Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

n relation to traces of playing cards in Spain before 1377, Franco Pratesi quoted from a 26 page typescript of 1979, apparently unpublished, by the Yugoslav/Macedonian Prof. Pavle Bidev (1912-1988). It is written as a response to Michael Dummett’s 1979 review of his 1973 book Die Spanische Herkunft der Spielkarte [Spanish Origin of Playing Cards]. Dummett’s review can be read at ... 4?pw=Bidev and following (Journal of the IPCS, vol. 7, pp. 75-78). The essay touches on topics of concern in several other recent threads, notably those having to do with John of Rheinfelden, the relationship of his work to that of Cessolis on chess, the relationship between chess and playing cards generally, and the role of divination in the origin of playing cards. it is rather different in orientation from most of what we see on this forum.

I thank Franco for supplying me with a copy of the typescript from which this transcription is drawn. I ran the typescript through an Optical Character Recognition program; however in almost every third word or so there was at least one error. I expect that a few errors escaped me. I did not correct spelling or grammatical errors in Bidev’s unedited text but indicated them by “(sic)”; let me know about any likely errors and I will check the typescript. In two places Bidev drew circles around phrases and arrows to indicate where the phrases should have been placed. I hope I got them right. I have inserted photocopies of these places. Anyone who would like a copy of the typescript itself, please send me a Private Message.

Words in brackets are mine, mostly translations of his quotes in French and German. I did not try to translate the Latin. If anyone wants to give it a try, please do so. I indicated footnote numbers by parentheses (but I could not find number 1). The footnotes themselves were not part of the typescript.

The abbreviation “PC” obviously means “playing cards”.

So far, the only obvious defect I see is that while protesting that he couldn't have known about Ettinghausen's earlier Mamluk card (pre-1400) in 1971 (hence Dummett is being unfair), Bidev does know about it in 1979; if so, how does it affect his thesis of Spanish origin? He does not say. The answer might be another question: how does Ettinghausen know it's pre-1377 (to use Franco's dividing line), as opposed to post-1377 and for the common people rather than the more elaborate taste of the Istanbul set? Even if that question can be answered, and playing cards as we know them were first in China or someplace between Persia and today's India, or somewhere on the "Silk Road", there is still much of interest here, it seems to me. In any case, it deserves publication, if only in such a place as this.

"Yu-Igalo" on the title page seems, from a cursory Google Search, to be a spa-town somewhere in former Yugoslavia, perhaps Montenegro. Here is the essay.






Did Playing Cards originate from the Spanish Four Seasons Dice-Chess of 1283? -- Their Iconography from Miniatures in Copies of Cessolis’ Chess Sermon betw. 1337 and 1352

A Historical Discussion of the Great Question
By Yugoslav Chess-Master and - Historian Prof. Pavle Bidev

Motto; “The games are based upon certain fundamental conceptions of the universe.” Stewart Culin

The Journal of the Playing-Card Society republished in No. 3 of February 1979 an excellent article of 1878 by E.A. Bond on History of Playing Cards with a brief exposition of the MS~Moralisation on PC by the German monk, Dominican friar Johannes /Dom. Fr. John/, writing in 1377. But the review of my PC paper of 1973 by Mr. Michael Dimmett, a well known Oxford PC scholar, in the same issue of the PCS Journal, cannot be appreciated to be so excellent as the article of Bond, Mr, Dummett asserts many things I have not said in my PC essay of 1973. Dummett is wrong in asserting that I maintained 1973: “/7/ playing-cards were known, at least in Spain, from the late 13th century;” /I.c.p.76/.

I maintained that the protoform of Spanish Naipes was the famous hazard-game Grescha, known and played in Catalan from the beginnings of the 14th century. Grescha was not a true card-game, because, in my opinion, it had only “eyes of dice" on parchment or pasteboard-leaves. A similar evolution, from dice to PC, is attested in China much earlier than in Spain, precisely in the year 969. Between the year 1303, when Grescha is mentioned for the first time in Catalanian [sic] prohibitions of hazard-games and the Chinese year 969, however, there is an interval of 334 years.

I agree with Spanish authors, quoted 1874 in the paper of Florencio Janér (2) and 1886 in the book of Jose Brunet y Ballett (3) that the evolution from dice to PC in Spain is autochton.

The French sinologist and PC-hlstorian Henri Alibaux,writing in 1937 a book, on the history of printing, but destiné à l’usage prlvé [destined for private use], quotes a most precious passage from the encyclope-

dia Tzu-yuan explaining the transformation of dice to “dice on paper” or PC:

"Les livres de la dynastie T’ang étaient tous en forme de rouleaux. Plus tard vinrent les pages, comme celles dont on use de nos jours. Quand on voulait avoir un écrit facile a examiner rapidement, on le faisait sur des pages. De la même manière, pour avoir des dés d'une manière commode, on les fit sur des cartes; ceci fut l'origine du mot carte à jouer, yeh-tzu-ho, qui vient de yeh-tzu, page, feuille et signifie; dés-en-feuilles, dés-sur-pages. ~ Avant la fin de la dynastie T’ang, il y avait déjà des “dés-sur-pages". (4)

[“The books of the T'ang dynasty were all in roll form. Later came pages, such as those we use today. When they wanted to have writing easy to examine quickly, they did it on pages. Similarly, to have dice in a convenient manner, they made them on cards; This was the origin of the word playing card, yeh-ho-tzu, which came from yeh-tzu, page, sheet, and means: Dice-in-sheets, dice-on-pages. Before the end of the T'ang dynasty, there were already "dice-on-pages.”]

Mr. Dummett is wrong in assertion on p, 76, that the evidence cited by Joseph Needham in 1962 was known to the chess-historian H. J. R. Murray, writing in 1915. The precious Chinese document on the divinatory proto-chess Hsiang Hsi, from the year 569 A.D., was discovered by Needham before 1962; how could it be known to Murray in 1913?

Murray says on p. 122,1.c; note 5: "The moves in the Chinese game are more restricted than those in the Indian game. At first sight, following the analogy of the Western development of chess this suggests that the Chinese chess may preserve an older type of the game than we find even in the oldest Indian accounts, and even supports the view that chess is really of Chinese origin."

The tragic-comical scene on the stupa at Bharhut of Ashoka’s time before A.D., with a gameboard of 6x6 squares bearing some dice or uniform play-men, cannot be the Indian four-handed dice-chess. That is an absurdity of the first class, not worthy of mention. Dummett says; "On Bidev's own showing, four-handed chess existed in India by 1030 A.D., quite early enough to have inspired the invention of playing-cards there." (5)

My words are vitiated. I have in none of my numerous publications on chess-origin /not in 1973,too/ asserted, that the Arabic scholar al-Biruni did see in India about 1030 the true four-handed dice-chess with four-coloured pieces, so painted for play in a corrupted form of Chaturanga. I have once for all disproved the naive belief of Van der Linde /1874/, Murray /1913/ and of contemporain [sic] chess-historians, that the four-

handed dice-chess in the description of al-Biruni had any connections with the true four-colonred dice-chess. Al-Biruni has observed in India by 1030, how 4 players use the bicoloured pieces of two handed chess to play with dice for stake. He says: “The name of King applies here to the Firzan /Minister/” /Murray, 1913, p.58/.

It is clear that the 4 players used two Kings and two Firzans to play 2 against 2 with two-coloured men. Al-Biruni has named in his diagram the pieces with dark and blank ink, not in four colours./ For a most detailed discussion see my refutation of the views of the Sowiet [sic] chess-historian Isaak Linder (6).

Dumaett says on p. 76. below; "He /Bidev/ is unaware of the earlier Islamic- card in the de Unger collection published by Ettinghausen, and of course, of those published subsequently, and his remarks are therefore completely out of date."

