Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

The illicit skill of cheaters

The world of cheaters in real-life stories and tricks of the trade


Translation from the Italian by Michael S. Howard, April 2014


That in the religious sphere the game of cards was deemed to have been invented by the devil was a belief that we discussed in another article (1). Luque Fajardo, author of Fiel desengaño contra los juegos y ociosidad (Faithful disenchantment against games and idleness) of 1603, attributes the invention of cards to the devil Theuth, quoted by Plato in the Phaedrus and Philebus, not realizing that these texts actually speak of Thoth, an Egyptian deity considered to have invented letters and writing. Always Luque Fajardo gave notice that, between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 17th, there circulated many versions of the sinful life of a certain Vilhán, player and cheater, the incarnation of the devil, whose life ended tragically (2).


The demon of the game induces madness, indeed it is already inherent in the game itself. The rapport gambling = madness was well illustrated (especially in Spain), in several plays and treated in a moralistic-didactic treatises such as the above-mentioned work of Luque Fajardo, and, among others, in La Casa del juogo (The House of games) by Francisco Navarrete y Ribera, an apostolic notary.


For Erasmus the player is the one who lets himself be carried away by illusions of charity bestowed by Stultitia (Folly), who frees the mind from all the worries and anxieties of everyday life. But it is a risky kind of madness because it can easily escalate and get into the jurisdiction of the Underworld and the avenging Furies: “It is always an absolutely crazy and comical spectacle that is offered some slaves of the game, to the point that they feel their heart jump and throb as soon as they hear the rattle of the dice. Then, when seduced by the constant hope of winning, they are shipwrecked with all their possessions, emerging almost naked from the ship smashed on the rocks of chance, almost more formidable than those of Malea (3), they cheat all but the winner, being men of honor. And becoming old and cross-eyed, are they not yet still playing, with glasses placed before their eyes? Finally, with joints now ravaged by deserved arthritis, do not they hire a substitute to throw the dice for them into the dice cup? A pleasant occupation, of course, except that the game will sometimes turn angry, and then it is not mine anymore, but the Furies” (4).


A Fury and a furor that Luque Fajardo sees reverberating with ominous smoldering in the etymological root of the words baraja (barajar = altercar [reshuffle]) and naipes, from the Hebrew word "NAPAs" = "deshacer" [undo] ) (5)


So already in the encomium of Erasmus was mentioned the dark and terrible side of the folly of gambling, a madness that is described by Fajardo, putting in the mouth of Florino, one of the characters in his book, the inexplicable tangle of the "furor" that takes the players, and also, centuries later, by Roger Caillois in his book Les Jeux et les hommes: le masque et le vertige (Games and Men: the mask and the vertigo), who will define it as an emotional intoxication, considering it a kind of trance, hypnosis, possession, depriving the players of their own will of decision: "In gambling it is well known that a particular thrill captures the player favored by fortune, as much as the one dogged by bad luck. They no longer feel tired and are barely aware of what is taking place around them. They are as ones bewitched, by the ball that's going to stop on a number or the card that must turn. They lose all control and sometimes risk more than they possess ... but what matters is that the ilinx [the pursuit of vertigo and loss of self], which destroyed the agon [the impulse to regulated competition], does not render impossible the risk [the impulse to surrender to the verdict of fate]. It paralyzes the player, fascinates him, makes him lose his head, but does not lead him in any way to violate the rules of the game. It can even be argued that it mainly subjects him to the decisions of fate and induces him to give himself even more passively. The risk requires an abdication of the will, and it is understandable that this fact causes, or builds, a state of trance, of possession, or of hypnosis. It is in this that a genuine fusion of the two tendencies manifests itself" (6).


In addition to being liars, extortionists, murderers, angry, covetous, blasphemers, and much more, gamblers were accused, as in Spain in the seventeenth century, of sodomy, on the grounds that homosexuals were accustomed to gather in the casinos, frequenting then the same places as the tahúres, i.e. gamblers.


