Dating "late pattern" engraved minchiates

I recently watched a charming video comparing two currently available minchiates, Scarabeo's and Meneghello's, It shows that they are the same deck; the only difference is the coloring. Lo Scarabeo's has the water blue, for example, while in Meneghello it is typically more gray. But the black lines on the two decks, which are from the metal plates used for printing, are the same. So are they two copies from the same printing, colored by different persons or companies at the time, or is difference a modern one? Another issue is the dating. Meneghello says 1725 on the deck's box, while Lo Scarabeo has 1805-6, as seen in the video. How can that be, if they are the same deck? Not only that, while Meneghello has 1725 on the box, its website says 1700.

The problem is further compounded if we go back to the original edition of the Lo Scarabeo, from 1995 according to one page of the booklet, 1996 on the cover. In that edition, the publisher claims 1725 as the historic date of this deck, just like Meneghello. These dates are nowhere on the cards themselves, so where do they come from? Meneghello at least gives an explanation - it is a fallacious one, as I will explain, but nonetheless a nice try. has considerately uploaded the relevant pages of the booklet, as well as the cards he is refering to (, Libra and Cancer (second and third from left below):
You will have noticed the odd squiggle in Libra, but where is the stamp (timbro) on Cancer? Perhaps the artistic director lightened the card so much that it disappeared from view. Well, Meneghello did not make the same mistake, as can be seen from the card at the far left, which I downloaded from the same web-page as the other. Lo Scarabeo in their 2019 edition has corrected its earlier error.

If there is only one surviving original of this particular deck, with its hand-coloring, then the difference between Meneghello's coloring and Lo Scarabeo's must be modern. I cannot imagine a publisher turning blue into grays, so surely Meneghello's is closer to the original, while Lo Scarabeo's is an artfully done restoration of the color to what the artistic director supposes was its original glory. However, without physically seeing the original, I cannot verify this hypothesis.

So what about the stamps on Libra and Cancer? Actually, the sign on Libra is a combination of the letters SCF, meaning Stamp of the Cards of Florence, in the course of describing the period of minchiate production in Florence after 1781. (The Playing Card, 50:1 [July-Sept, p. 21, speaking of that era :
The period of the Stampa delle Carte di Firenze (Florence’s Cards Printing) also begins, marked by a stamp on the trump XXIIII (Libra). There are two versions of this stamp. The first, more elaborate, has the monogram SCF intertwined and written in a mirror image in two semicircles surrounded by the words Stampa delle carte di Firenze. The later simplified version has the three letters FCS written in italics surmounted by the same initials written in small letters in block capitals Fig. 33.
Actually, Monzali has overextended himself a bit here. It is only that as far as he knows this assurance that the deck was made in Florence was instituted in 1781. It makes sense, since other important changes occurred then, including a change in the placement of the tax stamp, from Acqua to Aries. However, Franco Pratesi recently found some cards in the Cary Collection of Yale University that show that even during the previous period the early version of the stamp was put on Libra (I have translated the essay, which has colored reproductions of the twelve cards involved, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2733. This period started in 1752, but in my opinion, given the Hapsburg-Lorraine arms on the back, which I don't think went into effect until after the dynasty was established as part of a marriage contract in 1763, and that no other such stamps on Libra have been found, it went into effect late in that time period, 1765-1780. (See my post immediately following the one just given).

As for the tax stamp, here again is Monzali, p. 52:
The last years of the century saw the entry on the European scene of Napoleon Bonaparte. For the Grand Duchy of Tuscany there was first the passage to the Bourbon-Parma family as compensation for their renunciation of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza which was annexed by France. In consequence, the Grand Duchy was replaced by the creation of the Kingdom of Etruria on 21 March 1806. For the cards, the creation of the new kingdom did not involve immediate changes. It was only on 24 May 1806 that Maria Luisa, acting as queen regent of the Kingdom of Etruria, on behalf of her six-year-old son Carlo Lodovico I, signed the edict that modified the design of the stamp and the card on which to affix it. As can be seen from figure 37, the card on which to affix it becomes the trump XXX (Cancer) and the new stamp has an octagonal shape with the French and Medici party shield in the centre surmounted by a crown and with the inscription Regno di Etruria on the sides.
Monzali's figure 37 is simply more Cancer cards with the same stamp as we have already seen.

