Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

I am starting a new thread for Franco's articles in The Playing-Card, the journal of the International Playing Card Society. Partly this is because I have a different start-date, 2018 rather than 2023, with which the other thread of recent translations starts, that at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2683. Although Franco didn't resume his notes that are exclusively on until 2023 (the focus of the other thread), he did publish articles on playing cards in The Playing-Card, and I didn't try to translate them at the time. Another reason for a new thread is in case someone, such as a subscriber to the journal, wants to read only his work published recently there. I will try to proceed chronologically.

The first article is a translation of "Il Capitolo delle Minchiate," on at, originally in The Playing-Card 47, No. 2 (Oct.-Dec. 2018), pp. 103-113. The page numbers, which in this post are the numbers standing by themselves in the left margin, are those of the naibi. net version. As usual, the comments in brackets are mine, for clarification purposes, after consulting with Franco.

The link in Note 2 of this article no longer brings up anything relevant; it just shows something pertaining to a different organization. We would appreciate it if anyone could find the correct link.

The Capitolo delle Minchiate

Franco Pratesi

English Summary

The Capitolo delle Minchiate [Chapter of Minchiate] is an important poem on the Minchiate game, which also provides useful information on its rules. Four subsequent editions have been identified, all very rare: the Leghorn edition of 1752, an edition without date (now recognized as identical for the three copies preserved); and the two editions printed in Florence in 1777 and 1827. The game described is compatible with what we know both about the evolution of the rules, and on the atmosphere that surrounded it in the middle of the 18th century. The author was the Marquis Abbot Pio Enea degli Obizzi, from Ferrara; some information on his activity is reported. The “Lombard” town in which the text was written should thus be Ferrara, the same town in which we find the only copy of the Capitolo recorded in the OPAC catalog for all the Italian libraries.


The complete text of the Capitolo under consideration can be read at the end of a preliminary version of this study [note 1] and on the IPCS web pages. [note 2] This investigation originated from a Domanda [Question], one of many published in Florence at the end of the nineteenth century in the Giornale di erudizione [Journal of Erudition]. At the time, and in the first decades of the following century, Florence played a notable role in the artistic and literary fields, remaining one of the main cultural centers at a national level; this also occurred in the publishing sector, with the publication of books and periodicals that became famous.

The Giornale di erudizione was published in Florence two or three times a month and was aimed at scholars and bibliophiles throughout the Kingdom of Italy. The Questions constituted a fundamental element of the Journal: a reader had encountered an insoluble problem in a bibliographic, literary, or scientific investigation and turned to the entire Italian cultural elite for assistance. The question was published with a title that clearly indicated its topic; as a rule, in subsequent issues of the magazine the relevant "answers" appeared from scholars capable of providing useful information. The Question of interest to us is the following.

Game of Minchiate. – Who is the author of a chapter relating to the game of minchiate that begins: "Since I learned the game of minchiate"; and how many editions were done? Could we then have information on other writings of a similar kind? A.L. [note 3]
As you can see, rather than one question, it is several connected questions: who was the author, how many editions were printed, what other similar writings are known. Unusually, this question went unanswered; no one from any city came forward to solve the case; evidently, it was a very difficult question, because among the readers there were experts in every sector, and of a high level. Let's try again now, after more than a century, taking advantage of the fact that bibliographic research has become much easier today.

The Capitolo

The text of the Capitolo is made up of a long poetic composition in rhyming tercets, and in the undated edition, which will be better described later, it is printed on twenty pages, numbered from 3 to 22. Each page contains six alternately rhyming tercets, except the first and last which have two fewer tercets; there are 349 hendecasyllables in total. The entire work describes the card game of Minchiate, the Florentine variant of the tarot that used the characteristic deck of 97 cards.

The beginning of the text is very clear and important: after the author learned to play minchiate, he no longer liked any of the games he played previously, and therefore he assiduously and constantly tried to make it appreciated also in his region, where the game was still not widespread: "And yet few people do it in Lombardy"; then under the name of Lombardy, one could understand all or almost all of northern Italy.

The Capitolo in question is aimed at people who do not yet know the elements of the game. The complexity of minchiate derives not only from the high number of cards, but even more from the scoring, which is based on the declaration of particular combinations of cards, or verzigole (counted both on the basis of the distribution of the cards at the beginning of the game, and by choosing them at the end from the cards won), and on the difference in score between the two opposing pairs at the end of the game. In short, the capture of some points derives directly from a lucky distribution of the cards, but to have a high score it is essential to play in the best way, to capture the valuable cards and count their combinations again at the end of the game.
3. Giornale di erudizione, Vol. I No. 9-10 (1888), 131.

It is known that the first compilations handed down on the rules of minchiate date back to the seventeenth century, with Malatesti's riddles [note 4], and above all with Paolo Minucci's notes to the Malmantile racquistato, [note 5] which describe the form of the game most used in Florence, the cradle of the game. It was an everyone-for-themselves game, so popular that in 1693 a ban was published prohibiting it in barber shops and public baths, but only after the evening bell ringing. [note 6] The Capitolo instead describes that game between two pairs, which in the eighteenth century also spread to other European countries, limited to the most prestigious courts, academies, and clubs.

The first impression is that the game rules set out in the Capitolo are not substantially different from what we know from the printed and manuscript treatises of the eighteenth century; starting from the precious manuscript of Regole [Rules] compiled by Niccolò Onesti in 1716, probably in Rome, found by Andrea Vitali and transcribed in full and extensively commented on by Girolamo Zorli. [note 7]

A comment on the game rules set out in the Capitolo could be that, as happens with many game regulations, there are some peculiarities here, too, that would require further agreements among the players to avoid arguments during the game. The first agreement, simple but indispensable, concerns the stakes; in fact, all the complex management of the score can ultimately be associated with small sums or entire estates, depending on what preliminary agreement establishes the correspondence between points and money.

However, upon first reading, the main experts on the game did not find any points of disagreement or notable originality in the Capitolo compared to the rules described in eighteenth-century sources. A peculiarity reported to me by Andrea Ricci is the following: "a custom that I cannot find described elsewhere, that is, the one that allows the card dealer to be able to give the cards under the cut directly to his partner, as long as they are less than nine.” [For the usual procedure of the “cut,” see any account of the rules of minchiate.] Nazario Renzoni has observed that in the Capitolo the distribution of the fola is substantially that present in the texts of the late eighteenth century [note 8] and could go back to the allusions to a "modern" custom already present in the Regole in the manuscript by Niccolò Onesti of
4. La Sfinge enimmi del Sig. Antonio Malatesti. In questa nuova impressione aggiuntaci la terza parte con le Minchiate. Florence 1683.
5. Malmantile racquistato. Poema di Perlone Zipoli con le note di Puccio Lamoni. Florence 1688.
6. ASFI, Consulta poi Regia Consulta, prima serie, 30. Bando No. 49.
7. ... ti-e-saggi [now ... esti-1716/: Regole del nobile e dilettevole gioco delle Minchiate. For a summary in English, see A. Vitali at]
8. Regole Generali del Nobilissimo Giuoco delle Minchiate, Rome 1773, and Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels, Dresden 1798.

1716, mentioned above. Of originality [to this author], there can be noted only a few strategic observations during the game and reports to the companion, which the author himself indicates as devices he in fact used personally, not taken from any previous texts.

It is not easy to understand how widespread our Capitolo was. Judging by the copies preserved in public libraries, one would say that it remained completely unknown, or almost so; however, the type of publication must be considered, a small, thin booklet, which would easily have been lost; add to this the subject of the verses, which could not have been among the most appreciated by librarians, both public and private. The two Florentine editions, printed half a century apart, nevertheless demonstrate that the Capitolo had a certain success, at least in the homeland of minchiate.

Information about the author

In none of the known editions is the author's name printed. However, we read in various sources that the author was the Marquis degli Obizzi. The best-known writer of the family is the Paduan marquis Pio Enea degli Obizzi (1592-1674), who is usually referred to as Pio Enea II to distinguish him from his grandfather, who had built the prestigious family residence, the Castello of Catajo, a dozen kilometers south of Padua.

We must then exhume the "canonical" text in the copy preserved in Ferrara, cited among Ferrara writers, and ultimately look for an author who had that famous name, but without being either so well-known or so ancient. Decisive help comes to us from a group of manuscripts from the Obizzi family library, now preserved in Vienna in the Austrian National Library. The Obizzi family died out at the beginning of the nineteenth century and the properties came into the possession of the imperial Habsburg family. The Viennese documents were studied by Alfred Noe [note 9], who on that basis also provides us with an extensive genealogical tree of the family, limited to the male line, reproduced in Fig. 1.
9. In: S. Loewe, A. Martino, A. Noe (eds.), Literatur ohne Grenzen, Frankfurt am M. 1993, pp. 282-310.

Figure 1. Obizzi family tree (from Alfred Noe).
In summary, our Marquis Abbot Pio Enea was the youngest son of Tommasso VII, in turn brother of Pio Enea III. Starting from uncle Pio Enea III, we go back from son to father up to Pio Enea I in the easiest way, with the same baptismal name transmitted from grandfather to grandson, interspersed with the name of Roberto, then upwards: Pio Enea III, Roberto V, Pio Enea II, Roberto IV and Pio Enea I. Naturally, other members of the family existed, previously, contemporaneously, and subsequently, until 1805. From other documents preserved in the Viennese collection, Alfred Noe deduces that our Pio Enea was born in 1719 and was consecrated a priest in 1753; in addition to the brothers indicated in the family tree, he had at least three sisters: Isabella, Caterina and Lucrezia.

Another piece of information is also of interest to us, again communicated by Alfred Noe. In one of the manuscripts of the group studied, Ser. N. 2106, a Memoir is inserted, in which the abbot Pio Enea, son of Tommaso, reported that in 1739 in Rome, in Santa Maria Aventina, he had found a tomb with the family's coat of arms. Furthermore, Mirna Bonazza, responsible for manuscripts and rare books at the Ariostea Municipal Library [note 10], has found in that library a letter sent by him, again from Rome, in 1742. [note 11] At this point, it becomes legitimate for us to imagine that this abbot had also discovered in Rome the game of minchiate, we know was then held in high esteem.

It is not easy to find precise information on this personage, but some mentions of his name can be identified with reference to the ducal court
10. M. Bonazza, Email communication 07.23.18.
11. Ferrara, Ariostea Library, Cittadella Autographic Collection n. 2089. Lettera autografa di Pio Enea Obizzi. Rome, 23 June 1742, to the Marquis Giraldi Sacrati, Ferrara.

of Modena. The oldest of these notices sees him still as a boarder of the Collegio dei Nobili, engaged in three performances in the Teatro Ducale of Modena in 1737 to celebrate the birthday of Prince Rinaldo I. Of that event, there remains a booklet of about fifty pages printed in the same year as the performance [note 12]; here our personage appears as the last in a list of no less than 42 boarders of the College of Nobles who took part in the cantatas as dancers. In a similar event the following year we meet our Pio Enea again, but now he is actually one of the three authors of the recited text. The theatrical performances that were performed in Modena were studied by Alessandro Gandini, who compiled a three-volume Chronistoria [Chronological History] on them;[note 13] on p. 37 of the first volume, a play composed by three authors is cited that was performed in the Teatro Ducale di Piazza in 1738. [note 14]

We also have other kinds of information, which confirm not only the cultural level of this author, but also his commitment to the literary competition of the time. In 1746 we find our marquis abbot in his city, Ferrara. The testimony is not among the most direct: in a 48-page book printed in Padua in 1746 we find the text of an "academic speech Giovannandrea Barrotti recited in the Accademia del'Intrepidi of Ferrara on the evening of February 16th." The title is Of Alcina's blonde hair and black eyelashes. In the preface, Abbot Pio Enea degli Obizzi appears as editor of the publication. A copy of that academic speech is preserved in a collection of Barotti's letters in the Archiginnasio Library in Bologna (B200) and we find it indicated that that performance in the Accademia degli Intrepidi took place "under the Principality of the Marquis Pio Enea degli Obizzi." [note 15]

Evidently our author had been elected in those years to the top of the local academic consortium. In fact, Mirna Bonazza was recently able to find
12. Alessandro signor d’Albania, azione accademica da rappresentarsi nel Ducale Teatro Grande il felicissimo giorno natalizio del serenissimo signor principe di Modena, composta recitata e dedicata all’altezza serenissima di Rinaldo 1. Duca di Modena, Reggio, Mirandola ec. da’ signori Convittori del Collegio de’ Nobili. Bartolomeo Soliani, Modena 1737.
13. A. Gandini, Cronistoria dei teatri di Modena dal 1539 al 1871. Modena 1873.
14. Avvenimento al trono di Alessandro il Grande. Academic Action for Christmas Day HHS [His Highness Signore] Francesco III, Duke of Modena, composed by the Marquis Abbate Pio Enea degli Obizzi, Ferrarese, the aforementioned Count Magnani [from Modena] and Signore Paolino Ottolini, Lucchese patrician. [Azione Accademica pel giorno natalizio di S.A.S. Francesco III. Duca di Modena composta dal Marchese Abbate Pio Enea degli Obizzi Ferrarese, dal suddetto Conte Magnani {modenese} e dal signor Paolino Ottolini patrizio Lucchese.]
15. G. Mazzatinti, Inventario dei manoscritti. Vol. 69. Florence 1939, p. 10-11.

some confirmation in a manuscript with the list of the "princes" of the academy [note 16], where he is indicated as Pius Aeneas III, precisely for 1746, as shown in the reproduction of Fig. 2.
Figure 2. Page from the Ristretto istorico [Historical Compendium].
(Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, Coll. Antonelli 248, p. 28)

That Abbot Pio Enea was interested in Roman antiquities becomes even more plausible considering that a letter was sent to him with information on the first discoveries in the excavations of Herculaneum: there are conflicting opinions on the attribution of that letter to Papaudi, but if the sender is uncertain, the recipient is certain. [note 17] That letter was republished several times in various periodicals and collections of the time, so great was the interest in those antiquities that had come to light.
16. Antonelli Collection 248, Ristretto istorico della fondazione e progresso dell’Accademia degl’Intrepidi di Ferrara, ed ordine cronologico dei principi d’Este dall’anno 1600 all’anno 1761.
17. Raccolta di opuscoli scientifici e filologici, 38. Venice 1748, pp. 349-354

Other traces of this author's cultural interests can be noted. Thus, in a long list of Associates, printed at the end of the famous Universal Dictionary, we find the name of the Marquis Abbot Pio Enea degli Obizzi, precisely for Ferrara.[note 18] Further traces could be indicated, particularly in the musical field, which would testify to the continuation of the personage's cultural interests; considering that our interest is limited to the game of minchiate, we can stop at the 1752 date of the Livorno edition and not ask ourselves whether what can be found for years approaching the end of the century still refers, as would seem probable, to the same author of the Capitolo or to another member of that noble family.

The various editions of the Capitolo

Very few copies of various editions of the Capitolo have been preserved, including some without dates, and the task of verifying whether the latter are the same or different is quite relevant.

1. Il giuoco delle minchiate. Capitolo. [The game of minchiate. Chapter.] Livorno, Gio. Paolo Fantechi, 1752. In 16°, 22 pp. This is indicated in No. 47 of Lensi's Bibliografia, which then comments: «Chapter in tercet rhyme by an unknown author, contains the rules of the game of minchiate, it begins: "Since I learned the game of minchiate." [note 19]

Unfortunately, Lensi does not write where he found an example of this work, nor even where he had obtained the printer and the date, which appear plausible considering the multifaceted activity of Giovanni Paolo Fantechi in Livorno; in those years, the printing house was indicated as Gio. Paolo Fantechi e Compagni, while a few years later it was indicated only by its name "in the name of Truth in Via Grande." Most of his editions were in the theatrical or religious field, but publications on various subjects also appeared.

It was possible to find an example of this dated edition in the Braidense National Library in Milan. The discovery occurred only thanks to the paper catalogs, because the copy does not yet appear in the digital ones. The title page is reproduced in Fig. 3.
18. E. Chambers, Dizionario universale delle arti e delle scienze. [Vol.] VIII. Venice 1748
19. A. Lensi, Bibliografia italiana dei giuochi di carte. Florence 1892.

Figure 3 – Title page of the Livorno edition. (Milan, Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, 3.3.C.25.5)

2A) Il gioco delle minchiate capitolo. [The game of minchiate chapter.] 22 p.; in 12°.

