Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

The Prince Fibbia inventor of the Ludus

In Bologna, at the early fifteenth century

 

Andrea Vitali, may 2oo3 - Updated 2022

 

 

A famous painting, until a few years ago in Palazzo Felicini in Bologna and now mysteriously disappeared, portrays in seventeenth century clothes Prince Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia, descendant of the famous condottiero (mercenary leader) Castruccio Castracani (fig. 1). The work was painted by an unknown artist around the thirties of the seventeenth century 1. The painting shows the Prince standing near a table holding some full-length Bolognese Tarocchino cards (the first, visible, is the Emperor). Other cards are on the ground (the Queen of Batons and the Queen of Coins, while a third card is unrecognizable); another is shown falling from the table (the Eight of Coins) 2.  Under the painting are the following words:

 

FRANCESCO ANTELMINELLI CASTRACANI FIBBIA, PRINCIPE DI PISA, MONTEGIORI, E PIETRA SANTA, E SIGNORE DI FUSECCHIO, FILIO DI GIOVANNI, NATO DA CASTRUCCIO DUCA DI LUCCA, PISTOIA, PISA & FUGITO IN BOLOGNA DATOSI A' BENTIVOGLJ, FU FATTO GENERALISSIMO DELLE ARME BOLOGNESE, ET IL PRIMO DI QUESTA FAMIGLIA CHE FU DETTO IN BOLOGNA DALLE FIBBIE, EBBE PER MOGLIE FRANCESCA, FILIA DI GIOVANNI BENTIVOGLJ.

INVENTORE DEL GIOCO DEL TAROCCHINO DI BOLOGNA: DALLI XVI RIFORMATORI DELLA CITTÀ EBBE PER PRIVILEGIO DI PORRE L'ARMA FIBBIA NELLA REGINA DI BASTONI E QUELLA DELLA DI LUI MOGLIE NELLA REGINA DI DENARI. NATO L'ANNO 1360 MORTO L'ANNO 1419.

 

(Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia, Prince of Pisa, Montegiori and Pietra Santa, and lord of Fusecchio, son of Giovanni, born of Castruccio, Duke of Lucca, Pistoia, Pisa, having fled to Bologna in service to Bentivogli, was made generalissimo of the Bolognese armies, and was the first of this family, which was called in Bologna “dalla Fibbie.” He married Francesca, daughter of Giovanni Bentivogli.

Inventor of the game of Tarocchino in Bologna, he had from the XVI Reformatories the privilege of placing the Fibbia arms on the Queen of Batons and those of his wife on the Queen of Coins. Born in the year 1360, he died in the year 1419.) 3.

 

This affirmation, that such a Prince Fibbia invented the game of Tarocchini, unfortunately appeared about 130 years after his death; moreover, he never married the notorious Francesca Bentivoglio, who in 1488 murdered her husband Galeotto Manfredi, Lord of Faenza. What is more, the Tarocchini, a shortened deck from which the twos through fives have been removed in all four suits, is probably no older than the end of the fifteenth century, when the fashion for reduced decks became popular in northern Italy. These facts have led Tarot historians to summarily affirm, although without carrying out a thorough historical investigation of the archives, that this Prince never existed, and moreover that attributing the invention to such a person was nothing more than a device to inflate the prestige of the family of Antelminelli Fibbia, since the cards of the Tarocchini at the time of the painting were much loved by the Bolognese.

 

But if we investigate thoroughly what was written, once the existence of that Prince is verified through documents and some apparent historical inconsistencies are carefully evaluated, we must read the affirmation about the invention of Tarocchini as about the invention of the Tarot (in Italian, Tarocchi), or better, of the Ludus Triumphorum or Game of Triumphs (Trionfi), as the game was called from its origin throughout the fifteenth century.

 

First of all, the history, attested by documents that are found still today, tells us that Francesco Antelminelli Castracani did exist and was not born of the imagination of the painting’s commissioner. But as we have said, the wording on the painting has some errors. Francesco wasn’t the son of Giovanni, son of Castruccio Castracani.

 

Giovanni Castracani Antelminelli was indeed the son of Castracani, as we are informed by various chronicles that dealt with that noble Tuscan family. Direct information comes from a will by Castracani made a year before his death, which was fully reported by Aldo Manucci in The Actions of Castruccio Castracane of the Antelminelli Lords of Lucca with the genealogy of the family, where we can also find other interesting information about the condottiero's last living moments and his children, 

 

"having made his testament the year before, MCCCXXVII [1327] on December 20 in Lucca, ... but feeling lacking & being above the fact of the gravity of his illness, M. Nicolo Castracani Antelminelli, Principal Vegli, Duke Sandei, spoke with his secretaries, giving them many orders; he desired to see his wife, the Duchess, & F. Lazaro, Prior of Altopascio & executor of the will, and Enrico, Valevano, Giovanni & Verde, his sons, to whom he gave with intrepid face the paternal benediction and a last kiss." 4.

 

Castruccio expired on September 23, 1328 at the age of 47 years, five months, & five days 5. His son Giovanni, a knight and important man in many battles, died still young in 1343 and was buried in Pisa, near his mother in the Church of St. Francis, where his sculpted upper body is armed and dressed in chivalric attire, with the emblem of his family. The inscription reads:

 

"Exemplar of virtue. While I got fame in the flower of youth, anticipating the path of premature death, I lie covered by this stone, me, Giovanni, son of the famous lord Castruccio, Duke of Lucca, of the highest intelligence, of indestructible memory, defender of the homeland, never defeated by the enemy. May 14, 1343." 6 (fig. 2 - fig. 3)

 

It is clear, based on the inscription under the painting, that Francesco, the Prince said in the painting to be the inventor of the Tarocchini, was not Giovanni’s son, because the former is said there to have been born in 1360; that is, seventeen years after Giovanni’s death.

 

Like his brothers, Giovanni was the prince (in the sense of “ruler”) of many Tuscan cities, and in particular Prince of Pietra Santa and Monteggiori, thanks to a charter given by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian, who 

 

"wanting to demonstrate benevolence, mingled with great ingratitude, on April 10 granted to the Duchess, wife of Castruccio, all the real estate left by her husband; gave her free power & dominion over Monteggiori Castle and its district as Patrimony, with all the towns in the Contado and the lands above Pietrasanta; assigning four thousand gold florins per year on this Vicarage, to her, her sons and their descendants; making, on December 17, two Charters to the Duchess, and to the aforesaid Valerano and Giovanni, confirming them and their successors as Lords of Monteggiori, with the same income."  7.

 

Manucci has the whole text of this charter in his work, as well as the Castruccio will.

 

So who was this Francesco in the painting? Manucci, and also other documents and family trees referring to this family (fig. 4), said that he was born of Orlando, son of Enrico, first-born of Castruccio Castracani. From Manucci we discover that Enrico, Giovanni’s brother, had a son named Orlando, who himself had four sons, Castruccio, Enrico, Francesco, and Rolando (another form of Orlando), as attested in wills made in 1362 and 1363 8.