But it is not only that the players were mostly thieves. Giulio Paulis writes, "Because anagrams were credited with the power to provide information on the inclinations of a category of individuals or the character of a person, in post- Renaissance Spain in the very moment in which tahúr - 'gambler, cheater' - was said, ladrón, 'thief', was thought, because reversing the syllables that make up tahúr, you get hurta, 'steals', which would have been an anagram that reveals the true nature of the gambler" (7). "The cards are forty thieves: thirty-six on foot and four on horseback," says an Italian proverb (8).


As the etymology of Baro is uncertain, we propose to follow the different interpretations offered by historical philological criticism.


Thus the Crusca: BARO and sometimes also BARRO Masculine noun Crook, Deceiver, especially in games. Perhaps from the Latin varus, crooked, and then figuratively, depraved. According to others it is from the Celtic bar. – Burchiello, Sonnets 63: Barrattier cheater in archbishop’s habit. Aretino, Satires I, 188: Having noted the stain of  barro and traitor. Varchi, Histories 2, 215: Having to cheat and deceive, he burned the books of his sermons. Lippi, Malmantile 2, 5: faking a cheater, he went to give the assault, asking for a bit of good, for God's sake [literally, for 'Saint High', a term for God in the speech of rogues]. § Lingua bara says cunning or roguish tongue, being used of cheaters and similar scoundrels. - Pananti. Poetics. Theatre 19, This sly jargon, cheating [bara] tongue (9).


Ottorino Pianigiani, for whom Bàro is a hard word to interpret, lists the following possible derivations: from the Provençal, Baran = deceit; from the Spanish Baruca = deception, intrigue, or Barullo = mixture; from Baraja (in Provençal and Portuguese baralha, and in French barele) = confusion, disarray; from the Latin Varus, wrong and fig. depraved; from Bare, English = strip (German Baar = naked), as if to signify denuder, concluding that it is more likely that "it derives from Bàro (accusative Barònem), whence also the word Baróne in the sense of birbone [rascal], with which name already in ancient times the servants of soldiers were called Bagaglioni [baggage-carriers] (probably from α. α. Ger. Bëro, bearer), and which as a result, taking account of the evil ways of that ilk, can be applied to mean crook. - Deceiver, crook, especially at games. Derivatives: Baràre [cheating], so Baratóre-trice [male-female cheater]; Baròcco, Barullo (?) (10).


Thus, instead, Muratori in his Dissertations on Italian Antiquities: "Baro, Qui fraudat [Here defrauds]. We say Barare [to Cheat], for Deceiving, especially in Games and Contracts. There is something the same in the Arabian language, i.e. Bara, which means Perdidit, exitio dedit, Periit, Perditus, & Corruptus fuit, siccome me fide descivit [He has lost, gave it destruction, has Perished, Lost, & was Corrupt, thus also, to faith fell away]. From Barare [Cheating], descend Barrato [Barter] and Barataria, meaning Fraud, and Barattiere, Defrauder and Deceiver: names also used by the French, Spanish, and English, in my opinion born from commerce  [Mercury], but spread among the various nations [like all merchants]. Some believe, I do not know if with reason, that it came from the same source as Barrato [Barter], Permutatio [Permutation], and Barattare [to swap], Permutare, also assumed to be the primitive word. But nevertheless the origin of those names remains in the dark. Barone for denoting Nebulonem [Fraud] is son of Baro (11).


In the notes to Malmantile Racquistato [The Reconquered Malmantile] by Lorenzo Lippi (published posthumously in 1676), Puccio Lamoni, otherwise Paolo Minucci, referring to Stanza 5 of Canto II, interprets the word Baro in the following terms: "Bias, False Beggar, Comes perhaps from greek βapùs eós that sounds annoying [molestus], Importune, Cheeky, just as they are such: and though this word has something cunning about it, it is still common: and Varchi, Florentine History, Book XI, used it as a demonstration that he was refuted and not believed any longer; considered a cheat [baro] and a deceiver, he burned his books. Baro, Baron, Barattiere, all are of the same origin (12).