A copy of this edition is preserved in Oxford in the Bodleian Libraries, with signature 013983413 Association copies – Jessel. In the Bodleian catalog the typographical data "Livorno, Gio. Paolo Fantechi, 1752" is indicated in brackets, as if it was actually absent in the work and only taken from some other source. Thanks to the courtesy of the Oxford librarians (and in particular Francesca Galligan), it was possible to obtain more precise information. The book arrived in the Bodleian with the gift of the rich Jessel collection. Frederick Henry Jessel (1859–1934) was an expert collector who compiled a famous bibliography on playing cards in 1905; probably in his hand is the annotation that this book was printed in Livorno in 1752. Another annotation cites Lensi's bibliography, which is plausibly at the origin of what is indicated in the catalog. There are no other possible supporting sources. This book was already cited by Michael Dummett [note 20], who, unusually, seems to have used this text available in "his" Bodleian Library solely for a comment on the Genoese variant of ganellini, citing the term Ganellino attributed here to number One of the tarocchi. In reality, however, this edition, indicated [also by him] as printed in Livorno in 1752, appears actually
20. M. Dummett, The Game of Tarot, London 1980, p. 339.

to have been published without editorial notes. Let's look at other editions, which were similarly published without date and place of printing.

2B) Il gioco delle minchiate capitolo. [The game of minchiate chapter.] 22 p.; in 12°.

Present in the Ariostea Municipal Library of Ferrara with signature A 12. This edition is the only one to appear in the SBN OPAC catalog, updated for all Italian libraries. Even if we search for specimens in the online catalog of the main European libraries we find (as of mid-2018) only this specimen. [note 21] In this copy, there is a handwritten note "From Canon Pio Enea degli Obizzi." In the bibliographical indications of the catalog of the Ariostea Municipal Library, again accompanying the Ferrara specimen, a quotation from a manuscript work preserved in that library is reported: “The author Pio Enea degli Obizzi is taken from G. Antonelli, Indicem operum ferrariensium scriptorum, 1834.”

2C) Another copy without typographical notes, to be checked if different, is preserved in the Humanistic Library of the University of Florence with signature: Misc.A.300.1. Like the Ambrosiana edition, this example also does not appear in the SBN OPAC catalog, as it has not yet been included in the electronic cataloging. A membership stamp indicates the Royal Institute of Florence and dates back to the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. From the inventory of the time it seems that it belonged to a group of books donated by the University's botanical Cabinet, where it would have arrived as an inheritance from a donor whose name has not been preserved. Written in pencil on the last page we read: -.3.6. This is probably the price of the booklet in the traditional L.s.d system, i.e., three and a half soldi; perhaps useful information, but insufficient for a certain dating.

Thanks to the checks carried out on the copies, it was ascertained that this edition is identical to the one preserved in Ferrara. The question was whether these two editions without typographical data could be the same as the edition preserved in Oxford, and the comparison confirmed that in fact in the three cases it is the same print. It seems unlikely that this edition was printed before the Livorno one; in fact, the hypothesis that it was instead an illegal copy, printed using that as a source, is more convincing. Two other editions, dated and different from this one, were published in Florence at a later time.
21. ... iate%29%29

3) Delle regole delle minchiate capitolo in terza rima: publicato per uso de’ dilettanti di detto gioco. [Of the rules of minchiate chapter in tercet rhyme: published for the use of enthusiasts of said game.] In Giuseppe Allegrini's printing house, Florence 1777. 20 pages.

With a bibliographic search on the Internet, only one example can be found, present abroad in the Houghton Library of Harvard University, with signature: IC7.Al525.777d. In particular, the librarian responsible, James Capobianco, confirmed that this book was donated to the library in November 1927 by the children of Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908). Another copy (if not found to be precisely that same example) was present in the mid-nineteenth century in the library of the Marquis Costabili of Ferrara; in the relevant catalog, compiled on the occasion of the sale, it appears at No. 3494, with the attribution to Pio Enea degli Obizzi [note 22] printed next to the title.

That this attribution also appears in this document is not surprising, given the information that comes from other sources, but in this case the publisher inserts a preliminary comment on the matter that is of interest. This Notice does not indicate anything more about the author of the Capitolo: “whom I believe Lombard, is not known to me” [che credo Lombardo, non mi è noto]; but it offers us confirmation of the atmosphere that surrounded the game of minchiate, intelligent entertainment in the conversation rooms.
Printer's Notice (From the 1777 edition)
Among the games that have been invented since they began three centuries ago [in reality there would have been four. FP] to play with cards, there is perhaps none more industrious, that is, one that gives scope to the art and subtlety of the player, than that of Minchiate, also called Tarocchi and Germini by the good writers of our Italian language. For this reason, it has been observed that the wittiest people from beyond the Alps, when they cross the Alps to stay for some time in Italy, demonstrate a great genius for learning it, and some of them even engage in it to the point of contending with the most experienced and expert. I am reminded of a person of great birth, having to settle in these districts for reasons of ministry, who found so much pleasure in having learned it, that he even went so far as to say that he found it the only remedy for passing the winter vigils without tedium. Time advances even for the most burdened by occupation and study; nor can one always sustain company for many hours with only dialog and the daily newspaper. What more innocent entertainment than testing one's industry and fortune with Minchiate in hand among four friends? This is why I was led to publish these verses, which contain all the rules and almost all the subtleties of such a noble and entertaining game. The Author of this Chapter, whom I believe Lombard, is not known to me; but I know very well that even without this information, anyone will admire the ease and
22. Catalogue de la première partie de la bibliothèque de M. le Marquis Costabili de Ferrare. Bologna 1858.

accuracy of the Poet Legislator, and this composition can be regarded as the Code of Minchiate.
4) Capitolo relativo al giuoco delle minchiate. [Chapter relating to the game of minchiate.] Florence, in the Grand Ducal Printing House, 1827. 22 p. 18cm.

This edition is also present in the aforementioned Alfredo Lensi Bibliografia. It is listed as no. 23, with data: in -8, pp. 22, and the comment that refers to the other: “For the description of this pamphlet see the 1752 edition at n. 47.” An example is present in the Vatican Apostolic Library, with signature Stamp Ferr.V.7286 (int.15). Of this edition it is possible to point out a copy recently put up for sale by an antiquarian bookshop in Padua [note 23]; in the catalog description we read: “First edition. (. . .) No clear examples registered in ICCU. Lensi n. 23.”

It is surprising that no copy of these two Florentine editions can be found in Tuscan public libraries.


The Question about the game of minchiate, published in 1888 in a journal for bibliophiles and left unanswered at the time, has found an answer, accompanied by further information on the subject. In particular, a compilation of the text towards the middle of the seventeenth century, considered possible in an initial phase of this study, is not at all plausible. The date of composition of the Capitolo is close to that of the first printing known to us, Livorno 1752; we are in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the type of game described is better in conformity with what we know in general both about the evolution of the game’s rules and the atmosphere that surrounded it.

The author was Marquis Abbot Pio Enea degli Obizzi, from Ferrara, about whose activity some information has been provided here; the "Lombard" city in which the text was written is therefore Ferrara, the same city in which the only copy of the Capitolo registered in the OPAC for all Italian libraries is still found. The various editions identified are reduced to four, all very rare: the Livorno edition of 1752, an undated edition (now recognized as identical for the three copies found); and the two editions printed in Florence half a century apart, in 1777 and 1827.
23. Edizioni Pregiate. Libri Stampe e Disegni dal XVI al XX Secolo. Bado and Mart, Padua, circa 2009. (Reported by Sergio A. Bonanni.)
Last edited by mikeh on 02 Jun 2024, 00:39, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Here is the second in a series of short commentaries on various extant 18th-19th-century booklets on how to play minchiate, this one on a lazy Italian translation of a booklet in German by someone who didn't fully understand Italian or, consequently, the game. The original is "Commenti sul Regole delle Minchiatta," which can be viewed at Comments in square brackets are my explanations, in consultation with Franco, of points that may not have come across very well in the translation. The essay originally appeared in The Playing-Card 47, No. 3 (Jan-March 2019), pp. 176-179). In the translation below, the numbers by themselves in the left margin are the original page numbers in that journal. The footnotes, highlighted in red, are at the bottom of these pages.

Comments on the Regole delle Minchiatta

Franco Pratesi

English Summary. A well-known German book on Minchiate was published in 1798 in Dresden; in 1830, there appeared an Italian version, which has remained unknown to the experts. In the Italian edition there are several strange terms applied to the game. Most of these were already present in the German edition, but the very fact that they have not been corrected when rendered into Italian can be indicative. In particular, we note the presence in the text of new Italian names that are definitely inappropriate, such as cartelli applied to the suit cards except for the King. The 1830 booklet deserves in any case a remarkable place in the meager literature specifically devoted to instructions for playing the noble game of Florentine Minchiate.

The book Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels on the rules of minchiate - printed in Dresden in German in 1798 - has long been known and used by experts who usually consider it to be the clearest and most complete game regulation [note 1]. Several short descriptions of the game of minchiate and also handwritten Regeln, have been published, but there were only four printed editions dedicated exclusively to the game of minchiate, all anonymous. The first appeared in Rome in 1728 with a long title that began with Regole generali [General Rules] and had re-editions in Rome (1742 and 1773) and in Macerata (1746). The second was the Capitolo [Chapter] in verse, printed in Livorno in 1752. [note 2] The third, printed in Florence in 1781, again with a title that began with Regole generali, was followed again in Florence by re-editions of 1790, 1807, 1820, and 1852. The fourth and last is this Dresden edition of 1798, compiled, however, in German.

Due to its systematic nature and the extraordinarily useful presence of comments on entire hands, it must be recognized that the last of the four editions dedicated entirely to minchiate was also the most complete, so much so that it is even found at the basis of the recent presentation of the game by the Accademici de’ Germini [Academicians of the Germini]. [note 3]

Also in Dresden but in Italian, another edition, Regole delle Minchiatta, was published in 1830. The final examples are missing here, which represents a significant deficiency; however, everything else appears to have been translated entirely, as can now be easily verified thanks to the insertion of this edition online by the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, where the only known copy is kept. [note 4]
2. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card 47, No. 2 (2018) 103-113.
4. https://haab-digital.klassik-stiftung.d ... 8279489/2/

An initial first comment that can be made on this 1830 book is that barring errors, its existence has so far escaped all experts on the game. Other comments become necessary after an examination of the text and a comparison with the original German edition.

In the Italian text, we encounter unusual terms quite often, and the problem sometimes arises whether these are errors due to typographical composition - understandable by workers unfamiliar with the Italian language - or whether instead, the peculiarities of the text should be traced back to the author of the translation himself, perhaps due to the use of uncommon dialect forms.

An example that makes one think of the typographer is the wording Dell'Girare instead of the correct Del Girare. Several cases of this kind could be cited, but basically we can ignore all the examples of words mangled with the introduction of one or two letters different from the ordinary. However, there are technical terms that require some comment.

The first such term, Minchiatta, already existed in the German original and corresponds to the name of the game itself and the corresponding special cards. If it were a correct Italian term, it would sound better if used in the singular; instead, here it is used in the plural, exactly like "our" term of minchiate. Only in Dresden is Minchiatta written instead of minchiate.


As occurs with Minchiatta, we find other terms in improper Italian, transferred unchanged from the German original to the Italian translation. If their presence in the German text could perhaps be explained by a German author's insufficient knowledge of a foreign language, whoever then translated everything into Italian should have made the necessary corrections.

In general, we note several references to internationally popular card games that could offer useful analogies to simplify explanations. Thus, to introduce the ascending or descending order of trick-taking power within the suits, it is added: “Just as in Ombre”; and to explain what the Versicole are, it is said that they are "like the honors in Whist, the Matadori in Ombre, and the Napolitane in Trisette." Alternated with the more common terms punti [points] and ponti [as a misspelling of the previous], the term points, used in the original German [with that spelling], is sometimes left. For individual tricks, the term bazze is regularly used, but levées is also found, as in the original German.

For the Matto [Fool], its alternative name of Squisse is added. The jack of coins is referred to as Fantina, but in minchiate also the jack of cups would typically be depicted as a maid. Also, the partner in the game is called a compagnone, a term left unchanged from the Compagnon of the original German, which could only denote dialectal use.

The term colori is used to indicate the four suits. There isn't much to comment on here because in fact the Italian terms used in this regard in the old (and new!) descriptions of card games are quite varied. As happens in other cases, the four suits are grouped two by two: cups and coins on one side, batons and swords on the other. Rather strangely, the attributes Rosse [Red] and Longhe [Long] are used respectively. Longhe for long doesn't cause problems, but it should be flanked by short or round, or similar, for the other pair. Instead, calling cups and coins Rosse would seem precisely due to their transformation into the corresponding "French" suits of hearts and diamonds, which could then be indicated as red, but in contrast with the other two suits, the black ones.

The Versicole are called that and not Verzicole, as is more commonly found in descriptions published in Italy. In fact, if we interpret that term as a derivation from "versicolore" or similar, with the meaning of combination of various suits, the reference would be to "diverso" and not to a non-nexistent "diverzo"; one would then have from Dresden, ultimately, an . . . Italian lesson.

Curiously, but not very, the term Tarocchi is used in an ambivalent way. On the one hand, that name applies (as documented in the most ancient texts) to the high cards of minchiate, those that would be added to an ordinary deck; on the other hand, it is used to indicate the entire "normal" tarocchi deck, as in the usage that has become common.

Perhaps the term that leaves the greatest doubts about the linguistic competence of the author or printer is impicciare, used together, predominantly, with impiccare. “Impiccare il re” [Hang the king] is the technical term in the game, introduced during the eighteenth century; if instead the term impicciare had been used in the sense of "to put the king in trouble, or in embarrassment," there would ultimately have been nothing too strange. However, “impicciare the kings” is read only in this description [of the rule], which derives from the technical term [impicieren, already present [mistakenly] in the German original, without understanding its meaning and origin.

A perhaps even more indicative case is found in the naming of the cards: the term Cartelli is used, very unusually, to indicate the cards without value, all those in the four suits with the exclusion of the kings. The corresponding term, the one most commonly read in Italian descriptions, is cartiglia, a noun which, however, has no other uses. In the German version, Cartillen was used, and cartelli evidently comes from there, but it would require an inexperienced translator. The suspicion is that here an incomprehensible Italian word has been replaced with one in common use, albeit with a different meaning.

In conclusion, in this Italian edition of 1830, we note several "strange" terms applied to the game of minchiate. Most of these were already present in the corresponding German edition of 1798, but the very fact that they are not corrected when switching to the Italian language may be relevant. In particular, we note the presence in the text of decidedly inappropriate Italian names like cartelli applied to the minor cards.

Overall, these are clues that could lead to a better understanding of the origin and use of both the German edition of 1798 and its Italian version published in 1830. For other editions on minchiate, similarly published anonymously, significant progress is being made today towards a convincing identification of the author. In the case in question here, the task of tracing the individual responsible for the compilation is practically impossible. However, from the linguistic peculiarities of the text, experts will be able to obtain some indications about the local environment.

The critical success that this edition receives today from experts at an international level should not lead us to imagine that the same was true originally. In particular, the examples that can be found today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels, 1798: Universitätsbibliothek, Erfurt; Landesbibliothek, Coburg; Det Kongelige Bibliotek, København; University Library, Cambridge. Regole delle Minchiatta, 1830: Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar.

The diffusion of this work certainly remained at a local level and very limited, so much so that the appearance of the Italian re-edition of 1830, now resurrected, is rather surprising, as it is not plausible that, despite the language, it had been printed for export to Italy.

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Below is a translation of "Atlante tascabile e minchiate del 1780," at, originally published in The Playing-Card Vol. 47, No. 4 (April-June 2019), pp. 230-240. As usual, comments in square brackets are mine, after consulting with Franco, for clarification purposes. Numbers by themselves in the left margin are the journal page numbers, and the footnotes are at the bottom of these pages.

The Forum software is not letting me post all of this article in one post. Hopefully two will be enough.

Pocket atlas and minchiate from 1780

Franco Pratesi

English Summary

Pocket Atlas and Minchiate from 1780. This study was first carried out in the Biblioteca Riccardiana of Florence, beginning with a detailed inventory of its books, compiled in 1810; a title there read Gioco delle minchiate geografico, clearly that was a nice incentive for research. Aniello Lamberti engraved the figures and was the most active person in advertising the publication enterprise; his partners Giovanni de Baillou and Agostino da Rabatta were renowned experts of geography and science in Florence at the time.
A search in the OPAC indicated that a second copy was present in the Faenza library. The study has been continued with current web tools and several further items and descriptions were found, coming more from specialists of geography than from playing-card experts. All the copies found in public and private libraries have been reviewed, including one case of evident use as playing cards.
The conclusion is that this extraordinary object - with very few surviving copies - was used both as a pack of playing cards and as engravings to be hung on walls, in addition to its main use as an updated pocket atlas of the world, which included countries such as New Zealand that had just been discovered at the time of its publication.