According to Monzali, this stamp was in use from sometime in 1806 until June of 1808, following the annexation of "Etruria" into France in 1807. Earlier, Stuart Kaplan (Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. 2, 1984, p. 247) had had 1806-1807.
That explains Lo Scarabeo's new dating, even if 1806-1808 is probably more accurate (Kaplan didn't take into account the time needed for a new practice to get into gear). It is not 1805-1806, but at least Lo Scarabeo is close. Meneghello still has 1725.

I think I know where that date came from. Writing in the 1984 catalog Tarot, Jeu et Magie ( ... .r=trionfi), pp. 84, Thierry Depaulis observed that the version of the engraved, handpainted minchiate pack in their exhibition had not only a tax stamp on Cancer but also a signature on the side of the card, one he read as "Anton. Molinelli". The same stamp and signature appeared on two other identical decks, one in the British Museum (Schreiber It. 47) and the other in the Fournier Museum (Fournier Museum 82, 115, No. 31). Not only that, but the same stamp and the signature, "Anton. Pius Molinelli", are found on card XXXII (Sagitarius) in another minchiate deck, an educational pack with history lessons written on the cards as well as its number and a small identifying icon. This one has the date 1725 written on its initial page. This educational pack is also part of the exhibition, loaned by Sylvia Mann, one of the founders of the International Playing Card Society and an avid and careful collector. Depaulis does not draw a conclusion, but in saying no more he seems to suggest that date for all these decks. It is then easy for someone to infer that by comparing any of these decks with the one, so far the only complete deck, used by Meneghello and Lo Scarabeo, if the cards look the same, their deck must be of the same year: "Etruria" was simply the name of the brand, not an indication of the political structure in place. After all, the word was also on the back of the deck, where brand names usually went.

But the card is the same as used for tax stamps. And as for the signature, the problem is that the Molinelli family controlled the tax stamp concession for a vast number of years, from before 1700 all the way up to 1751. That is seen not only in the 2021 article just quoted, which gives a table of who had the concession when, but also in a list given by Kaplan, p. 248. So the most that could have been said is that the plates with which the Lo Scarabeo/Meneghello decks were made, or an identical set, go back to before 1752.

Assuming that the plates are in fact the same, a good guess, in my opinion, giving that deck a pre-1751 provenance is taking advantage of a certain ambiguity in the dating of decks. In France, according to Kaplan (p. 238), in the 18th and 19th century the method of certifying that the taxes had been paid was most often that of putting a band of flimsy paper around the deck, which the purchaser normally simply tore off and discarded. There was no tax stamp on the cards. But card makers frequently put a year and a name on the 2 of Coins or elsewhere. The problem is that this only identifies the year the woodblock was made. So the BnF's "1760" Conver is estimated to have been printed 1810-1820. Lo Scarabeo recently published as a "1760 Conver" a deck printed in the 1850s, as the publisher told my friend Andrea Vitali, who had asked the publisher on my behalf when I queried him on this issue (because the paint looked so well preserved). By the same token, dating the plates is what matters in our case, not the date of that particular copy. But that of course needs to be said, if that is the basis for "1725," or any other date in the absence of other information about the deck.

I think that is enough to be said about Lo Scarabeo and Meneghello. However, it is still worth trying to estimate just when the plates were first made, based on the card the stamp was put on, what words can be made out, if any, a better grasp of the signatures, and other things. Well, that is something for another post.

Re: Dating "late pattern" engraved minchiates

An example of the historical minchiate with the Medici arms on the back, the date 1725 and the signature of Molinelli on card XXXII is at ... k=107296;4. From the information supplied by Gallica it is not the same deck as that of Sylvia Mann, as it is from the collection of Georges Marteau, and Mann is not mentioned. It also has another copy of the same 32 cards, but with blank backs, at ... k=128756;0. The signatures look the same. In neither case can I find the date 1725 on their reproductions, but apparently that date was on the first page of an accompanying booklet.

British Museum Schreiber 47 is at ... 96-0501-34. It has a signature on its card XXX, called "illegible."

The exhibition deck printed on silk referred to by Depaulis is on Gallica at ... rk=64378;0#. It is said there to be published by Giovan Molinelli. Nothing is said about the stamp or signature, but both are clearly visible on card XXX, Cancer.

In addition, the British Museum has four other engraved minchiates, none complete but all looking to me like they are from the same plates. One said to be printed on yellow silk is at ... 21-24-1-97. I see no duty stamp or signature anywhere. It was acquired from James Tregaskis in 1903.