 

A Fibbia descendant, Father Flaminio Fibbia, who was a member of the Benedictine Order, sent a letter on March 12, 1594, to his cousin, informing him about a family tree in the house of“Signor Bernardino l’Antelminelli Gentiluomo dè Principali della Città” (Lord Bernardino l’Antelminelli Gentleman of the City of Lucca), which he himself had seen, and to whom a copy in copper had been bequeathed. He writes that this Lord of Lucca thought that the family in question descended from a man named Francesco, son of Rolando, born to Enrico, son of Prince Castruccio. First he talks about the family’s coat of arms, which has buckles on it, in Italian fibbie, singular fibbia:

 

"Now, I have no doubt that our family came from Antelminelli, through Castruccio Castracane, and this is Proved by the [coat of] Arms, which is completely identical to ours, which, as your Excellency already knows, represents half a white dog with a Collar on a blue Field and Buckles [Fibbie] on a white Field, and the true ancient emblem of Antelminelli used by Castruccio Castracane is the white half Dog with Collar in a Blue Field, covered from the middle down by a white Field in which we have put the Buckles [le Fibbie], because of the Surname change; the Eagle was added recently. He disapproved of the Eagle put there, although, as I told you before, this was a gift of Charles V to our family; he told me that it was had in Gift from the Emperors, but the real [Arms] is composed of a White Dog with Collar in a blue Field, set in a white Shield in which, as I told you before, we put the Buckles [Fibbie].)" 9.

 

The Benedictine Father lists all the names in the family tree, beginning with Castruccio Castracane, Prince of Lucca, who 

 

"had a son Enrico, and from him born Orlando who begat Francesco, who lived in Bologna, and from him followed the Family now called Fibbia - or Fibbie, in the manner of the people of Bologna and its Annals - adding that texts about the Castracani say that Francesco had two sons, Perazzino and Antonello. " 10.

 

As for the presence of the eagle in the coat of arms, it came from Emperor Charles V, who decreed it, in a letter-patent, on February 27, 1533, to the “Graduated Doctor and Gilded knight of the Papal Army“ Alessando Fibbia, a descendent of our Francesco; and later, in another letter-patent dated 1st October 1533, the Emperor granted the honor of placing a black eagle with a buckle [fibbia] in its mouth on his family’s coat of arms 11.

 

There is evidence in many of the works by historians in Bologna, such as Dolfi and Montefani, both inspired by Alidosi 12, that Francesco was the son of Orlando, born of Enrico, son of Castruccio. This ancestry is also in eighteenth century family trees found in the Bologna State Archive 13, to which we will return later.

 

That there is no doubt that the branch descending from Enrico moved to Bologna, we can see from a will dated November 5, 1561, drawn up by Joannis Baptista Frassetti, where Francesco Fibbia, son of Vincenzo, states that his noble family came from Francesco, 

 

"descendant of the family of Enrico, first-born of Castruccio Castracani, formerly Prince of Lucca. This Enrico was ousted in the year 1328 and came to Bologna, where he lived in a big house in the parish of San Prospero which the aforesaid Vincenzo then sold to some of the Desideri in the year 1475." 14.

 

So from these documents it is ascertained that the Francesco Fibbia in the painting was real and that he would have been Prince of Pietrasanta and Monteggiori, thanks to the charter of Ludwig the Bavarian, which transmitted those territories to the descendants of the children of Castruccio Cavalcanti, and that he lived in Bologna following the transfer to this city of his family.

 

Clearly he never married the Francesca who was daughter of Giovanni II Bentivoglio (1443-1598), if only because it is well documented that this daughter of the ruler of Bologna married Galeotto Manfredi, Lord of Faenza in 1482 in Bologna. The marriage didn’t last, because in 1488 her husband died, killed by assassins under her orders, and she was free to marry Count Guido Torelli, a Vatican Chancellor.

 

The fame of this sequence of events, negating a possible marriage between the Prince and this Francesca Bentivoglio, has led Tarot historians to negate completely what was written in the painting. But one needs to know the medieval attitudes about family alliances and read them in the right way. That marriage contracts never actually occurred with persons of noble origin was a continual practice throughout the Middle Ages, up to the seventeenth century, as Professor Rolando Dondarini, a professor of medieval history at the University of Bologna, reminds us:

 

"Attempts to give character and prestigious ancestry through false unions and fanciful ancestors were particularly frequent in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when many biographers took advantage of powerful families with their invented and servile reconstructions. There is the controversy that Cherubino Ghiradacci had to face when he claimed that the Bentivoglio in origin were of low birth, while their descendants boasted of being descended from King Enzo and his purely legendary relationship with Lucia of Viadagola, to whom King Enzo would have said: ‘Indeed I am fond of you’ [Ben ti voglio]." 15.

 

Unfortunately none of the Fibbia histories or family trees gives the name of the Prince’s wife, so we don’t know whether her name was Francesca or not. Other Francescas are recorded among the Bentivoglio daughters of this period: one is Francesca, daughter of Anton Bentivoglio (ca. 1385-1437) and Francesca Gozzadino, who married the Romeo Pepoli of that time 16; another is Francesca di Guglielmo Bentivoglio, whose husband Francesco di Pietro Isolani died in 1422 17.None is listed as marrying a Francesco, but the family’s matrimonial history is both incomplete and uncertain. All that can be said is that such a marriage between the two families is not improbable, because they were allied politically.

 

Besides our Francesco, we see recorded another Fibbia, a certain Biagio called Bolognino; Dolfi in his chapter on the Fibbia family reports: "1420. Biagio called [detto] Bolognino, who went with Antonio Bentivoglio to Castello Bolognese when he took possession of it." 18.

Anton Galeazzo Bentivoglio was exiled to Castello Bolognese, a small town southeast of Bologna, in that year of 1420 19. This Biagio, Dolfi says, was married to a Giacoma Bianchetti.

A “Biagio detto Bolognino” is listed in several Fibbia family trees. In three of them he is a grandson of our Francesco. One has him as son of “Vincenzo.” 20. The other two have him as the son of “Petruccio dottore. The latter has “1420” to the left of his name, like Dolfi, indicating the date of death 21. The former has “1443,” with additional information:

 

"Biagio known as Bolognino Antel[minelli] Castr[acani] of the Fibbia Noble of Bolog. Knight Capt. of the Council of Lances, Head of the Faction of Bentivoglii Field Master, Husband of Giocoma Bianchetti in Maluezzi and gave the City to the Duke of Milan killed by the Prendiparte family for the Bentivoglii 1443." 22.

 

A different family tree, this one printed and found in various libraries, presents a “Biagio called Bolognini” as brother or perhaps cousin to our Francesco. The family tree says of this Biagio (translating as literally as possible): "Biagio called Bolognino Prince of Monteggiori and Pietrasanta, fled to Bologna, in service to Bentivogli, was Captain General of the Army in Bologna. And was created Knight by the Lords." 23.

 

Despite the differences, both trees, as well as Dolfi’s note, have the two families as allied. In the family tree just cited, immediately to the left of Biagio, below Giovanni, son of Castruccio, we find: "Francesco Antelminelli Castracani, Lord of Fusechio, Count Palatine, fled to Bologna, and made noble citizen was called Fibbie. 1399." 24.

 

The language in both entries, albeit in combination, is similar to that of our painting (repeated for ease of reference):

 

"Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia, Prince of Pisa, Montegiori, and Pietra Santa, and Lord of Fusecchio, son of Giovanni, born of Castruccio Duke of Lucca, Pistoia, Pisa & fled to Bologna in service to Bentivoglio, was made generalissimo of the Bolognese army and the first of this family, which was called in Bologna “dalle Fibbie” ... 25.