How I could have known 1973, what Ettinghausen published in 1974, and what contained publications after 1974!?

Mr. Meissenburg received my MS on the Spanish origin of PC in 1971- Till the end of 1977 I had no one copy in my hands. Mr. Meissenburg send my essay to Dr. Kopp in Basle, Dr. Rosenfeld in Munich and so on in early 1978. I do not know the reasons for his doing so. Possibly he was handicapped by technical difficulties, In my paper of 1973 I presented the state of known facts about origin of PC till the year 1971.

Without a diagram of four-handed Spanish Four Seasons dice-chess we are unable to percieve [sic] how was it in appearance with his 4 groups of 4-colored chess-men representing the 4 Seasons, the 4 Elements, and the 4 Humours or rather Temperaments. In the annexed diagram made after Murray 1913, p. 349, the chess- pieces are not arranged according to the 4 Directions like in the Indian 4-handed Chatturanga. The white pieces representing Winter, Water and Phlegma, are put in the Northeast corner, the black ones representing Autumn, Earth and Melancholy - in the Southeast corner, in the Northwest corner are the green pieces representing Spring, Air and Blood, and finally, we have in the Southwest corner the red pieces standing for Summer, Fire and Choler.

NB two very important things: 1. Each group of pieces occupies

90° of the 360° grades inherent to each square or circle

2. In each corner there are three peaces [sic], King, Rook and Horse, the fourth is, of course, the Alfil /Bishop/, who is situated in one subcorner-square, between the Horse and Rook. There is no Fers, from which derivated our Queen. The promoted pawn became peon alferzado, one to the Fers promoted Pawn. Murray says:

"Green commences, and the order of the play is Green, Red, Black, White.

Each player attacks the player who succeeds him, and defends himself from the player who preceded him. There is no alliance between opposite players.

When a player was mated he fell out, his conqueror appropriated his surviving men, and the 3 survivors continuated [sic] the game. The final survivor won. The game was played for money..."

Murray was not aware that 4SChess was played with 3 dice. That is mentioned/explained in Alfonso's Chess book in the commentary explaining the rules of play for the board-game of the Four Seasons played with 48 uniform shaped small discs painted in the same 4 colours as pieces -and pawns of the 4Schess. These 48 discs may influenced the number of cards in Naipes (7). Alfonso X was known as fond of astronomy and astrology. The unusually chess - and board-games at the end of his MS are astronomic and astrologic. The arrangement of the 4 coloured pieces in the 4SChess is in accordance with the basic astronomic-astrologic principles: to each season is given 90°, and

three pieces to represent the 3 months of the year. Each season occupies a quarter of the year with 91 day expressed by the number 90° of the zodiacal quarter for each season.

Now, I have brought each suit of the four-coloured PC of the past with the Calendar, becauise 1 am firmly convinced that they are derivatives of the S4SChess in MS Alfonso. There must be, therefore, a close connection between the Calendar-symbolism of the four-coloured groups of chess-pieces in S4SC and the four-coloured groups-suits in the European pack of PC 52. My calculations are not of the kind to be found in books of occnltist writers on the Tarot. The most recent example of the last kind runs as follows in The Encyclopedia of Tarot by Stuart S. Kaplan, New York 1978, p. 9-10: ”52 cards in a pack suggest the 52 weeks of the year. 13 cards in each suit suggest the lunar months of the year and the 13 weeks in each quarter, 4 suits in the pack suggest the 4 seasons of the year. 12 court or picture cards in the pack suggest the 12 months of the year and the signs of the zodiac..... The pips on the plan [sic] cards of the 4 suits = 220. The pips on the 12 picture cards = 12. 12 picture cards counted as 10 each = 120. The number of cards in each suit = 13. We shall obtain the number of days in the year, etc., 365. Finally, adding all the letters in ace, 2, 3, etc., through king, the total is 52. The same is true in French and German."

Kaplan himself is not convinced in this calendar symbolism of PC 52, but quotes comparisons made by popular writers of the last century.

Han Janssen In his Speelkaarten, Bussum 1965, in the chapter Cijfergrapjes, p. 113-114, has overpowered Kaplan's examples in this not serious occultist numerology, which has nothing to do with a scientific analysis of a given question to be solved, Dr. W. B. Crow brings in a more serious manner than Janssen and his predecessors the pack of 52 cards in close correction with the Calendar. I am not fond of such occultist speculations,

In support of my symbolic interpretation of PC 52 concerning the greatest number 364 [sic] or 360 as given, [blank space in text, 5 spaces total, 3 spaces for a possible word] the German and Swiss pack of cards, I can quote numerous ethnologic and cultural-morphologic examples known not only from in histories of board- and card-games, but also well established by historians of religious rites, sacred architecture, mystical philosophies, and so

on. But before I undertake to confirm my numbers 365 and 360 by ethnological parallels, it is my duty to declare myself as the follower of the greatest investigator of board-games, and partly card-games of all times and countries. I have in mind the American ethnologist Stewart Culin died in 1929. His work Chess and Playing-Cards, Washington 1898, is, in my opinion, the most important among the dozen of other of his books on board-games and divinatory techniques.

It is a well known fact that Culin derives both chess and PC from the divinatory use of arrows. The basis of all divinatory systems arises, after Culin, from the primeval magical classification of all things according to the Four Directions, This basic magical notion is further high developed in to more magical Directions in the old Chinese view of the world, in the prescientific methods of investigation, of Chinese scholars, as proved in Needham’s many volumes of his Science and Civilisation in China /published in Cambridge before and after 1960. By the way, Needham is an ardent follower, like myself, of the Culin’s method of investigation of structural, numerical and symbolical values in old dice- and board-games, in Chess and PC. I have accepted as true the Culin's ingenious idea, and elaborated it into a consistent system for investigation of board- and card-games. But I have enlarged his Four Directions into further Eight, Ten, Twelve, and Sixteen Directions to cover many sistems [sic] in board- and card-games. Eor example, the Korean PC cannot be explained by Four Directions, but by Eight Magical Directions, according to the Eight Points of the Compass; the Indo-Persian card-game Ganjifa, too, is based upon Eight Directions.

Mr. Dummett invites me to explain the connection between Qanjifa and PC 52. In the former there are two systems involving the Sun- and Moon-years. It is known that the evaluation of pip-cards vary and is inversely depending according to the circumstances, if .the game is played by day or by night. There must be, therefore, a connection between Ganjifa and the solar symbolism in PC 52; but who can explain how European PC 52 has influenced Ganjifa to add the system of Moon-year to the solar year of PC 52? Or possibly, the Spanish Moors have in the 14th

century disjuncted both systems and chose the solar Christian year? Impossible, because they are adorants of the Moon. It is therefore more credible that Muslims in India have added the lunar system of 48 cards to the solar system .of 48 cards in Ganjifa. Seamen of Portugal have possibly imported Naipes in India, for Japan this "cultural” import of a hazard game is proved.

For the explanation of day- and night-symbolism in Ganjifa can possibly help the following example that for India quotes the well known historian of religions, Mircea Eliade: “In Indien findet sich ein noch deutlicheres Beispiel. Wir haben gesehen, dass die Errichtung eines Altars, eine Wiederholung der Kosmogonie ist, dass 'der Feueraltar das Jahr ist' und erklaren seinen Zeitsymbolismus auf folgende Weise: die 360 Einfriedungsziegel entsprechen den 360 Nachten des Jahres und die 360 yajusmati-Ziegel den 360 Tagen /Shatapatha-Brahmana X, 5, 4, 10 usw/. Mit jedem Altarbau wird nicht nur die Welt neu gemacht, sondern auch 'das Jahr errichtet'; mit anderen.Wortern, man regeneriert die Zeit, indem man sie neu erschafft.” (8)

[In India we find an even clearer example. We have seen that the establishment of an altar is a repetition of the cosmogony that 'the fire altar is the year", explaining its time-symbolism in the following manner: the 360 enclosure bricks [or tiles] correspond to 360 nights of the year and the 360 yajusmati bricks [or tiles] to 360 days / Shatapatha Brahmana X, 5, 4, 10, etc. /. With each Altar constructed not only is the world made new, but also 'the year is built’; in other words, one regenerates time by creating anew." (8)]

Dr.H. von Leyden informes [sic] us that India had in the past, too, a king of type Alfonso X in Raja Krishnaraja III of Maisur /1794-1868/. He wrote the book Kautuknidhi containing description of King’s 13 various games of cards, named chada. They embrace in a pack from 36 till 360 cards. (9) They treat cosmologic, mythologic, epic and astrologic themes.