Among the numerous customs that affected playing cards there was also that of decorating them with geographical maps. Entire books have been written on this particular type of cards, understandably quite rare, which has nevertheless found space among collectors, always in search of out-of-the-ordinary motifs. Sylvia Mann also had a pioneering role in this sector, [note 1] although her greatest merit was that of having made ordinary decks of cards appreciated as a priority, even by collectors themselves (or at least of having tried).

At the origin of this study is an inventory of the works present in 1810 in the Riccardiana Library in Florence. This catalog was officially compiled on the occasion of the sale of the entire collection and should therefore be considered completely reliable; it has recently been reproduced in digital form on the web pages of the Library. [note 2]. Among the works listed we can note: “2341 Baillou, and Rabatta, gioco delle minchiate geografico [geographic game of minchiate]. Florence 1779 in l6°.” The particular deck of cards in question looks like a pocket atlas. Already in the long title
1. S. Mann, D. Kingsley, Playing cards, depicting maps of British Isles, and of English and Welsh counties. London 1972.
2. ... A_1810.pdf [not currently found, but now see ... frontcover]

its usefulness for the study of geography and ancient and modern history [note 3] is indicated. The reduced dimensions of the pages have been utilized to offer the work another possibility: to be used as a deck of playing cards, not an ordinary one, but a Florentine minchiate, with all its 97 cards; it is a well-known fact that at that time, minchiate enjoyed widespread popularity in Florence.

The atlas is known to historians of cartography such as Vladimiro Valerio, who described it in his extensive review of works of the genre. [note 4] A peculiarity of this tiny atlas is that the suit-signs of the playing cards are also indicated on the geographical maps, and it was printed only on the fronts of the pages, so that each page can serve precisely as the figure of a playing card, also having comparable dimensions.

Special features of the atlas

In the "Prospectus of the Work," printed in three pages at the beginning of the book, at least in the Riccardiana copy, the particular character of this Atlas is also underlined.
Once the first V [five] Cards [carte, also = Sheets] have been removed, each of the others is divided into two parts: in the upper part the Card [carta] of a given Province is outlined, and in the lower part a small Table where the general division can be seen at a glance, and details of that Province, its Relevance, and the Quality of Government: Arabic numbers repeated in the Geographical Card [carta] precede each district to identify the situation; as well as that of the respective Capitals, which are followed by the names of the ancient Peoples corresponding inhabitants of those Districts and Cities; then by means of some Asterisks explained in a separate small Table affixed to each City its former qualities are known, e.g. whether it is a Bishopric, a Presidium, in the Plain, in the Mountains, on the bank of a River, etc.
3. G. di Baillou, A. da Rabatta, Nuovo atlante generale metodico ed elementare tascabile per lo studio della geografia ed istoria antica, e moderna arricchito di varie carte delle nuove scoperte. Florence 1779.
4. See Valerio, L'Universo, Vol. 70 N. 3 (1990), 298-353.

The geographical maps [carte - the same word in Italian used for both cards and maps] appear as hand-colored engravings in pale tones of pink, yellow, and a few other colors. The new pocket atlas does not limit itself to presenting geographical maps [carte]: these usually only occupy half of the page, typically the top half. The maps in atlases of similar dimensions are usually printed full page, or on two facing pages; therefore, these maps, finely engraved, can be considered among the smallest printed, if not the smallest ever.
Halfway down the page will be found the symbols that indicate which playing card [carta da gioco] it is; at the bottom there are lists of the main places, with the types of government and information on the administrative subdivisions. In effect, this is detailed information that was not normally reported in atlases, even larger ones. The indicated schema is not always strictly respected: some pages show two geographical maps without annotations; even the division of the page between map and notes is not repeated in a rigorous manner and one of the two parts can be much larger than the other.

In Valerio’s article already cited, it was noted that the copy preserved in Rome was printed double-sided, while a second copy preserved in a private collection had the geographical maps only on the front of the page; only in the second case would it have been possible to use the pages of the atlas as playing cards. That peculiarity now appears more common: all the other specimens traced are printed only on one side of the sheet; normally, therefore, when you open a book you will find a blank page on the left and one with a map on the right; or pairs of facing maps appear, with pairs of blank pages between them.

Correspondence of geographical maps and playing cards [carte geografiche e da gioco]

The following table lists all the cards in the deck of minchiate, in the order in which they appear in the Riccardiana’s book; for each card (in the suits of BAtons, SWords, CUps and COins) the corresponding geographical card is indicated [and similarly Ki for King, Qu for Queen, Kn for Knight, and Pa for Page; the original has BAStoni, SPAde, COPpe, DENari, then Re, Do, Ca, and Fa, for Re, Donna, Cavaliere, and Fante].


Descriptions by cartographic historians

Mann and Kingsley's 1972 publication is clearly of interest both in the cartographic field and for the history of playing cards. It is precisely in the second sector that Sylvia Mann played an important pioneering role. As has

occurred among historians of playing cards, also in the cartographic and geographical fields in general, the fame of this particular atlas has remained rather limited. It was examined for the first time by Valerio in 1988 [note 5] and in 1990 in the important review already mentioned; little progress has been made since then. The atlas is briefly described in specialist reviews of the late twentieth century such as King's Miniature antique maps and Tooley's Dictionary of Mapmakers; van der Heijden also takes it into account in Oude kaarten der Nederlanden, for the United Provinces and the Low Countries, but only indicates the presence of examples in Chicago, Leinfelden and Rome.

Book as atlas

That the book is actually an atlas is certain; equally certain is that as an atlas it is not among the common specimens. The term "Atlantic” sheet is used in stationery to indicate the largest format available for a sheet of paper, which today would be referred to as A2; this makes it even more evident that this atlas is very out of the ordinary. However, it is not the first object of this kind; Valerio's study specifically indicates a previous rather similar edition, published in Paris in 1762. The experts' comment is that these objects met the fashion of the time for tiny and valuable objects.

Book as minchiate

We can understand the trend of fashion towards unusual books and atlases like these, but what does minchiate have to do with it? At the same time, only in Florence (or at least more than any other place) could one think of that strange combination of minchiate and atlas. For a historian of playing cards, the problem arises of understanding whether the obvious analogy with a deck of minchiate was introduced to use these pages also as playing cards, or whether it was just a kind of additional decoration on the atlas. One might think that our atlas was nothing more than the result of a ploy to have a pack of minchiate at one's disposal while evading any control over manufacturing and marketing, and avoiding any stamp duty; in short,
5. See Valerio, The Map Collector, 45 (1988), 10-18.

a deck of playing cards with additional content that is only apparently educational in nature.

However, there are several clues to make us think that it is a book conceived above all as a geographical atlas, albeit of an unusual format. If geographical maps [carte] had been nothing more than an additional function compared to their main use as playing cards, there would have been no need to compose them with such care, both in the fineness of the engravings and in the updating of the descriptions, up to and including areas discovered in recent months. It is also true that the typical symbols of playing cards are present on each of these cards, but in a way that is too inconspicuous for comfortable use by players, accustomed to "reading" very different figures, drawn across the board and painted in bright colors.

Authors and their contributions

To better understand the situation, it is useful to know something more about the people interested in the project: Baron Giovanni de Baillou, friar Agostino da Rabatta, and the engraver Aniello Lamberti.

Giovanni de Baillou. Essential biographical data can be found in the Dizionario biografico degli Italiani [Biographical Dictionary of Italians]. Of a noble family originally from Flanders, he was born in Livorno in 1758 and died in Florence in 1819. In the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, he received high-level official positions. Among his main interests was the theatre, but he also distinguished himself in other fields for his vast linguistic knowledge, his studies of law and, in particular, he was professionally active and appreciated as a geographer.

Agostino da Rabatta. To better define the activity of this friar, it is necessary to insert ourselves into the context of the scientific studies of the time, which saw notable progress in Florence, also in connection with the most recent Parisian developments. Several of his handwritten works are preserved in the Conventi soppressi [Suppressed Convents] collection of the National Central Library of Florence; mostly they are didactic texts on theological and philosophical topics. However, the sector in which he stood out the most was aerostatics. After previous local experiments, when news of Montgolfier's successes arrived from France, Agostino da Rabatta with a couple of confraternity brothers created prototypes of aerostats which, in a couple of very successful demonstrations, aroused the interest of the whole city.

Aniello Lamberti. Of the three people involved, Lamberti's role is the most specific: in the pocket atlas initiative he played the role of engraver, which coincided with his profession. There are no other works of his in the field of playing cards, nor of atlases; however, as an engraver, Lamberti

had notable fame and was able to work for not only the Florentine but also the Neapolitan courts. His engravings commissioned to illustrate the Boboli Gardens and later the royal palace of Naples and the excavations of Pompeii met with considerable success. His activity was also appreciated in scientific publications which he illustrated in an original way.

Last edited by mikeh on 13 Jun 2024, 06:44, edited 5 times in total.

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018


Authors' contributions. The examination of the description introduced in the Atlas and above all of the "Notice to the Public" [Avisso al Pubblico, below] (originally printed front and back on a loose sheet, measuring 12x16 cm and preserved at the end of the copy in the Riccardiana Library) allows us to understand something more about the different role of the authors of the atlas. A full transcript can be found in a preliminary version of this study. [note 6]

The "Notice to the Public” as a presentation to be distributed among potentially interested people clarifies several issues for us. An important one concerns the date: 1779 was evidently not the year in which the atlas-book was printed, but only its title page; the sheets were printed in small groups in the following months, and in April 1780 the work had reached the halfway point of its edition. Probably in several cases, the cutting and binding were carried out later by the buyers: this may explain the fact that the preserved books have rather careful bindings, but different from each other. Lamberti's role as the main protagonist of the entrepreneurial initiative is confirmed, even if de Baillou and Agostino da Rabatta are indicated as his companions, evidently also taking part in the initiative as partners. We know, on the other hand, that these two "secondary" partners were the authors of the text.

Also of some interest is the fact that thanks to the "Notice to the Public" we are informed about the very manner in which the work was created, using plates, each with four engraved cards.

Specimens traced

The small format of the edition and the print run itself, originally limited and split at different times, make it unlikely that preserved copies will be found. In addition to the large public libraries of Florence, one can search in the private libraries of two types of collectors, corresponding to the two characteristics of the book: geography enthusiasts and playing card collectors. There are, and have been, copies on sale on the book market, as we will see. A brief description of the copies found will clarify the situation.

Riccardiana Library, Florence. In the public libraries of Florence, which are also very rich in ancient collections, no other specimen is found other than that of the Riccardiana, BRF 2341. The fact of finding it already listed in the 1810 Inventorio constitutes proof of its early inclusion in this Florentine collection. The dimensions of the pages (11x7 cm) are slightly larger than those of the cards glued on top (10.7x6.5 cm). All figures are inserted in a rectangular frame of 9.5x5.3 cm. This atlas-book is more complete than usual, thanks also to the interesting "Notice to the Public," inserted at the end and bound together with the cards. The binding is in cardboard covered with marbled paper [as decoration]. At the top of the back there is a label glued with the title Nuovo Atlante [New Atlas] written in pen.

Manfrediana Library, Faenza. Using OPAC, an example can be found in the Manfrediana Municipal Library of Faenza with location R 2-1-16. We have confirmation from the library of the layout: when opening the book, we encounter alternatively either two pages with geographical maps [carte] or two blank pages; evidently, rather than the printing method, the binding method has changed here. Other information was added by the librarian Fabiano Zambelli. The booklet is part of the Gioacchino Regoli Donation. With the exception of Regoli's ex-libris there are no other ownership notes; the binding is in leather with small gold friezes on the plates and on the back; at the top there is a leather scroll with the imprint: Novvea atlas; the covers are marbled.

Library of the Italian Geographical Society, Rome
. From Valerio's article there is information of a specimen in Rome at the Italian Geographical Society. [note 7] This is the specimen that was reported first in the world of cartographers. Some additional information was also obtained from the librarian of the Italian Geographical Society, Marina Scionti: The small volume is printed on both sides of the sheets; the cover is made of cardboard. There is a dedication in pen: gift from correspondent Member. Prof. E Teza (?) October 1905. Its main characteristic, which distinguishes it from the others we know of, is therefore that all the pages have figures on both the front and the back; which obviously involves both a reduction in thickness and the impossibility of using these pages as playing cards.
7. ... &Itemid=13 [at this posting a dubious link]

Spielkartenmuseum Collection, Leinfelden-Echterdingen. This atlas was used in the aforementioned book by Sylvia Mann and David Kingsley, who had an example available in the Mann collection and were therefore able to reproduce a couple of cards (IX and X of cups). That specimen has become better known to playing card enthusiasts thanks to the interest of the Spielkarten-Museum in Leinfelden-Echterdingen (Inv. Nr. 1991 - 25, acquired in 1991) and in particular of the expert Detlef Hoffmann, who gave information in his books. [note 8] It turns out that the cards of this atlas are made up of several layers, while what usually appears as the intermediate white sheet within the printed cards has here a motif of black crosses on a light background. From the Museum, Annette Köger communicated the data reported and the information that this example is missing the frontispiece.

Newberry Library, Chicago. An example is preserved in Chicago in the Newberry Library with the signature VAULT Ayer G1015.R33 1779. Some particularities of this copy are indicated in the two different catalogs of the library. [Note 9] Other information was communicated by Jim Akerman, curator of the relevant section of the library, in particular, that this specimen was missing three initial cards, for which photocopies taken from the book of the Italian Geographical Society were inserted.

A - Crini Collection, Florence. A private communication from Valerio reported the presence of a specimen in the rich library of Pietro Crini, a Florentine collector of atlases and geographical maps. It was the only one Valerio had information of, in addition to the one he had been able to consult in Rome at the Italian Geographical Society. The specimen entered the collection around 1980, following purchase on the book market. The binding is of excellent quality, all in dark leather decorated in gold and embossed on the spine at the top: Nuovo Atlante [New Atlas], and at the bottom: 1779. On the first page the surname Romiti has been written, evidently one of the previous owners, of which, however, no traces have been preserved. Also in this case, we observe the alternation of printed and blank pages, as in the Faenza example.

Pagliani Collection, Milan
. This specimen was described in a book dedicated to the rich collection of small atlases collected by Paolo Pagliani in Milan; [note 10] Unfortunately, we also read that this rare piece was stolen in May 1998, along with others from the collection. From the description it is clear that the curator did not know the minchiate: "The numbering of the geographical cards is curious, using instead of numbers, zodiac signs, allegories of capital sins and theological virtues, sticks, swords, cups and coins on the Neapolitan cards." The relative presentation also required little effort: “Nothing is known about the A. [Author] except that he was active in Florence in the second
8. D. Hoffmann, Tarot - Tarock - Tarocchi. Leinfelden 1988; same author, Kultur und Kunstgeschichte der Spielkarte. Marburg 1995.
9. Newberry Library. Dict. cat. of the E. E. Ayer Coll., Vol. 2, p. 510.
10. M. Bonomelli, Atlas minor: atlanti tascabili dal 16. al 18. Milan 2001.

half of the 18th century. Similar consideration must be made regarding this work, which is not reported in the inventories." On this atlas, an autograph dedication was present, also dated in Florence, but in 1882, and at the beginning, the ownership stamp of the Antonio Limoncelli Library.

Mario Cuciniello Collection, Rome.
After many copies of the Atlas, seen especially in the geographical context, news has finally appeared of one that looks just like a deck of minchiate, contained in its own box, as typically happens with many decks of playing cards, albeit in this case uncommon. It is an object owned by a Roman family who has kept it for more than a century. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was part of the Mario Cuciniello Collection in Rome, where that lawyer of Neapolitan origins, collector and bibliophile lived. This precious specimen, probably the only one of its kind preserved, was still in the possession of the same Roman family at the end of 2018, namely by Enrica Schettini Piazza, who had received it as a gift from her lawyer grandfather as a child. Of all the specimens carefully examined or just glimpsed (like this one), it is undoubtedly the most interesting for the history of playing cards; we are in the presence of a deck of cards uniformly cut into the dimensions of 10x6 cm. As can be seen in the figure, here the recreational use is evident, even if it can reasonably be assumed to be very sporadic. A further advantage of this object is that together with the cards there is a copy of the useful Notice to the Public, which until now had only been identified in the copy of the Riccardiana Library, preserved here in a previous version, printed in italics.