The history of gaming tables is full of cheaters, men who, as we have seen, lacked will, slaves of a passion that degenerated into torment, as Abbot Bettinelli (13) expressed well in his poem:


Con occhio incerto, e con sembianza oscura

Qual nottola odiando il sol diurno

Se al fianco suo non ha l’amica impura

Vedilo andar solingo, e taciturno,

Fuor che Venere, e Bacco altro non cura

Fuor che la bisca e il tavoglier notturno;

Al ceffo, agli atti, alle scomposte membra

Deforme cosa, e squallida rassembra….

Di trufferie Dottori, e di baratto

Arti di sottomano, e di zimbello

Di tutti i colpi, e i giri accorti, e destri

Apriron scuola, e furono maestri.


(With uncertain eye, and with dark appearance

Like a bat hating the sun during the day  Qual

If at his side he has only an impure friend

Seeing him go solitary, taciturn,

Except for Venus and Bacchus, otherwise he does not care,

Except for the gambling den and the nocturnal tables;

With shady persons and deeds, broken limbs

He resembles a misshapen and squalid thing, ....

Experts in scams and in barter

In hidden arts and in cheating,

They opened the school and were teachers

Of all thieves, of hidden and cunning actions).


One of the most famous cheaters [bari] in Florence of Dante's time was a certain Passera called "the hocus-pocus", who took to traveling abroad to practice his art in other cities. Evil caught him in that he was discovered while cheating. Forced to return hurriedly to Florence, he had experienced that nowhere could be found as many blackbirds as at home (14).


From Journey in Germany by Francesco Vettori, Ambassador of the Republic of Florence to Maximilian I, famous for letters he exchanged with Macchiavelli, we learn news of another famous cheater, a "Milanese called Franceschino .... as sad as can be, spiteful, and a cheat, he had done so in gaming, and with cheating [barerie] he had assembled 1200 Scudi .... ", a substantial figure for the age (15).


"To be worthy of being in the company of cheaters", in modern Italian, is the expression used by Savonarola to highlight the character of Piero de' Medici. So in fact he wrote in a letter reported by Pasquale Villari in his life of the complaining friar. After speaking of wanting to talk about the ways and feelings of the Medici, Savonarola indulges in a lively description of some moments of the everyday life of Piero, ending with the conclusion mentioned above.


"At present I want to write of the life and ways and customs and thoughts of Piero de Medici .... Now let us come to his principles of life, manners and customs and thoughts. First: it was his custom to get out of bed precisely at the hour of eating, and as he got up, he made to understand that there is provision to eat, and if it is well provisioned, he eats there, except a few times, because he almost always eats at home in Sanseverino, where it is done with a large plate. And do not think that his mouth is unuseful, because a meal needs something else besides a capon; in drinking, few men surpass him and this thing takes a diligent throat. Afterwards the day closes on some room of those of Sanseverino, where some beautiful courtesan is, and gladly also if there is some beautiful boy, and here all the day there is making a good time, and if there is gambling, it goes even better, when he makes money: at the dinner hour he eats there as well because in this regard there is a good welcome. As he eats, he always has with him a few men of as little brain as he, and goes off several hours of the night to the homes of courtesans, leading them on a walk in the night and also always some beautiful boy with them, and the whole night is dissipated from one place to another with eating, drinking, gambling, and other dishonest, crazy and sad things: and take note of this, that always an hour or two at least, at the beginning of day, he comes home to Alfonsina; the poor thing, she never rejoices that she stays fresh. With him is no one of good condition or other quality of person, but some crazy fool, or some cheating [baro] gambler, or some pimp" (16).


On the lives of cheaters [bari] and gambling in Venice we are informed by a massive study by Giovanni Dolcetti that appeared in the volume Casinos and gambling in Venizia, 1172-1807, published in 1903, from which we report some documents of noteworthy interest as regards our subject (17).