An Old Indian Sutra requires 360 songs-hymns for the morning litany. (10) In Mahabharata are mentioned 360 cows as mothers of the /cosmic/ calf, in fact the Sun disc. Both examples do make allusion on the circuit of the 360 days of the year (11).

The atmospheric charming ghosts apsaras /female/ are enumerated 360 for preference. They decide the fate of men and of hazard-players whose dice fall down at will of apsaras. They are depicted, too, holding dice in their hands. (12).

The most famous rite in the past of India was the sacrifice of a horse, ashvamedha, for Raja’s long life and prosperity. After a rigide [sic] request of the ritual the animal was left to live in freedom at will during 365 days of a year, before it was sacrificed. (13)

Chinese examples with the numbers 360 and 365 are more interesting, and more numerous. The most known is that in the famous board-game Go, or Chinese, Wei-ci [accent acute over c]. The square of the board is intersected by 19x19 lines. Round the central point, named the heart of the Universe, are progressively arranged the other 360 points in concentric squares. Two players, white/Red/ and Black, have each 180 uniform discoidal counters of glass. They are posted alternatively on the 360 points of the board, encircling each other in white and black groups. The 4 angles each with 90° represent the Four Seasons, 4 points in vicinity of the 4 angles are marked with asterisks and represent 4 of the 8 kua from the famous divining Book of Changes. These 4 trigrams are named in Go: sun or Wind, in the nortbwest, khan, or Water, in the Southwest, khun, or earth, in the Northeast, and cien [accent acute over c], or Heaven, in the Southeast, Ci [accent acute over c] is spoken like Chi, but not hard. (14) [NB: Chinese Four, resp. Eight Directions are different, not the same as on our rose of winds; we see the same or very similar ideas from the astrologic lore are taken as constructive principles both in Spanish chess of the Four Seasons, and in Go. PC 52 contain the same astrologic basis, for otherwise they could not be used as instrument for fortune~telling, I am not fond of astrology and her horoscopes but I can not dis-prove the evident proofs for the true origin of board- and card-games as given by the Kings Alfonso X and Raja Krishnaraja III, and by the famous scholars Culin and Needham.(15).

It is important to hear what Culin says about the cosmologic symbolism in Go: "Simple as the game appears, it embodies a certain complex elements based upon primitive notions of the universe, which, although they may in part be secondary and late additions, are of the highest interest. Thus the points, black and white, are regarded as representing the nights and days, the 4 "angles" the 4 seasons, and the 361 of intersection of the board /360+1/ the nights and days in the year, 9 stations at the intersections, which are marked with spots upon the board, are, in the same manner, said to correspond with the 9 Lights of Heaven /Sun, Moon, and the 7 stars of the Dipper/". (16)

The 360+1 crossed points are, in my opinion, more connected with the 360° along the circle of the Zodiac. The board of Go is therefore an astrologic quadrature of the heavenly circuit of the Sun.

It is well known that Chinese chess contains, like the Indian Caturanga [accent acute on C], 32 pieces, but they are placed and moved as red and black painted discs, with the name of each figure, on the 90 points of intersection. The middle 'River', Milky Way, divides the both camps, each containing 45 points, Chinese chess-playing-cards are made by 4x32 chess-pieces painted with their names in 4 colours: Green, White, Red, and Yellow.

The numerical values of the 32 chess-pieces are given in a Chinese encyclopedia as follows: General/King = 20, Chariot/Rook = 10, Cannon = 7, Horse/Knight = 6; Elefant/Bishop 4; Adjutant/Queen 3; and Soldier/Pawn = 2, Two Rooks are valued 20, 2 Cannons 14, 2 Horses 12, 2 Bishops 8, 2 Adjutants 6, and 5 Pawns 10. Now, Kings/Generals’ value is said 20, plus that of 2 R 40, plus that of 2 C 54, plus that of 2 H 66, plus that of 2 B 74, plus that of 2 A 80, plus that of 5 P 90, The total value of playing discs in one camp ils, accordingly, the same as the number of points in a half of the board. (17) The 32 pieces in Chinese chess have the value 180.

Now, when the Chinese chess-playing cards are made by the formula 4x32 = 128 chess PC on paper or pasteboard, their value must be, of course, 4x180 = 780 [sic], or 360 plus 360. We have obtained possibly the number of days and nights in a year, like in the Indian ritualistic construction of an altar by 360 plus 360 tiles representing days and nights of a year.

The essential point is, that the Chinese regard their chess not as a total with the numerical value 360 like in Go, but as a quarter of the world with 90 points. By fourfolding the number 90 they succeed to have in the 4 suits/groups of their chess-playing cards the grand number of the Universe, 360, or more precisely, twice 360. (18)

In support of my not-occultistic numerological investigations of Calendar-symbolism as found in board- and card-games of Old and Middle Ages, I can quote some other examples chosen from the ethnologic/folk/lore from Scandinavia, Ancient Mexico and Egypt.

The wellknown [sic] chess-historian Murray has given an excellent elaborate mini-monography on the Norss board-game tafi /meaning table/ or hnefatafl, in his History of Board-games other than Chess, Oxford 1952, p, 55-64. On page 7 Murray says that the board had originally 18x18 cells, but that ii was reduced to 11x11 cells in Wales under the name Tawlbwrdd, to 9x9 cells in Lapland under the name Tablut, to 7x7 cells in Ireland under on [sic] unrecorded name. In Pre-conquest England the game was named Tafl, in Scandinavia and Iceland Tafl, or Hnefatafl, after the name Hnefi /King?/ of the principal white piece. /l.c .p. 55 and foll./

Now, Hnefatafl was originally played, as yet mentioned, on a board of 18x18 cells, but the white and black men were placed and moved not on the cells but along the 560+1 points like in Go. Murray says: "Two persons play, one having a king, placed on the central point or cell /like in Tablut, P.B./ and a number of men who are arranged symmetrically round the edge of the board. Both king and men posses [sic] the rook's move in chess. Men are captured by interception, the central cell /or point, P.B./ counting for this purpose as occupied by the side making the capture; the king is only captured if the 4 adjacent cells in row end columnare [sic] all occupied by enemy men. A man can move to a cell between 2 enemy men without capture. Ths player with the king wins if in his turn of play the king has an open row or column to the edge of the board; his opponent wins if he captures the king. In his wonderful treatise De Iside et Osiride Plutarch informs us, in Chapter 12, how god Hermes /Egyptian Thoth/ played with the goddess of Moon Selena a board-game in the course of a year consisting of 360 days, Hermes succeeds to win from each day a 1/72, accordingly 360 x 1/72, from which parts he made five whole days, so that the year could have 365 days. In the named 5 days are born one after the other Osiris, Horus, Typhon, Isis and Nephtys.

Dr. Max Pieper comments the story of Plutarch as follows: "This story is now for us instructive insomuch, as to show; that with the Egyptians had existed a game whose winning rule! was, to express it in contemporain [sic] German, to score 360 Points. How was that possible on a board with 30 cells?"