B - Crini Collection, Florence. This example is different from all the others, as the work was not bound as a book, but left in the form of loose sheets. How many sheets? Not the hundred of the various editions but the twenty-four original sheets, obtained directly without cuts from the copper plates on each of which four cards had been engraved. The missing cards here are those that constitute the title page in the book and another couple of initial cards, in addition to the figure of the Fool, which turns out to have been printed separately. The addition of these last cards must not have occurred in a homogeneous manner, so much so that in the preserved books they are partly absent, partly inserted without a fixed position, at the beginning or at the end.

In this copy, the coloring is faded or absent; however, this is the only

example, which allows us to glimpse the third possible application indicated by the engraver: small pictures to hang in studies "to decorate Studies."

Cards sold separately. Unfortunately, from a commercial point of view, the custom of selling the cards individually is preferred, which can favor the seller's profit. Selling individual geographical cards can appeal to local history enthusiasts, who will be interested in purchasing, even at very high prices, a geographical card of their region, so old as to represent an important historical relic. It is easy to imagine several sales of this type, even if detailed information and prices are only available on the internet for a few. We can thus overlook, for example, a card of Ireland, on sale online, or an isolated card with Corsica and Sardinia present in an auction catalog, but it seems appropriate to point out at least one catalog from 2013 which of these loose cards put up for auction as many as twenty-eight [note 11] and a seller who, still in 2018, offers as many as thirty-three. [note 12]


The book described here is both an unusual pocket-sized atlas and an equally unusual pack of minchiate. Information was collected on the existing examples and on the promoters of the initiative that led to the printing. In reality, each engraving was originally made on a copper plate on which four cards or pages were drawn. The same sheets could be used as decorative prints to frame and hang on the walls of the studies, or be cut to obtain individual cards, intended as geographical or for the game; in the first case, these loose sheets were usually bound as atlas-books; in the second they were preserved in special boxes. While this work has great interest in the history of cartography (if only for the timely inclusion of newly discovered regions, such as New Zealand), the interest for the history of playing cards is limited, if not as evidence of a decidedly extraordinary pack of minchiate. To conclude in this way, however, we must have absorbed Sylvia Mann's great lesson, that is, it is the ordinary decks of playing cards, the ones least sought after by collectors, that provide us with the most historically important information; otherwise, for any collector looking for rare pieces, it would be difficult to point out more desirable examples than these.

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Now I present a translation of Franco's note at, "Minchiate, Le Regole Generali di Roma e Macerata," originally published in The Playing-Card 48, no. 3 (Jan-March 2020), pp. 96-102. As usual, comments in brackets are mine, usually for clarification for non-Italian readers. Numbers by themselves in the left margin mark the beginnings of pages in that journal, with the notes at the bottom of the corresponding pages.

Minchiate: the General Rules of Rome and Macerata

Franco Pratesi

English Summary

The Italian book Regoli generali del nobilissimo gioco delle minchiate is a small handbook containing the rules and the laws of the Minchiate game, which had three editions in Rome (1728, 1742, 1773) and one in Macerata (1746). Here these various editions have been studied and compared. The book appeared without the name of its author, but an unknown Luigi Bernardi was first indicated (without any personal information) in a scholarly book on anonymous works. Some information is provided here for the first time about this author: Luigi Bernardi was actually a Count Abbot from Ferrara, thus a fellow citizen of Pio Enea degli Obizzi, the author of the Capitolo (published in 1752, anonymously too), which offered instructions on Minchiate in poetic form.


The three Roman editions of the Regoli Generali examined here are known to gaming historians and were already listed in the well-known Bibliografia of Alfredo Lens. [note 1] A fourth, which remained unknown in the sector, was printed in Macerata; there is therefore a total of four editions, which came out around the middle of the eighteenth century and precisely from 1728 to 1773. The essential elements of these four editions will be provided and the changes to the text introduced in subsequent editions will be highlighted. Particular attention will be dedicated to the search for the author of this work, which was published anonymously, and some information will be provided on Luigi Bernardi, the supposed author, whose name had been indicated but without any biographical data and without even citing the sources used for attribution.

The Regoli Generali was the best-known reference text for the game of minchiate. There were not many different texts that could be used together or alternatively. In the middle of the century the Capitolo of the Ferrara noble Pio Enea degli Obizzi appeared, which provided the essential instructions for the game, even using the poetic form; that short text also had several editions. [note 2] These Regoli Generali were, however, the most complete reference manual available to Roman minchiate players in the eighteenth century.

Before the third Roman edition, another work was published in Rome, by Don Francesco Saverio Brunetti da Corinaldo, in which the instructions for the game of minchiate occupied the main part; [note 3] this book has a different structure and content than that examined here and requires separate study.

The fact that these editions were printed in Rome is immediately justified by what we know about the diffusion of the game, which had its greatest flowering in that city at the time (along with Florence, the homeland of that version of the tarot, where, however, books with the instructions for the game were published later).

Editions of Rome and Macerata

The three Roman editions (and the similar one published in Macerata) must be considered together and at the same time separately from the five Florentine editions that were published subsequently with a similar title and which in turn are easily comparable with one other.

The examination of these books begins with the first Roman edition for which the name of Raphael (printed here Raffaelle) Peveroni as printer is certain, and the name of Luigi Bernardi as presumed author is rather uncertain.
1. A. Lensi, Bibliografia italiana di giuochi di carte. Florence 1892.
2. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card, Vol. 47 No. 2 (2018) pp. 103-113.
3. F. S. Brunetti, Giuochi delle minchiate, ombre, scacchi, ed altri d’ingegno. Rome 1747.

Finding an example of this first edition is not easy, but the same can be observed, as we will see, for most of the subsequent editions.

Rome 1728
Regole generali del nobilissimo gioco delle minchiate con un modo breve, e facile per ben imparare à giocarlo. [General rules of the noble game of minchiate with a short and easy way to learn how to play it.] Rome, Raffaelle Peveroni 1728. In 16, pp. 136. (Lensi 1892, n. 148 p. 38).
This new book of “general rules” had several subsequent editions. In these cases it often happens that the different editions differ only in some additions of new ways of playing that later became popular. A similar situation is also observed for this treatise.

The Roman edition is very different from the subsequent Florentine editions with a similar title, already from a formal and structural point of view; here, all the material is presented in discursive form without any division into chapters and indication of the relative titles. In short, the author inserts his "general rules" into a long discussion that extends without pauses throughout the book, up to p. 136, where we read “THE END.”

We can try to reconstruct a sort of index of the volume, but we have to settle for an approximate list like the one below because the transitions from one topic to the next are rarely clear and distinguishable with certainty in the book.
1 Title page
3-5 Kind Reader
(Part One – Rules to be observed in the game)
7-15 Youth in our times
15 Historical notes on the origins of the game
16 Motivations for writing the book
18 Different ways of playing
21 Fola and its justification
24 Tarocchi [trumps] and cartiglia [suit cards except Kings]
27 Verzicole [combinations] - declaration and role of the fool
29 Formation of pairs and start of the game
30 Cutting [alzare] and robbing [rubare]
33 Dealing the cards
34 Robbing
35 Of some abuses no longer in use
39 The discard for robbed or taken [prese] cards [taken from the fola, presumably]
48 Possible fraud for different numbers of cards and related penalties
58 Card dealer's mistakes
60 What to do if a counting card is missing among the cards in play
63 How to behave if the person who robs or takes does not discard
69 Cutting
(Part two – On the manner of play)
72 Start of the game. Responding to the suit
73 Refusal [Rifiuto] and related penalties
76 When and if to reveal cards
78 More on refusal
88 Play of the Fool
91 Obligation to give the king on trumping in the first trick of the suit
93 From theory to practice
94 Honors in hand
95 How to play “jealous” [or delicate] cards [cards that put a verzicola in jeopardy] in various cases
101 Game with Trumpet [Tromba]
108 Game with World
112 Game with Sun
119 Game without honors
120 Game for signaling between partners
125 Strong game simulated for deception
126 Game with a lot of cartiglia
129 Various examples
134 Final considerations.
A fundamental distinction can be recognized considering a first part of "general theory," understood as laws of the game, with a whole series of errors, deceptions, and related penalties. The clear need of the author is to propose a single solution for the various cases that can give rise to discussions between players accustomed to

following different rules. Equally clear is the need to provide an explicit justification for each rule adopted, which leads to the recurring presence of long digressions in the text.

This is followed by a second part (which is not separated in the text) of "practice" for which the author announces that he cannot offer similarly general rules because the situations of the game are very different from case to case, and only experience can teach better behavior. Therefore the second part provides only some elementary advice, with an examination which also gradually extends to the examination of some particular cases.

Rome 1742
Regole generali del nobilissimo Gioco delle Minchiate osia istruzione necessaria a perfettamente giocarlo con l’aggiunta in fine delli principi elementari di detto Gioco a Comodo de Principiante [General rules of the noble Game of Minchiate or the instruction necessary to play it perfectly with the addition at the end of the elementary principles of said Game at Comodo de Principiante], In Rome: for the heirs of Ferri, 1742 In-16, pp. 164. (Lensi 1892, n. 149 p. 39).
The comparison between the editions of 1728 and 1742 shows that the main difference is the addition in the second of a final part that was absent in the first. Therefore, the comparison between the two editions consists in verifying any differences in the common part and above all in studying the content and meaning of the additional part.

The first three pages of text, from p. 3 through p. 5 inclusive, contain in both editions a kind of introduction entitled To the Courteous Reader. The text is identical in the two cases, but in the second edition slightly smaller characters are used, and therefore there is more empty space on the last page.

From p. 6 to p. 136 (which corresponds to the last page of the first edition), the comparison between the two editions indicates that the content is exactly identical, page after page, with even the same words truncated to the same syllables at the end of all the pages. Finding a difference between the two editions here is a puzzle pastime task; we can cite an example, which would also not be explained by the correction of an error: at the end of p. 15: “l’hanno” [they have it] in the first edition becomes “l’anno” in the second.

The section added at the end, from p. 137 to p. 164, is very significant. It is noted here that the text of the first edition met with the approval of the readers, and therefore a re-edition appears justified; however, it is considered necessary to additionally present a kind of short and systematic summary of the entire text, which had been compiled in discursive form and without interruptions.

This addition is considered particularly necessary for beginners: thanks to the individual chapters of the added part, presented with their titles, in which the main technical terms of the game also appear, they will be able to carry the booklet in their pocket during the first few games, to open it to the chapter with the topic on which they encounter particular difficulties in understanding or agreeing.

For this new section, added only starting from 1742, the list of topics covered can therefore be presented by simply copying the titles of the chapters present.
137 Introduction to Elementary Principles
139 Chapter I Of the Game of Minchiate in general
140 Chapter II Of Cartiglia
142 Chapter III of the Tarocchi, or Triumphs
146 Chapter IV of the Verzicole
152 Chapter V of the Refusal [Rifiuto]
154 Chapter VI On Robbing [Rubbare], the Fola, and Discarding
157 Chapter VII On Marking [Segnare – keeping track of points earned or lost during play?] and Counting [at the end?]
162 Chapter VIII and final Special warnings to beginners.
As you can see, this is not the addition of new material, but rather a schematic recapitulation of the essential part of the entire first edition.

Macerata 1746
Regole generali del nobilissimo gioco delle minchiate o sia Istruzione necessaria a perfettamente giocarlo; con l’aggiunta in fine delli principj elementari di detto gioco a comodo de’ principianti. [General rules of the noble game of minchiate or the education necessary to play it perfectly; with the addition at the end of the elementary principles of said game for the convenience of beginners]. In Macerata: for the Heirs of Pannelli, 1746. 164 p.; 12° (13.5cm).
The news of the existence of this edition was found in the Catalog of the Cardinal Pietro Maffi Archiepiscopal Library of Pisa. [note 4] From the same source we have further indications. The booklet is bound in cardboard and inside the front plate is an ex-libris of Pietro Leopoldo Rosselmini.

The fact that the work comes from that private library is not strange, because there are numerous publications inherited by the Archiepiscopal Library of that family. Count Pietro Leopoldo Rosselmini (1773-1833), from Pisa, was a passionate bibliophile who collected a large number of very rare books; those editions found in the library of the cardinal archbishop were studied especially for the oldest part of incunabula and sixteenth-century works. [note 5]

The edition of our interest is not as old, but evidently could compete in terms of rarity, so much so that its existence has so far escaped all experts in the sector. Among the many books of Latin and medieval literature with the ex-libris of Pietro Leopoldo Rosselmini, this booklet may appear out of place, but it is not the only one of recreational interest, being found together with, for example, Gregorio Ducchi's Il giuoco de gli scacchi [The Game of Chess]. In the Library are a few other eighteenth-nineteenth century books on chess and card games collected by other bibliophiles, also from the same Rosselmini family.

As printers active in Macerata, the Eredi del Pannelli [Heirs of Pannelli] produced many publications in the eighteenth century, even if, as Elena Cinti Federici reminds us,
they are all printings devoid of artistic merit and high literary interest; poetic compositions for doctorates, brochures for illustrious weddings, religious celebrations, arrivals of personalities, funerals, around thirty musical dramas and a dozen sacred oratorios illustrating the lives of saints. . . . From 1717 onwards the Municipality entrusted its commissions to them until towards the end of the century. . . . They were public, episcopal printers for the Holy Office, as is written in their publications." [note 6]
The typographical data present in the Catalog already allow us to advance the hypothesis that the Macerata edition is not appreciably different from the second Roman edition, with which it shares, in particular, the same number of overall pages. With a specific check within the Library, it was possible to confirm the close similarity hypothesized. This is a re-edition that uses slightly smaller font sizes, so that the printed text here only occupies a surface of 9.6x5.5 cm, correspondingly smaller than that of 11.7x6 cm.

On at least a dozen occasions, the Macerata edition takes the opportunity to slightly modify the spelling towards a form considered more correct: so hora becomes ora [now], havete becomes avete [you have], puole becomes puo [it/he/she can], becomes ma [but], ò becomes o [or], etc. The correspondence of the text inserted on each page is not perfect, and sometimes the interruption at the end of the page is not the same [in the two editions], but one perceives the intention to reach

4. bib_maffi /catalogo.html
5. M. L. Orlandi, in: G. Rossetti et al. (eds.) Pietro Maffi arcivescovo di Pisa. Pisa 2012, pp. 107-132.
6. in: A. Adversi (ed.), Studi sulla Biblioteca comunale e sui tipografi di Macerata. Macerata 1966, pp. 232-233.

again quickly the same content in the following pages, reaching an exact correspondence again as soon as possible, until the end of the volume.
Regole generali del nobilissimo giuoco delle minchiate con un modo breve, e facile per ben’ imparare à giuocarlo [General rules of the noble game of minchiate with a short and easy way to learn how to play it.] Rome typ., Lorenzo Capponi and Giovanni Bartolomicchi 1773. In 16, pp. 164. (Lensi 1892 n. 150 p. 39).
Unfortunately, no examples of this third Roman edition of 1773 have yet been found. [Since this article was published, one has been found, reported at but not yet examined.] While waiting for an effective comparison with the others, it seems logical to assume that this third edition was nothing more than a reprint almost identical to the second and also to that of Macerata. Both the similarities systematically verified between the other editions and, above all, the number of pages, identical in all the editions that appeared in Rome and Macerata after the first in 1728, lead to this conclusion.

Search for the author

The attribution of the text to its author required quite complex research. The starting fact (and perhaps only that) is indisputable: the edition appeared anonymously. As with many other works of the genre, there have been scholars who have been interested in researching the author, and in this specific case the "solution of the mystery" is due to Gaetano Melzi, who attributed the work to Luigi Bernardi. This result is indicated in his principal work [note 7] in all simplicity, without even the slightest mention of the source or other information on this alleged author.

Melzi's seriousness is unanimously appreciated by experts, so much so that Luigi Bernardi appears, usually in parentheses, as the author of these Regoli Generali in almost all the catalogs that list one or another of the editions in question. No one has questioned that attribution, which indeed is from an authoritative source, but at the same time no one has provided us with any useful information about this author.

The only information we find in the catalog OPAC SBN for this personage is <fl. 1728-1781>. It is not reported where those two dates of the beginning and end of his documented activity were taken from, but it will not be a random coincidence if they are the same as the first Roman and Florentine editions printed on the game of minchiate with the title of Regole Generali.

To remove the doubts about this author we finally find our Regole listed in an anonymous Letter, recognized as written in 1772 by Giovan Battista Minzoni (1709-1791), several years before the date of printing, probably 1786 [note 8]. In a very long list of works by Ferrara authors we read on p. 58: “Sig. Co. Luigi Bernardi: Regole generali del gioco delle Minchiate.” So with this simple citation we come to receive two new very useful bits of information: our author Luigi Bernardi was a writer from Ferrara and had the noble title of count.