There is also ... -0501-1084, Schreiber Sheets Italian 3, which has a tax stamp on Pisces and an accompanying signature. It is printed on paper.

And ... -0501-1084, Schreiber 49, the same images but hand-colored. I can see no tax stamp or signature.

And ... 6-0501-133, Schreiber 48, the same, no coloring. No tax stamp or signature, but the possible cards for these are missing.

And ... 96-0501-47, Schreiber 50, colored, no tax stamp or signature on Cancer, Pisces, Libra, or any other extant cards.

I cannot find the Fournier deck online.

So the cards to look at are those of the Gallica historical, the Gallica regular minchiate engraved, Schreiber 47, and Schreiber Sheets 3. Here they are, posted sideways for better inspection of the signatures. First, Schreiber 47 and the historical:
Then the Gallica regular deck and Schreiber Italian Sheets 3.
Clearly the signatures on the three regular minchiates are not the same as that on the historical deck. The bottom two are "Giovanni Molinelli." The signature on Schreiber 47 is not the same as that on the other two, but I cannot make out the first part.

Monzali has a chart indicating the concession holder (far left), the place (Florence/Livorno), a description of the stamp, and the signature. The relevant part is below:
What we see for Pisces, on the chart, is 1657-1662 for Porri and Resmini, then 1702-1706 for Porri and Molinelli (assuming the stamp was put on a year after the concession was awarded, as the chart's note 9 suggests), followed by 1707-1711 and 1736-1751, Molinelli alone as the signator. The "arabesque" noted for Pisces in 1736-1751 is apparently Monzali's word for what we see on the Schreiber It. sheets 3 card, which is thereby dated to 1736-1751.

Anton Molinelli would be ca. 1722-1732 in Sagitarius, which would confirm the 1725 dating for the historical minchiate, although nothing else.

The standing lion plus signature on Cancer would indicate 1712-1721 for the Gallica. (The BnF dates it to 1712-1716, without saying why.)

Given the unclarity of the first name on the card for Schreiber 47 and the lack of the expected other indication on the stamp - Fortuna, a lion, or an arabesque, it is still undetemined when that would be. Since the card is Cancer, it could be 1682-1701, 1711-1721, or, if Livorno, 1736-1751. Since we already have a quite different signature for 1711-1721, and Livorno is less likely than Florence, the odds favor the earliest, 1682-1701.

Here it is perhaps worth quoting Monzali on these cards (The Playing Card 50:1 [July-Sept. 2021], pp. 23-24):
Towards the end of the 17th century, a deck of minchiate finely engraved with an etching technique came to light. At least a dozen copies of this very beautiful deck are known. They are in more or less complete form and held in various museums and private collections. Some are hand coloured and some have been printed on yellow silk. At the British Museum there are four copies of this
type of minchiate of which perhaps the oldest example is a deck with 95 cards. It is not coloured and bears the stamp with the words “Andrea Porri Appaltatore” [9] on the trump XXX (Cancer), which was in force from 1682 to 1701. Other copies have early 18th century stamps. For example, in the BNF there is a deck with 66 cards out of 97, printed on silk and bearing the signature of Giovan Francesco Molinelli and his second type of stamp, which was in force from 1712 to 1721. This deck continued to be reprinted during the 18th century. A complete copy on two uncut sheets is kept at the BM, bearing the stamp and signature of Giò Domenico Molinelli on the XXXI (Pisces), therefore datable to the years 1736-1751.
9. Ref. 6. [6: Franco Pratesi: Florentine Cardmakers and Concession Holders IPCS Vol 21 no 4]
Pratesi finds a tax payment record for Porri as a card maker and also states, after mentioning a card maker imprisoned for his debts: "Andrea PORRI was instead active as a concession holder from 1682 up to 1707, in last occasions in partnership with Giovanni Francesco Molinelli" (p. 5 of

Monzali's 1712-1721 card is that on Gallica, on the left in the lower row above; the 1736-1751 is that in the uncut BM sheet, to Gallica's right. That leaves the upper row left, Schreiber 47, as the card of Cancer with the words "Andrea Porri Appaltatore" on its stamp, dating the deck to 1682-1701. I can at least see the word "Porri" on the stamp; I take Monzali's word for the rest. But the signature is still unclear, and the "Fortuna" image is missing. That is rather a long period; it would be nice to know if 1682 is really believable. I will comment on that in another post. But I need to say one more thing about Meneghello that I forgot to mention before, about the "Minchiate Fiorentine" that its website says was created in 1850, although the deck's box says 1862.

