he drew, and hearing it, pretending to search again in the deck but not finding it, and telling the audience that the card isn’t there, and therefore they have to order where they want the card to be found.
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Then another of your correspondents will say to you to make it go in the right shoe of that girl, or wherever it was put, and then you have to make a few faces, saying that it is too difficult, but your correspondent making sure to say that he wants it there, then commanding Berlicche [note 6] that the card go into that Shoe, and inspection made and said card found, it will turn out to be a very wonderful and beautiful game.

89 Blindfolding your eyes with a cloth, and then taking a deck of cards and guessing which is a Court card and which is not a Court card
To play this game you must have a Companion, [note 7] who must be instructed in this way. Firstly, when you have proposed the game and have blindfolded your eyes, he must stand in front of you, and when you have the cards in your hands, you must hold them facing the people, and the Companion, seeing a court card, must step on your feet, and you, feeling your toes stepped on, must say this: it is a court card; and then saying this is not a court card, until you feel your Feet being stepped on again, and continue doing so until you have the cards in your hand, which will make a very beautiful game.

90 Taking a pack of minchiate and making a little bird come out of it, or other Gallantry.
To play this game, you must have two decks of similar minchiates, one natural, and the other in this way, first you have to take sixty of said cards and cut them in the middle, that is, only that little bit remains from the sides, as seen below, and when you have cut the aforementioned cards into that shape you must form them, like a small box, gluing them one on top of the other in this manner, then placing the other cards underneath it will look like a natural deck of cards, [note 8] and If you want to play the game, in said little box you must place a little bird, or instead lemons, confetti, or whatever you want without anyone seeing, then taking said cards in your hand, begin to shuffle those loose cards that are below and say it would be a nice game, if from this deck of Cards I were to bring out a Goose, a Peacock, a Capon, [note 9] a Thrush, or whatever Your Lordships want, and then one of your Correspondents, Knowing the Thing that is in the Cards must say, I would like you to bring out such and such a thing, and you then start shuffling and quickly saying Berlicche Berlocche [note 10] - let's say there is a Calderugio [note 11] inside - I command you, Lord [Lady?] Cards, to send out a Calderugio, and having someone parare [stretch out?] his/her hands, opening [you open] the box, namely by removing the card that holds it closed, so that the Calderugio will come out, and you immediately remove the Cards and place them in your box, but your Confederate must ask to see the cards a little, and you then take the other natural deck of Cards and show them to everyone, the game will be more wonderful and beautiful.
6. Devil's name, used in jest.
7. In the first of the three manuscripts examined, this game is played with a prepared deck and without a partner.
8. In fact, 37 free cards remain, one above and the others below the box (made up of 60) so that they can be shuffled and cut at will.
9. It's easy to play the boaster, having the “correspondent” ready to avoid insoluble problems.
10. Common magic spell to impress the audience.
11. Disused term for goldfinch.

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BNCF, Targioni Tozzetti, 120, p. 91 (Reproduction prohibited)
Florence, 10.06.2024