We also find confirmation in a previous eighteenth-century Ferrara bibliography, a manuscript compiled by Giovanni Andrea Barotti (1791-1772). [note 9] Among the authors, listed in alphabetical order, we meet our Luigi Bernardi and, in addition to the complete transcription of the long title of his work on minchiate, we even read the typographical data here. In fact, the Roman edition cited, with the underlined addition senza nome dell’Autore [without Author's name], is that of 1742, which we know as the second, while it would seem to be the only one known to Barotti.

Having thus been able to focus on this Luigi Bernardi in the noble class of Ferrara, some further archival research among the documents preserved in that city becomes possible. For example, from two archival units of the Antonelli Collection, we have details on a dispute and related challenge which saw Count Abbot Bernardi pitted (together with Count Alfonso Novara) against the Marquis Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona, of the Ferrara branch of the family, former lords of Bologna [note 10]; it was Duke Rinaldo d'Este himself who resolved the dispute, from Modena with his "laudo" of 1732, preserved among these documents. [note 11] We can limit ourselves to extracting from all the verbose documentation the information that our author in those years in Ferrara played billiards and comported himself as a knight serving several ladies, with or without a mask. (The origin of the dispute was precisely an excuse, which proved unjustified, for not serving in disguise the wife of the Marquis Bentivoglio d’Aragona.)

A particular document from 1762 is preserved in the Municipal Historical Archive of Ferrara: the allocation of 6 scudi was approved for a gift to be offered to Abbot Luigi Bernardi, who had not requested other compensation or indemnification for having made available, to the Criminal Lieutenant
7. G. Melzi, Dizionario di opere anonime e pseudonime di scrittori italiani. Milan 1852, Vol. 2, p. 419, col. 2.
8. [G. B. Minzoni] ] Lettera di un ferrarese ad un suo concittadino, Venice [1786] [where I find it: ... &q&f=false]
9. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, Biblioteca Degli Autori Ferraresi D’Opere stampate Composta Dal Dottor Giovann-Andrea Barotti. Cl. I, 182.
10. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, Collezione Antonelli n. 98.
11. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, Collezione Antonelli n.173.

temporarily assigned in Ferrara, an apartment adjacent to his own. [note 12]

The documents preserved on the Bernardi family in the Pasi Famiglia Archive [note 13] are much more numerous and important: there are thirty-six documents, ranging from 1554 to 1845; in what follows, the number of the document in question is inserted in square brackets. The eighteenth century is the century with the majority of family documents preserved, including several relating to our personage, which allow us to immediately insert him into the family tree: we can start with grandfather Lodovico, followed by father Giovan-Luigi, who has three sons Carlo, Giovanni-Francesco and Luigi; Francesco and Cesare descend from Carlo [13]; Giovanni Francesco is no longer found in subsequent documents, Abbot Luigi understandably has no direct descendants.

An important document [9], probably the most significant for our purposes, is a very detailed act of 10 February 1719, Divisione Bernardi [Bernardi Division], on the distribution of family assets among the children. His father Giovanni-Luigi had died a few years ago, and his eldest son Carlo, 24 years old, took care of the administration of the family estate with an administrator. Now, all the assets are inventoried to divide the ownership equally, considering the two younger brothers, Giovanni-Francesco, aged 16, and our Luigi, aged 13. Following this distribution, the two cadets find themselves with a guaranteed personal patrimony and at the same time definitively placed in the Collegio Penna of Ferrara - a private institution, but run by the Jesuit fathers - in order to receive an education in accordance with their noble rank.

From the 1730s, the second brother disappears from the documentation and the third, Luigi, reappears as count abbot. Among the documents, we find a deed of emphyteusis in favor of Abbot Luigi of a house and shop of the Compagnia del Carmine [11]; the complete will of his brother Carlo [15]; the report of an official expert on the increase in value for the improvements made by the abbot on some properties in Voghenza [19]; affairs of the two nephews in which the uncle abbot is involved [16, 21]; the administration of the inheritance of our abbot count starting from 1781, which we can assume as the year of his death [20], and little else of possible interest.

Unfortunately, among all the documents found, there is no information on the 1720s, nor on any Roman stays of our Luigi Bernardi. The only possible reference to Rome preserved in documents is much later: a brief by Benedict XIV from 1745 which grants the count abbot the use of an inheritance in Ferrara [11]. So far nothing has been identified that explicitly links the count abbot with the Roman salons, where the game of minchiate was fashionable even in the most prestigious of them and where, already in 1728, the first edition of the book appeared, compiled in discursive form but without previous printed works of comparable extent.

Only by using a good dose of imagination can we arrive at an attempt at reconstruction by supposing that our Count Luigi, at the end of his adolescence, had completed his ecclesiastical-theological education with a long stay in Rome, frequenting even as a young abbot those famous Roman salons where minchiate was a fashionable game then.

The situation is reminiscent of that of his fellow citizen Pio Enea degli Obizzi, also the author of an anonymous work on the game of minchiate. It was not easy to trace the works to the authors and check who the two personages were of whom only the name was indicated in the inventories. It must be recognized that the information found is not much. In particular, these were not anonymously published works by a famous writer; for both Pio Enea degli Obizzi and Luigi Bernardi, the task of discovering their other writings is arduous. In the end, the relevant fact is that the two instruction books for playing minchiate that were most widespread in Italy were both written by an author from Ferrara, and just over twenty years apart from each other.

However, a considerable difference between the two works in question must be underlined, in addition to the evident structural and formal diversity. The book printed in Rome in 1728 is aimed at players active in "conversations" (which we know were particularly numerous in the Roman environment at the time), and its main aim is to provide "general rules" capable of drastically reducing disparities in rules followed at the various tables. The Capitolo printed in Livorno in 1752 instead aims to make the game of minchiate known in Lombardy (with wider borders than today) where it was still practically unknown.

All in all, the situation still remains surprising. The most important book that has ever been written on the history of tarot has the subtitle [From Ferrara to Salt Lake City; [note 14] this was justified by the fact that the great Dummett saw the birth of the tarot as most likely in Ferrara. Today that reconstruction appears less convincing. Without it being possible to assume any direct relationship, unthinkable at a distance of centuries, it is nevertheless surprising that the two most important works, published anonymously in Italy in the eighteenth century, exclusively
12. Ferrara, Archivio Storico Comunale, Serie Patrimoniale.
13. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, Archivio Pasi famiglie, b. 3, fasc. 197.
14. M. Dummett, The Game of Tarot. London 1980.

on minchiate, a game in vogue in Florentine gatherings and Roman salons, must today be recognized as due to the commitment of two writers, the first a count, the second a marquis, both abbots from Ferrara.

Preserved copies and their locations

Today, we have catalogs, easily consultable on the Internet, that allow us to identify even the few specimens preserved in distant locations. However, the overall number of these editions still present in public libraries remains small, understandable only by considering the small format and the content itself, not taken into particular consideration by bibliophiles.

1728 Rome:
Biblioteca Giovardiana - Veroli, Frosinone (OPAC)
Nordiska museets bibliotek - Stockholm (WorldCat, LIBRIS)
Harvard University, Houghton Library - Cambridge, MA, USA (WorldCat)
[Since the publication of this article there is one more, reported at, Appendix: Biblioteca dell’Istituto Centrale per Il Patrimonio Immateriale - Rome.]

1742 Roma:
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale - Florence (OPAC)
Bibliothèque nationale de France - Paris (WorldCat)
Biblioteca Vaticana - Roma (OPAC Vaticano)
Biblioteca Comunale “A. Saffi” - Forlì (62-VII-53)

1746 Macerata:
Biblioteca Arcivescovile Cardinale Pietro Maffi - Pisa (32.4.23)

1773 Rome:
No indications of the presence of copies of this edition were found in any of the catalogs consulted. [Since the publication of this article, one has been located, reported at, Appendix: Biblioteca dell’Istituto Campana – Osimo.]

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Here Franco turns his attention to at last to Florence, in "Minchiate, le Regole Generali di Firenze," at, originally appearing in The Playing Card 49, no. 1 (July-Sept. 2020), pp. 8-13. As usual, comments in square brackets are mine, for explanatory purposes to non-Italian readers, done after consulting with Franco. The numbers by themselves in the left margin are the journal's page numbers, and the footnotes are to be found at the bottom of these pages.

Minchiate: The Regole Generali in Florence

Franco Pratesi

English Summary

Regole Generali delle Minchiate
- the Italian book with this title is a small handbook published with the rules and the laws of the Minchiate game. It had several editions in Rome and Macerata after the first of 1728. Then a booklet with the same title was printed in Florence in no less than five editions (1781, 1790, 1807, 1820, 1852); in contrast to the Roman editions, the material in the Florentine is carefully organized into individual chapters, devoted to the various aspects of the game and the corresponding laws. Here the five Florentine editions of the book have been studied and compared. The main difference observed was the introduction, at the end of the 1820 edition, of an additional section devoted to the non-partnership version of the game. Finally, the locations of the few places where a copy of each edition is still available for consultation are provided.


A book of general rules on the game of minchiate was published in Florence and reprinted several times. All these editions were listed in the well-known Bibliografia of Alfredo Lensi [note 1]; there are five editions in total, which came out from 1781 to 1852. The essential elements of these editions will be provided and the changes made to the text with the succession of editions will be highlighted.

A book with a very similar title had already been published in Rome and Macerata in several editions starting from 1728. [note 2] A different booklet of rules was printed in Dresden in German in 1798 and then in an Italian version in 1830;[note 3] it is considered more complete and detailed than the other manuals, but it is unlikely that it found a notable diffusion outside the capital of Saxony.

Furthermore, a copy of the Capitolo [delle Minchiate: Chapter of Minchiate] was perhaps reprinted in Florence without typographical data, in which the Ferrara marquis abbot Pio Enea degli Obizzi had set out the rules of minchiate in poetic form. Of the same work, the editions of 1777 and 1827 [note 4] certainly appeared in Florence (after the Livorno edition of 1752). However, in Florence the book under consideration, with the Regole Generali [General Rules], represented the official manual for the game for many years, and a new edition was published as soon as the previous one was out of print.

The Florentine editions

Evidently, the good intentions of those who had the Capitolo reprinted in 1777 were not enough to satisfy the requests of the Florentines, so much so that only a few years later another edition was resorted to, of a different type. The dissimilarity of this first Florentine edition of the Regole was not only evident, compared to the Capitolo, but could also be noted compared to the Roman edition, which had also been taken as a model (at least for the title).

The Regole Generali, printed in Rome already in 1728, reached the press in Florence with a notable delay, with the first Florentine edition dated 1781; but after that, this booklet even became part of an entire series of similar manuals on one or another of the various conversation games - such as chess or tressette quadrigliati - which were offered for sale to the same Florentine public (typically at the Scalere di Badia) and even advertised in the Gazzetta Toscana.
1. A. Lensi, Bibliografia italiana di giuochi di carte. Florence 1892 (reprint Ravenna 1985).
2. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card, Vol. 48 No. 3 (2020) pp. 96-102.
3. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card, Vol. 47 No. 3 (2019) pp. 176-179.
4. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card, Vol. 47 No. 2 (2018) pp. 103-113. At the time, only one copy of the 1777 edition had been found, at Harvard University, USA, but another is present in the University Library of Genoa (Misc.B.5.14).

Already with the second Roman edition of 1742, it was deemed necessary to add a more concise and, above all, schematically organized appendix to the book, better suited for rapid consultation on possible points of interest. In fact, in the original text, it was not easy to orient oneself among the erudite and verbose discussions that moved from one topic to the next without a convenient demarcation. In the Roman editions, the presence of a scholar-author was evident who provided suggestions in careful prose (even if not actually in verse, like the author of the Capitolo) and usually provided long justifications; in Florence, a book was immediately printed that looked directly at the practice of the game, without any further literary frills.

The Florentine editions present a text structured schematically with distinct chapters and subchapters for the various topics, with the respective titles which are referred to in a table of contents at the end, so as to be immediately consultable on the respective pages. The following table shows the tables of contents of the various editions; as you can see, there are only slight variations in the latest editions for the additional inclusion of a chapter on minchiate each for oneself at the end of the volume. The same page numbers in the five columns are often preserved almost unchanged, more or less.

One gets the impression that the Roman edition of the Regole was the original work of an author, even of a good literary level. If the Florentine editions derived from that one, they appear to be the result of a profound editorial revision; as if the publisher had assigned an employee to renovate the entire text in order to make it easier to read and learn. Or else these Florentine Regole Generali were born completely independently of the Roman ones, by an author who did not worry about stylistic and literary aspects but limited himself to compiling a treatise in the simplest and most schematic way possible. In any case, sometimes finding the name of Luigi Bernardi in brackets in the catalogs still as the author of these Florentine editions seems unjustified: Lensi himself only included him in the Roman editions.

These subsequent Florentine editions are never reprints of the same edition, as we have become accustomed to recently. The dimensions of the characters and the pages of the book themselves change, albeit slightly, and are always kept at pocket size. The small size was not just a device to save paper, but the intention was clearly to provide the reader with a truly pocket-sized work, which could be usefully kept in a pocket, even at the gaming table. If necessary, the booklet could be extracted and read both to clarify for the owner, especially if a beginner, any doubts about technical terms or game rules, and also for experienced players who had to deal with different local customs among which they had to identify the correct one, at least according to the book.

Evidently, a new edition was printed as soon as the previous one was sold out, without worrying about substantially modifying the available text. We can examine the various editions in sequence, starting from the first in 1781.

Florence 1781
Regole generali del giuoco delle minchiate con diverse istruzioni brevi, e facili per bene imparare a giuocarlo. [General rules of the game of minchiate with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well.] Florence, at the expense of Vincenzio Landi, typ. Vanni and Tofani, 1781, in -16, 70 pp. (Lensi 1892: n 142 p. 37).
This publication was marked in the Florentine magazines with a specific AVVISO [NOTICE] with all the details.
Since in the present season, private conversations in private homes will be more frequent, where the most delightful entertainment is derived from the Game of Minchiate, a booklet has been published which deals with the aforementioned Game, where the origin and quality of the same is identified, prescribing General Rules for playing it well, and those penalties that are too necessary to be imposed on those who transgress the laws of this game are reasonably established. This booklet is for sale for the price of one paolo at Vincenzio Landi Bookseller.[note 5]
It has been newly printed with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well, and can be sold at the price of half a paolo by Libraj Luigi Carlieri and Vincenzio Pagani [1 Paolo = 13 soldi 4 denari]. [note 6]
“Newly” [nuovamente] is an adverb that doesn't help us. It could in fact read as the re-edition of the book which with the same title had been printed in Rome in several editions and in principle could have been found for sale at some Florentine bookseller. However,
5. Gazzetta Toscana N. 3 1781 p. 12 (January).
6. Gazzetta Universale Num. 104 Saturday 39 December 1781. p. 836 (last lines of the last page of the year).

it was traditional to use the attribute of “new” [nuovo] for an edition that was simply recently printed, without a similar one previously existing [di nuovo = in English, "anew”]. The question is decisive for attributing complete originality (separate title) to the Florentine editions. From the halving of the selling price after a year, one gets the impression that this new edition did not meet with the popularity that the compilers and printers had hoped for.

Florence 1790
Regole generali del giuoco delle minchiate: con diverse istruzioni brevi, e facili per bene imparare a giuocarlo ed in fine aggiuntavi un ottava sopra la maniera di alzar le carte. [General rules of the game of minchiate: with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well and finally adding an octave [eight-lined stanza] on the manner of cutting the cards.] In Florence 1790. May be found for sale at Vincenzio Landi Bookseller opposite the Tax Office. In -16 (14.5x8 cm), pp. 64. (Lensi 1892, n. 143, p. 37-38.)
At the time of this study (January 2019), this edition can be considered the most accessible for consultation. First of all, the National Central Library of Florence has made available a digital copy of the specimen (Misc. 393.1) preserved there. Furthermore, there is an Indian publishing house that offers new reprints of this same work, with even the possibility of choosing the binding among several models of increasing value. The only point we can make about this reprint is that the original paperback format was subjected (perhaps with the intention of contributing to the value of the re-edition) to an increase in size of approximately 40%, thus making the volume different not only from the original but also from all other known Florentine editions.