Here there are two cards of importance for dating the deck: the Trumpets and the Ace of Coins. About the Trumpets, it is helpful to understand the evolution of the card, from its 1682-1701 beginnings to the deck in question. First, the deck as a whole is a variation on the engraved decks of the first half of the 18th century, adapted to the new technology of wood engraving, which uses the end of a plank rather than a side; among other things, as Monzali explains it (The Playing Card 50:2 (Oct.-Dec. 2021], p. 56, note], it can get a thicker impression from thinner lines, due to the increased hardiness, and thinner lines allow for more detail. According to Monzali, this change happened around 1820 in Tuscany, using a technique invented around 1800 in England. The new version used mostly the engraved images of 1682-1701, but often reversed them and even altered a few. Aside from some color changes, the lines of the Trumpets card changed in one major respect: the banners on the two trumpets changed from the Medici coat of arms to the Hapsburg-Lorraine coat of arms, corresponding to the regime restored to Tuscan rule after the defeat of Napoleon. However, that regime was overthrown when the Republic of Italy was established in 1861. So the coat of arms was discreetly covered up by a heavier coat of paint. Below is the progression, from pre-1702 to ca. 1820-1861, then late 1861 and after. At far right is the Meneghello card.
It is possible that the Meneghello deck does have a coat of arms underneath the paint.
If so, that would only mean that it used a wooden mold (not just a woodblock, but more advanced) made before 1862. Why pay an engraver to make another.

The Ace of Coins is where the stamps went, starting Jan. 1, 1863. Here is Monzali again, on the situation before and after that date (pp. 56 and 60):
An edict dated 20 March 1820 changes the card bearing the duty stamp, no longer the
XXX but the XXIIII (Libra).
. . .
The first stamp on the playing cards of the Kingdom of Italy, depicting Mercury seated, came into effect on 1 January 1863 and remained valid until 30 June 1874, when it was replaced by a new stamp. For decks with more than 52 cards, such as tarot and minchiate, this new stamp was octagonal in shape with Mercury’s head facing right inside Fig. 55. This second stamp remained in force until 31 December 1879.
Here is the progression (from Monzali, fig. 46, fig. 55, with the last from; although 1986, it is the same now): first, the tax stamp on Libra 1820-1862 and nothing on the Ace of Coins, then a circular stamp on the Ace of Coins 1863-1874, made octagonal 1874-1879, followed by the Ace of Coins of the Meneghello deck.
Rather obviously, the Meneghello deck, if it was a complete deck and did not take cards from various decks, dates from 1863-1874. So both 1862 and 1850 are wrong. The "1850" probably comes from the BnF's dating of a partially complete deck, ... 0minchiate, to that year. However, that deck does not have a tax stamp on its Ace of Coins and does have the Hapsburg-Lorraine coat of arms on its Trumpets card. Its Libra card is missing. So it cannot be used to date the Meneghello. Probably that's why it says 1862 on the box. That is possible for the Trumpets, but not for the Ace of Coins (or Libra, I assume). And even 1863 is only the earliest possible year.

On the other hand, the mold that was used for the 1850 may well be the same one as used in Meneghello's deck. Comparing them with the scans online of Gallica's 1850 I can detect no differences in the lines (as opposed to the colors and the wear). In that sense, just as a deck that is made 1850 from a mold made in 1760 is called a "1760" deck, so may this one be called an "1850" deck, even if made later.
Last edited by mikeh on 29 Mar 2024, 09:35, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Dating "late pattern" engraved minchiates

I said in my previous post that I would explore how early the engraving plates might have been for the theorized 1682-1701 cards of Schreiber 47. My only point of reference is another engraved deck with some similarities to that one, enough to be significant, namely the Mitelli engraved tarocchini of 1663-1669 (by Andrea Vitali's reckoning, at ... 79&lng=ITA). Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718) had a career spanning 60 years, and this tarocchini is undated, but if, as is likely, the portrait on the Ace of Coins (far left below) is Mitelli, the age would be about right for someone in his 30s.
In the trumps, I am thinking especially of Mitelli's Fool (third from left above), which like the engraved Fool (second from left) and unlike the woodcut "early pattern" version (far right) features a pinwheel as well as feathers and similar attire.