 

This coincidence of language is another testimony to the historical authenticity of the inscription, even if perhaps based on a family tree that confuses generations.

 

The dates at the ends of the biographical notes on these family trees are the presumed dates of death. But we should not take the year 1399 (above, text of n. 24) for Francesco’s death too seriously, due to the probable omission of one generation at least. Two family trees, more consistent with what find elsewhere (that Francesco is the grandson of Enrico and Biagio the grandson of Francesco), give a year of death after 1400. In one, after the 1 and the 4 there is a hole in the paper where the third and most of the fourth digit would be, showing for the fourth only a vertical line, so a 1 or a 4 26. In the other the date is clearly 1421 27.

 

In four different family trees, all of the same family, we find three that are slightly different and a printed version that seems to have omitted a generation. That only shows that three hundred years afterwards, it is not easy to reconstruct precise family history, especially in a family known to repeat first names every other generation at least. If four family trees done within thirty years or so of one other do not agree in every detail, we cannot expect a painting a century earlier to conform precisely to some set of established facts. What matters for us is that all the sources agree that this prince existed and lived in Bologna around the beginning of the fifteenth century, that he was a descendant of the famous Castruccio Castracani, and that his family, first Antelminelli. then Castracani, then Fibbia, was allied with the Bentivoglio of that time. In the painting we have the date of his death as 1419; in one tree there are no dates, in still another the date is 1421 and in another it is not clear, but for sure is 14--. A fourth gives 1399, but seems to have left out a generation (in that respect like our painting), so probably he did die around the time the painting says he did.

 

Returning to the alliance of the Fibbia and Bentivoglio families, we know that their coats of arms on the Queens of Batons and Coins, which the painting affirms were a privilege granted by the “XVI Reformatories,” were in fact printed on these same cards by the seventeenth-century. In the “Alla Torre” Tarocchini, dated to that century, the Fibbia arms appear on the Queen of Batons. The Queen of Coins is missing, but these arms also appear on the same cards in many eighteenth-century decks, such as the “Al Mondo” (fig. 5 - fig. 628 and “Alla Colomba.” (fig. 729. The ability to insert coats of arms of any nature, noble or not, into these decks was not subject to particular authorizations, so that any printer could do it. On this point one must wonder why these emblems inserted were those of the Fibbia and Bentivoglio, if not based on a tradition that saw the two families as historically allied, and even also at the origin of these cards. 

 

Continuing our discussion, it can be admitted that whoever commissioned the painting did not know the exact year when the Tarot was invented. But writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, if they ventured anything specific, typically advanced much wilder views, so that by the end of the eighteenth century the Tarot was even given an Egyptian origin 30. In 1543, for example, the famous satirist Pietro Aretino, in a dialogue between a card maker and his cards – which specifically included the triumphs – had the cards say, “We declare to you that Palamedes found us [the cards] during the siege of Troy.” 31. Then around 1565 in central Italy the anonymous author of a Discorso on the Tarot wrote, “There were three main games that the ancients invented and put in use for their diversion and entertainment: Chess, Ball, and Tarot [tarocco].” Moreover, “Tarot [Tarocco] was the first card game to be invented...” 32. Another example is from 1663: on the topic of “Who was the first who began to navigate, to have lordship over the sea, to discover the compass, and to invent many other things,” a certain Fidele Onofrio included in his list “The Greeks discovered the Tarocchi.” 33. Some writers, it is true, doubted that the Tarot, or playing cards in general, were so old – Raffaele Maffei in 1506, Andrea Alciato in 1544 34 - but without specifying any time period. In such company, that the inscription on the painting should point to a specific time, place, and inventor that is also plausible is exceptional.

 

On the picture it is written that Francesco Fibbia was the inventor of Tarocchino, but we know that this term represents a sixteenth century variation of the game of Tarocchi (Tarot, in English and French) played in Bologna since the fifteenth century, when it initially had the name of Triumphs (Trionfi). The author of the inscription, pointing to someone living between the fourteenth and the fifteenth century as the inventor of Tarocchino, did not know the correct form of the game at the time of its creation, considering Tarocchino as the original form and not the later variant. On this point Dummett writes:

 

"If Prince Fibbia had something to do with the game of Tarot, it is far more likely that he was the inventor, not of the Bologna variant of the game, but of the game itself, the origin of which should then be advanced to before 1420. In the seventeenth century Bolognese players had long since become accustomed to only Tarot games characteristic of the variety of Bologna, all charged with the short pack of sixty-two cards; the only exception was the really divergent form derived from Florence known as Germini or Minchiate (never as Tarot), which was played with a pack of its own. It may well be that in the mind of whoever composed the legend of the portrait there was not a clear distinction between the invention of tarot and the invention of tarocchino; he might have thought that there were no other forms of the game and even that it was unknown outside of Bologna and its surroundings. If so, Prince Fibbia could really be the first inventor of the tarot pack and the game practiced with it. " 35.

 

Prof. Dummett, who we may recall taught Formal Logic at Oxford University as well as writing monumental historical works on Tarot, does not give examples of this claim that the Bolognese thought that Tarocchino was the primitive form of the game, probably taken by him for granted. We will therefore offer a few.

 

In 1736, the writer Giuseppe Maria Buini (born 1680) published The Misfortunes of Bertuldin of Zena, putting into verse of the Bolognese dialect an earlier work in standard Italian from the sixteenth century 36.  Buini also attached some “remarks” on his text in standard Italian. We will first see the relevant stanza, then the part of our interest, his first two remarks about it:

 

First Canto – XXXII

 

In which while they all waited [ammanvass] for things to be set up

   Two people were playing di stanta [in the room] at tarocchini,

   And two others a caplett [at hat] at a table,

   And two at batt'mur [bat-wall], and one who was lazy,

   So if anyone protested [an action], he passed judgment

   And all differences conciliated [i.e., he resolved the dispute] 37.

 

Of his “Remarks” on that stanza, we will quote just those on the first two lines, the first because it is short, and the second because it is on our topic. (To deal with the rest would take us too far afield, but anyone interested may consult our note.)

 

(line 1. Amanvass: That it be prepared and ready, manibus aptatum prandium, to speak in Latin [lunch set up to the hands, i.e. For the table to be set and the dishes brought out].

line 2. Di Stanta [in the room] - A kind of game played among us [in Bologna], which uses the Tarocchini cards, a game invented by the studious mind of the Bolognese, of which [Pierre] Grégoire writes, in the Syntagma Juris lib. 30 cap. 4 num. 11, that one can find [in the game] some grains of a good purpose and of particular erudition, and Ginerbelti wrote its history, showing its origin: that the Tarocchini are nothing else but the tragic deeds of the Geremei Guelphs and the Lambertazzi Ghibellines, of whom Valdemuse da Prusilio recounts the different fortunes 38.

 

So the invention of that card game, which to Buini meant the game of Tarocchino, went to Bologna of sometime long before.

 

We will hear more about the “Geremei Guelphs and the Lambertazi Ghibellines” later (see in the present volume “The Bolognese Order of Triumphs” and “The Priority of the ‘Equal Papi’ rule”). Suffice it to say for now that they were warring factions in Bologna during the thirteenth century, a long time before Buini.

 

In essence Buini is saying what the well-known French jurist Pierre Grégoire, known as Tolosano (1540-97), wrote in his Syntagma Juris Universi, that the cards possessed educational qualities full of erudition. In fact, if we investigate what Grégoire wrote, in his Syntax Juris Universi of 1582, we see that he spoke of Tarot and not Tarocchini:

"However, games of sheets of cards have been invented in which, while they are played, there are also traces of a certain erudition, such as in Tarot [Tarotiis], and in those in company with the highest sacred and philosophical writings, at the Vuechello typographer [in Paris]." 39.

 

Which means that for the Bolognese Buini, Tarotiis was Tarocchini, and not Tarocchi, the Italian term corresponding to the French, that term and pack by now either unknown to him or mistakenly assumed to be the original form rather than the variant.

 

The writer Giambatista Giusti (Lucca 1758 - Bologna 1829), author of several works that made him one of the leading personalities of his epoch, in his Sermoni (usually “Sermons,” but now “Conversations”) intended to satirize the bourgeoisie of the time, with its luxuries and decadence. InConversations with his Friend Lorenzo Callini,: Giusti writes, on the customs concerning card games:

 

In another space four players sit

Playing Tarocco: O divine find! O illustrious

Son of my city! You fled our

Miserable land, divided

By [political] parties and, received here hospitably,

As a reward for this noble hospitality,

Invented the Tarocco, and awards and honors

Were bestowed upon you by the Senate 40.

 

The author, as he writes in the notes to his verses, refers here to Prince Fibbia and to that Privilege, mentioned in the painting depicting him, granted to him by the government of the city. It is a precious testimony that emphasizes how his invention of the game was widely accepted even in later periods.

 

The lines “Miserable land, by parties / Divided” refer to the struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, which inflamed Italy from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, a struggle which, as already expressed, was thought by some to be reflected in the game of Triumphs. Our Prince, of Ghibelline conviction, may have decided to transfer to the game the fratricidal war that had led him, in the second half of the fourteenth century, to take refuge in the city of Bologna, fleeing from Tuscany where the Guelphs had been victorious over their opponents. As we have already seen, Buini saw the game in precisely this way:

 

"Ginerbelti wrote its history, showing its origin: that the Tarocchini are nothing else but the tragic deeds of the Geremei Guelfs and the Lambertazzi Ghibellines, of whom Valdemuse da Prusilio recounts the different fortunes." 41.

 

In essence, he argues, the Bolognese Ginerlbelti, writing the history of Tarocchino, claimed that this game was, through images, the tragic history of the struggle between the Guelf family of the Geremei and the Ghibelline family of the Lambertazzi, and that another Bolognese, Valdemusi da Prusilio, described the events.

 

The same origin is mentioned by Ercole Mamellini, son of the notary Andrea, in the latter's Liber [Diary] through an addendum between the dates of December 1542 and February 1543, as identified by Ross S. Caldwell. As the struggle between the two factions took place in Bologna in the thirteenth century, seeing the war between these two families imprinted on those cards inevitably leads us to think that the historian Ginerbelti believed that the invention of the Tarocchino dates back to many years before their actual appearance. This once again attests that the Bolognese believed their game to be very ancient, the original form from which the Tarocchi would later be derived.

 

As additional testimony to the fact that the Bolognese thought that the invention of Tarocchini was very old, Ross Caldwell has brought to our attention that Carlo Pisarri writes in his 1754 Instructions necessary for those wishing to learn the amusing game of Tarocchini of Bologna (a technical manual on the game of Tarocchino):

 

"This Game is so ancient that we have no knowledge of its Inventor, nor of the time in which it was created; it is certainly true, however, that it is specific to the City of Bologna, and was invented to pass tedious hours with some entertainment." 42.

 

There is also this, in a museum catalog of 1677:

 

"12 - All these Card Games were derived from that of the Tarocchi, invented, as is known, in Bologna, and, more than anywhere else, practiced there, when the Bentivoglio exerted the Princely authority. The cards presented here give testimony.

13 - TAROCCHI CARDS, used in Bologna CLXX (170) and more years ago, as evidenced by the backs of the cards, on which the Arms of the Bentivoglio are printed, as used at that time when they exercised princely authority, i.e. with the red Saw and nothing else in the shield, and a Panther above the Crest, with the motto FIDES, ET AMOR. They are much larger than ordinary ones, and likewise painted in a variety of colors. The Game with them is more of ingenuity than of luck, but the Holy Figures do not make for good harmony, such as that of the Pope, which does not seem to me proper to put among things of play, so much so that even the Heterodox are scandalized by such abuse." 43.

 

As we find in other instances, there is a certain uneasiness about having the Holy Father in the deck. as well as the other “Holy Figures,” otherwise unspecified.

 

To summarize thus far: from what we have been able to substantiate: no erroneous information is attributable to the inscription in the painting, except for the irrelevant attribution of the Prince's paternity, and even that is consistent with some family trees. While the Prince’s year of death varies in the sources, it is most likely within eight or nine years before or two or three years after what is in the inscription, making his time in Bologna a plausible one for the invention of the Tarocchi. Whether he married a Francesca of the Bentivoglio family is unknown, but he and other members of the family do seem to have been allied with that family, which did have daughters named Francesca, and marriages between allied families were common.

 

It has been objected that the Prince lived too early to have invented the game, because if he had, then surely there would have been reports earlier than 1440 (Florence) and 1442 (Estense court, Ferrara) 44. However, historians of the Middle Ages assert, by a rule of thumb known as “practice of use” [practica d’uso], that in this era documentation of a term often lagged behind its introduction by many years, even twenty to twenty-five or more, thus going back to a period which matches the Prince’s presence in Bologna.

 

This conjecture in reference to “practice of use” is commonly supported by historians of the Middle Ages 45. A single example should suffice: Chiara Frugoni informs us that eyeglasses were invented around the year 1285, based on an account of a 1305 sermon delivered in Santa Maria Novella in Florence by the Dominican Giordano da Pisa, who dated them to almost twenty years before:

 

"Not yet twenty years have passed since the art of making eyeglasses was invented, for seeing well; one of the best and most necessary arts that the world has, and it is from such a short time that it has been invented: a new art, which previously did not exist. And the reader [Giordano da Pisa] said: I saw the one who first invented it and practiced it, and talked to him." 46.

 

So not only did the good Dominican communicate during the sermon that eyeglasses, still unknown in Florence, had been invented about twenty years earlier, but also asserted that their invention had occurred very recently. This statement suggests that for people then, twenty years must have been considered a short period of time, because he called it a recent invention. 

 

Since we did not know if the Dominican had been the first to comment on that invention, to further corroborate the statement of Prof. Frugoni, additional investigation was needed to verify if elsewhere there was credible traces of the existence of eyeglasses in the fifteen-twenty years prior to his report. In fact investigators have found two such reports, in 1300 and 1301, both in Venice. The 1301 regulation is the first to specify lenses made of glass. The 1300 regulation speaks of lenses made of crystal put next to the eyes and prohibits the production of counterfeits using clear glass; it also says that this regulation is a copy of a guild regulation of 1284 47.Since the 1284 date agrees closely with our Dominican's dating, the two references together, thanks to specific evidence of a purely accidental nature, constitute double evidence for the practice of use, a delay in this case of at least fifteen to twenty years, possibly longer.

 

The same reasoning applies to our game. As already mentioned, Triumph decks are reported in the early 1440s, in Florence and Ferrara; both cases are of luxury decks 48. But on July 28 of the same year, also for the d’Este court, purchased from a Bolognese cloth merchant named Burdochio, the price of 10 soldi is recorded. Such a sum is outof the average person’s reach, but would not require the resources of a prince 49. There is also the merchant to consider. It is most likely that Burdochio obtained his decks from his home town of Bologna; Florence is also possible, because not too long afterwards, on January 3, 1444, two men are arrested for playing Trionfi near the Stinche, Florence’s prison. This is a poor part of town, so they likely used an inexpensive deck. With such cases, it is surely reasonable to expect even more than twenty to twenty-five years from the time of invention to known records of the game’s popular practice, which by then would have been even more prevalent than the eyeglasses documented by a cleric and a guild regulation.

 

There are also other reasons to suspect a longer time than in the case of eyeglasses and other new things. We have to take into account that the purchase in Ferrara just mentioned was for children aged eight and ten. If it existed for a long time as a game produced for small children (even if in Florence not in 1443), it is more likely to have escaped those who kept records. Moreover, card games were subject to periodic condemnations by preachers and prohibitions by municipalities, which would have discouraged records of purchases and the retention of packs, and families were continually being exiled, with consequent losses of non-essential goods and records.

 

Agreeing with the writer on the most reasonable dating of the invention of the game are three leading experts: R. Decker, T. Depaulis and M. Dummett, who write:

 

"A lower bound for the date of the invention is harder to determine. It probably occurred around 1425; the earliest date with any claim to be plausible would be 1410." 50.

 

For this earlier date, we must also consider that Francesco Fibbia lived in a historical period that saw the beginning of the construction of the Basilica of San Petronio (1390), and of its Bolognini Chapel (1400-20), in which, starting in 1410, Giovanni da Modena painted the image of men hanging by one foot, also used in the early Triumph decks to represent the figure of the Traitor. In addition the Chapel in question contained depictions of the Magi, personages who have always been represented in the Star card of the Bolognese Tarocchi, together with a gastrocephalic Devil towering at the center of Hell, again found in the iconography of the early Bolognese Tarocchi. While such images are not unique to San Petronio, it is striking that they should all be found together there, newly painted in the Prince's lifetime, then found in the Bolognese Tarocchi.

 

If the game of Triumphs was invented in this period of 1410-20, we can expect that it would have fallen under the censorship of Bernardino and his followers, at least from 1423 onwards (see the next section), thus severely limiting the spread of the game and even more, the documentation of its production and sale, wherever his feelings dominated. The same would have been true in Florence, where all card games at this time were prohibited unless expressly permitted by name. Even if the game became largely tolerated in the period leading up to its legalization in 1450, at least among those who were discreet, early on a producer or purchaser would not have been able to predict when a rival might bring the letter of the law against one, with money changing hands. It would have been better not to retain evidence of illegal activity.

 

Notes



1. Our dating of the painting is by Dr. Elisabetta Gnignera, our scientific consultant and one of the leading international experts in the history of costumes, personal communication.

2. The Bolognese, at some point before our painting, reduced the seventy-eight-card deck to sixty-two, omitting the twos through fives of the four suits and calling the result Tarocchino or Tarocchini, i.e. “little Tarocco” or “little Tarocchi.” For further discussion, arguing that it was near the beginning of the sixteenth century when that happened, see here the quotations from Dummett corresponding to n. 34 below.

3. Trans. Michael Dummett, The Game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City (London: Duckworth, 1980), p. 66, with corrections: his “native of Castruccio” is more correctly “born of Castruccio”; his "presented himself to" should be "in service to" (literally, "given himself to"); "generalissimo," meaning "commander in chief," does not need a capital letter;”; and his “XIV” should be “XVI.” The “XVI Reformatori” were the city’s governing body, originally four representatives from each of the four quarters. See Giuseppe Guidicini, I riformatori dello stato di libertà della città di Bologna, dal 1394 al 1797, Vol. 1 (Bologna: Regia tipografia, 1876), pp. 13-14, in Google Books. The name "dalle Fibbie" means "of the buckles," probably referring to the buckles in the Castracani family crest, on which see text associated with n. 9 below.

4. Aldo Manucci, Le attioni di Castruccio Castracane degli Antelminelli Signori di Lucca con la genealogia della famiglia (Rome: Heredi di Gio. Giglioti, 1590), p. 95, online in archive.org: avendo fatto il suo testamento l’anno adietro del MCCCXXVII alli 20. di Dicembre, in Lucca . . . ma sentendosi mancare, & essere sopra fatto della gravezza del male; & avendo discorso con li suoi Segretarij, & dati molti ordini; fece chiamare à se la Duchessa sua moglie, M. Nicolo Castracani Antelminelli, Principal Vegli, Duccio Sandei, & F. Lazaro, Priore di Altopascio; & lasciolli nel testamento tutori, con Enrico, Valevano, Giovanni & Verde, suoi figliuoli; a’ quali con volto intrepido diede la benedizione paterna e l’ultimo bacio.”

5. Ibid., p. 97.

6. Ibid., p. 107. “Virtutis exemplum. momentaneo iuventutis flore clarescens, praematurae mortis in cursu praeventus, tegor hac in petra Ioannes, natus olim Illustris Domini Castruccij, Lucani Ducis, altissimae mentis, indelendae memoriae, libertatis patriae defensoris, hostibus semper invicti. Anno MCCCXLIII. Die XIJ. Maj.”

7. Ibid., p. 105: “volendo poi finger alcuna dimostratione di benevolenza e, meschiarla alla grande ingratitudine, confermò alli 10. di Aprile alla Duchessa, moglie di Castruccio, le entrate, che gli aveva lasciate il marito; e diedegli libera podestà, & dominio sopra il castello di Monteggiori, & suo distretto come Patrimonio, con tutte le ville nel Contado, & terre sopra Pietrasanta; assegnando quattromila Fiorini d’oro l’anno sopra esse Vicaria, a lei & à figliuoli, & e loro discendenti. & alli 17. di dicembre fece due Privilegi à quella Signora, à Valerano, e Giovanni predetti, confermandoli Signori di Monteggiori, & loro successori, con la istessa entrata.”

8. Ibid., p. 110. The four sons are also listed in Albero Genealogico della Famiglia Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia, Repertorio Fondo Fibbia 36 bis., Archivio di Stato, Bologna, n.d.

9. Adolfo Cavazza, Notizie intorno alle Famiglie Fibbia, Fabri, D’Arco, Fava e Pallavicini (Bologna: Zamorani, 1901), p. 7: “Ora io non dubito punto, che la Famiglia nostra Cada da questa degli Antelminelli per mezzo di Castruccio Castracane, et me ne da grande Argomento l’Arma, la quale è l’istessa che la nostra non alterata, già la nostra sa vostra Eccellenza è il cane da mezzo in su col colare in Campo azzurro, et le Fibbie in Campo bianco, et l'Arma antica vera delli Antelminelti usata da Castruccio Castracane e il mezzo Cane bianco col Colare in Campo Azzuro, Coperto dal mezzo in giù da un Campo bianco schietto, nel quale noi v’avemo poste le Fibbie Causa della variazione del Cognome; già l’Aquila vi è aggiunta da poco in qua. Egli hà biasimato, che vi si ponghi l’Aquila, et sebbene io v’hò detto, che questo fu un dono che Carlo Quinto fece alla nostra famiglia, mi rispose, che egli ancora l’hanno da imperatori in Dono … ma che la vera [Arma], è il Cane Bianco col Colar posto in Campo azzurro, et di sotto tutto il resto dello Scudo bianco, in che noi, come o detto, abbiamo posto le Fibbie.”

10.  Ibid., p. 8. “ebbe Enrico, et di lui Orlando, dal quale nacque Francesco, che abitò in Bologna, et da questa derivò la Famiglia ora detta – de Fibbia – o – dalle Fibbie – siccome volgarmente parla la Città di Bologna, et gli Anali di detto, aggiungendovisi però nelle Scritture, alias de Castracani, questo Francesco ebbe due figliuoli, Perazzino ed Antonello.”

11. Ibid., p. 11: "Dottore laureato e cavaliere Aurato delle Milizie Pontificie."

12. Scipione Pompeo Dolfi, Cronologia delle Famiglie Nobili di Bologna (Bologna: G.B. Ferroni, 1670), p. 320; Lodovico Montefani, Famiglie Bolognesi, Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, MS n. 34, fol. 33; Gio. Nicolò Pasquali Alidosi, Delli Antiani Consoli di Bologna, e Confalonieri di Giustitia della Città di Bologna, Libro Quinto (Bologna: Sebastiano Bonomi, 1621).

13. Archivio di Stato, Bologna, Fondo Archivistico Fibbia-Fabbri, Alberi di Famiglia, Busta 1, n.d., but later than that of n. 9. See below, nn. 20, 21, and 23.

14. This will was printed from the original MS by Tipografi Longhi, Bologna, 1764. Bologna, Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio, 17 Biografie storiche - Testamenti, Cap. I, n. 12: “descendentis a stirpe Henrici primogeniti Castruccii de Castracanis, olim Lucae Principis, qui Henricus expulsus fuit Anno 1328, & in hac civitate Bononiae Domicilium elexit, et habitavit in Domo Magna, sub Capella Sancti Prosperi, quam Vincentius praedictus postea vendidit illis de Desideriis Anno 1475.“

15. Prof. Rolando Dondarini,personal communication: “I tentativi di darsi un tono e una discendenza prestigiosa attraverso false unioni e ascendenze fantasiose furono particolarmente frequenti tra il Quattro, Cinque e Seicento, quando molti biografi si avvalevano presso famiglie potenti con le loro ricostruzioni inventate e servili. È nota la polemica che Cherubino Ghiradacci dovette affrontare quando sostenne che i Bentivoglio in origine erano beccai, mentre i loro discendenti millantavano una discendenza da Re Enzo e dal suo rapporto puramente leggendario con Lucia di Viadagola, colei che avrebbe detto a Re Enzo: ‘Ben ti voglio.’“

16. Dolfi, Cronologia (see here n. 12), pp. 113-14.

17. Ibid., p. 431.

18. Ibid., pp. 320-21: “1420. Biagio detto Bolognino, che andò con Antonio Bentivogli à Castello Bolognese quando ne prese possesso.”

20. Archivio Famiglia Fibbia-Fabbri, Repertorio d'Instrumenti e Scritture. b. 206 bis (ex 117 bis). Fibbia Discendenza, Lib. 21 n°. 5 (Archivio di Stato, Bologna), single sheet, first line “Francesco Fibbia Castracani.”

21. Fondo Speciale, Busta III, 34, a, Bologna, Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio), single sheet, first line “Guerniero Antelminelli primo della Linea.” This is one of many genealogies drawn up by the distinguished scholar Baldassarre Antonio Maria Carrati between 1763 and 1767.

22. Archivio Famiglia Fibbia-Fabbri, Repertorio d'Instrumenti e Scritture. b. 206 bis (ex 117 bis). Fibbia Discendenza, Lib. 21 n°. 5 , Archivio di Stato, Bologna, single sheet, first line “Teseo Antelminelli Castracani, Signor di’ Lucca”: “Biagio detto Bolognino Antel. Castr. dalli Fibbie, Sig. di Bolog. Cavagl. Capit. di Lanze di Conseglio Capo di Facione delle Bentivoglij Giostrante, Marito di Giocoma Bianchetti in Maluezzi e diede la Città al Duca di Milano ucciso dalla familiglia Prendiparte per li Bentivoglij 1443.” To see all of fig. 3 and Fig. 5, go to the online version of the present essay (same title, 2003, 2017, revised trans. 2012, 2017), on the website of Association Le Tarot, fig. 4.

23. Discendenza di Guarniero I. Progenitore della Nobilissima Famiglia Antelminelli (Bologna: Longhi, 1727), single sheet (56x100 cm.): “Biagio detto Bolognino Principe di Monteggiori e Pietrasanta Fugito in Bologna datosi a Bentivogli fu Generale Capitano. dell’Armi in Bologna. E creato Cavagliere fu de’ Signori.”

24. Ibid.: “Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Signore di Fusechio Conte Palatino, fugito in Bologna, e fatto Nobile Cittadino fu detto dalle Fibbie 1399.” This family tree has him as son of Giovanni and Biagio as son of Valerano, or perhaps both sons of Valerano (there are lines suggesting both possibilities).

25. See here text associated with n. 3.

26. Archivio Famiglia Fibbia-Fabbri, tirst line “Francesco Fibbia Castracani” (see here n. 20).

27. Fondo Speciale, first line “Guerniero Antelminelli primo della Linea.” (see here n. 21).

28.  Collezione privata Giuliano Crippa, Milano. 

29. Bologna, Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio, Carta da Gioco, 16. Q. V. 23.

30. Court de Gébelin, Monde primitif, analyse et comparé avec le monde moderne, tome 8 (Paris, par l’auteur, 1781), p. 365, online in Gallica.

31. Pietro Aretino, Le carte parlante (Palermo: Sellerio, 1992), pp. 42-43: “dicciamoti che Palamede ne lo assedio di Troia ci trovò.” Work originally published as Dialogo di Pietro Aretino, nel quale si parla di giuoco con moralità piacevole (Venice: Giovanni de’ Farri et f.lli, 1543). For the whole passage with translation, see Ross Sinclair Caldwell, “The Protohistoriography of Playing Cards: Early Hypotheses and Beliefs About the Origins of Cards and Card Games in Europe,” The Playing Card 38:2 (2009), p. 125, online in Academia.

32. Discorso perche fosse trovato il giuoco e particularmente quello del Tarocco: dove si dichia: ra et piano il significato di tutte le figure di esso giuoco, In Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis, and Marco Ponzi, ed. and trans., con gli occhi et con l'intelletto: Explaining the Tarot in Sixteenth Century Italy (lulu.com, 2019), pp. 42-45: “Tre furono i Giuochi dagli antichi principali per spasso et trattenimento ritrovati, et posti in uso, lo Scacco, la Palla et il Tarocco. . . . Fu il Tarocco il primo giuoco che di Carte si trovasse . . .”

33. Fedel Honofrio, Fioretto delle Croniche Nel quale brevemente si discorre delle sei Età del Mondo, e delle cose notabili avvenute nel progresso di quelle. La dichiaratione de i termini d’Italia e della venuta e Regno de Longobardi, con diverse guerre fatte da loro. La notizia delle più notabili, e famose Città del Mondo, e massime d’Italia. L’origine delle Religioni de’ Frati e Cavallieri inventioni, et inventori di scienze, et arti. (Venice, & di nuovo in Macerata: Heredi di Pietro Salvioni & Agostino Grisei, 1632), n.p., in Google Books: “I Greci trovorno i Tarocchi.” For this and other quotations about Tarocchi in this era, see in our essay “I Tarocchi in testi del Cinque e Seicento” (2021, in Italian only) on the website of the Association Le Tarot, the texts corresponding to notes 69-71. Honofrio was even a Bolognese writer, for which see Giovanni Fantuzzi, Notizie degli Scrittori Bolognesi, Tomo Sesto (Bologna: Stamperia di San Tommaso d’Aquin, 1788), in Google Books, p. 183.

34. Raffaele Maffei Volteranno, Commentaria Urbana (Rome, 1506), l. XXIX (f. 421v), cited and translated by Dummett in Game of Tarot (see here n. 3), p. 389r, n. 2; Andrea Alciato, Parergon Juris Libri VII Posteriori (Lyon: Sebastian Gryphus, 1544), libro VIII, cap. xvi (pp. 89-90), in Google Books. For both quotations and their translations, see Caldwell, “Protohistoriography” (see here n. 31).

35. Michael Dummett, Il mondo e l’angelo. I tarocchi e la loro storia (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1993), p. 218: “Se il principe Fibbia ha avuto qualcosa a che fare con il gioco dei Tarocchi, è di gran lunga più probabile che fosse l’inventore, non della variante bolognese del gioco, ma del gioco stesso, la cui origine dovrebbe in tal caso essere anticipata a prima del 1420. Nel XVII secolo, i giocatori bolognesi erano già da tempo abituati ai soli giochi di Tarocchi della varietà caratteristica di Bologna, tutti praticati con il mazzo ridotto di sessantadue carte; l’unica eccezione era la forma davvero deviante di derivazione fiorentina e conosciuta come Germini o Minchiate (mai come Tarocchi), che si giocava con un mazzo del tutto particolare. E ben possibile che nella mente di chi compose la leggenda sul ritratto non fosse chiara la distinzione fra l’invenzione dei Tarocchi e l’invenzione del Tarocchino; costui potrebbe aver pensato che non esistessero altre forme del gioco e persino che esso fosse ignoto al di fuori di Bologna e dintorni. Se è così, il principe Fibbia potrebbe davvero essere il primo inventore del mazzo dei tarocchi e del gioco con esso praticato.”

36. L’Dsgrazi d’Bertuldin dalla Zena, Miss in rima da G. M. B. [Giuseppe Maria Buini] Accademic dal Tridell d' Bulogna. Accademic Con le Osservazioni, e Spiegazioni dei Vocabili, ò termini Bolognesi del Conservatore della Società de’ Signori Filopatrij di Bologna (Bologna: Costantino Pisarri sotto le Scuole all'insegna di S. Michele, 1736), in Google Books. The earlier work was Le Disgrazie di Bartolino dalla Zena, by Count Pompeo Vizzani (or Visani) (ca. 1540-1607) (Bologna: gli heredi di Gio. Rossi, 1597).

37. Ibid. (Buini), p. 9: ”Canto Primo – XXXII: In quell mentr, ch’j asptavn’, ch’s’amanvass, / Dù zugavn’ di stanta a taruchin, / E dù altr’ a caplett’ in s’un tavlin, / E dù a batt’ mur, e un d’lor stava a spass, / Ch’ s’ i truvavn del lit, al sentenziava, / E tutt’ l differenzi l’accumdava.” Here ammanito = che si preparesse; see Carolina Coronedi Berti, ed., Vocabolario Bolognese Italiano, Vol. Primo, Voce AM, Bologna, Stab. Tipografico di G. Monti, 1869-74, p. 44.

38. Ibid. (Buini), trans. by Caldwell in “Protohistoriography’ (see here n. 31), p. 112. Originally:

v.1. Ammanvass - Che restasse ammanito, ed approntato, manibus aptatum prandium, direbbersi latinamente.

v. 2. Di stanta - Specie di gioco pres[s]o noi usitata, che si fa con le carte dei Tarrocchini, gioco inventato dalla studiosa mente dei Bolognesi, del quale Gregor. Tolos. Syntag. Jur. Lib.30. cap.4. num.11 disse trovarvisi dentro semi di buon fine, e di scelta erudizione, e il Ginerlberti ne scrisse la Storia, ed origine facendo vedere, che i Tarrocchini non sono altro, se non se la tragica faccenda de’ Geremei Guelfi, e Lambertazzi Ghibellini, così il Valdemusi da Prusilio ne distese la varia fortuna. (Ibid. [Buini], p. 98.)

Here Ammanito = che si preparasse: see Carolina Coronedi Berti, ed., Vocabolario Bolognese Italiano, Vol. 1, Voce AM, (Bologna: Stab. Tipografico di G. Monti, 1869-74), p. 44.

Here are the explanations for the rest of the stanza. The translation, very approximate, is ours:

line 3. A Caplett (At Hat) - a cowardly game, of mere luck, so called by putting a few copper coins into one person’s hat; one of the players calls a letter [which was stamped on the coin], and the other “Lion” [the image on the other side] which are the things marked, then the hat is spilled, the winner is the one who guesses one or the other of the appearances called [i.e. whose guess corresponds to the greater number of coins with that side up]. If it were not that only Paupers and Beggars are playing, bad guys, and for the same quarter-pennies, it is sure that the game would be forbidden to all, being a kind of Bassetta (a game of pure chance).

line 4. A batt mur (at bat-wall) - This is also a vile game; in the streets one bats (with a stick) one of the above coins against the wall, batting it with such skill that it falls closest, compared to the other players’ coins thrown in the same way, to a previously established line drawn on the ground [parallel to the wall]. [this is a very free translation, as a literal translation would not explain the game].

line 5. A Spass - Useless, lazy, just watching what was happening with his companions.

Original (p. 99):

v. 3. A Caplett - Gioco vigliacco affatto, e di mera fortuna detto cosi dal chiudersi in un capello diversi quattrini di rame di nostro conio; uno de' giocatori chiama lettera, e l’altro lione, che sono le cose in quelli improntate, rovesciato poi il capello, vince chi ha indovinato l’una, o l'altra delle apparenze chiamate. Se non fosse, che i soli Birrichini [nullatenenti e questuanti], e Filatoglieri vi giocano, ragazzi di niun conto, e per i soli stessi quattrini, certo che il gioco sarebbe affatto proibito, essendo una specie di Bassetta. (p. 98)

v. 4. A batt mur - Questo è pure gioco vile, mentre per le strade usasi con battere una delle monete suddette nel muro, quale dee battersi con tale artifìcio, che caduta a terra si accosti alla moneta, che l’altro prima nella stessa maniera gittò a terra, quanto è la lunghezza d' una misura fra le parti convenuta.

 v. 5. A spass - Senza impiego, ozioso, e che stava a vedere gli accidenti, che ai compagni occorrevano.

39. Pierre Grégoire (ca. 1540-97), Tertia ac postrema Syntagmatis Juris Universi Pars, Pars III, Liber XXXIX (contrary to the citation of XXX in Buini), Cap. 4, n. 11 (Ludi foliorum qui innoxj, & ludi & lusoris mala) (Lugduni [Lyon], Apud Antonium Gryphium, M.D.LXXXII, [1582]), p. 818: ”Inventi tamen ludi sunt foliorum, in quibus dum luditur, vestigia quoque quaedam eruditionis apparent, ut in Tarotiis, & ijs cum quibus excusae sunt unà sententiae sacrae paginae & philosophorum, apud Vuechellum Lutetix typographum.”

40. I Sermoni del Cavaliere Giambatista Giusti (Florence: Nella Stamperia Piatti, 1827), pp. 22-23, in Google Books: “Altrove quattro giocatori assidonsi / Al Tarocco: o divin trovato! o illustre / Concittadino mio! fuggisti il nostro /Miserando paese dalle parti / Diviso: e qui t’accolse ospite albergo, / E d’ospitalità nobil compenso / Il tarocco inventasti, e premj e onori /Furono dal Senato a te largiti.”

41. Buini: see here text associated with n. 38.

42. [Carlo Pisarri], Istruzioni necessarie per chi volesse imparare il giuoco dilettevole delli Tarocchini di Bologna (Bologna: Ferdinando Pisarri, 1754), in Google Books and archive.org, p. 5: “Questo Giuoco è antichissimo talmente, che non si ha cognizione nè dell’Inventore, nè del tempo, in cui fu ritrovato; ben è vero però, ch’egli è particolare della Città di Bologna, e fu inventato per passare l’ore nojose con qualche divertimento.”

43. Museo Cospiano: annesso a quello del famoso Ulisse Aldrovandi e donato alla sua Patria dall’Illustre Signore Ferdinando Cospi, Patrizio di Bologna e Senatore, Libro III - Cap. XXVIII (Bologna, Giacomo Monti, 1677), online in HathiTrust, p. 307: “12 -Tutti questi Guochi di Carte furono dedotti da quello de’ Tarocchi, inventato, com’è fama, in Bologna, e, più che altrove, praticatovi, quando i Bentivogli, v’esercitavano autorità di Principe. Testimonio di che sono le qui serbate.

13 - CARTE di TAROCCHI, usate in Bologna CLXX. e più anni fà, come dimostra il riverso di ciascheduna, in cui è stampata l’Arma de’ Bentivogli, come l’usavano all’hora, che v’esercitavano autorità di Principe, cioè con la Sega rossa e non altro nello Scudo, e una Pantera sopra il Cimiero, col motto FIDES, ET AMOR. Sono quelle molto più grandi delle ordinarie, e similmente dipinte di varii colori. Il Giuoco loro è più d’ ingegno, che di fortuna, ma non vi fanno buona consonanza le Figure Sacre, come quella del Papa, la quale non parmi da porre tra le cose da giuoco, scandalizzandosi di tale abuso fino gli Eterodossi.”

44. Florence: Thierry Depaulis, Le Tarot Révélé (La-Tour-de-Peiz, Switzerland: Swiss Museum of Games 2013), pp. 17-18, diary entry of Giusto Giusti, a notary for the Medici: “Venerdi a di 16 settembre donai al magnifico signore messer Gismondo un paio di naibi a trionfi, che io avevo fatto fare a posta a Fiorenza con l’armi sua, belli, che i costaro ducati quattro e mezzo.” (Friday 16 September, I gave to the magnificent lord sir Gismondo, a pack of triumph cards, that I had made expressly in Florence, with his arms, and beautifully done, which cost me four and a half ducats.) Trans. Ross G. R. Caldwell at

https://forum.tarothistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=773 (2012).

Ferrara: Adriano Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara in età umanistica e rinascimentale, Corbo, Ferrara-Roma, 1993, p. 221, n. 481c: “Maistro Iacomo depentore dito Sagramoro de avere adi 10 fiebraro per sue merzede de avere cho(lo)rido e depento le chope e le spade e li dinari e li bastoni e tutte le figure de 4 para de chartexele da trionffi, e per farle de fora uno paro de rosse e 3 para de verde, chargate de tonditi fati a olio, le quale ave lo nostro Signore per suo uxo; tanssà I precii per Galioto de l'Asassino chamarlengo de lo prefato Signore de chomissione de lo Signore, in raxone de lire zinque per paro / L. XX.” (Maestro Jacomo, painter, called Sagramoro, having on the 10th of February for his recompense, for having colored and painted the cups and the swords and the coins and batons and all the figures of 4 packs of small triumph cards, and for making of the backs one pack red and 3 packs green, decorated with roundels made in oil, which our Lord had for his use; deducted 1 precii by Galioto de l’Asassino chamberlain of the aforesaid Lord by commission of the Lord; at the rate of five lire per pack.) Trans. Ross Gregory Caldwell at http://trionfi.com/0/e/02/. First reported by R. Campori in “Le Carte dipinte per gli Estensi nel Secolo XV,” in Atti e Memorie delle Reali Deputazioni di Storia Patria per le provìncie modenesi e parmensi 3 (Modena, 1874), p. 123-32, on p. 127.

45. This type of assumption, with reference to “practice of use” concerning a situation like this, is commonly supported by historians of the Middle Ages. Specifically, Professor Rolando Dondarini, professor of medieval history at the University of Bologna, Professor Paolo Aldo Rossi, historian of tarot and professor of scientific thought at the University of Genoa, and Professor Franco Cardini, one of most prominent medievalists, are in agreement with the writer. Also, the content must be related to the cultural contexts of the time, a subject that in specifics has been dated back to the end of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth by Professor Cardini.

46. Chiara Frugoni, Medioevo sul naso. Occhiali, bottoni e altre invenzioni medievali (Rome: Laterza, 2001), Cap. I, p. 3: “Non è ancora venti anni che si trovò l’arte di fare gli occhiali, che fanno vedere bene; ch’è una de le migliori arti e de le più necessarie che ‘l mondo abbia, e è così poco che ssi trovò: arte novella, che mmai non fu. E disse il lettore: io vidi colui che prima la trovò e fece, e favellaigli.” See also Giordano da Pisa, Predica XV (Feb. 23, 1305), in Quaresimale fiorentino 1305-1306, critical edition, ed. C. Delcorno (Florence: Sansoni, 1974), p. 75.

47. Vincent Ilardi, Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2007), pp. 8-9, in Google Books. I am grateful to Michael S. Howard, associate of our Association, for this information.

48. At http://trionfi.com/0/e/02, Lothar Teikemeier (“autorbis”) notes, “The price of 5 Lira per para (pack of cards) is equal to the salary for 2-3 months of work of a humble worker and around one-fourth of a monthly income of a common noble man.” Giusti’s recorded price of four and a half ducats is similar. (For the documentation, see here n. 44.)

49.  Lothar Teikemeier, http://trionfi.com/0/e/02/, estimates that for 10 soldi “a humble worker had to work a week.” For the reference and precise wording of this account entry, see here nn. 70 and 71.

50. Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis and Michael Dummett, A Wicked Pack of Cards. The origin of the Occult Tarot (London, Duckworth, 1996) p. 27.

 

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