Pieper has in mind the ancient Egyptian board-game Sen’t played on a board, in the form of a rectangle 3x10, His size was in accordance with the Egyptian month consisting of 30 days and 3 weeks, each having 10 days.

Pieper points to a Greek papyrus found at Oxyrrynchos, explaining the riddled winning rule as given by Plutarch. The papyrus describes a game-board with 30 squares and explains that winner is that player who succeeds to score 360 by moving his counters from the 15th till the 30th square. And in fact, if we sum the numbers from I5 till 30 it appears from their addition the astronomic number 360.

The first square in Sen't was named after the ancient Moon-god Thoth, the last after the young Sun-god Horus. Most of other squares bore names of various gods and goddesses; four squares were named after Fire, Water, Orion and Nighty [sic] Sky." (19)

In Herodot's History there are numerous examples with the numbers 360, 365. In the tomb of Tutank-Amon were found 365 statuettes of field-workers to serve the young pharaon [sic] in his life post mortem. (20)

J. Needham cites in Volume 2 of his monumental history of scientific researches in Ancient and Medieval China the following list of prescientific classification after the astrologic number 360: "Of feathered animals there are 360 kinds /there would be, of course, on account of the approximative number of days in the year - commentary of Needham/, and the phoenix is their headman; of hairy animals - 360 kinds, and the unicorn is their headman; of animals with carapaces 360 kinds, and the dragon is their headman; and of naked animals 360 kinds, and the Sage is their headman.'' (21)
The carapace of the tortoise was interpreted as representing the heaven-firmament by her upper voluted half, and the Earth by her flat half. In the techniques of divination, magicians in Ancient China burned by fire the heavenly half of the carapace, and co\uld afterwards discern 360 very small splits, after which fortune-telling was made. (22)

In the famous Chinese medieval art of acupuncture there were primitively discerned along human body 360 different points for puncture /now, their number is doubled/. They were situ-

ated in 12 groups and 4 zones. The same things we have in ancient and medieval board~ and card-games. European PC 52 can play the role of an instrument for fortune-telling only upon the fact that their composition with its numerical values is made in accordance with pseudoscientific principles of the magical divinatory art of astrology.

Mr. Dummett says on page 78, in commencement: "... Detlef Hoffmann has amply demonstrated that divination with playing cards is a very late development. "

This assertion cannot be true, because Dom. fr, John is evidencing for the use of PC 52 in his time /1377/ to predict good and bad fortune. I am sorry that Dr. Hoffmann does not mention the name of fr. John in both his books of 1972 /Wahrsagekarten with collaboration of Mrs Erika Kroppenstedt. The evidence of fr. John is of so great importance that it deserves to be cited in Latin original and English translation:

"Nam communis forma et sicut primo pervenit ad nos est talis quod quatuor reges depinguntur in quatuor cartulis quorum quilibet sedet in regali solio. Et aliguid certum signum habet in manu. EX QUIBUS SIGNIS ALIQUA REPUTANTUR SIGNA BONA, ALIA AUTEM MALUM SIGNIFICANT /high letters by me, P.B. According to the MS of Basle from 1429, F.IV.43, Leaf 3r.

Translation in English by E, A, Bond in 1878, see JPCS, l.c. p. 70: "For the common form and as the first came to us is thus, viz. four kings are depicted on four cards, each of whom sits an a royal throne. And each holds a certain sign in his hand, OF WHICH SOME ARE REPUTED GOOD, BUT OTHER SIGNIFY EVIL".

55 years prior of fr.John there is the evidence of the Jewish writer Kalonymos b. Kalonymos writing in Catalonia 1322 his book Eban Bechan /Proof-Stone/, His klemazpia is in my opinion, rather an instrument of prevision than that of vision. In his time PC were not knowm in Spain in form of Naips but only in their protoform of dice-game Grescha consisting only of 36 "eyes"--cards, The eyes are, of course, the black dots of dice from which paper cards evolueted [sic] 969 in China, and about or prior of 1300, in Spain, Both transformations of dice-eyes into numbered with pips PC are made by lovers of magic and astrology, not by common people, to serve as instruments of

fortune-telling. It is an universal law that instruments for gambling and hazard-games are used at first in their primeval holy stadium in sacred religious and magical rites. Their use as games for recreation and gambling out of sacred rites is a much posterior phase in the origin and evolution of board- and card-games.

In support of my conjecture that Kalonymos mentions Grescha as a dice-eyes card-game for pre-vision of good or bad fortune, can serve Chinese dominoes. They are known as unique fortune-telling instrument among yellow nations, especially in China. Chinese dominoes have their progenitors either in dice or in Chinese dice-PC. Needham derives Chinese dominoes, ya phai, from the cubical dice, and Chinese PC, yeh tzu, from dominoes, who are, after Needham, too, the progenitors of the famous game, ma chhiao, or Ma Jongg. (23) He refers in his Table 53: Chart to show genetic relationships of games and divinatlon techniques... to pages of Culin’s work Chess and Flaying Cards, Washington I895. Very important is the title of Needham's Chart: Astronomical Symbolism! Needham is guided, like myself, by the famous phrase of Culin; "The games are based upon certain fundamental conceptions of the Universe."

Gerhard von Kujawa derives dominoes from the sticks of Runen, Runenstäbe, who are thrown by the priest or king to pose questions to oracle. PC atr, after von Kujawa, too, derivatives of dominoes, and the card-game is, in his turn, a fruit of printing art (24)

I agree with Schreiber's supposition that at first appeared among Muslims the 36 numbered from 1 till 9 pip-cards. They are fortliving [sic] in Spanish Naipes who are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9; the Court-cards Kings, Horses or Horsemen, aiid Jacks are numbered resp, 10, 11 and 12. If we add the 4 Queens with their respective number 13, we shall obtain a true Four Seasons PC pack with the general numerical value 360. My joke with the jo-ker [sic] in 1973 was, of course, not serious. I had forgotten, then, that Joker appeared in PC about the middle of the 19th century. Amnesis senilis!

The Catalan word daus in Swiss and German PC-systems is a strong proof for my assertion that Naipes reached possibly prior of

1400 both sides of Alpes. The highly evolueted [sic] Aces /from Spanish-Catalan el as/ with their Banners are now represented in the Swiss and German 10s. The numeral X is a later addition. The transformation of the Aces into the 10s can rest on conscious or subconscious motifs of man's soul, to have in PC the number of totality 360, the preferred symbol of perfection /as given in the circle of Heaven or the square of Earth/ in Astrology of all times. (25) The assertion of Dom. fr. John that there were 52 cards as they reached Germany in 1377, do not give support to my supposition. Nulla regula sine exceptlone! The Catalan word daus can serve, of course, as support for my assertion,

I do not revive the etymology of Naipes from nabi /that is impossible/, but only suggest that PC in Spain have had possibly two Arab names; a secret name Nabi meaning prophet, and a public name Naib, a consciously corrupted anagram of Nabi.

Destruction of an 550 years old illusion; The famous gold-coin suit has NEVER existed in PC and Tarot!

I am sorry that Mr. Dummett did not take into consideration the following three, in my opinion, very important phrases on page 15 of my paper in 1973: "In den Händen der als Adligen aufgefassten Schachfiguren bei Jacobus de Cessolis und in den Händen der als Angehörige von Handsberufen ausgedeuteten Schachbauern finden sich viele Gegenstände, unter anderen auch die Zeichen der vierfarbigen Spielkarten. Wir brauchen sie deshalb nicht am Hofe des mameluckischen Sultans in Aegypten zu suchen, wie es Rosenfeld ausdrucklich betont, Alles im Kartenspiel ist durch und durch westeuropäisch: Trachten, Zeichen, Farben, format und Jahreszeitensymbolik."