In Venice, many cheaters bought the silence and consent of the police: "There was known the fraud of the Florentine brothers of that Tadié, a hairdresser in Frezzeria, who began to gamble with the protecion of Biancafior - Captain of the Executors against Blasphemy - giving him so much per day. There were known the exploits of the two gamblers Gaetano Guado and Giovanni Martini, the latter - strong support of the N. U. Lorenzo Semitecolo, the notary Agazzi and the Captain, who are in great accord .... - said haughtily to have the magistrate Excellency of biastema [blasphemy] in scarsela [in his pocket, that is, ruled by him], from whom he has such protection in this country that he is not afraid and will see miracles performed at the Council of Ten ... he had two gentlemen as his patrons, who will do what he wants. In addition, customers of the two gamblers were playing confident of not being arrested, because the cheaters [birri] knew that when the police ordered their raids, they would be warned first".The same police officers attended the gambling dens: a certain Domenico Vasan is recalled, for example, who became involved in a serious quarrel originating from a game of Triumphs (18).


The lagoon city was home to a number of casinos and extraordinary gambling dens all extraordinarily attended, including by men of the Church. Many of these were accused of cheating [barare] running into the little loving arms of the Superintendents over Monasteries.


"1747, May 24. Father Saverio Costantini, of the order of Conventual Friars Minor of San Valentino, Padua, for 7 years lived with a woman outside the monastery, but not celebrating mass. Armed with Pistols and Knif, occupied day and night in Taverns gambling, and blaspheming, and .... in other more scandalous ways (Superintendents over Monasteries, (B. 278)


1760, May 5. Francesco Manasseh made cleric of the Ducal Church of San Marco, within eight days, must be constrained into prison to answer to accusations of cheating[baro] (B. 27).

1763, March 9. Priest Antonio Barbaro, famous and free cheater, kept women, and induced men to gamble in the company of many vagabonds, his friends. (Id. R. 30).

 1765 March 2. Priest Vettor Frasoni, most notorious cheater [baro] at Cards. Was admonished (Id. B. 30).


 1770. Don Carlo Rovari, Priest. . celebrating ... now at Ascension, now at San Cassan ... has gaming in his house at Bassetta and Pharaoh with such a Zanetti, Religious of San Marco. (Id. B. 31) Lives at S. Cassan in the Street of the Botteri up the stairs of the tavern of the Silk ... D. Carlo Rovari; expelled months ago by the Headquarters of the Monsignor Apostolic Nuncio, because he lived there outrageously united with a public whore and at the same time rented rooms and kept card games, giving shelter thus introduced in their house to Cheaters [Bari] at cards deceiving the people, and his friends cheaters at cards. Even today in his home ... he keeps the game of Pharaoh, playing with the below-named Carlo at the Café on the Street of the Botteri, invites people because they go to him to play (State Inquisitors B. 1088, F. 469)" (19).  


But what are the tips and tricks used by cheaters to strip the flesh off their victims? We will learn from two valuable documents, the first dated 1643 and the second in the following century.

The first is the work of Antonio Maria Cospi, politician and jurist who became secretary of Ferdinando of Tuscany, and who in The Criminal Judge wrote about the different situations which a judge of his time could encounter. Among the various topics, just to name a few, are: "Of thieving vagabonds; Of thieving vagabonds’ inventions; Of fake doctors; Of gypsies; Of false jewelers; Thieves of sleepers; Several fake scams made by alchemists; Of fake mediums and the finding of treasures, and, with regard to our investigation, Of falsifiers at cards (20).






How they can falsify dice N.1
How they falsify cards N. 2
That they take advantage of those who gamble with these cards N. 3
Subtle way of knowing the key to the cards N.4
Stratagem of those who have companions N. 5
Fake fool N. 6


"They go in the world slyly cloaked with their arts still, those who presume much of themselves with diabolical inventions, which although they will be judged weaknesses, nevertheless, by these warnings being written for people with little experience, they need to read them, being necessary to know in order to exercise control over the criminal well.


N.1. They falsify dice by putting quicksilver, lead or gold in the holes of said dice on one face others leave a wider face than others or cut out some corners and this they do because the heavier more often stops below, revealing the opposite side. This makes the same face larger, that with more ease stays below while catching more space of the table, and  according to whether the face opposite is  large or weighty, they will have more or fewer points, thus called dice of more or dice of less, again many others helping with dice that have not been altered, in a wonderful way by the skill of the hand, and so in amassed time  making the mass of money in their pockets.