Florence 1807
Regole generali del giuoco delle minchiate con diverse istruzioni brevi, e facili per bene imparare a giuocarlo. [General rules of the game of minchiate with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well.] Florence, s.n.t. [senza note tipografiche = without typographical notes], 1807, in -16, pp. 64. (Lensi 1892, n. 144, p. 38).
On the actual title page, there are no typographical details, but underneath IN FIRENZE 1807 we read: “It is sold by the Dispenser of the Gazzetta Universale at the Scalere di Badia.” In short, this booklet was also part of the series of editions on the various games that were continuously offered to buyers in one or more of the bookshops and stationery shops that for centuries occupied that stretch of road in front of the Palazzo del Bargello and in Via della Condotta.


Florence 1820
Regole generali del giuoco delle minchiate con diverse istruzioni brevi, e facili per bene imparare a giuocarlo. Seconda edizione con l’aggiunta di un trattato sulle minchiate a ognun per sé. [General rules of the game of minchiate with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well.] Second edition with the addition of a treatise on minchiate each for oneself. Florence, St. del Giglio, 1820, in -8 (17.5x11.5 cm). pp. 76. (Lensi 1892, n. 145 p. 38).
In the last analysis, except for small variations in the format and overall number of pages, there is only one noteworthy change in all the Florentine editions: starting from this 1820 edition, there is a sort of appendix to the usual text, dedicated to the game of each for oneself. From a technical and also historical point of view, this is a significant change. In fact, we know that this type of game was the most common in the seventeenth century, before the fashion of playing in pairs took over in the following century. When the first guides for the game of minchiate appeared in the eighteenth century, the approach was mainly to illustrate the game in pairs, with the common comment that other types of games did not deserve as much attention. It is therefore interesting that in 1820, it was considered necessary to complete the presentation of the game with the variant that had been previously preferred and which perhaps had never lost the players' favor.

It can be ventured that in a reception room with gentlemen and ladies at the gaming tables, it is easy to imagine the conversational advantages of playing in pairs; in taverns or in environments of inveterate gamblers, the game of each player for oneself better allowed the emergence of a deeper knowledge of the gaming technique: in the long run, a more skilled player could count on a greater probability of success.

This 1820 edition had a greater circulation than the others, and therefore it can be deduced that it was also printed in a greater number of copies than usual. Confirming this hypothesis are the relatively numerous copies still preserved in various libraries in different countries and, above all, the fact that this edition remained present for a long time in the series of booklets of game rules offered to the Florentine public, typically at the Scalere di Badia.

For example, a list of all these books is found for 1836 [note 7], and the following for 1840.
Interesting Notice [note 8]
Since the season of vigils has now begun, the public is reminded that in the Dispensation of this Gazette, the following booklets can be found which teach the games most commonly used in civil conversations.
Rules of Games Played with Billiards, Soldi 16.8.
Rules of the Game of Chess by Sig. Koyle, Soldi 10.
Rules of the Game of Whist by the same Koyle, Soldi 10.
Rules of the Game of Minchiate, with the addition of the game of Minchiate each for oneself, Lire 1.
Treatise of the Game of Calabresella and of Ombre Calabresellate, Soldi 13.4.
Rules of the Game of Ombre, Soldi 6.8.
Treatise on the Game of Ecarté, Soldi 10.
The Honest Pastime, or Games and Jokes to divert Conversations..., Soldi 13.4.
The Game of Tibidò, Lire 2.
The Game of Tombola with double-numbered balls, Bag and Cards, Paoli 5.1/2.
The same with single numbering, Paoli 4.
We note that our 1820 booklet continued to be part of the series available on the various games twenty years after it was printed, and only a dozen years later, a further reprint became necessary, the last of the series. Also noteworthy is the price, which is higher than other books on games, typically double, given that 10 soldi corresponded to half a lira (while fractions of a soldo were expressed in twelfths or denarii).
7. Gazzetta di Firenze, Num. 136, 1836 (Saturday, 12 November) p. 4.
8. Gazzetta di Firenze, Num. 140, 1840 (Saturday, 21 November) p. 4.

Florence 1852
Regole generali del giuoco delle minchiate con diverse istruzioni brevi, e facili per bene imparare a giuocarlo. Terza edizione: con l’aggiunta di un trattato sulle minchiate a ognun per sé. Terza edizione: con l’aggiunta di un trattato sulle minchiate a ognun per sé. [General rules of the game of minchiate with several short and easy instructions to learn how to play it well. Third edition: with the addition of a treatise on minchiate each for oneself.] Florence, typ. Above the Grain loggias [roofed structures open on one side], 1852, in -16 (15x11 cm). pp. 60. (Lensi 1892: n 146, p. 38).
There are several errors in the numbering inserted next to the titles of these editions; even the last Florentine edition, that of 1852, bears the words “Third edition” on the title page, while it would be the fifth of the Florentine ones.

As can be seen from the table, this latest edition differs slightly from all the others due to a lower number of pages. One might think it used a slightly larger format for the pages; on the contrary, the format of this edition is even smaller than the previous ones, but it is the significantly smaller characters used that make it possible to insert the same text in a smaller number of pages.

Preserved copies and their location

For the specimens still present in the major Italian libraries, there is the inconvenience that some of the old card catalogs have not yet been digitized, which is why we find a smaller number of copies in the online catalogs than the actual number. However, the number of copies found was lower than expected (already scaled down taking into account circulation, format and subject), especially considering that the Florentine public libraries are the richest in Italy in ancient collections and local editions.

Florence 1781
Biblioteca statale di Cremona - Cremona (OPAC)
Biblioteca Roncioniana - Prato (OPAC)
Biblioteca comunale Augusta - Perugia (OPAC)
Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria - Turin (OPAC)
Bodleian Library - Oxford, UK (Copac)
Biblioteca degli Intronati - Siena (Misc. Borghesi H.IX.1)
Harvard University - Cambridge, MA, USA (WorldCat)

Florence 1790
Biblioteca nazionale centrale - Florence (OPAC) and digitized copy
Yale University Library - New Haven, CT, USA (WorldCat)

Florence 1807

Biblioteca comunale dell' Archiginnasio - Bologna (OPAC)
Van Pelt Library - Philadelphia, PA, USA (WorldCat)
Biblioteca degli Intronati - Siena (Misc. Borghesi H.IX.2)

Florence 1820

Civica raccolta delle stampe Achille Bertarelli - Milan (OPAC)
Biblioteca Casanatese - Rome (
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale - Florence (
Biblioteca delle Oblate - Florence (Misc. 129 -03)
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale - Florence ((14).X.7.2.40)
Biblioteca degli Intronati - Siena (A.XV.E.39)
Biblioteca degli Intronati - Siena (B.XXX.G.13)
University of London, Warburg Institute - London, UK (WorldCat)
Harvard College Library - Cambridge, MA, USA (WorldCat)
Harvard University - Cambridge, MA, USA (WorldCat)
Yale University Library - New Haven, CT, USA (WorldCat)
Newberry Library - Chicago, IL, USA (WorldCat)
Baylor University Libraries - Waco, TX, USA (WorldCat)
Bodleian Library - Oxford, UK (Copac)
Aberdeen University - Aberdeen, UK (Copac)

Florence 1852
An example is present in the collection of the Associazione Le Tarot, in Faenza. [note 9] No other indications on the presence of examples of this edition were found in any of the catalogs consulted.
9. ... co.doc.pdf

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Continuing with Franco's series of articles about early books about minchiate, next is one published in Rome of 1747, of which Franco summarizes and quotes the relevant part. It is actually a fairly helpful introduction to the game, I thought, including reasonably intelligible explanations of the terms used.

This translation is of Franco's "Libro del 1747 sulle minchiate, e altri giochi," at, originally published in The Playing-Card 49, no 2 (Oct.-Dec. 2020), pp. 64-69. As usual, the comments in brackets are by me for explanatory purposes, the numbers by themselves are the page numbers in the original publication, and the notes are at the bottom of the corresponding page.

1747 book on minchiate and other games

Franco Pratesi

English Summary

The book under study was published in Rome in 1747 by Brunetti, a canon of the Roman church, who was also publishing books on religious, mathematical, and scientific topics. All of them were dedicated (and addressed) to noblewomen and aristocrats. The largest part of this book describes the card game of Minchiate, followed by a short treatment of Hombre and a series of examples of chess endgames and openings; a few final pages contain some problems of algebra, intended to provide elements for computations required in everyday trade. We are mainly interested in the part on Minchiate, which is organized in sequential chapters, with literary digressions separately placed between each of them. A first part explains the laws of the game, whereas the suggestions on how to play are listed in a second part; in the present study, this account of the game has been briefly reviewed. A survey has also been conducted on the copies of this work that have been preserved, and the rather surprising result is that more items can be found abroad than in Italy, with a significant portion in the USA.

The book on games

The book we are examining is certainly an important work on the subject. [note 1] Among the games presented in the book, minchiate, ombre (hombre), and chess, the game of minchiate is treated first and alone occupies half of the volume; at the end. there are also a few pages with some algebra problems intended as useful examples for solving practical business cases.

In some respects, Brunetti's book - in relation to the part on minchiate - is not too different from the one attributed to the Ferrarese abbot Luigi Bernardi and also printed in Rome as early as 1728, the first on the subject.[note 2] The main structural difference is that here the literary-erudite contribution is carefully kept confined in the Allegorical Notes that follow the chapters dedicated to the technique of the game. For us, this means that we can easily skip all the literary part and the frequent quotations from the Latin
1. D. Francesco Saverio Brunetti da Corinaldo, Giuochi delle Minchiate, Ombre, Scacchi, Ed altri d’ingegno. [Games of Minchiate, Ombre, Chess, And others of ingenuity.] Rome, for Bernabò, and Lazzarini, 1747.
2. F. Pratesi, “Minchiate le Regole Generali di Roma e Macerata” [Minchiate, the General Rules of Rome and Macerata]. The Playing-Card, vol. 48 no. 3 (2020), 96-102. [Here on THF, it is the immediately preceding post.]

classics; those interested can refer to a recent study by an authoritative source, which briefly takes in examination this book, including its Allegorical Notes. [note 3]

The following table can then serve as a first presentation of the book, in which the index is reproduced, with the page numbers. The chapters on topics other than minchiate are listed in italics, which here, as with the Allegorical Notes, will not be examined.
This book stands out from all the others that provide instructions for conversation games (and in particular for minchiate) in several aspects, both in form and content, and therefore deserves specific analysis and discussion.

Summary of the text in question

Information and explanations

In this part, the chapters follow one another without an order number, which here - as already in the table with the index - will be inserted for greater clarity. Often, the author describes the situation in a concise and precise way, so much so that it seems useful to quote his own text in quotation marks. The Italian language is not what it is today, but it remains understandable.

1. Deck of Cards. “This game is played with a deck of 97 cards. These are the 4 common sequences of Swords, Batons, Coins, and Cups; each sequence has 14 Cards. Then there are 40 Tarocchi and the Fool.”

2. The four Sequences. The order of taking suit cards is 10 to 1 for swords and batons, but 1 to 10 for cups and coins. Only the King counts as 5, the other [suit] cards count as 1 if won from the opponents.

3. Tarocchi. “The Tarocchi are marked with Roman numerals from I to XXXV; the first five are called Papi, the last five Arie, and they are 36 Star, 37 Moon, 38 Sun, 39 World, 40 Trumpets. Their value is 3 from 2 to 5, and 1, 10, 13, 20, 28, Fool, 30 to 35 are worth 5, and Arie 10.”

4. Fool. “This is neither Tarocco nor [Cartiglia [suit cards except King]; it enters all the verzicole, and forms one with the maximum and minimum Tarocco; you never lose it if you don't lose all the cards, because when you play it, you take it back, and in its place you give a Cartiglia.”

5. Verzicole. He lists the verzicole [combinations]. Three or 4 Kings. 1+Fool+Trumpets. 1+13+28. 10+20+30 (or 20+30+40 or 10+20+30+40). Three or more Papi in a row. Three or more cards in a row from 28 to Trumpets. (The 29 counts only in the verzicola; the Fool in all of them). “At the end of the game, all the cards count 354, and the last [trick] adds 10 more.” 60 points form a resto.

6. Manner of play. “This game is played with four people, either in a game with the entragnos (as is commonly used) or in a game without entragnos (entragnos means that, after robbing, all the counting cards that are found in the residual [the fola, the cards not dealt] are seen and taken.)” [See also his point 9.]

7. Way of playing in a hand with entragnos. Explains how to form partners by drawing lots, cutting, robbing, dealing the cards, using the fola. “The first time a suit is played, the King is given by default, and the Fool cannot
3. ... 84&lng=ITA

be given in this one case; to save a King you have to hang it, that is, you first play [lead] your suit without playing it [non giucarlo la prima vola, che si giuoca al suo palo].”

8. Manner of counting. “Once the game is over, the cards are placed three by three, that is, two that do not count, and a counting one on top, and make as many of these mounds as there are counting cards that you have. Fourteen of these mounds make up the number of cards you had, that is, forty-two, all the others are earned, and as many as you earn, that many you immediately write down. . . . Then you count as much as you have from cards declared from the beginning, then all the verzicole that you have, then all the cards, the last [trick], and the [points] marked [segnati]; from all this calculation the count of the opponents is subtracted, and the remainder gives the victory of as many resti as there are times sixty enters into said remainder, and one more, if there is any point left over, which is also called entragnos.”

9. Explanation of the terms of this Game. “I don't think there is any game in which more extravagant terms are used than this one.” “Drowning a King, or hanging a King, means not playing the King the first time that you play to [lead] a suit, you hang the Kings so as not to lose them.” “Dying means taking [actually, losing] any counting card.” “To smash [smattare] means responding with the Fool.” To make [Fare], to play a tarocco with no more cards in the suit. To make a hunt [far caccia], to leave the play, postponing the capture until a more advantageous opportunity. To do a hold [fare tenuta], play a higher card than the one you want to take from your opponent. “To make a pass [fare passata] is to play a jealous [or delicate] tarocco to a cartiglia, with risk” [because a higher trump could take it]. “To turn [or rotate: girare] the game is to play the major tarocchi from the beginning. To smoke [Fumare] is to play a small papa [[papino], as a sign to your partner that you have a good game, you also smoke with an over-twenty [sopreventi – tarocco higher than XX].” Dropping [cascare], you no longer have tarocchi, and you can put the cards face up on the table for the person who takes the trick to play them. “Entragnos are the counting cards that are in the fola, and the points that are left over, which make a resto. Fola are the last thirteen cards, which remain out of play [a monte].”

10. Laws of the Game. Abrogated Law [only this one]: anyone who found nothing in the fola paid a resto. Twenty points to pay to your opponents for the first wrong card and ten for subsequent ones. In the end, whoever has more or fewer cards counts only the verzicole declared at the beginning, the cards, and the last trick. Whoever refuses pays a resto to each one of the opponents. Verzicole not declared before playing the first card do not count. “Whoever drops and puts his cards on the table is no longer the master of picking them up again. If some cards are missing from the deck, you don't redo the cards or change the deck, the card on the floor goes in the fola discards."

11. Turning game [Giuoco di giro]. If you understand that the pair has a strong game, you signal to your partner by playing a little papa or a sopreventi, and then you try to make all the tricks to capture the jealous cards of your opponents.

Warnings for playing well

What playing well consists of: “I reduce all the ways of playing well in Minchiate into four heads. First, discard. Second, answer cartiglia to cartiglia, tarocco to cartiglia, and tarocco to tarocco. Third, play cartiglia. Fourth, play tarocco, for which twelve very useful precepts follow.”

1. “First of all, once you have received the cards, you must be careful not to give any sign of their quality.”

2. “ Discard. Let voiding [of suits] be done, as much as you can. . . . Be careful to discard in that suit of which there are the fewest in the fola . . . if then you have few Tarocchi, [for them] to be supported, discard where there are more in the fola."

3. “You shouldn't do a voiding [far un faglio] when you have the Trumpets and few Tarocchi, that is, fewer than nine. . . . Be careful when discarding in that suit where you have the most in your hand.”

4. “Keep in memory the number of cards of each suit, which are in the fola, and from trick to trick that you play, count how many are left, and in whose hand, so as to figure it out... and this is the most useful Precept of this game”. Many know this precept but do not put it into practice "since it requires very laborious attention."

5. “Reply Cartíglia to Cartíglia. First, pass [passate] the King, or hang him. . . second, put the Queens on the second ones [tricks in the suit?] to make the tricks, and then be able to quickly play in the voided suits or discard of the partner; if you then want him to play for you in yours, lay down inferior cards.”

6. “ Replying Tarocco to Cartíglia. . . . On the first, you can pass anything, and on the second again, on the third you can risk a papino, or another counting card, but one of little importance; on the third on the Tarocco it is easier to risk one over thirty, however, make sure that there are no more than three in the fola.”