[“In the hands of the nobles conceived as chess pieces by Jacobus de Cessolis and in the hands of the family of professions indicating chess pawns, there are many items, among others the signs of the four colored playing cards. We therefore do not need to look at the court of the Mamluk sultan in Egypt, as Rosenfeld expressly emphasizes, Everything in the card game of cads is through and through Western European: costumes, characters, colors, dimensions and Seasons symbolism.”]

With the last phrase /without 4 Seasons Symbolism/ agrees with me Van der Linde /1874/, Brunet y Ballet /1886/, and many other PC-scholars.

The destruction of’ the ill-fated nonexistent gold-coin-suit is based upon following arguments:

Since more than 10 years I was aware that the Spain oros, rcsp. Italian denari, and the German-Swiss Schellen could not derive from the misinterpretation of any common ancestral gold coin. The discrepancy between the two suit signs is so great that

they do not confer on the very slightest probability of a common money origin. I was searching after the true genetic source for the 4 suit signs, and my knowledge of chess-history literature enabled me to find out the second chess source for the iconography of PC 52 in the famous I3th/14th chess sermon Liber de moribus hominium et officiis nobilium super ludo scachorum by the Dominican friar Jacobus de Cessolis /Dom. fr. Jacob/, native of Cessole d'Asti in Lombardy, Italy / His sermon is registered in many European Libraries, in more than 100 MS and prints, under shortened title De ludo scachorum. Italian chess historian Dr. Adriano Chicco states in his Chess Encyclopedia “Friar Jacob predicated long time in Lombardy; between 1317 and 1322 he was in Genova, in the Convent of St. Dominic.” This statement is not firmly proved. (26)

The pattern after which Dom, fr, John compiled his PC sermon of 1377 was possibly an original Latin MS of De ludo Scachorum, or more credibly, in my opinion, the not printed French MS-translation of Latin MS of Dom. fr, Jacob, made by the Paris Dom. fr.Jean /Jehan/ Ferron. His translation into French of chess sermon by fr. Jacob was finished on parchment, on May 4, 1347, in Paris. The second MS of the same translation was made in 1352 on leaves of parchment, adorned with 16 miniatures ingold and colours representing the chess pieces as noblemen, and pawns as labourers and workers. (27)

This pictured 1352 chess pieces in the form of 16 coloured miniatures are trough [sic] the centuries searched chess patterns for European PC 52.

In his PC: sermon of 1377 John connects, in Preface, L.2v. morality of chess and PC twofold, in Part I, and makes allusion .to the. friar of his order, the notnamed [sic] author of chess morality. It may be Jacob, or his translator in Paris, Dom. fr. Ferron. Here the words of fr, John: ”... Materie autem huius tractatus trahi possunt ad ludum scacarum utrobiqne sint regine et principes et vulgares ut sic sit quasi tractatus utriusque ludi in materia morali...
Nam quilibet ludus realis aliquid pretendit et significat genere moris quad per exorcicium ludi figuratur ut patet de ludo scacarum/ in the margin: Alius Autor ab illo/ de quo eciam qui-

dam frater ordinis nostri pulcrum composuit tractatum ipsumque ludum trabendo ad hominium mores”/ l. c, Part 1 Chap l, L.5r./ The Part II of Cessolis’ chess sermon is connected with the noble chessmen and their duties, the part II with the pawns interpreted as commoners representing different working men, Friar Jacob had given in detail very precise instructions concerning the iconography of both main divisions of European medieval society. The clergy is not represented. Why? Because fr. Jacob had in mind to satirize, not to praise the hierarchy of nobility. That is my opinion and of West German chess historian Egbert Meissenburg. (28)

Now, in Chapter 1, Part II, it is given, in the commencement, the clue for the solving the mystery about the ill-fated misinterpretation of King's gold apple as gold coin oro in Spain /Portugal, resp. denari in Italy, and yellow, gilt Schellen in Switzerland and Germany. The Chapter 1 concerns the King and is entitled in Cessolis’ chess sermon De forma et moribus capitulum; it beginns [sic] as follows: "Rex sic formam accepit a principio, Nam in solio positus fuit purpures indutus regali, que est vestis regalis hominis, in capita corona, in manu dextra haberis sceptrum et in sinistra pilam rotundam, id est pomum Aureum". King's gold apple! That is misinterpreted as oro in Spain/Portugal, and as gilt Schellen in Swiss/Germany (29). From the annexed 15 miniatures to be found in the German translation of Cessoliade /chess sermon of Cessolis/, made in 1407 (30), there may be drawn the following conclusions:

1, The two horsemen: the Rook or King's legate, and the Knight, are smelted together into the PC unique mounted figure-card of Caballero or caballo in Latin Naipes /Knights, Horsemen in Tarot PC 54/. Who can say the true verity about the chess origin of PC? We have; three different systems; Latin PCS 48, French-English PCS 52, Tarot PCS 54. Swiss-German PCS 48 can be interpreted as a variation of Naipes or as an abbreviated form of PCS 52.

2. The Queen holds the sign of sceptre upwards like the King. This royal symbol .is in the form of fleur-de-lis, so often found on certain court cards. His origin in now plausibly explained from the colored chess-cards.

3. Knight holds his sword upwards.

4. The second horseman is Rook interpreted in Cessoliades as King's legate. He holds in the annexed chess-cards a branchelet with flowers. In other versions of PC, he holds a staff.
Cessolis says: "habens in manu dextra virgam extensam." A flower, rose, is mentioned in Guldin Spil of Dom. fr. Ingold, writing in 1432, among the suits signs. In the Swiss PC the rose is preserved as sign instead of cups or hearts.

5. The Pawn numbered 8 is the workman before the judge /Al-il [or Alfil?] in Medieval chess/, now Bishop. This Pawn holds two signs upwards: a sword-shaped shear and a long knife, Cessolis says: "habet in manu sua dextra forcipem, in sinistra gladium acutum et magnum."

6. The Pawn numbered 10 is the physician-apothecary before the Queen. She holds two signs upwards, an open book and a pharmaceutic vessel. The same chess-card is interpreted as playing-card on the title page of Gatherings in honor of Dorothy B. Miner, edited by Ursula E. McCracken and others. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 1974

8, The Pawn numbered 11 is the inn-keeper with a small viny vessel. Both vessels are interpreted in PC as viny cups, chalices, goblets.

9. The second group hold most of signs downwards, and is headed by the King's Judges named in Cessoliades Alfins, They hold upon the knees an open book. This chess card is a true icona, and explains the vehement sermons preached by Capistrano and other churchmen against the PC in the early 15th cent.

10, And the last, but not the least, because today the first, is the Pawn a2, rcsp. a7, numbered 15 in my source. Cessolis says; "... habens. in manu dextra modicam pecuniam, in sinistra vero tres taxillos, et in corda, quam habet pro cingulo, pixidam litteris plenam. He is ribaldus, lusor et cursor. It may be that he is fortliving [sic; fort = strong] in the Swiss /Brief/ Botte, Stadtläufer, and that his dice and coin may throw some light on the same things in Tarot first card of the Magician.

To make a summary: All sorts of staves and branches, together with the royal scepter are reduced to the suit of Clubs or Bastos, Bastoni, All sorts of sharp or other weapons am3 instru-

ments are reduced to the suit of Spadas, or Espadas. Spades, All sorts of coins- together with the misinterpreted King’s gold apple, are reduced to the suit of Oros, Denari or Schellen. And finally, the two vessels in the hands of apothecary and innkeeper are reduced, as yet said, to the suit of Cups, Culin is right; The classification in the new invented divinatory card-game, thrown out from the chess card-pieces, is made according to the Four Directions, to represent Four Seasons, Four Elements, The staves are, of course, combustibles, the source of fire, and they symbolize the Element of Fire. The cups are ready to be filled with all sorts of fluid matter, called in Astrology Element of Water. Wine, too, is but a kind of fluidity, like all other liquids. The wholy [sic] matter in the state of all sorts of water, like rain, melted snow, wine, all apothecary liquids, and so on, is called in Astrology-Alchemistry, and occult science Water.