Another similarity is in the Wheel of Fortune, where Fortune is depicted with wind-blown hair, as though moving fast (below, engraved, far left, Mitelli second left), compared to the woodcut, so-called "early pattern" minchiate (third from left), in which Fortune herself is not even featured. Another is the Knight of Coins (fourth from left), whose heroic posture might have been stimulated by Mitelli's World card (fifth), in contrast to the woodcut version (sixth), which from the waist up simply looks like a merchant displaying his wares.
In the court cards, we might notice Mitelli's Queens of Cups and Coins are standing (first two from left below), like those of the engraved minchiate (fourth and fifth), but not the "early pattern" woodcuts (the first and third from the left in the row below them, from Schreiber 53 in the British Museum). In addition, the table or cabinet that Mitelli provided for his King of Coins is repeated for the engraved Queens and the King of Cups as well. This again is not seen in the "early pattern" woodcut versions, as is evident in the second row below.
Finally, Mitelli's practice of putting heads on the suit-signs in Coins, as well as birds on one of them, is reflected in the engraved minchiate. This practice was not taken up in the Bolognese tarocchini, nor is it seen in Florence in decks earlier than Mitelli, for example in a 4 of Coins by Padovano, 1547 (from a deck Thierry Depaulis found in the Petit Palace Museum, Paris, of which he published a few cards The Playing Card 45:3, p. 180) which has a floral pattern which survived in more geometric form in some 18th-19th century "early pattern" minchiates, e.g. Schreiber 56 in the British Museum. The panther was exchanged for an elephant.
Many other "early pattern" woodcut minchiates did feature heads in their suit of Coins, but I do not know any that included birds inside the medallions. Only the metal-engraved versions, such as Meneghello's "Etruria 1725" and those derived from them, such as Meneghello's "Minchiate Fiorentine 1862" did that, also on the 9 of Coins (below first two from left, the latter's 9 and 10 of Coins, downloaded from
There were also other versions of the 4 of Coins, for example Gallica's "Colomba" of Florence, with heads on the coins (third from left above), the Bolognese practice of replacing the elephant with "carte fine" and the name of the brand, as well as sometimes a floral pattern on the medalions (fourth), and the "engraved" form of the elephant, found even in the earliest example, Schreiber 47 (fifth), and faithfully repeated in both Meneghellos, of which the "1862" is below (sixth).

There are other similarities between Mitelli and minchiate, but these are the most obvious. Given their number, rather large to be a coincidence, and that Mitelli published his deck in the 1660s, it is quite possible that the plates go back even before 1682, the earliest date for the stamp.

There then arises the question of which was earlier, the engraved designs (called "late") or the designs preferred by woodcuts (called "early"0. The earliest "early pattern" cards are in a sheet estimated to be 17th century. But the same is true for the earliest "late pattern" engravings. If Mitelli and the engraved minchiate have a connected history, the relationship of Mitelli to the standard tarocchini of his time is instructive. His was clearly his own invention, as many of the images are not even close to their tarocchini equivalents - Love, Wheel of Fortune, Hanged Man, standing kings and queens, heads or birds in the suit of Coins, etc. If so, it is likely that the same is true in Florence, which also does not show heads or birds in the suit of Coins in earlier cards.

However, the question of priority in time is not yet settled. Without further investigation, it would probably be better not to prejudge the issue, but rather to call the two styles "engraved" and "woodcut," even if there were woodcut versions of the engraved (an example would seem to be that of Zoya - Monzali calls it a personal version of the "early," but every card he shows is of the "late" variety in what is depicted. "Early" vs. "late" is misleading and leads to errors, such as Monzali's just cited: before 1752, there are more extant engraved versions than there are woodcut, even if both exist. Then under Domenico Aldini, who permitted only three Florentine card makers to operate, the engraved style disappeared, only to reappear after his reign over the cards ended in 1780, even as the "early" woodcut type continued as well.

Moreover, it would be appropriate to divide the "engraved" pattern into two subtypes, that established before 1752 and another developed after the introducion of "wood engraving" into Italy around 1820. These in many cases reverse all or part of the image right to left, as well as introducing small changes. The Meneghello "1725" and "1862" are examples of the two subtypes. For the other pattern, the "early" or woodcut pattern, those reproducing old decks have not seen fit to reproduce any made in Florence that I know of. The ones that survived, most of them, are not of high quality, in general not as high as those made in Bologna. Two Bolognese examples have been reproduced commercially, an "Al Leone" by "Edicions del Prado" in 2004,, and an "Al Cigno" in 2019 by Lo Scarabeo. There are two "early" subtypes as well, one for Florence and one for Bologna. For example, Bologna removed the elephant from the 4 of Coins and put "carte fine" and the brand name of the card maker there instead, as seen above. But that is a subject for another thread.