7. “ Replying Tarocco to Tarocco. If the Tarocco is played in your face, that is, below your hand, or from the right, do what you want and you can; if above [your] hand you turn [girate] to your partner; if from your partner, when you don't have any play to make chase [far caccia], cover to support your partner, or make a hold [tenuta] on some important card.”

8. Don't respond to your partner's negative comments about the game.

9. “ Playing a Tarocco. If it's your turn to play a Tarocco, and you have a play to make a hunt [gioco da fare caccia], smoke to your partner so that he can support you, and then leave the game in the hands of others."

10. “Dropping [cascare]. You must not drop when you have drowned Kings in your hand, until they are given, if possible, in the captures of your partner, or when probably all still have cartiglia. . . . However, I recommend keeping them until the end.”

11. “Value of the Tarocchi. In order to know the value of the Tarocchi, how much it means to have them or not have them,

here is the following table [reproduced later], in which the value of the lack of a single counting card is expressed. Altogether the counting cards count 354, to which must be added the verzicole declared at the beginning, and the earned cards, and ten for the last [trick], with points for the revealed [those taken when cutting or robbing] and the [counting cards] killed.”

12. “At the end of the game, if you win or lose, always remain the same, and don't give signs of too much displeasure from one or too much joy from the other event; and above all, remember to be economical with the money you win... Above all, if you have lost, do not worry, because there is no worse harm than anxiety of the soul.”

Game in four to each one for himself.Chapter Three.
This type of game is no longer used, and the author only proposes four precepts which summarize, with the foreseeable small differences, what has already been presented.

Information about the author

Among the manuals printed in the eighteenth century with the intention of teaching the complex game of minchiate, this is the only one that did not appear anonymous. The author Francesco Saverio Brunetti was born in 1693 in Corinaldo, in the Ancona region; coming to Rome in 1711, he became a popular teacher and preceptor as well as papal chaplain to Clement XII, Benedict XIV, and Clement XIII; thanks to his activities, he was able to establish close relationships with several members of the most prestigious Roman nobility.

The games in the book are dedicated to the Most Illustrious and Most Excellent Lady Princess Donna Giulia Albani Chigi. As if the merits of the noble recipient were not enough, in the preface, our author extends praise to her sons Sigismondo and Francesco and her cardinal brother Gianfrancesco, created cardinal in those days (10 April 1747), and his personal devotion towards him since he was a child. The position of cardinal was frequent in the Albani family: this Gianfrancesco was the great-grandson of Pope Clement XI and of Cardinal Alessandro, nephew of Cardinal Annibale, and uncle of Cardinal Giuseppe; evidently, a transmission of the seat between uncles and nephews could continue, especially if the noble family resided in or near Rome.

Other works by the same author had a similar didactic intent, but concerned more traditional subjects. The religious booklets were certainly not surprising, [note 4] but the true "specialty" of this teacher of Roman noblemen and noblewomen was mathematics, in its most varied and most modern aspects; thus you can find entire booklets dedicated to statistics and also to "dyadic" arithmetic, the one used today in computers with only the digits 0 and 1. [note 5] Furthermore, our author undertook to provide updated information on all natural philosophy, or on the physical sciences that flourished at the time. [note 6]We also find scientific works written by him as Melantius Trifiliano, academic of Roman Arcadia, for a colleague; [note 7] in one of the booklets with scientific content, he also expands the part on the game of chess already present in the book under review.

All this production appears particularly abundant towards the middle of the century. In the absence of precise information, we can imagine that they were works that Brunetti considered useful to guarantee him better access to the top of Roman society and the favor of Pope Benedict (the Bolognese Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, 1675-1750, pope from 1740), also patron, unusually, of the medical and physical sciences.

Our author also does not disdain to deal with gaming, starting with minchiate.
An appropriate entertainment, enjoyed with pleasure, is gaming, this perchance is sometimes an appropriate interval-filler to entertain oneself with cheerful application in civil conversation, where the spirit is employed in something of light interest, and cheerful amusement restores weakened vigor. . . . Among these, I consider the game of Minchiate to be very suitable for making credible conversation, which, being long, varied, and full of risk and ingenuity, can at the same time retain, delight, and educate the person who occasionally plays it.
To validate the seriousness of his commitment, however, Brunetti underlines the didactic importance for young people of the Allegorical Notes that he interposes into his treatment.
4. Modo di assistere fruttuosamente al Santo Sacrificio della Messa ed altre orazioni cotidiane. [Manner of fruitfully assisting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other daily prayers]. Rome 1735. Notizie delle cose più importanti del calendario gregoriano dedicate alla Santità di N. Signore Clemente papa 13. felicemente regnante. [Information on the most important things of the Gregorian calendar dedicated to the Sanctity of N. Lord Clement, Pope 13 happily reigning.] Rome 1758.
5. Dell'aritmetica comune e speciosa. [Of common and specious arithmetic.] Rome 1731. Arimmetica binomica, e diadica, in cui tutte le operazioni si fanno colle sole figure uno, e zero. [Binomic and dyadic arimmetic, in which all operations are performed with only the figures one and zero.] Rome 1758.
6. Trattenimenti scientifici su la sfera, geografia istorica, meteore, ed astronomia. [Scientific lectures on the [celestial] sphere, historical geography, meteors, and astronomy...] Rome 1755. Trattenimenti scientifici su l'idrografia, nautica, blasone, statica, meccanica, architettura, pirotecnia, e suono. [Scientific lectures on hydrography, nautics, blazons, statics, mechanics, architecture, pyrotechnics, and sound.] Rome 1755.
7. Compendio sferico, mitologo, istorico, geografico, e poetico alla nobilissima pastorella Euridice Ajacidense da Melanzio Trifiliano pastore arcade. [Spherical, mythological, historical, geographical, and poetic compendium to the noble shepherdess Euridice Ajacidense by Melanzio Trifiliano, arcadian shepherd.] Rome 1755.
8. Dialoghi analittici di D. Francesco Saverio Brunetti da Corinaldo...Quesiti utili, e giocondi risoluti dall'Eccellentissima Signora D. Gioconda Orsini de' duchi di Gravina. Con altre piacevolezze d'ingegno su varie materie, e singolarmente sul giuoco degli scacchi. [Analytical dialogues by D. Francesco Saverio Brunetti from Corinaldo...Useful and cheerful questions resolved for the Most Excellent Lady D. Gioconda Orsini of the Dukes of Gravina. With other intellectual delights on various subjects, and especially on the game of chess.] Rome 1754.

Comments on the book

As regards the content, we are in the presence of a book that teaches not one game but the three games which at the time could be considered the most popular in the living rooms of Roman high society. A similar work was compiled in London by Edmond Hoyle, starting from the first publication on whist in 1742, and with its countless re-editions it became the bible of English players, and indeed it soon spread worldwide thanks to its countless reprints and translations. The players in the Roman salons were not as numerous as the gentlemen who frequented the famous clubs of London, in an era in which the industrial revolution had led to the formation of an increasingly large and flourishing bourgeois class in England.

The recipients of our cleric's works were noblemen and noblewomen of the papal court, personages who belonged to the narrowest circle of Roman patricians; evidently, the print run of this edition proved sufficient to fulfill those requests, and there are no known reprints. Also taking into account the nobility and culture of the recipients, we cannot be surprised if these works are enriched with numerous digressions of an erudite nature, such as here the Allegorical Notes that accompany every single chapter of the manual.

In the book on games examined, it can be noted that among card games, the space reserved for the game of ombre, i.e. hombre, is incomparably less than that dedicated to minchiate. Instead, the final part on chess once again takes on a broader scope, but the numerous examples presented of the end and start of the game are not an original compilation but are based on the technical literature on chess that was already circulating in Italy.

However, there is another peculiarity that makes this work unique of its kind: here, we perceive not only the display of classical erudition but also the specific competence in combinatorics, something that is never encountered in books about minchiate. So we can read right from the preface that in the game of minchiate, as many as "96,141,308,410,784,017,049 different cases" can occur. Furthermore, toward the end of the description, we come across the following table, which provides us with a calculated value (numbers that vary from a minimum of 9 to a maximum of 55) for each single card that is missing among those taken at the end; the second coumn gives us the estimated value if the Fool were also absent together with that missing card.
Brunetti warns us that going further in the calculation, with more cards missing, would be very laborious. In these cases, the author admits that these are complex calculations, which could diminish the pleasure typically connected to the game, and therefore he refers anyone interested in learning more about the issue to his mathematics books. In reality, even by consulting his other works, reconstructing the results of his calculations is not immediate, and we often end up assuming that there are errors, either his or the printer's.

However, even with today's mathematical knowledge, a complete statistical study of the distribution and game combinations that can be encountered in minchiate is indeed quite difficult. It's not even easy to find someone who has sufficient knowledge of both minchiate and statistics; some results in this regard can be obtained by contacting Nazario Renzoni of the Accademia dei Germini. [note 9]

Preserved specimens

As was done for the other books on the game of minchiate, research was also conducted on the specimens preserved in various public libraries around the world, listed in the following list.
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma - Roma
Biblioteca Casanatese - Roma
Biblioteca Nazionale - Napoli
Biblioteca Civica - Cosenza
Biblioteca Oliveriana - Pesaro
Istituto Campana - Osimo (An)
Biblioteca Provinciale - Salerno
Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria - Torino
Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana - Vicenza
Biblioteca Vaticana (Stamp.Chig.V.2606) - Città del Vaticano
Biblioteca Vaticana (Stamp.Chig.V.3279) - Città del Vaticano
Universität Mozarteum - Salzburg, Austria
Bibliothèque Nationale de France - Paris, France
The British Library, St. Pancras - London, UK
Bodleian Library, Oxford University - Oxford, UK
University of London, Warburg Institute - London, UK
British Museum Library - London, UK
Biblioteca Nacional de España - Madrid, Spain
Koninklijke Bibliotheek - Den Haag, Netherlands
Maastricht University Library – Maastricht, Netherlands
Erasmus University – Rotterdam, Netherlands
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – Amsterdam, Netherlands
The National & University Library of Iceland - Reykjavik, Iceland
Pierpont Morgan Library - New York, NY USA
New York Public Library - New York, NY USA
Library of Congress - Washington, DC USA
Cleveland Public Library - Cleveland, OH USA
University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI USA
University of Louisville - Louisville, KY USA
Colorado College - Colorado Springs, CO USA
Vanderbilt University Library - Nashville, TN USA
There are not many copies of the book in question preserved in Italy; understandably they are encountered in particular in the territory that belonged to the State of the Church. The "high" destination of this book, as mentioned, evidently also made it appreciated by foreign gentlemen, who in those years visited Italy in large numbers, including the Roman salons, and it is plausibly also thanks to them that a significant number of copies are still present in numerous libraries abroad, unexpectedly more than in Italy.

It is therefore not too surprising to note the presence of a copy in the main European capitals, but the quantity of copies preserved in the USA is quite unexpected. A possible explanation can be traced back not to the description of the game of minchiate but to that of chess, which attracted the interest of bibliophiles more and earlier than other games (it does not seem coincidental that Cleveland and The Hague have the two largest chess libraries worldwide).

Overall, it can be concluded that no other edition on the game of minchiate has been preserved in such an abundant and so dispersed manner on the European and North American continents; perhaps the only comparable one, albeit remaining on a lower level, is the edition of the General Rules reprinted in Florence in 1820 (even in that case a significant fraction of the copies is preserved in the USA, and in that book, chess is not spoken of).

Re: Franco Pratesi, Playing-Card (journal) articles since 2018

Now the final Playing Card article since 2018 so far, again in a series on the rules of minchiate (including rules for playing well). This one is from the Oct.-Dec. 2023 issue of The Playing Card (52, number 2, pp. 12-19), originally "Regole Generali sopra il Gioco delle Minchiate," at
Substantially the same article had already appeared on in August, 2023, at The only difference I can see, in fact, is in the placement and caption of the first illustration.

This article presented unusual translation difficulties: in some parts, neither Franco nor I had more than a hazy idea what was being said! So we had to settle for a more or less literal translation of the text. It will at least convey the style and general content of the original, which seems to reveal more than usual in the obscurity of minchiate's deeper mysteries. With some trepidation, I offer a few explanatory - or not so explanatory - comments in square brackets, my own in consultation with Franco. The small numbers in the left margin are the page numbers as originally published, and footnotes are indicated in red and put at the bottom of the corresponding pages. For reference on terms that the author does not explain, see the previous post, the section on terms. In the present booklet, what I found most illuminating was the explanation on how to conduct the sminchiare, or girare, as it was known (or also known) in Florence.

General Rules on the Game of Minchiate

Franco Pratesi

[Regole Generali sopra il Gioco delle Minchiate]

Introduced in Florence in the 15th or 16th century, the so-called game of Minchiate or Germini – to be played with the homonymous pack of 97 cards – is both courageous and fascinating. The finding of a previously unnoticed manuscript from the 18th century enlivens, once again, the research and the dialogue on the theme.
The name of the author is unknown. The refined calligraphy and decoration, in contrast with the lack of an adequate syntactic structure, might result from the dictation of an expert, illiterate player to a scribe. Nevertheless, the frequent use of Latin and the presence of some cultured references do not allow us to embrace this theory.
As for the geographic origin, we welcome the suggestion of the Beinecke Library – where the manuscript was identified – and recognize it in Florence. More defined dating appears, on the contrary, controversial.
In particular, the document could be contemporary to 14 Minchiate cards found in the same context, which we can date to around 1760 thanks to the stamp duties and signatures of the period. On the other hand, a first analysis of the technical content related to the game conducted by Nazario Renzoni, due to compatibility issues with the chronology of regulations from other sources, suggests that this should better be dated to the first decades of the century.
From a standpoint of content, unlike other printed publications on the rules for Minchiate, this one focuses exclusively on the expedients to play well. At present, it should be pointed out that playing with the Fola ('se si fa alla fola') is presented as just a possibility and not yet a norm. The expert contribution of Nazario Renzoni and Andrea Ricci, with an in-depth analysis and comparison with akin texts, is expected to shed light on this description of the rules.


Some of my recent studies on the history of card games, before the resumption of the last few months, concerned publications on the rules of minchiate: I managed to find editions and reprints that had never been reported, practically reviewing all the production of the 18th and 19th centuries. [note 1] Another important work of the same type is the manuscript found by Andrea Vitali in the Library of Castiglion Fiorentino: it is dated 1716, therefore older than the printed publications. [note 2] I intend to present here, modifying a preliminary version, [note 3] another eighteenth-century manuscript, dedicated precisely to the rules of minchiate, preceded by a short presentation and followed by some final comments.

Browsing the internet with the digitized catalogs of the major libraries, I have identified the manuscript in question in the Beinecke Library, together with fourteen minchiate cards that I presented separately. [note 4]
1. The Playing-Card, 47 No. 2 (2018) 103-113; 47, No. 3 (2019) 176-179; 48, No. 3 (2020) 96-102; 49, No. 1 (2020) 8-13; 49, No. 2 (2020) 64-69.
2. ... inchiate._ ms._185.pdf

Fig. 1. From: Rules and Playing Cards for Minchiate. General Collections, Beinecke Rare and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Cover.

Title on cover of rules: Regole generali sopra il gioco delle minchiate. In Italian.
Purchased from Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., on the Mary Flagler Cary Fund, 2010.
Collection that includes manuscript rules by an unidentified author, possibly in Florence, Italy, for playing the card game minchiate, circa 1700-1750, as well as fourteen contemporary hand-tinted printed playing cards made by “Al Poverone, ” a card maker active in Bologna, Italy, during the eighteenth century.

[For more on the provenance, see or its English translation at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2733.]

Understandably, I tried to get a copy. As often happens to me, I got lost in the digitized bureaucracy, but then the librarians were very kind and made me make up for lost time by sending me the scans in an incredibly short time. I transcribe it in full below.

(p. 1) General Rules on the Game of Minchate

Rule One – About the manner of discarding

The main foundation of this game is the discard, without a perfect intelligence of which the player lacks the most essential part of the game. He who discards must therefore be warned to first consider the quality of the cards he finds in his hand, whether he has high cards, such as superior aces, or small honors, but necessary to be taken [cavarsi], whether many tarocchi, or worthless suit cards [cartaccie]. If he has high Arie, that is, either the World or the Trumpets, he will have to discard as high as possible without thinking about making a void [far vacanza] to kill the Kings. The reason is because, by keeping a large quantity of cards of the same suit, they cannot be taken from one’s hand either by the partner nor by others, but it will be necessary for him to lead them himself, and in this way whoever is under his hand will save all of his. If he does not have either the World (p. 2) or the Trumpets but a large quantity of honors such as the One, the Thirteen, the Thirty, and others similar, he will have to discard as low as possible and try in every way to create a void [far vacanza], in order to be able make those fives [cinque, i.e. cards worth five points each], provided that in this case, not having superior cards, he must not think about taking those of others, but about saving his own.