No. 2. They falsify the cards in many ways, particularly those they call black cards, to which, giving certain white effects to the appearance of a small lily, the rogues mark with a pen all the cards, supposing first of swords, a line in the first narrowest part of the little lily, from one side to the other of the card, to the end, turning the deck to whichever side they want, which sign always will come to them from the right side of the outside of the deck: so that more readily in taking the card, it is offered to the eyes.  If you play in the second place the staves, in the third the cups, and leave off marking the coins; and so in the game they see the cards that go to one’s companion, the suit he needs, if it is Primiera or Punta (names of tricks in the old card games), if the cards should serve him, or if he had obtained cards by doing Primiera or Frussi, (names of tricks in the old card games),  and if one has the right cards to win or not, if he has to hold or flee the bidding; and also if one sees a card that can serve, one mixes the cards to make go to him one that does not do it for him; or pulling with the middle finger of the right hand, taking with the tip of the middle finger of his right hand the second, and mostly he will do this if first his game goes well, and if the card above does it for them; while his companion turns the cards to himself (to see them), with dexterity the said card is taken, and wins who can! [e vinca chi può = Italian  expression to say what has to happen will happen]. Some make only a puncture in one of these little lilies, or in another white place on the said card, differently according to the suit of the card, which will be a difficult thing to observe. Others mark with ink a certain cornetto [external part] of the lily, which is just in the corner, to serve for recognizing a suit, it is said that they make another sign or tear or puncture, leaving the fourth suit without marking because the sign of the suit is that it is not marked. I have seen those who have stained with ink the edge of the card in the corners, writing on the right hand a suit towards the narrowest part, the other suit in the same corner, but in the longest part; but this is a thing more apparent.


N. 3. These cheats  also have the habit of buying many decks of cards, because there are always decks shorter than others, and so one pack is longer, another wider; they take a wider suit and a longer suit  and put them in another deck a little shorter, taking from the shorter deck those same two suits: and so always they want to augment the width of a suit, and by augmenting the length, it always happens that another suit of the cards is longer. They may have many other tricks; all cannot be foreseen nor imagined, but with these you can supervise the brains of the judge, when he will see in his hands suspicious cards, to observe and find out if there are other signs. And this is what seems to be possible to say as to what pertains to sight.


N. 4. There are also those who know the cards by touch and these make a small hole with a needle forming a relief out  [i.e. a part sticking out ] in the bottom part of the card [i.e. in the back], or in the wide part of the card where they feel that little relief, so they know which card is the one that goes to the companion or they take for themselves. Others bring into play large cards with colors so strong that they create a certain relief, and they hold the middle finger of the right hand to the raised upper part, where they have a thin skin, and by this particular of their skin in that part, they possess  a great sensitivity, and in probing with the finger the card feel those colors, and know what card is below, especially with the cups and figures, where a more intense color is given; for which reason they indicate that they suspect that the cards being used are marked, and they always ask for new cards that have more vivid colors and so consequently are more palpable.


N. 5. There are those who have dozens of packs made on purpose, and they have a suit made with the risvolti [reinforced edges] wider than the others, another suit had the risvolti thinner on one side than others, another suit the upper risvolti wider than the others, in the third, the risvolti are different from one to the other, and they have another suit made that comes back equal on all sides. Then they give these cards to a shopkeeper who sells them to places where they want to gamble. They hold again some cards to gamble at Banco Fallito (Failed Bank), which have on the one hand the cards of the four kings wider than the others, and in length the four knights longer.