The hard metallic coins, no matter if of gold, silver or diamond, represent the solid matter, called in above pseudoscience Earth. Finally, the metallic swords stand for the fourth element of Air or Wind.

That my interpretation is on right lines, can serve in support the chosen symbols in the oldest European PC, the “Hunting" Pack of Stuttgart from about 1427/1430, and the Ambras Hofjagdspiel, from about 1440/45.

The 4 suit signs in the former are falcons representing the Element of Air, ducks representing the Element of Water, stags representing the Element of Fire, because their homestead, forest or wood, is source for combustibles producing fire. And finally, the fourth suit sign is hound, an animal bound to the earth.

In the second “Hunting” Pack of Ambras, falcons and herons stand for Air and Water, hounds and lures for Earth and Fire. Warmth is a product of eating.

It is generally assumed that Cessolis began in 1275 to preach about the morality based on the symbolic Interpretations of great chess pieces as noblemen and small pawns as commoners. Most of the authorities are convinced that in the same year 1275 or possibly not much later friar Jacob began to write his

sermon. Both chess sources for the explanation of iconography and composition of PC 52, Cessoliade of l275 and Alfonsiade of 1283 may be dated back to the same mediaval period, the last quarter of the 13th century.

I am deeply convinced that our PC originated among friars - lovers of astrology, and other in secret taught occult sciences. We are indebted to these '‘black Magicians", may be among Dominican friars, for the invention of PC. The first document with the corrupted name of PC ludus cartorum instead of ludus cartarum, is found in the archives of the convent of Monte Cassino in Italy, in 1371. In my paper of 1973 I have elucidated the plausibility for the acceptance of ludus cartorum to be read as ludus cartarum. The learned monks of Monte Cassino have coined the first expression in a humorous wordplay after the performed business /work/ in the market-hall of the town.

The true PC /not the dice-PC-Grescha of 1303/ have not existed, in my opinion, prior to the year 1352. The 16 illuminated chess pieces miniatures in the second French translation of Cessoliade by Dom. fr. John Ferron have possibly inspired after 1352 some of his colleagues to add to the pip-cards of Grescha the pictured chess-pieces. The number of 52 leaves of parchment upon which is written the second Ferron's translation of Cessoliade, as they are preserved in the Royal Library at Stockholm, might have suggested the mind of the inventor of PC to transfer his ideas on the same number of 52 leaves of PC, probably made of parchment in a time when paper fabrication was not in existence in Europe, in the true sense of the word.

With the destruction of the famous, but in fact not existent in the true sense of the word suit of gold coins, should be annihilated for ever the supposition of the 9 fervent apologists in favour of the Oriental origin of European PC 52. I have in mind the nine stars on the historical scene where Orientalists and Occidentalists fight their battles about the Great Question They are:

1. Stewart Culin who started with an article in 1895, Origin of Playing Cards - Journal of American Folklore/ July 1895, with the thesis that the suits in Chinese paper-money-cards,

esp. money suit may have inspired the coin suit, and the whole set of European PC 52.

2. Henry William Wilkinson who started also in 1895 with a similar idea in his article The Chinese Origin of Playing Cards in: “American Anthropologist”, Washington, January 1855, Vol. 8, p. 61.

3. Thomas Francis Carter: The Invention of Printing in China, and its Spread Westwards, Hew York. He started with two thesis [sic]: Ancestors of PC may have been either ancient Taoist seal-charms or they are derivatives from early Chinese dice, attested in 969 as leaves-on-dice.

4. Henri Alibaux, a French sinologist, accepted the second thesis of Carter in his book L’invention de l’imprimerie en Chine et en Occident, Paris 1957. This book was destiné à l’usage privé, and it is therefore almost unavailable,

5. Hellmut Rosenfeld published in the last 22 years papers in favour of the Indian origin of PC 52. They would be a derivative, without a board, of the Hindu Four Persons Dice-chess Chaturanga, In his two articles of 1973 and 1977, however, he believes not more in his thesis, and points to Persia as birthland both of European, Indian and Chinese /il/ PC.

6. Joseph Needham started in 1962 in favour of Chinese origin of PC from their dominoes. He is, however, not aware of contradiction that Chinese dominoes appeared in 1220 and Chinese dice-PC in 969. European PC are derivatives from Chinese PC.

7. Richard Ettinghausen wrote in 1974, in his Further Comments on Mamluk Playing-Cards: "In any case, the Spanish naypes cards have preserved for us - what I assume to be - the tradition of all male Islamic court-cards."

8. Rndolf von Leyden presented 1975 in Leinfelden his paper "Oriental Playing-cards” An attempted Exploration of Relationships. He cannot conceive how it was possible that PC suddenly appeared in 1377 in Europe "from nothing". He points therefore, too., to the Orient as homeland of PC, and to Mamluk Egypt as transition-land for European PC.

9. And finally, the God-Father of Tarot, Stuart R. Kaplan, writes in his monumental Encyclopedia of Tarot, in his conclusions on page 345: "It is likely that some artistic indi-

vidual, probably of eastern origin ‘invented’ card designs in the fourteenth century, as evidenced by the Mamluk cards bearing Islamic influence. These court cards, which lack pictures, and the pip cards were probably brought across the Mediterranean to enter Europe through either Spain or Italy. Subsequently, in the early fifteenth century another creative person devised the twenty-two trionfi. It is conceivable, although doubtful, that early court and pip cards were influenced by chess and dice..."

On page 56 Kaplan says: "If Mamluk cards are the Miss Ing (my wordplay). Link in the migration of playing cards from Asia to Europe, then it is conceivable that the fifteenth-century Italian suit signs of spade, bastoni, coppe and denari are adaptations of earlier Islamic suits of scimitars, polo sticks, cups and coins. Polo sticks, not generally recognisable in Europe, may have been stylised as staves and batons."

The same Kaplan has, however, discredited on page 6 the curved form of Islamic scimitars as they appear in most Italian tarot packs. Kaplan gives the following plausible explanation for the autochton Italian curvity of the suited swords: "In most tarot packs the suited swords are curved and interlace at top and bottom, while the staves or batons are straight and interlace at the center. This is one easy method of distinguishing between the otherwise similar, and sometimes confusing, suits of swords and staves.”

What is now true: That Mamluk copists [sic] of Italian PC with the suited curved swords have interpreted the last signs as scimitars, resp. curved sabres, or that Italians copists have adopted the Mamluk scimitars as curved swords?

The following three things are doubtless: 1. The green colour of the Latin suit bastos, bastoni, do not appear in Mamluk PC of Istanbul Museum in Top-Capi-Saray. Mamluk copists of Italian PC could not it adopte [sic] because the holy colour of the Islamic religion is green as attested upon their holy emblem: the green flag contered with a yellow halfmoon and a yellow fivestar. 2. The winered [sic] segment of Latin cups do not appear also in the upper part of the Mamluk cups. They are throughout gilt, resp. without a red viny segment in the mouth. The wine

is forbidden by the Prophet to the followers of his religion. 3. The dragons upon the Mamluk cards are inexplicable from the Islamic religion forbidding pictorial representation of human and animal beings. The dragons may be rather an Islamic decorative adaptation from Portugiese [sic] cards bearing pictures of dragons on the four Aces.

