The fruitful cooperation with a website took its start as a website in 2003, after Ross Caldwell and Lothar Teikemeier had met in the web in December 2002 on the email-list TarotL, which once had been the centre of internet talking about Tarot history, taking earlier this central role of the now more or less legendary newsgroup “alt.tarot”. Together with Alain Bougearel they founded in March 2003 the new e-mail-list LTarot with the dedication, to research and to control the very early data of playing card history.

The most frequented focus was at the begin mostly circumstances of the first phase of the development, which we closed with the year 1463, when in Ferrara the series of the many  Trionfi documents took a longer pause, later 1463 was changed to ca. 1500. Of greater importance at the begin were the report of Franco Pratesi about the Michelino deck and Gherardo Ortalli’s “The Prince and the Playing cards” - the information in these articles were more or less unknown in the English public at this time, we did our best to present them to the web, improve the given information and to clear the details of this document - including a translation made by Ross Caldwell.

From Lothar’s perspective the research served his interest to control his own theory about the origin of Tarot, called then the “5x14-theory”, although most energies were invested in a neutral documentation of the Tarot and playing card situation of 14th and 15th century.  According this theory, which existed already since May 1989, the so called Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo deck (also called Visconti-Sforza) was in its origin NOT a common Tarot deck with 4x14+22-structure, but a deck with 5 suits and with 14 cards per suit, one suit used as predefined trump suit and filled with allegoric figures. The theory was based on the condition, that the 20 extant special cards of the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo deck had been painted by two different artists, the first painted 14 special cards (13 trumps and a Fool) and the second painted 6 trumps. The deciding point was the observation, which 14 trumps were the product of the first painter, and which cards belonged to the second painter:

The second painter made the recognizable triade Sun-Moon-Star and the 3 cardinal virtues Temperantia-Fortitudo-Prudentia - whereby the card, which is interpreted usually as "World" was by Lothar identified as the otherwise “missing Prudentia”. Lothar’s theory to the Prudentia was later confirmed by the observation of a polygonal halo used in the so called Charles VI deck, in which the cards Temperantia-Fortitudo-Iustitia and the card WORLD were signified as an iconographical group by the mentioned polygonal halo.

Naturally the considerations upon the 14-cards-group are more complex, but possibly it can be summarized in the condition, that the 14 cards of the first painter build the following number-row, if they are combined with the traditional number row of the later Marseille Tarot.

0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 ... 12-13 ... 20

This number row looks unusual and “chosen” and it’s difficult, that it found to existence by simple accident, as it was argued in the traditional reading of the facts, which assumed a “replacement of cards”, possibly caused by lost or damaged cards. In Lothar’s calculation of 1989 this assumed “accident” had a probability of less than “1% chance to be true” and couldn’t serve as the major interpretation of this deck.

Indeed the research and control of the early playing card documents, as far we were able to verify them, led to the opinion, that the traditional hypothesis to the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo deck couldn’t be confirmed by evidence (although the opinions of the co-operators of differed often and still differ now in this evaluation). In the contrary, the following 3 important points were found as relevant:

1. A document of 1.1.1441 reports the payment to the Trionfi card painter Iacopo Sagramoro for 14 paintings on paper for a present to Bianca Maria Visconti (it’s not 100 % secure, if this were Trionfi cards, but there is a complex argumentation, which makes this plausible - Ross discovered the entry in Franceschini’s documentation of the expenses of the 15th century d’Este court, after the focus was set on “14” and not at the usual “22”). It can’t be helped, that the document forgets to tell us, that the 14 paintings were intended as playing cards or “playing cards in preparation” (just as models, which should show, how the playing cards later might look like), but if the interpretation is true, this might be the second oldest reference to Trionfi cards after the description of the Michelino deck by Martiano da Tortona (though in both texts the word Trionfi is not used).

2. Jacopo Antonio Marcello in his famous letter of 1449 talks in context of the strange Michelino deck with 16 trumps of a ludus triumphorum without any remark about its curiosity, by this way fixing the point, that we cannot be sure about the circumstances (deck with 14, 16, 22 or another number of trumps ?), when in documents of 15th century the term “Trionfi” appears.

3. In Ferrara in the year 1457 the only written document of 15th century is known beside the 16 trumps in the Michelino deck description of Martiano da Tortona, which talks about the number of the used cards (additionally it’s obvious for the Boiardo Tarocchi poem and Sola Busca cards). Two decks were produced probably for the visit of the 13-years-old Galeazzo Maria Sforza during the summer holidays and each of them had 70 cards (so interpretable as a 5x14 deck, 5x14=70 cards, not interpretable as a deck with 4x14-22-structure).

The first secure “22-special-cards” context is the Boiardo Tarocchi poem, with very great problems to give it a plausible dating. After our long research around this point, which consisted of deeper studies of Boiardo’s life, contexts of the d’Este court, translation and analyses of the poem, the opinion has developed, that the poet wrote it probably around January 1487, as a gift for Lucrezia d’Este’s wedding.

During the discussions around this and other themes the website served as a place for collection, documentation and also of presenting the author’s opinion. It has developed in the past years to a monstrous labyrinth of more than 1000 articles at, not counting 1000’s of contributions in internet-forums, blogs and other media. The appearance of Playing Card History in 15th history at the search engine became undermined by our obsessive activity. Additionally by the cooperation with Alexander Sukhorowsky and his Web-Museum there are now 10.000 partially or complete Tarot and Playing Card decks integrated. The website has 800-1000 visitors, which use ca. 20.000 pages - each day.

To our regret we were not able to keep the documentation at the website up-to-date with our actual research and ideas, the growing possibilities to research online, not comparable to the conditions in the era before internet, has led to many insights and considerations unknown before. The progress is immense, partly cause the luck of the current historic conditions, and our topics have developed to details, from which years before and also nowadays outsiders often really have difficulties to understand, how they in any way relate to the central theme, the origin of the Tarot cards.


Web pages - Home page (at the bottom right the link that refers to Andrea Vitali's essays (many more essays are available in Italian) - Biographies of Tarot and Playing Card Researchers Web Museum of Playing Cards from Alexander Sukhorukow -  News of Tarot and Playing Card Development - Tarot Exhibitions of Cultural Association Le Tarot at - Preparation Tarot Exhibition Cologne               

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