Re: Dating "late pattern" engraved minchiates

I want now to pursue further the question of which is earlier, the "early" woodcut pattern or the "late" engraved or engraved-inspired version.

First, here are my online sources for the two types. Among the engraved series, even though there were two sub-patterns, one after 1820 and the other from at least a century earlier, we can ignore the post-1820 because it is obviously later. Before then, at least until 1806-8, the only difference is that some are complete and some not, and some hand-colored and some left uncolored. For my examples I will mostly use the uncolored British Museum's Schreiber 47, because it is considered the earliest (see my previous post). It is at ... 96-0501-34. Otherwise, I gave a list of all I could find, except the Meneghello and Lo Scarabeo (for both of which see, at viewtopic.php?p=26484#p26484.

Among the woodcuts, there is a difference between Bologna and Florence, mostly in small details and more in the suits than in the trumps, but it is good to look at representative samples of each. At viewtopic.php?p=26481#p26481, I gave a separate list for each, mostly from the websites of the British Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and For present purposes, one of each is enough. For Bologna, Peter Endebrock conveniently shows all 97 on one web-page at For Florence, the British Museum's Schreiber 53 is a good bet, because it is complete. But it is not very pretty, so I will be supplementing it. It is at ... 96-0501-41, from links at the generic pages for the minchiates at the British Museum and Gallica (BnF): ... asc&page=1 and ... de=desktop.

Finally, there is a proof sheet of the earliest woodcut version known, held by the German Playing Card Museum, pictured on p. 60 of Thierry Depaulis's 1984 Tarot: Jeu et Magie exhibition catalog, viewable at ... 7/mode/2up, or ... n/f66.item. It is mostly suit cards; only two trumps are there, trumps I and II. It is without doubt of the Florentine variety. I have discussed the differences between Florence and Milan’s woodcut series at viewtopic.php?p=26481#p26481 (the same as cited two paragraphs ago) and the post following.

So to begin. It seems to me that we have to ask, what would the inventor of the engraved (or "late") version have changed from, if his was earlier than the so-called "early" pattern? That is, it is not a question of artistic style, but of what it was he was redoing in his special way, perhaps drawing on other sources. The same question could be asked of the woodcut images. This means ignoring the subtle differences that could be based on the same sources.

So, for the Fool, the difference between the engraved and woodcut images is that the engraved has feathers and a pinwheel, while the woodcut lacks both and has instead the traditional foolscap; both have two children around them and a ball on a string.
So did the engraver add the feathers and pinwheel, or did the woodcutter subtract those items? Feathers are associated with folly already in Giotto’s “virtues and vices” in Padua ( ... shness.JPG) and the Visconti-Sforza Fool ( ... s/the-fool), but for the pinwheel the earliest I can find in a readily accessible source is the illustration of Psalm 52 in a Bible of 1490, Bodleian Library Douce 244. Children are in both the BnF’s “Charles VI” ( ... arles%20vi, above) and the d’Este ( Since both versions of minchiate are first known almost two centuries later, I can’t say which came first in minchiate. But the one without the pinwheel seems slightly more archaic, because pinwheels, based on my evidence so far, do not go back as far as tarocchi Fools.

The two versions of Papa Uno differ in that the performer in the woodcut faces the viewer with children behind on either side, while the woodcut faces the right side, looking at children at that side of the table. Side views as well as frontal ones existed a couple of centuries earlier than the minchiate examples - the Cary Sheet (without onlookers, far right below), the late 15th century Florentine “children of the planets” illustrations (adults) for Luna (my image is from Hind, Early Italian Engravings, Plate 127, and the Castelin Geoffoy, 1557 (far left in second row). But the frontal view and lack of onlookers is more archaic. Also, in this case it looks very much as though that the minchiate image (from Florence, third from left in second row, Schreiber 53) is midway, in its features, between the Rosenwald (second from left, from ... 41321.html) and the earliest Bologna card (1690s "Alla Torre," on Gallica). So probably the woodcut is earlier. That argument will not work for the Fool, because the Rosenwald Fool is not on the sheet Bologna Fool is something totally different, a drummer.
Then there is the Wheel. Where the engravings have a Fortuna with flying hair where the woodcudts have a man going down the wheel. The hair, was connected with the the saying “Seize Opportunity by the forelock.” In the 15th century, an illustration sometimes attributed to Mantegna showed Wisdom restraining a youth from grabbing her. A more readily available example is in the 1531 edition of Alciato’s Emblemata, under “In Occasionem” ( ... id=A31a017). The 1591 edition has her standing on a wheel: ... id=A91a121.
Several early tarocchi Wheels have donkeys (Budapest 5044, uncut sheet and copies, at, and below), or donkey ears (Brera-Brambilla, easy to find on Web; Visconti-Sforza, And the Bologna ca. 1500 card, part of the sheet now in the Ecole de Beaux Arts, Paris (far right), has the posture and things in the hands; the club of course replaces the usual scepter. Here I think the woodcuts have the edge on priority, because most of the associations come from earlier tarocchi, but not the lady with wind-blown hair.

For the World card, the engraving shows a map with the word “Europa” in the center, while the woodcuts have just a building or two, in Bologna’s productions invariably churches, but in Florence perhaps a Greco-Roman temple (third from left). It was towers among hills that dominated previous World cards, not maps, although perhaps the Visconti di Modrone offered a map of sorts, in that it was a kind of schematic picture of Lombardy (far right). A minchiate of Lucca at the British Museum (fourth from left) seems to show a tower on a hill. (The feminine angel is often seen in Florence, too, but not Bologna.) Exchanging her spear for a trumpet (a very different message!), adding some clothes as on the “Charles VI” (fifth from left) and showing just part of her, she could be the lady on the Modrone (detail below the others).
As for the change from buildings to the map, I think social factors should be considered. The early cards mostly just had the architectural features of northern Italy. A map with Europe in the center speaks of a vaster world, a continent and more, one opened up by the “voyages of discovery.” With an angel on top offering a crown to some and an arrow to others, there is also a sense of the mission of Europe to spread the message of salvation to the benighted rest of the world, so as to secure the crown of victory for Christianity everywhere, as Phaeded pointed out in another thread. So the engraved World card seems later than the woodcut

One other thing stands out: in the woodcuts, the three tarocchi virtues Temperance, Strength, and Justice, have crowns; the engraved have nothing special around their heads. The same is true of the engraveds' theological virtues and Prudence, which in the woodcuts have octagonal halos (see Prudence and Faith below). The tarocchi's three virtues had octagonal halos in the “Charles VI,” Rosenwald, and d'Este tarocchi, and the Florentine illustrations of Petrarch’s Triumph of Fame., among other subjects there. They soon fell into disuse, and only the halos remained, exclusively for holy personages. That again favors the woodcuts, even if only the theological virtues got the old octagonal variety, and the three tarocchi virtues had to settle for crowns. The lack of distinguished headgear in the engraved is shared by Mitelli's tarocchini as well as the ordinary tarocchini of his time, although for how much further back is unknown.

Faith among the theological virtues requires special attention for another thing: in the woodcuts she holds something in her left hand that could easily be mistaken for Prudence's mirror (below, she is far left and third from left below; third and fourth are of course Endebrock). I can understand why someone would change the object to a tablet, so as to distinguish the card clearly from the one before; it also offers a clear allegory relating to the Ten Commandments. I am not sure that the makers of the woodcuts in Florence even recognized the mirror-like object. Perhaps that is why they present the object more indistinctly and sometimes even give it a diamond shape fifth and sixth from left (Schreiber 53 and 56): that would distinguish the card from the one before, along with the hand she is using, in the woodcuts their left). I cannot understand why anyone would change the tablet to something so like what is on the preceding card, but it easy enough to understand the reverse, whether to the tablet or something else unlike a mirror.
The allegory is also unclear with the mirror-like object: what does it have to do with Faith? It bears some resemblance to a monstrance – a thin mounted glass cylinder holding a consecrated communion wafer – without clearly being one, as they usually had a cross on top and often golden rays as though emanating from what was inside. A monstrance is close to the way Faith was represented in the Visconti di Modrone, which has a communion cup, holder of the blood of Christ. In the Middle Ages, Faith was sometimes portrayed as holding a chalice or a baptismal font. The wafer similarly is the body of Christ ((Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of Virtue and Vice; font, pp. 45 n 2, 48, 56; "receiving the host", 53 n. 1 ). Perhaps the card makers were afraid of being accused of sacrilege. The red dots stenciled on one of the woodcuts might be an attempt to suggest a cross-staff, another attribute of Faith , seen on the Visconti di Modrone's Faith card (detail below).
The table of the law, being Jewish, is for a Christian less sacred than a monstrance. It is also more ecumenical - all versions of Christianity supported the Ten Commandments, only some held to the doctrine of transubstantiation. That may indicate a time when the battle lines between orthodoxy and heresy were already drawn, as opposed to when the lines were still being fought over. For any of these reasons, the woodcuts' depictions are probably earlier than the engraveds’ for this particular card.

Moving on to the four elements, there are differences in three of them, even if each draws on commonly made associations: landscape and buildings for earth, a ship on the sea for water, and birds and the sky for air. Wikipedia has a nice entry on "the classical elements" that gives several ways the elements were standardly imagined. These are perennial associations. However, the depictions of the two ships differ in that one looks considerably larger and more elaborate than the other. Ships did get significantly larger between the time of Columbus and the 17th century, owing to the needs of warfare and of traveling long distances on the open sea. So this is another instance where priority goes to the woodcuts.

There is also a matter of clarity and naturalness. The counter-reformation Church wanted messages to be clear and unambiguous. The words of church music were meant to be readily understood by the laity, and so was its art. Also, conventional symbolism was rapidly being replaced, or at least supplemented, by the sheer appreciation of nature and life. So a schematic representation of seven stars and layers of clouds would suggest "sky" rather than "air," and it makes sense that its schematic, unrealistic composition would give way to showing air as it really was, in between earth and sky, and stars as they really were, not in an orderly fashion but scattered here and there. If there is a row of stars, it is one that reminds us of Orion's belt. Moreover, the depiction of "earth" with flowing water in the center suggests water as much as earth; if it were not for the card with the ship, one wonder which it was. (The green water is absolutely typical. When I look at some Florentine decks, I see no blue at all: perhaps green was cheaper.) The landscape in nature is more to later taste than the exhibition of humans and their works, bridges and great buildings, or mythical creatures, in which the landscape is merely the setting. Since in being more naturalistic, color matters, I show also the earliest engraved version with color, the 1712-1722 on Gallica, although we don’t actually know when the color was added. All three of the engraved depictions of the elements seem later than the woodcuts' versions.
Then there are the signs of the zodiac. The woodcuts give two jugs for Aquarius, the engravings just one. Two jugs is one Renaissance way of representing Aquarius, seen in various books of hours and zodiacs. Sandyh posted a lot, both one jug and two, at viewtopic.php?p=20527#p20527. Below are from a Book of Hours at the Morgan and a 1496 zodiac of Troyes, France. Then one jug became standard. In the early tarocchi, there’s the ca. 1500 Cary Sheet Star card (from the Beinecke Library website), with two jugs and the tails of the two fish of Pisces in the water.
Taurus, between woodcuts and engravings, is also portrayed two ways; the woodcuts give the front half of the bull, propped up vertically on the ground its forelegs in the air, whereas the engravings (far left below) have a whole bull with all four feet on the ground. This is again a case of going for naturalism. The half-bull image was quite common. An example is in the 1496 zodiac, and also an illustrated Hyginus’ Poeticon Astrononicon of 1475 and 1482 Venice, at ... con-hygin/, both seen below. It continued in Bayle’s highly valued 1603 astronomical treatise, with the half-bull image that corresponded to the stars of that constellation.

For Gemini, Sandyh found Medieval and Renaissance examples of great variety at the link I just gave (and see also viewtopic.php?p=20599#p20599), all compatible with the various woodcut poses, of which the Endebrock (far right above) is one. Typically the non-minchiate examples in that era are a male and a female, although two males is not unusual. What is not found in the sources is an example where the pair are both clearly female, which is what we see in the “late” pattern minchiate (second from right above). That alternative can only have arisen from looking at early examples where the sex of at least one of the two is not clearly evident. Hence the engraved version again is later than the woodcut.

There are differences in the suits as well, but here the matter is more complex, because they were shared with regular decks, varying from region to region with a history of their own. Also, the woodcut versions vary more between Bologna and Florence, as well as both from the engraved version. I think enough has been said to show that the “early” woodcut versions are indeed earlier than the “late” engraved, at least as far as their distinctive trumps are concerned.