In this, however, it should be noted that if one plays with the fola, in that case, it is permissible for everyone to see the pack of residual cards [il monte = the fola], not to choose the discard with which he claims to save his honors in a suit of which there are many cards in the fola, because those that are in the fola are not in the hands of anyone, it is easy to find an adversary who is void and instead of saving everything, sacrifices everything; which mainly must be noticed by the one who discards under [i.e., before] the hand of another, who must equally discard, as would be the one who discards by robbing at the cut [per la rubata d’alzata], and plays before [literally, under the hand of] the one who deals the cards, and there are not above himself [to his left] others who discard. You will be able to take a little more freedom in this, even if you have to be careful in this to proceed with caution in so doing [guardare in questo di camminar geloso] without great necessity.

And this same rule (p. 3) will have to be followed by those who have many tarocchi rather than few, that is, having no World or Trumpets, but many honors to get, always discarding the lowest with the circumspection mentioned above. If then he has many tarocchi, and a few worthless suit cards, and these are distributed in different suits, such as all thirds and fourths, and he will not find jealous cards in his hand to turn over [voltare], he will have to discard a tarocco, so that the multiplicity of them does not force him to take, and play, another tarocco in the face of the one under his hand [i.e. before him], and thus give him the opportunity to put everything he has on the stack of cards won [monte with a different reference] and in safety.

If then he has jealous cards to take [cavare], which are those discussed above, and he has high cards at the same time, that is, the World and the Trumpets, he will have to discard as low as possible, because in this case it is more important to make his own than to chase that of the adversaries, in addition to the fact that they may have little, every time the one who discards finds himself with so much stuff [roba, here meaning so many good cards] in his hand. And if he doesn't have either one or the other, that is, neither high cards nor jealous cards to save, he will have to make the discard so as to kill the Kings if able, and not being able to discard Queens or Knights to deceive the player (p. 4) into believing that he has made a free discard; and this about the rule of discard.

Rule Two – About the way to play low cards [la cartiglia]

Not inferior to the discard rule is the rule for playing the low cards, in which consists every way and opportunity to make his own and impede that of his adversaries; around which it is already known that the Kings usually are the first to be taken [cavarsi], that is, on the first trick of any suit.

After which the one who remains master of the lead will have to make sure to go back into the suit of which fewer cards have been dealt, and if it happens that what is under the hand lacks some suit, the one that leads will have to be completely careful of playing those cards in his face if by chance he does not have a succession of some suits and no other. The rule therefore is to never lead a card in that suit [literally, play in the face the suit] that someone is void in, if you know it; and if you don't know, play in the one they have led the fewest times, and that you have the fewest in your hand. Then vice versa (p. 5): if the one that is above your hand [i.e. after you] is void in some suit, the one that is below [before you] will always have to lead in that one having some, to always put him at risk of passing, and of not taking his [the points that can be obtained with his cards] easily.

In the suit in which the partner is void, rarely one leads [it] so as not to force him to go under [before] the opponent, particularly if, of that suit in which the partner is void, there is a large number of cards in one’s hand, because in this case it is very easy to find another one that is missing, and thus deceive the partner, making him go to the sledgehammer and lose all his; in this case, therefore, do not lead back to [non remitta] the partner, nor to the second, contributing in kind in addition to the multiplicity of that suit that one has in one's hands the multiplicity also in the mind, but rather if there is nothing else one plays a tarocco for once, and if then the lead returns to the hand and is played in that suit because from that previous tarocco played, the partner will be warned not to pass, meaning by this the number of cards of that suit that the partner has in his hand; if it is useful [comple] to be induced [ = indursi, admittedly obscure], one must play as high as possible, but this (p. 6) must not be done except in the case of which will be discussed further below in the rule of the indications of the Trumpets.

Rule Three – the way to pass with the honors and of playing a tarocco

The rule is with cards of prejudice not to pass except at most [in cases found] in the aforementioned part [something he has said earlier]

(of prejudice means the One and the Thirty only) and all the cards that have a verzicola both on one side and on the other; this is because it is true that time, that the multiplicity of the honors, and of these verzicola cards, does not force one to also pass to the third, in which case the third over the tarocco will always be safer.

To the third, however, regularly with the other five [cinque] which are less important, as would be a Ten, a Thirty-one, a Thirty-four and the like when they do not produce a verzicola and if there is a large quantity of them, it is customary to pass, and especially with the Papini, by the approved axiom Ad tertiam mitte Papinum [to the third play Papino]; one never passes to the fourth except in extreme (p. 9) necessity, as it would be when at the end of the game someone finds in their hand a card to save, and had been restricted or constrained by one who was above [after] them; in this case, if it happens that one of the other two leads a card of a suit to which the one above has always responded, even if it is fourth, one can take the liberty of passing, as long as it is hopeless to be able to pass that card, otherwise, because in any other case, he will not have to subject himself to that danger; after all, having no second or third, he will have to send all his counting cards toward his partner, as he cannot make it easily, when, however, he knows for sure that he will not respond to that suit.

As for playing a tarocco, those with superior cards should be advised always to play high tarocchi with the aim of passing on the last cards; if he has no superiors, he will do the opposite. However, make sure you leave some little ones in your hand, because it could happen that you must pass to help your partner. On the contrary, one who has superior cards, even if he has to try to get rid of the highest, must nevertheless keep at least one and (p. 10) sometimes even one that counts, as it would be if one had the Trumpets, and the Thirty-three; a Thirty-three could never be taken, inasmuch as one has not seen the outcome of the game, and if the partner needs to come at his turn with little ones, because it could happen that turning [girando], the partner needs to come at his turn with the One or a Thirteen, and it being covered by the opponent with a Twenty-seven, it would be necessary [for him] to get rid of the trumpets in order to save that Thirteen.

Finally, it should be noted that the partner will occupy some verzicola that contains a high and a low card, like the verzicola of the Uno, Fool and the Trumpets. If the partner has never been able to get the Uno, he must go when the same does not respond in his turn with an Aria if he has it, and if he doesn't have it with the highest he has, or with an equivalent because the adversary for fear of the Trumpets will not cover it, and in this way he will save the One, which is his verzicola.

In order to know how to play the tarocchi, those who play should be careful never to take the lead from whoever is under [after] their hand, in case (p. 7) of non-counting tarocchi, such as a Sixteen, a Twenty-two, and the like, because these are never taken to make cards, but are always left.

The lead of the partner is always taken if there is no intention of killing something, and the hand above [after] is always left; The Fool is never kept [non serva mai] either as the last or penultimate card, whether you have high or low cards.

Rule Four – About smoking [fumare]

It very often happens in this, as in all other games, that the too partial luck of one side with a distribution that is too passionate and unjust as usual puts the whole game, that is to say all the superiors, in the hands of two partners, in which case it would be stupid for those who find themselves favored not to make use of the opportunity, which once lost is never found again, as the Poet sang: Fronte capillata post haec occasio calva. [Occasion has hair over her forehead, but behind she’s bald] And the other, who praised his singing at the game: Perdidit in punto quod non reparatur in anno.[What is lost in a moment is not recovered in a year.]

(p. 8) Given this, it follows how it can follow in several ways, especially when it happens that one of the two partners declares three Arie or four, as it would be, Moon, Sun, World, or Star, Moon, Sun, and World, and that the other has the Trumpets in his hand, so that the one who has the verzicola in his hand is not in fear and tries to take it safely, which is not appropriate, in this case being in the certainty of not being able to die, he will have to do the smoking, that is, giving him the Trumpet signal, in this way: the first time the lead comes into his hand he will play a tarocco, but a tarocco that does not count, so as not to force him to get rid of an Aria above that led.

If then the partner has declared three Arie alone in the verzicola, that is, Star, Moon, and Sun, in such a way that there are two cards higher than the verzicola, and the partner finds both of them in his hand, as soon as the lead touches him he will play a tarocco that counts, because the tarocco that counts smokes for the World and the Trumpets, and the tarocco that doesn't count smokes for the Trumpets only.

With the World alone there is no smoking (p. 11), except in this case, as it would be when the Trumpets come uncovered in what is under the hand of the one who will have three Arie in the verzicola, or indeed they come there in the fola, or in another way it would be known that they are in the hands of that one, since then the partner of the one who has the verzicola will be able to smoke the World, so that one knows where both the superiors are, and stay with a calm mind, and if indeed making this smoke exposes oneself to the danger of the World being taken by the one who has the Trumpets, this matters little compared to how much not doing the smoke could matter.

Rule Five – Of the sminchiare of the game, which is called turning [girare]

But sometimes it is not enough to smoke a partner to play a game well and to prey on everything that the opponents have, but it is necessary to point out many other things that will be told here.

Let us therefore assume the case, as in the previous rule, that is, that the game is entirely in the hands of two partners, and that both the one and the other can understand, whether by declaring (p. 12) the verzicole of the higher Arie, or of the Above-Twenties [sopreventi], and with the robbing, or with the fola, both the one and the other will have to observe not to play a low card, nor always a tarocco; with this caution, however, that the one who has the lead in his hand always plays a tarocco that does not count, and the other partner whose turn it is respond equally with a tarocco, puts in one of those that count, and which cannot be taken, and then, while his lead remains, he plays a tarocco that doesn't count, and the other partner passes with one of those that count and cannot be taken, with the effect that the adversaries, not being able to get in even a Papa due to the holdings, are forced to drop, giving completely all that they have, and this is the way they can also lose the Fool, making not even one card, and lose seven resti, which is how much you can lose in one deal of the cards.

This is not only true when the two partners find themselves [winning] the game completely, as it would be if between both of them had from Thirty up to Forty, but it is also true when (p. 13) they are missing only one or two, because in this case one sacrifices one of those he has, and that matters less for remaining masters of the game, and even if the Trumpets was missing, it would be good to play the World, the Thirty-three, Thirty-two, etc., provided that the loss of cards does not lead to loss of verzicole for the reason already stated.

Note, however, that the rule given above of having to pass with a tarocco that counts and that cannot be taken in a hold [tenuta] is true when the partners playing the game are uncertain in whose hands the few worthless cards they are looking for are among their opponents, because if they knew for sure that they were in the hands of one, what would it be like if the other had dropped [cascato], or even if he had the opportunity to take and had not taken anything, then, and in such a case, whoever has the hand above [i.e. before] whoever has the cards that one wants to plunder must never take, and his partner will always play tarocchi that do not count, but as high as he can, so that the other can more easily leave and keep all the others in his hand, and if in the end forced by necessity he takes [he has] to play a bad tarocco, and the partner goes to a hold [tenuta], and (p. 14) the partner [to] what he has, they are, first if he wants to make them save little ones from going in his turn with the high, and leave indeed often to whom is above his hand.

If you want to save the other cards of the over-twenties, lead in that suit in which the partner is void, and all the others respond while, however, having few of that suit, otherwise not useful [comple], as was said above, to this of moving in the suit which the partner is void, or when the opponents have a turning game, because then, before the lead returns it is good to ensure that the partner save his, so that in the continuation of the game he does not drop [caschi] and lose everything he has.

If then they are in an ordinary game, the rule already given above of never moving in the suit in which the partner is void must be observed; and for

Fig. 2. From: Rules and Playing Cards for Minchiate. General Collections, Beinecke Rare and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Last two pages.

helping the partner, at times the rule of never moving in the suit in which the hand above is void suffers from exception, because if it happens that one who is above the hand of the partner for whom you want to save some card that matters will remain stubborn in never wanting to take, you must lead in the suit that is void (p. 15), and all the others will respond, because in this way he will have to take by force, and this must be done all the more, when it is known for certain that after having taken he could not give his partner the cards to be taken in response by the partner [refitte], due to which it will happen for the first time that the partner. not being able to take. will refuse [si rifiuterà], or this function will have to be repeated a second and even a third time.

If you know the refitte [cards to be taken in response by the partner] that the opponent can lead to his partner, you first try to get them out of his hand, and then you play the game mentioned, and when this suit is played, in order to make it be taken by the one who is above the partner, the highest of that suit that is in your hand should always be played, for the reason to be explained [I will explain, he means] orally [in voce].

Comments and conclusion

The manuscript is 21x15 cm in size and contains 15 written pages, a blank initial, and the cover. In the transcription, I allowed myself some changes to make reading more comfortable. I especially tried to use punctuation and capitalization more consistently – I would have kept the author's usage if it had been consistent. The author evidently knows how to write very well in terms of calligraphy (also note in the figure the squiggle at the end of the text) but not in terms of syntax; the topic is treated not only in a discursive form, but also with a continuous flow of connected sentences without structuring them. One could think of a skilled illiterate player who turned to an expert scribe to

have him put down the rules of his game on paper, perhaps under dictation without taking a breath; the end of these rules would also be better understood this way, with an unusual postponement to verbal communication of a particular case.

However, the hypothesis does not hold up, in view of the recurring use of Latin: Ad tertiam mitte Papinum - at the third play a Papino – will not be found among the classical authors; Fronte capillata
post haec occasio calva,
which dates back to none other than Cato [it was thought], indicating Occasion: when she passes by, if you don't grab her by the hair on her forehead, she has no hair on the back of her head; Perdidit in puncto quod non reparatur in anno seems to negatively modify the motto of Emperor Ferdinand I: Accidit in puncto quod non speratur in anno [It happened in a single moment, what was feared for a year]– here: what is lost in a single moment is not recovered in a whole year. Finally, there would be more Latin added on the title page, but I cannot decipher it enough, much less understand its overall meaning: Que nesci / Pennabis / Se[r]penti / [re]bus [ iipsele ] / Non valemus. But that this is only a copy is clearly demonstrated by the presence of an entire page out of place.

It would be important to be able to specify the name of the author, the local provenance and the date of this text. As for the name, I have no indication. Regarding the provenance, the suggestion from the Beinecke Library – possibly Florence – certainly seems to me to be accepted: as a Florentine accustomed to popular language I cannot find any foreign words, except for the term “comple” from the obsolete verb complire [here meaning to be advantageous], and indeed I find something like “i cinqui,” plural of five, which, although incorrect in Italian, sounds familiar to me. For the date, based on the handwriting, a very wide margin could not be avoided, even more than the entire first half of the eighteenth century indicated by the Beinecke Library. However, in the case - probable although not certain - that the playing cards found together are contemporary, the dating can be suggested with a very narrow margin around the year 1760, as I have indicated for the cards themselves, [note 4] and as can be obtained with even greater precision from what we know about stamps and signatures on Florentine cards of the time. [note 5]

Regarding the content, I have to discuss for a moment what was meant by rules of the game, because the situation can be very different. Today one would imagine several sections dedicated, in order, to the description of: 1. the cards (because they are unique, used for this game and for no other); 2. the flow of the game (dealing cards, trick rules, combinations with extra points, counting of points); 3. Playing the tricks well (conventions, signals to your partner, choice of cards to play first, various tricks); 4. the penalties to be imposed on those who do not respect some rules (errors in distribution, failure to respond to the suit, various cheats).

For example, the tarocchi game popular in Milan was described from the end of the eighteenth century in a text repeated for a century in dozens of reprints, which in these aspects in practice contained only the last. [note 6] Usually, the printed publications on the rules of minchiate are rather balanced, and this is also the case with the 1716 manuscript. The manuscript presented here deals exclusively with the third of the sections listed above, that is, the one which in the 1716 manuscript would just be the “8th and last Chap.”; on the topic, the discussion here is more extensive, about double that.

If I can hazard a preliminary judgment, I would say that this manuscript does not bear comparison with other sources, both due to its only partial nature and due to its later date. However, much of what you read here is quite different from the corresponding section in other texts. I would only point out for the moment "if it's done with the fola," because playing with the fola was a manner introduced at a later time; here it seems only a possibility, later it will become the rule, and probably this transition occurred at different times in different cities.

Before a possible completion of the description of these rules with a detailed analysis of the technical content, and with a timely comparison

with other versions, I intend to make use of the greater expertise of two Florentine experts, Nazario Renzoni and Andrea Ricci, [note 7] who are brave enough to play minchiate today and whom I am lucky enough to know. Nazario Renzoni's first and main comment is that there could be many years of difference between the cards and the Rules booklet; the date of the latter, to be compatible with the chronology of rules known from other sources, especially on the fola, should date back to the first decades of the eighteenth century.