N. 6. But here it is necessary to warn that among them in the companies of rogues there is always one who is the fool, and this one always makes a show of money more than others, and among them they always pretend not to know him, and always the fool shuffles the cards and invites them to play, and of his companions, one or another plays with the fool, and when playing with his companions the fool always loses, because he always makes a show of his cards, calls for and keeps the bad ones, until he tempts others who are in the tavern to play with him. As he see that others outside of his companions want to play, he begins to say [that] these games cheat him, he wants to play Erbette, which is a game that my country calls Failed Bank. The fool puts  a lot of money on the table and keeps the bank, and in shuffling  the cards will leave at the bottom a horse or a king, and pretending to equalize the cards, lets be seen to the one whoplays with him [i.e. his companion] a horse or a king, and then lets be seen a card pretty sure to win be put in a good position. But when the card is uncovered always [the winner] is the fool  who has superior or equal cards because with equal points the player who holds the bank wins: and so at the close of the hand the fool has always raked up all the money. If anyone at the end realizes the deception and wants have satisfaction from the fool, all the others now go at him with strong words and threats, especially those who have lost their stake. If another wants to play with other cards, the rogues do not refuse on that account; but while playing, always one of them is behind those who play with them and with nods always makes the companions aware of who holds the cards that are played. When these rogues arrive in the hands of the Court, they will soon face taking from them all their stuff, and if cards, dice or any other instrument that they have for playing are caught, of which they have something, and all will be analyzed by experts: so to put in evidence in what thing the fraud consists. But if the judge, with this evidence, does not discover these alterations and this or that sign is not shown to said experts, it will not easily be observed by the experts, even as it took me many times. One must also make them recognize their guilt, or induce them to confess, by verifications of their confessions. The same must be done for all the gamblers ‘of advantage’ [maybe those who win by cheating], who are served with books marked with more numbers, with bags of pellets marked with numbers, with boards with more numbered boxes, which they call Tiribilli with Piripi; with a funnel inside of which is drawn a bullet that falls on a board with boxes in which are different coins, and countless other ways in which  the cunning of these crafty ones has been known".


The second document, eighteenth century, is due to the painter Pietro Lanterna, who under a veil of anonymity wrote the Description and warnings in which he gives notice of all the fraud and modes of deception by Cheaters [Barri] of cards so as to dupe the poor Players.


Lanterna knew prison many times. On the evening of August 26, 1746, he was arrested in a shop ‘of brandy’, in Santa Maria Maggior, while watching a game of Zecchinetta. As soon as he learned that the police accused him of frequenting gambling dens and using foul-mouthed language, of being a loudmouth with those shopkeepers who did not want to give him credit, of bearing a sword, or a palosso(a short sword that is sharp on only one side), knife and zacco [unknown weapon] he was amazed and in front of the judges kept repeating obsessively: "It is not true that I am a scoundrel". The trial ended April 10, 1747, with the complete absolution of our man, who, however, was not to be a saint, if we are to give credence to his criminal record, which read: "Bad morality; Litigious; Cheater [Baro] betting with changing the points; usually taking blades, that is, swords, and sometimes knives and at times tolle [unknown weapon] of iron; Blasphemy, never to be seen at church. Insolent with Shopkeepers wanting the robe by force" (Executors against blasphemy, B. 24).


The fact is that he probably repented for having led until then a debauched life, and to redeem his soul, wrote that pamphlet, thereby completing an honest and civic-minded action. In his work, Lanterna cites and discusses several ways to cheat [barare] at cards: “Commonly at Bazzega they ‘spotted’ the cards, on the edge or above the Gold, with nails or with some thin tip, however, holding the deck obliquely the deception could be seen” (21).


For other games, they used Flower cards, which were, on the reverse, scratched with signs corresponding to the value of the card.


At Erbetta they twisted the figure cards.


At Zecchinetta they used the Cards of Siena which are square and lend themselves better to cheating.


At Pharaoh they used dirty cards, since only touching them marked them during the game.


At Bassetta the cheaters [bari] deployed all their art, talking, mingling, deftly twisting the cards, and made to come that which they desired..


In sum, for each game was found its own system of cheating" (22).


The other cheaters [bari], after reading the pamphlet just published by the firm of Giovanni Zujer with the permission of the authorities, in order to take revenge, denounced Lanterna to be a despicable individual living by cheating at games. Sic transit mundus [So goes the world]: Lanterna, brought before the Court for blasphemy, had to defend himself, saying: "It is known to be the truth that I am a student of the famous painter G. B. Piazzetta, my work in Charcoal and Lapis being sold respectively for three, four, six and eight Filippi each and also more ... with which I keep earning for my family". The court believed him, and on January 1, 1753, his innocence was recognized (23).




1 - Read the article Playing Cards and Gambling.