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin


Bond, "History of Playing Cards". Transcribed at end of ... l.Original at p. 87 (2nd occurrence in list) at ... ds&f=false

Carter: ... EYAAAAMAAJ

Cessolis: selected illustrations at ... EN_4861706. More pictures at ... pgs=50.See also viewtopic.php?f=11&t=460&p=15300&hilit=Cessolis#p15300, viewtopic.php?f=11&t=460&p=6301&hilit=Cessolis#p6301.
Caxton translation into English (c. 1483) at

Culin, Chess and Playing Cards:

John of Rheinfelden: Pratesi, "Various cards at Basel in 1377 or in 1429," translated at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1095#p16830. Discussion in that thread and in viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1093. More at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1094

Murray, History of Board Games other than Chess, snippets only, ... navlinks_s

Needham: ... hought.pdf

Pratesi note quoting Bidev, translated into English: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1097&start=20#p16939, with link to Italian original. Discussion of relevant issues occurs in that thread both before and after this post. See also Pratesi, "On Islamic Cards," translated at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1096

Rosenfeld bibliography: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1106

Wilkinson: ... 22&f=false

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin


What is the datation of this specific disposition in the Four Directions of the Four Squares of the Four Elements ? ... Darker.jpg

I'm interested because of it's '("accidental" '?) similitude with the arithmological disposition of the 16 Honours in Four Elemental Squares of Four in the Four Directions ... mo/002.gif

I did not understand if it is played with three shaped dices?

Moakley noted " the astonishing fact that there is, indeed,
something related to both the 4x14 suit cards and the 21 trumps,
namely the much older game of dice, from which they might have
stemmed. If we take the total number of choices possible when
throwing three or two dice, it adds up to either 56 (= 4x14) or 21,
respectively. " (Laurent Faber)

Now, if we consider as 22nd or 'nulla' an invalid throw of dices,
then there are 22 throws.

Morever, such an invalid throw could be seen as outside of of the
geometrical perimeter of a game of tables such as described by the
King Alphonse X (He makes a difference between game of spirit such
as chess, games of chance such as dices - the games of tables being
midway ) or more simply if the dices do not fall correctly... ... Biographie

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

The diagram is Bidev's. As far as the circle around the outside, the only thing that seems to be in Alfonso's description, based on what Bidev ascribes to Murray's account, is the four seasons each with three months. The zodiac and the disposition of the elements seems to be Bidev's inference: each season starts with a sign of a different element. Bidev seems to be saying that an astrological context is part of the times and in fact shows up as an appendix in Alfonso's book. That needs to be checked, but seems reasonable enough.

Yes, Bidev is saying that the game of four-handed chess was played with 3 dice. He says that is part of Alfonso's account.
I do not know how to check that. The "book of games" shows up on WorldCat in Spanish, Italian and German. The Spanish seems to be in 2 libraries where I have borrowing privileges; I will try to get it. It might be available online in other languages, e.g. English or French; I can't seem to be able to download the one supposedly in English.

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

mikeh wrote:The "book of games" shows up on WorldCat in Spanish, Italian and German. The Spanish seems to be in 2 libraries where I have borrowing privileges; I will try to get it. It might be available online in other languages, e.g. English or French; I can't seem to be able to download the one supposedly in English.
Downloadable english translation (pdf) here:

Alfonso's Book of Games wrote: Here begins another chess that was made after the four seasons of the year, which the ancient
wise men divined.

There is another chess that the ancient wise men made after the four seasons of the year and it
was organized in this way: The first season is spring which begins in the middle of March and
goes through the middle of June. The second season is summer which begins in the middle of
June and goes through the middle of September. The third season is autumn which begins in the
middle of September and goes through the middle of December. The fourth season is winter
which begins in the middle of December and goes through the middle of March.

And these four seasons are divided like the four elements. Spring is air; summer is fire; autumn is
earth; winter is water.

And because as we said above in the first season, spring, all things grow and men are refreshed
and the trees and plants turn green the reason why air is its element is clearer than for any other
season; therefore they made this season green. And the summer which is hotter and drier than
the other seasons they made it like fire, which is of this nature. And therefore they made this
season red for it element which also is. The autumn is dry and cold because its element is earth; it
is more temperate than summer because it tends more toward cold than heat. The things that
burn in summer, are born and refreshed in this season. And because its element is earth, its
nature coldness and dryness therefore they made this season’s colour black. Winter they gave the
element water which is cold and wet because in that season there are great cold, ice, snow, and
rains. And because its element is water they made its colour white.

And this similarity they made according to the four humours that grow in the body of man, like
blood, which they gave to spring; and choler, to summer; and melancholy, to autumn; and
phlegm to winter.

Of the humours which grow in each season
Of these four seasons we described above, the first is spring. And the blood grows in it more than
in all the others. And in the summer, choler; in the autumn, melancholy; and in the winter,

The seasons are divided in this manner: spring is temperate because it is between winter which is
very cold and summer which is very hot. According to the ancient wise men, it tends more
towards warmth than cold because it takes more from summer which is coming than winter
which is passed. Summer is hot and dry because of the warmth from the previous spring and the
warmth of the coming autumn. Autumn is temperate and tends more towards cold than warmth
because it is between summer which is [f. 87v] very hot and winter which is very cold, taking
more from the coming season than the past. Winter, which comes between autumn and spring, is
very cold because it takes coldness from the previous autumn and from the coming spring. And
in this way the seasons all take from one another.

And like the four seasons and the four humours they divided the pieces of this chess into four
parts, each with its own colour as you heard above, which suits each season.

How the four-seasons board is made and how many colours the pieces are and how they are
arranged on it

This board should be made in this way: square with eight spaces per side for a total of sixty-four.
It is to have four lines in the shape of an “x” that goes from the second [inside corner] square [b2,
b7, g2, or g7] and goes to the second [inside corner] square diagonally across. The other line does
the same. The one that goes through white squares is to be black and the one that goes through
black, white in order to divide between the types of pieces. And these lines that cut through the
squares mark the direction in which the pawns are to move first – those to the right move to the
right and likewise for those to the left. They capture forward and diagonally as pawns should

And these pieces are thirty-two in total and are to be set up in the four corners of the board. Each
arrangement is to have eight pieces that are a king, a rook, a knight, a fil, and four pawns. All
pieces are to move wherever they want according to their movements in the other chess that is
more common.

And this is their arrangement: the kings are placed in the corner most squares on the board. The
rook is next to the king45, the knight is on the other, and the fil in front of him. Two pawns face
one side of the board and the other two face the other. In this chess there is no fers until one of
the pawns is promoted.

And there are four kings and four men each with his pieces of his colour are to play on it.
And the colours are these four that we have said correspond to the seasons. Spring’s pieces are
green; summer’s are red; autumn’s black, and winter’s white.

On how they are to begin to play with these pieces
The player with the green pieces is to play first and he should move towards his right, towards
the other player who has the red pieces. This is like spring moving towards summer. He who has
the red pieces should also play towards the other player who has the white pieces at the same
time defending himself from green. The one with the black pieces is to play also towards his
right, against the player who has the white46 guarding always from attack from the player with
the red pieces. He who has the white pieces should do the same, guarding against attack from
black. [f. 88] After [the first move] each player may move according to his will.

And thus in playing these four players take from one another like the seasons of the year which
also take from one another.

And each of these four players should make an opening wager. Thereafter for each piece that a
player loses he should pay an amount as well as for each check given to a king.

And when a player is checkmated he pays the victor an amount for as many pieces as he has on
the board and then removes his pieces. Of the three players that remain thereafter, the first to be
defeated leaves on the board as much as he has won and an amount for each of his pieces that
remain when he is checkmated. Of the two remaining players, the one who wins takes all the
money on the board plus the loser gives him an amount for each of his remaining pieces.