2 - F. De Luque Fajardo, Fiel desengaño contra la ociosidad y los. Utilísimo a los confesores y penitentes, justicias,, y los demás a cuyo cargo está limpiar de vagabundos, tahúres y fullerosla república cristiana. En Diálogo [Faithful disenchantment against idleness and games. Very useful for confessors and penitents, judges, and others whose charge it is to clean vagabonds and swindlers from the Christian republic. In Dialogue]. Madrid, Miguel Serrano de Vargas, 1603. Cited byAntonella Gallo, Follia e gioco d’azzardo nel Seicento spagnolo [Madness and gambling in the Spanish seventeenth century], in Maria Grazia Profeti (ed.), “Follia, Follie”,[Madness, Follies], Firenze, Alinea Ed, 2006, p. 102.

3 - Malea = Peloponnesian promontory, considered by mariners very dangerous because of its storms .

4 - Desiderius Erasmus, Elogio della Follia [Praise of Folly], ed. C. Hull, Turin, Einaudi, 1997, p. 119. [An English translation of this passage is in Praise of Folly, trans. Clarence Miller, 2nd ed., 2002, p. 62, in Google Books].

5 - See: Luque Fjardo, Fiel desengaño [Faithful disenchantment], op. cit., Vol I, p. 104 and vol. II, p. 148.

6 - Roger Caillois, Il gioco e gli uomini: la maschera e la vertigine [Games and men: the mask and the vertigo], notes from the Italian ed. of G. Dossena, Milano, Tascabili Bompiani, 1981, p. 91 (First edition: Paris, Gallimard, 1967). See, in particular, the chapter The Importance of gambling, pp. 169-187 . In addition to ilinx, agon and alea [vagaries?], Caillois contemplates among impulses fundamental to the game, also mimicry, i.e. the impulse to simulation and disguise.

7 - Giulio Paulis, L’espressione dilogica della trasgressione sessuale in un Canzoniere ispano-sardo del Seicento e in Calderon de la Barca (albur, tahúr e dintorni tra semantica, etimologia e testualità [The dialogic expression of sexual transgression in a Spanish - Sardinian Canzoniere of the seventeenth century and in Calderon de la Barca (albur, tahúr and surroundings among semantics, etymology, and textuality], in Giulio Paulis and Immacolata Pinto (ed.), “Etimologia fra testi e culture” [Etymology between texts and cultures], Milano, Franco Angeli, 2003, p. 140.

8 - Temistocle Franceschi, Atlante paremiologico italiano. Questionario: Ventimila detti proverbiali raccolti in ogni regione d’Italia [Paroemiological Italian Atlas, Questionnaire: Twenty thousand proverbial sayings collected in every region of Italy], Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2000, p. 312.

9 - Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca, Quinta Impressione [Vocabulary of the Academicians of the Crusca, Fifth Impression], Volume II, Firenze, Tipografia Galileana di M. Cellini & C., 1866, p.. 77.

10 - Ottorino Pianigiani, Dizionario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana, Voce Baro [Etymological Dictionary of the Italian Language, Word Baro], online al link

11 - Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane, Già composte e pubblicate in Latino dal Proposto Lodovico Antonio Muratori, e da esso poscia compendiate e trasportate nell’Italiana Favella. Opera postuma data in luce dal Proposto Gian-Francesco Soli Muratori Suo Nipote [Dissertations on Italian Antiquities Already composed and published in Latin by Provost Lodovico Antonio Muratori, and afterwards summarized and transported into Italiana Fables. Posthumous work brought to light by Provost Gian-Francesco Soli Muratori His Grandson],  Tomo Secondo, Milano, A spese di Giambatista [Volume Two, Milan, At the expense of Giambatista Pasquali], 1751, p. 178.

12 - Il Malmantile Racquistato of Perlone Zipoli with notes by Lamoni Puccio and others, Vol. I,  Firenze, Francesco Moücke,1750, pp. 139-140. This octave:


Il Malmantile Racquistato (Canto II - Stanza  5)


Avvenne, che già inteso un Negromante,

Che un uom, com’era quei, sì giusto, e magno,

Faceva novità sì stravagante,

Un atto volle far da buon compagno:

E per ridurlo all’opre buone, e sante,

Non per speranza di verun guadagno;

Fintosi un baro, a dargli andò l’assalto,

Un po di ben chiedendo per Sant’Alto.


(It happened, that already undestood a Necromancer,

What a man he was, so right, and great,

He was so extravagantly a novelty,

An act  was wanted to make [him] a good companion:

And to reduce him to works good and holy,

Not for hope of venal gain;

Faking a cheater, he went to give the attack,

Asking for a bit of good, for God' s sake.


Note by Puccio Lamoni: "According to things in the above terms, such a Magician, understood as an honest man, as was Perione, had changed into such a bad one, [the Duke] wanted to do an act of an honest man, trying to put Perione on the good path: and though a fake beggar, he went to ask alms for God's sake".


13 -  Saverio Bettinelli, Il giuoco delle carte [Card games], Cremona, L. Manini, 1775.

14 - Roberto Davidsohn, Firenze ai tempi di Dante [Florence in the time of Dante], Firenze, R. Bemporad & figlio, 1929, p. 559.

15 - Viaggio in Alemagna di Francesco Vettori, Ambasciatore della Repubblica Fiorentina a Massimiliano I, Libro Quarto [Journey in Germany of Francesco Vettori, Ambassador of the Florentine Republic to Maximilian I, Book Four], Firenze, Libreria Molini, 1837, p. 163. The volume reports the follwing note: “The autograph Codex of Journey of Francesco Vettori exists in the abundant library of the noble and learned Lord Count Gaetano Melzi of Milan, one of the noblest of Italian private libraries”.

16 - Pasquale Villari, La storia di Girolamo Savonarola e de’ suoi tempi, narrata con l’aiuto di nuovi documenti [The history of Girolamo Savanarola and his times, narrated with the aid of new documents], Volume Two, Documents, Firenze, Felice Le Monnier, 1861, pp. 152-154.

17 - Govanni Dolcetti, Le bische e il giucco d’azzardo a Venizia [Casinos and gambling in Venice, 1172-1807], Venezia, Libreria Aldo Manuzio Ed., 1903.

18 - Ibid., pp. 132-133-134.

19 - Ibid., pp. 116-117.

20 - Anton Maria Cospi, Il giudice criminalista (opera del sig. Antonio Maria Cospi segretario del sereniss. gran duca di Toscana). Distinta in tre volumi. Dove con dottrina teologica, canonica, civile, filosofica, medica, storica, e poetica si discorre di tutte quelle cose, che al giudice delle cause criminali possono avvenire [The criminal judge (works of Mr. Antonio Maria Cospi secretary of the most serene Grand duke of Tuscany). Divided into three volumes. Where theological, canon law, civil, philosophical, medical, historical, and poetic doctrine are discussed regarding all those things that can happen in the judging of criminal cases], Firenze, Zanobi Pignoni, 1643, pp. 559-562. The work was subsequently reprinted in Venice in 1681. Both editions, most improperly, were edited quite badly by the nephew Octaviano Antonio Cospi. Antonio Maria Cospi was also known in France for the translation of another of his works: Interpretation des chiffres, Paris, 1641.

21 - Zuani magni(a), playing Bazzica in the coffee shop (dealing playing cards with conventional signs) near the Mount of the Pietà, cheated of some zecchini (Venetian coins) Count G. B. Chieregato .... who found that the cards were marked, and these were shorter or a little stuck out from the others ...; the marked cards were the 7s: which are called the “Bedside Tables” (Comodini, unknown name of cards), and the Aces, these cards being longer than the others ... and they use such signs for certain gains in the game of Bazzica, in which they are the main cards to win. (Inquisitors of State B. 1136, F. 883, year 1783)

(a) Zuani (Giovanni) magni:  ‘magni’ might be a nickname to indicate that he ate the other (In Venetian, magnare = mangiare = to eat, i.e., he earned money winning over rivals); or it could mean ‘great’, i.e. Giovanni the Great, from the Latin Magnus, maybe because he was very good at cheating.

22 - Giovanni Dolcetti, op. cit., p. 129.

23 - Ibid., p. 130.