And this is what the board and pieces look like as well as their arrangement, painted here.
[f. 88v]

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot
Alfonso4Seasons.jpg Alfonso4Seasons.jpg Viewed 10647 times 81.47 KiB

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

And here is the game which follows, the game of the world, which I think is the one Bidev means, with its 48 pieces:
[f. 89]
This is the board of tables of the four seasons, called the world, which begins like this:
Since we have told about the board of the four seasons, as the ancient wise mean ordered it, now
it is fitting that we show the tables board that is played after that some manner.

This board is squared and the points are placed in a circle. The circle is divided into four parts;
each part has six spaces that are carved out in semi-circles in which the pieces fit.

And on this board four men are to play, each with his pieces of his colour according to the
colours of the chess that we have named. And each one of these players is to have twelve pieces
of the colours of the aforementioned chessmen which are these: green, red, white, and black – for
a total of forty-eight. And they are played with the [7-sided] dice of this same chess and the
players roll to see who plays first. And then the player to his right and so on around.

And the first to begin is to place his pieces according to the rolls of the dice as in doze canes and
all the others do likewise.

And once they all have placed all their pieces each must bring his pieces to where the third player
first entered which is across from his own, by playing around to his right according to the rolls of
the dice.

And when one makes a roll that he cannot use, let the player who to his right use it. And if he
cannot, the third. And if he cannot, the fourth. And also in this game if a roll is made that allows
the capture of an unguarded piece, it is to be captured. The one whose piece was captured must
return it to where it was first placed.

And no pieces are to be borne off until each player has his pieces in the opposite quarter as is
stated above.

And the player who first should bear off all his pieces will beat the player to his right and so on

And this is the explanation of this game. And this is the diagram of the board and of the pieces
and of their colours and of the arrangement.
[f. 89v – 90v]
I see nothing in the description about 3 dice, however, the illustration shows three dice. Note this second game is played with checkers, not chessmen, and in the first chessmen game there is no mention of dice, nor are any dice shown in the illustration - so I am not sure that Bidev was correct to conflate the rules of the one with the other. The astrological games at the end are for seven players (for the seven planets), with a seven sided table.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot
Alfonso4Seasons2.jpg Alfonso4Seasons2.jpg Viewed 10642 times 88.3 KiB

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

Very helpful, Steve. Yes, it does look like he applied the dice-rule from the World to the Four Seasons game. I suppose he misread his notes. They are seven-sided dice, apparently, at least according to the translator. So the data about 56 and 21 combinations doesn't apply. I am not sure how many combinations there are.

I am also not sure what the numbers on Bidev's board are supposed to represent. They are not in the miniature. ... Darker.jpg

In the diagram, I see the King and the Knight, maybe a Rook and a Bishop, anyway four pieces per player. I guess they correspond to what is in the miniature. But then there are the pawns.four per player, and where are they? If I knew, maybe I could say something about Alain's question. According to the description, there should be 8 pieces in each corner. 4 of them pawns.

To get from these two games to playing cards, you would take the number per suit of the World game, but change some of the discs to non-pawn chess-figures, as in Four Seasons. How many honors/courts? 2? 3? 4? Well, the King could be a king, and the knight a knight. Beyond that it is not obvious. In 1380 Barcelona, as I recall, there were 44 cards in all, i.e. 11 per suit. But perhaps it varied. Then trick-taking is simply an extension of the principle of capturing. Is this any worse than the Mamluk/Silk Road thesis?

I don't see how dice figure in; playing cards, after a shuffle, are random enough. Dice are for board games. I thought the point of the dice analogy was to show how medieval divination manuals using two dice could easily be adapted to 21 cards, or 22 if there was a "fortune" for a mis-throw. Was that actually done, I mean, so that the fortunes from the one showed up in the others? Perhaps there were also divination manuals for three dice, which could be applied to up to 56 cards. We know that divination manuals for that case, all 56, were made, by the 16th century. but whether they had any relationship to the ones for dice I don't know.

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

mikeh wrote: I am also not sure what the numbers on Bidev's board are supposed to represent. They are not in the miniature. ... Darker.jpg
Perhaps he is relating those numbered squares to the pip cards, 1-10 of each suit?

I think his coins were originally the King's golden apple a weak argument, at least in comparison to coins as coins; and his statement that games of chance originating as forms of divination in sacred precincts being a 'universal law' is absurd, or to be generous hyperbolic. His argument the John's description of the cards as having 'good and bad' signs is a proof of their use for divination is also wide off the mark. His comments that his methodology and conclusion are of a different category to those of the occultists is somewhat disingenuous, or simply self-delusional; and many of those he refers to anyway, such as calendar and elemental associations, did not originate with the 'occultists' he seems to disparage anyway.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

As far as the "universal law", he also says "Nulla regula sine exceptlone!". Drawing lots was in fact, at least in Homer, the way to learn the will of the gods. Various other chance occurrences served the purpose of divination, and priests were the diviners. It is an anthropological question. I don't know what they say, if anything.

As far as suits being good and evil, that is probably because of their association with war vs. peace, staves and swords being weapons. So not divination.

I was mainly concerned about Bidev's theory that European playing cards originated from the two games in Alfonso X's game book. Its assignation of elements and colors would explain not only the number of suits but the character of the four suit-signs. Green, the color of spring and optimism, would correspond to the greenery on the clubs held by the Spanish courts, relating to trees in spring (, also on some and occasionally all of the clubs in the pips). Also, in the PMB all the four courts in Staves wear green gloves or sleeves. Choler is anger, and so associated with a sword, as the weapon of choice to deal with the object of one's anger. The phlegmatic even-temperedness is associated with the clergy and its indifference to worldly things, and so the baptismal font, also associated with water and communion cups. Melancholia is the lot of one who strives for money. So we have, of c. 1450 (Zentralbibliothek, Zürich, Ms. C101):

This argument is not conclusive, of course; for one thing, the Muslims would have had the same four temperaments and might have conceived their cards with the same temperaments in mind.
On the other hand, there is Bidev's observation:
The green colour of the Latin suit bastos, bastoni, do not appear in Mamluk PC of Istanbul Museum in Top-Capi-Saray. Mamluk copists of Italian PC could not it adopte [sic] because the holy colour of the Islamic religion is green as attested upon their holy emblem: the green flag centered with a yellow halfmoon and a yellow fivestar.
He is right about green in Muslim symbolism ( ... -6326.html); whether would be a reason not to use the color green, I don't know; the ones in Istanbul were polo sticks, surely reason enough not to use green.

Bidev himself, in his own interpretation of the four suits in terms of the four elements, is thoroughly based in the occultist assignments, with staves as fire ("The staves are, of course, combustibles") and swords as air. He ignores his own data, i.e. Alfonso's game book and his observation that Latin staves (at least some of them) are green!

Re: Bidev 1979 typescript on playing cards' origin

My impression is, that Bidev had an error about this game (the game with the seven-sided-die). I'm not sure about the details, however.

I think, this was the picture, which was related to the text:


The page with this picture gives this explanation:
"David Parlett in his "Oxford history of Board Games" points out that this is misleadingly listed under the title "Los Escaques" (Chess) in the MS. However, it appears to be a gambling game known as "al-falakiya" in Arabic, or "Kawakib" (stars) in Iranian. Each player represents a planet, and move with the rolls of a 7-sided die. Payments are made to the other players based on the astronomical relationships formed with each move. The starting position of each player's piece -his planet, is in the favorite 'house' of this planet: Saturn starts in Aquarius, Jupiter in Sagittarius, Mars in Scorpio, the sun in Leo, venus in Taurus, mercury in Virgo and luna, or the Moon in Cancer. Every planet starts in it's sign,or house in the left most square. "
We had some discussion here:


Chess of 4 seasons is explained (or it's an attempt to explain it) by this page:


... it's related to this picture:



But there is another 4-persons-chess: