Friday, December 20, 2019

Part One: the Basic Fourteen

1. Introduction: the Order of Trumps

The argument to be presented here is essentially an inference from the various trump orders embedded in poems and surviving partial decks from 15th-16th century northern Italy, projected back to before the first attested use of triumphi or trionfi referring to a card game in 1440.1 By looking at what changes and what remains the same in these orders, I arrive at 14 original cards, which can then be used to play a game similar to one described by Marziano da Tortona sometime before 1425.

We know the early tarot subjects from surviving cards and also lists embedded in poems. Tarot historian Michael Dummett put this information together in 1980, from which he inferred that there were three regions of the early tarot, which he called A, B and C, with a chart for each.2 For my part I have put the earliest known orders, including some Dummett did not know, into three columns of one chart, with variations indicated in parentheses.

For clarity in English, I have put the titles in English instead of Italian, with two exceptions. In Italian the term “Bagatella”, the earliest term for the card now called the Magician, has less association with magic, as opposed to tricks, and a double meaning harrd to preserve in English. In Italian at that time, the word “Bagatella” meant both a sleight of hand artist and something of little significance, like the lowest in a series.
In English there is a similar play on words with “trifle”, meaning both a thing of little significance, and to play tricks on someone. The word for the person wold be "trifler", a word that we do not normally use for a sleight of hand artist. To avoid confusion I will stick with the Italian. Different lists use different Italian words for that card,  but for clarity I will stick with “Bagatella”.3 The other title I want to keep is “Matto”; while interchangeable with "Folle" in Italian, the English “Fool” and “Madman” are not precisely equivalent, the second suggesting more mental derangement than the first.4

Other cards also had a variety of titles. The card we know as the Tower was called Lightning Fire, House of the Devil, House of the Damned, and finally House of God. “Trumpets” and “Angel” were both the card we call Judgment. The Hanged Man was also the Traitor. Our Hermit was the Old Man or the Hunchback. Etc.

For region A my basis is the small handwritten numbers found on many of the so-called “Charles VI” cards, Florence c. 1460, added within a few decades of when they were painted..5 Titles are not on the cards, so I have used those, presented in almost the same order, found in a Florentine strambotto (a type of song) of c. 1500.6  The Popess (High Priestess) is not among these titles, nor is it certain from the numbers that the “Charles VI” ever had it; it is inferred from its presence in another A deck, the Rosenwald, which seems to be from Perugia, post-15017. Another card missing from the “Charles VI” is the Empress; it is present in both the Rosenwald and a partial deck that looks similar to the “Charles VI”, the “Alessandro Sforza”.8

Another historical Florentine deck is Minchiate, with 20 additional trumps. At least three of these additions, quite uniquely, are in the earliest surviving deck, the Cary-Yale (also known as the Visconti di Modrone).9  These three and one more, Prudence, comprise Minchiate’s cards 16-19, which I have put next to Moon and Sun in my chart. Minchiate’s last five cards are the usual ones, but to be clear I put them the chart next to World and Angel. The other sixteen (the four elements and twelve zodiacal signs) have no tarot equivalents.

Like the strambotto and possibly the “Charles VI”, Minchiate lacks a Popess. A partial list of the 1530s, without any indication of the order, mentions only Pope, Emperor, and Empress.10 The Tarocco Bolognese has four, but all have the same title, “Papa”, without any number or rank; the one played last in a trick has priority.11 It is unclear how far back the practice goes.

There are other minor variations. The “Charles VI” and Minchiate have Justice after Fortitude and Chariot after Wheel, but the strambotto, Rosenwald and  Bologna have the opposite, the latter also putting Chariot below the virtues.12 The Sicilian tarot has an unnumbered Miseria, just below number 1 Bagotti.13 Quite uniquely, the Sicilian puts Love above the virtues.

Below the chart are sources and dates. (Readers may want to skip over this documentation, in this paragraph and the three following.) The dates sometimes give a misleading impression. According to Dummett the first verification of Bologna’s order is "1664 circa", but, he says, it goes back much further, due to the “extreme conservatism of the players”.14 Likewise Minchiate’s full order is verified not until the 17th century, but some of its unique cards are mentioned in 152615 in relation to "Sminchiate", and references to a game by that name, "Minchiate" or a third name for the game, “Germini”, go back every 10 to 20 years, until the first clear reference in 1466.16 That tarot came to Sicily in 1663 is from Dummett’s main source, a short work by the Marchesa of Villabianca (1720-1804).17 Dummett argued that its subjects were the standard ones, but with some name changes, most for religious reasons, with Pope and Popess probably changed earlier, in Rome.

Region B is mainly Ferrara and Venice. The earliest list is in the Sermones de Ludo (Sermons on Games) of 1470-1500 ,18 which is the basis for that column. Later lists, including the numbers on some cards on sheets now in the Metropolitan Museum cards, exchange Popess with Emperor and Chariot with Love.19 The anonymous Discorso of c. 1565, from the region around Pesaro, seems to present cards 2-5 backwards, in two different ways (I have given the first).20  It is hard to know what precisely was meant.

The C orders are Lombardy, Piedmont and France. The earliest seems to be one that Depaulis dates to 1525-1540 and calls “Pavia”, due to contested authorship.21 Another C list, that of Alciato in 1544 or 1547, is the same except for exchanging Chariot and Fortitude.22 Piscina’s Discorso, published in 1565 Piedmont, has the same order as the “Pavia” except for putting World before Angel, a placement that persists in Piedmont today.Also, while saying the Emperor is of lesser authority, he adds, “it often happens that the Emperors win and imprison the Popes”; the rule is probably like that of Bologna, where the one played last had priority.
23  To keep the chart from getting too cluttered, I have omitted the “Tarot of Marseille” titles and indicated its differences by number instead; it is an order verified as far back as Lyon 1557.24
While the C lists are somewhat later than the A and B, among extant cards there is an almost complete 15th century Lombard deck, the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo (also known as the Colleoni-Bagliati), which has 20 of the 22 special cards, 14 of which are from the 1450s. The Cary-Yale and another partial deck, the Brera-Brambilla, are even earlier.

2. Some generalizations from these lists

What primarily distinguishes the three regions is the placement of the three virtue cards, which I have highlighted in bold. In the A order they are one right after the other, following either Love or Chariot and beginning with Temperance. In B, Temperance is before Love, Fortitude three cards later, and Justice is next to last. In C, in the “Pavia” order, it is Justice first, then Fortitude two cards later, and Temperance after Death. So there is no separation between virtues in A, while there is in the other two, wider in B than in C.

In contrast, some parts of the sequence do not change at all, either among regions or within them, most notably the lowest ones, Bagatella and Matto, and the five cards from Devil to Sun. Given that “Bagatella” also meant “trifle”, that it is the lowest trumps makes sense. The Matto is not really a trump at all, since it cannot “triumph” in tricks. The invariability of the five cards from Devil to Sun, however, is odd: surely someone someplace would have put the Moon, being closer to the earth, below the other two celestials, or Fire/Lightning lower than the Devil, or Devil at the end of the sequence, as the French esotericists did in the late 19th century. The only variation is in Minchiate, but even it only inserts other cards between the first two and the last three, keeping those at the end for reasons pertaining to the game.

About these five we might wonder if perhaps they spread outside their home region at a time when standardization among regions was more important than earlier, after the Peace of Lodi, finalized in 1453, when there is a general desire for peace and cooperation as opposed to an earlier period of competition and differentiation when the tarot was first disseminated.  If we exclude these five cards and the Fool as late additions, 16 are left. If two other trumps were also additions, the total number would be 14, the same as that for regular suits, as attested as early as 1425. There are in fact a couple of suggestions of 14 special cards in the documents, both Ferrarese: a “14 figures” in 1441 and an order for triumph decks of 70 cards each (i.e. perhaps 5x14) in 1457.  Since the earliest deck known, the Cary-Yale had 16 cards per regular suit, 16 might fit there.

Notes to section 1:
1 Depaulis 2013a, p. 1,citing a diary note of Giusto Giusti, a notary associated with the Medici, regarding a pack of hand-painted trionfi made for Sigismundo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini.
2 Dummett 1980, pp. 399-401.
3 For “Bagatella” as a sleight of hand artist: see Caldwell,, 2011, for a 1396 poem quoted by Muratori 1751, pp. 171-172. For “Bagatello”, see Depaulis 2007, p. 42. For “Gannellino” and “Gallerino”, Vitali n. d. (no date) (1). For “Papino”, Vitali 2018a, citing Brunetti 1747. For “Bagotti” and “Picciotti”, Dummett 1980, p.373l (left column). For “Bagato”, Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, pp. 14-15.

4 See Andrea Vitali’s essays on these two cards, 1995a and 1995b, especially the translator’s prefaces.
5 Depaulis 2013a, p. 21; 2007, p. 44;.I put the “Charles VI” in quotation marks because it came about on the false inference that this deck was one recorded in the account books of Charles VI of France in 1396.
6 Depaulis 2007, p. 44.
7 For the order of the Rosenwald, Depaulis 2007, p. 42. It is pictured in Kaplan, 1978, pp 130-131. The date and place is suggested by a page
glued to the back of another copy from a book identified by Pratesi, 2017, as printed in Perugia 1501-1502.
8 Maggio 2016. Sforza (1409-1473) was a son of the legendary military commander Muzio “Sforza”Attendola.
9. Depaulis 2013a, pp. 19-21, Dummett 1986 and many others.
10 Renzoni, 2012, pp. 85-86, building upon Pratesi, 1987. Depaulis 2007, p. 45, gives later titles; Papa 1 for the Bagatella, then Papa 2, etc., up to Papa 5 for Love I find their first attestation in 1747 (quoted in Vitali .2018a).
11 Vitali and Zanetti 2005, p. 23.
12 Depaulis 2007, pp. 42-44
13 Dummett 1980, p. 373l.
14 Dummett 1980, p. 416; 1993, p. 225 (and for next two sentences). A “1664 circa” document is not mentioned by others. The next oldest is one assigning cards to Bolognese ladies, 1668; see Pratesi 1989a.

15 Singer 1816, p. 27.
16 Pratesi 2015; Vitali n. d. (2); Vitali 2007, citing Paolo Menucci (his treatise was in 1676, per  
17 Dummett 1980, p. 376r-377r.
18 Steele 1900. Depaulis 2007, pp. 39-40.
19 For these sources, see M. M. Filesi at
20 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, p. 54-55
21 Depaulis 2013b, p. 112.
22 Alciato 1544 (per WorldCat, but 1547 in the Biblioth
èque Nationale), Book VIII, pp. 72-73; interpreted in Depaulis 2013b, p. 113.
23 Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi 2010, pp. 16-17 and editors’ note 8.
24 Depaulis 2013a, p. 38.
25 Dummett 1980, pp. 68r-69l; Depaulis 2013a, pp. 20-21.
26 In favor of at least two stages as a realistic possibility are Teikemeier, n. d., Decker 1974, 2013, p. 77; Vitali 1995c, p. 5; Berry 1987 and 2004; , Pratesi 1999, p. 151, and Dummett 2004.
27 For 14 cards per regular suit, Bernardino of Siena, sermon of 1425, quoted in Vitali 2009.
28 For the sources see 70 cards could also be 22 triumphs plus 4 suits of 12 each
29 For 16 cards per suit: Dummett, 1980, p. 414r. The additions are a female page and knight in each suit. 

2. Some objections anticipated

I will try to anticipate some objections to the hypothesis just proposed. First, how can we assume that the various lists, all of them considerably after the earliest report of the game, 1440,30 represent the earliest order in that region? The main type of game then was the trick-taking type, which depends on the cards having a certain order. Since the numbers were not on the cards, players had to memorize the order. If so, there will be a strong tendency to keep the same order in the same place – not absolute, as we can see from the variations that there were changes in the same place, (For example, in all three of Florence, Ferrara, and Pavia, the position of the Chariot changed at points near in time to each other.) Still, such variations do not make educated guesses impossible. These guesses can be refined further by looking at the actual cards that survived, for example the type of crown that they wear, papal or imperial.

It might be objected that once a deck is established in a region, the conservatism of the players will prevent new cards being added, even more if they are from some other place. This seems to me too extreme. If a few new cards are merely inserted into the order without changing it otherwise, they can be incorporated easily enough, if, and more easily if a few are added at one time in one place in the order and a few others at another. If people can adjust to changes in the order over time, surely they can adjust to new cards, in a period of perhaps lessened antagonism among regions and increased travel, with a tendency toward standardization among regions.

It might be objected that if a sequence of fourteen or so was disseminated and later augmented, we should see different additions in different regions; but the cards are the same everywhere. Actually, the three theological virtues of the Cary-Yale (also called Visconti di Modrone) are not seen elsewhere except in Minchiate, where their presence is documented much later. It is an accident of history that the Cary-Yale is preserved; other subjects may be gone without a trace or been incorporated into a larger standard deck later.

It might be objected that the variability of the virtues is due to the whims of the game-playing rulers of Milan and Ferrara, or perhaps dominant card makers there, and so needs no explanation. I do not deny such influence, but even if it was an order by edict, an explanation is in order for why such an edict would put the virtues where they did; as we will see in Part II, there is a pattern to the placements.

On the section from Devil to Sun, it might be objected that its order is invariable even after the time of standardization, when other changes still occur: so its invariability has nothing to do with standardization. But it may have been the very invariability of that part among the different cities that made it somehow sacrosanct.

It might be objected that the postulation of two stages violates Occam’s Razor, which says that entities should not be multiplied without necessity. But necessity for what? To account for the observed facts, I would think. That includes explaining the particular choice of subjects and their order, and also the variation in the placement of the virtues from each to the next, and the invariance of five of the cards. There is also the variation in the designs on the early cards to be considered. There are also the variations in the designs on the early cards to be considered. How many “entities” need to be postulated to explain these results is a matter for evidence-based investigation, much of which, given the dearth of evidence, will be speculative. But the result will have more explanatory power than one that ignores these facts. 

Also, card games are in the category of human inventions, which are often experimental until a version is hit upon which achieves a sufficient market for the intended audience. There are not merely technical improvements, such as sturdier paper, but also those concerning what makes a "good game" for the intended market, whether those who prefer pure luck, enjoy strategy, or want an educational purpose. Once successful, it has some stability, while the previous products, which would have reached a smaller audience over a shorter time period, for the most part do not survive. It is reasonable to suppose that the number of different decks in the "experimental" period would be more than is necessary to produce the known result.

But yes, I need to say more. I will start by looking at another game with a permanent trump suit, that contained in a treatise written to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti of Milan by a secretary of his, usually known as Marziano da Tortona, sometime between Filippo’s accession in 1412 and Marziano’s funeral oration in 1425.32  Then I will go to other games with similarities to Marziano’s. In that context I will propose that the tarot has three basic sources, not only for the subjects but also for their order, which then interrelate by means of a practice utilized by Marziano, that of correlating subgroups of trumps with suits.

Notes to Section 2:
30 See note 1.
31 Pratesi 1989b; Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 6 and Appendix 1. He was also known as Marziano da Samt’ Alosto and Marziano da Rampini.

3. Marziano’s game

Marziano presents a game whose trump suit is a “fourfold order” of what he calls “deified heroes”, actually Greco-Roman gods and demigods. What I want to address first is in bold:32
...Thus by observation of them [the “several most famous heroes, whose virtue... made gods”], be ready to be aroused to virtue.

The first order is indeed of virtues: Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury, and Hercules. The second of riches: Juno, Neptune, Mars, and Aeolis. The third of virginity or continence. The fourth however is of pleasure: Venus, Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid. Subordinated to those are four kinds of birds, being suited by similarity. Thus to the order of virtues, the Eagle; of riches, the Phoenix; of continence, the Turtledove; of pleasure, the Dove. And each one obeys its own king. However the order of birds is that none of their types has right over another, yet this arrangement they have alternately – Eagles and Turtledoves the many command the few, that is to say it goes better for us when many cultivate virtue and continence; but for Phoenices and Doves, the few rule over the many. That is to say, the more there are of the followers of riches and pleasures, the more they lead to the deterioration of our station. Every one of the gods, however, will be above all the orders and the kings of the orders. But the gods are held to this law among themselves: that who is first designated below, he should lead all the others following in sequence. ...
These relationships can be shown as follows, numbering the gods in the more usual way and remembering that “Virtues”, etc., apply directly to the gods; “Eagles”, etc., are then their “followers”:
As Franco Pratesi has pointed out,33 the bird orders are probably  variations on the standard suits. He suggests Swords for Eagles, as the followers of Virtues; Coins for Phoenices, as the followers of Riches; Cups for Doves, as the followers of Pleasure. That leaves Batons for Turtledoves, as the followers of Continences or Virginities. In support of this idea, I would observe that the Phoenix, according to Lactantius, had yellow metal on its tail, and gold was used for money.34 In Pleasures we see the god of wine, which he taught to dilute with water. Between Swords and Sticks, both are weapons, but swords the more powerful. Correspondingly,  the gods in Virtues are all male, and Virginities all female. Eagles are also more powerful than turtledoves.On the other hand, Ross Caldwell has suggested that sticks might symbolize the scepters of rule, appropriate to the highest order and Jupiter, and swordsthe militant followers of Virginity (

In Marziano’s account the order of trumps from 1 to 16, determining which card takes a trick, seems to supersede the division into 4 orders. If that is all there was, however, the subgroups would be irrelevant to the conduct of the game. Once the order of 16 had been memorized, the subgroups could be ignored. That is odd, given that he presented this schema so prominently. He asked the duke to “Consider this game, ... with its fourfold order.”35 How does the game involve a fourfold order, if its distinctions, as they pertain to the trumps, are to be ignored once presented? Instead, vice, i.e. the gods of Riches and Pleasures, triumphs over virtue, the gods of Virtues and Virginities, almost as much as the reverse. Caldwell and Ponzi say that there is a process of abstraction: “Then he abstracts the hero-gods from this fourfold structure, and puts them into their own hierarchy from highest to lowest.”36 Yet in the descriptions of the gods that follow, vices are connected with the gods in Riches and Pleasures, but none with those of Virtues and Virginities.37

Pratesi’s suggestion, supported by Decker,37 is that each group of four gods comprises what Pratesi calls “supercourts”, that is, extensions of the four suits beyond the king. But again we have to ask: how would this relationship be expressed in the rules of the game? Here are two possibilities. First, it might have been allowable to play a god-card that is an extension of the suit led even if one still had cards in that suit. In that way a low trump could win tricks early in the game. Second, there might have been a rule that among trumps, preference in winning a trick goes to the highest trump that is an extension of the suit; for example, if a Dove is led, and someone out of Doves puts down Jove, Cupid could beat it, being in the extension of Doves. In support of this idea I cite the last sentence of the treatise where Marziano says of Cupid: “With a full bow, the wanton and wicked Cupid wanders through heaven and earth; whose arms, pestilent to gods and men, Jupiter himself was not able to escape.”38  How could that be represented in the game? It is a riddle that such a rule would solve.

Admittedly Marziano does not state such a rule in so many words. Perhaps he had not realized the difficulty, or had not decided what the rule should be. Or perhaps such a rule was already conventional for games with permanent trump suits and so did not need to be stated. It is not impossible that the only connection was an allegorical one: by putting the gods in such matrices, each group of four with one of the suits, one can keep in mind the allegory as one plays, even if such an awareness is not essential to the game. But a rule making it essential would reinforce the lesson by rewarding those who remembered it, improving the game’s educational function.

A remaining question is how the game would have been scored, i.e. what counts as winning. I would think that the main emphasis would be to reward knowing both the hierarchy of gods and their four moral orders. It might be as simple as the number of tricks won.

In any case what seems useful is to take from Marziano the idea of the 4x4 matrix, or at least 4 by something, by which rows of trumps are matched allegorically with suits, and also that it was an educational game, to teach not only the classical gods but also virtue and vice.
Notes to section 3:

32 Caldwell and Ponzi, pp. 22-25, with the original Latin.
33 Pratesi 1989b, p. 34.
34 (“The Phoenix”, attributed to Lactantius, perhaps 4th century. I owe this reference to Ross G.R. Caldwell, Tarot History Forum 2019)
35 Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 23.
36. Ibid, p. 13.
37 For specifics, see what I have written at, post 45.
38  Pratesi 1989b, p. 43; Decker 2013, p. 74.
39. Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 93.

4. The four cardinal virtues

The four suit signs were Spade (Swords), Bastone (literally sticks, but shown on playing cards as Lances or Batons), Coppe (Cups) and Denari (Coins, Money). As Gertrude Moakley argued in 1966,40 Justice conventionally had a sword, Fortitude a column or stick, Temperance cups, and Prudence a mirror, round like a coin (Fig. 1, first four). For a stick and shield representing Fortitudo, an example is that virtue on the door of the baptistry of Florence's cathedral, done by Andrea Pisano in 1330-1333. (Fig. 1, far right, my photo).

Such correlations are also vaguely suggested by a passage in the 1404 funeral oration for Gian Galeazzo Visconti that Moakley cites. While certainly referring to the four cardinal virtues, they may also have indicated the four suits:
“O chiara luce, o specchio, o colonna, o sostegno, o franca spada, che la nostra contrada mantenevi sicura in monte e in piano!”

[“O clear light, o mirror, o column, o support, o confident sword, you kept our territory safe in the high places and on the plain!"]
An explicit example is that of Innocentio Ringhieri in 1551 Bologna, an allegorical game of his devising, where Cups correlate to Temperance, Columns to Fortitude, Swords to Justice, and Mirrors to Prudence.41  The relevant text (Fig. 2) is from the original, Google Books. It is part of a longer allegorical card game called "The Game of the King".
The virtues came in different hierarchical orders. In Plato’s Republic (427C-445B) Temperance governed the belly and sex organs, Fortitude the lungs and heart, Wisdom the head, and Justice the whole. For Aquinas, Prudence, i.e. “Wisdom for man”, was the highest,42 the order followed by Ringhieri. A difficulty is that Prudence is verified only in Minchiate, although the Invettivo of Lollio and Imperiali, c. 1550, mentions it, as does the anonymous Discorso, each probably referring to one of the standard trumps.43 But perhaps it was replaced rather than having never been. The result is a 2x4 matrix with virtues and suits:
Notes to Section 4:
40 Moakley 1966, p. 41, n. 1.
41 Cento Giuochi liberali et d'ingegnio, Bologna 1551, p. 132 (online).
42 Aquinas 1920/1274, Second Part of the Second Part (II-II), Q. 47, Art. 2, Reply 1: “sapientia viro”: See also II-II-23-6: “...prudence, which by itself attains reason, is more excellent than the other moral virtues” (Sicut etiam prudentia, quae attingit rationem secundum se, est excellentior quam aliae virtutes morales).
43 For Imperiali, Pratesi 1987a. For anonymous, Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi, p.38 and 54-55.

5. Petrarch’s six Trionfi poems

Another reasonably possible source for a Marziano-like matrix, one often cited in the past,44  is the six Trionfi poems of Petrarch, which form a hierarchy according to who conquers whom: Eternity is on top, triumphing over Time, Time over Fame, Fame over Death, Death over Pudicizia (Petrarch's term,45 not precisely the same as the usual "Chastity"), and Pudicizia over Love. Four of these subjects are obvious enough: Love, Death, Time, and Eternity, this last victorious when the Angels trumpet at the Last Judgment. The “Charles VI” has all four (Fig. 3) among its extant cards, as does the PMB (Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo, for the two institutions holding the cards, also known as the Colleoni-Bagliati) in its "first artist" cards.46 
Time is the card later known as the Old Man or Hunchback, which often had an old man holding up an hourglass, or else on crutches with wings, which matches his earliest depiction in illustrations of Petrarch "Triumph of Time". Petrarch had put this triumph after Death and Fame, as the eons of cosmic time that defeat all earthly Fame. But besides speaking of time in cosmic terms, he also described it in ways that suggest the hourglass and wings: “Delay not ... until Death shall transfix you with his fatal dart,” he advises. The card was sometimes even called Tempo, Italian for “Time”, e.g. in the tarocchi sonnets of Teofilo Folengo, in the list by Pomeran, and in Minchiate.47 This characterization applies before Death.

 The hardest of Petrarch's triumphs to find in the tarot are Fame and that which is customarily called Chastity but which he himself called Pudicizia, in English Pudicitia.

The clearest example of Fame is in the earliest extant tarot deck, that of the Cary-Yale, also known as the Visconti di Modrone (at far left below). The lady on top holds a trumpet in her right hand and a crown in her left, with a knight directly below, in a scene with castles and water.48. What suggests her identification as Fame the most is the trumpet, a frequent attribute of Fame. An example is a birth tray illustrating that Triumph (3rd from left, by Lo Sheggio, probably done at the birth of Lorenzo de' Medici, c. 1449): winged trumpets can be seen extending from the globe on which the winged figure of Fame stands. Trumpets are to spread the news, and wings do so rapidly. Early manuscript illustrations have the same features. The crown on the card substitutes for the small sphere that is usually in her hand. The corresponding card in the "Charles VI" (far left) has a female figure holding out a golden globe in one hand and a scepter in the other, while standing on a circular scene of castles and hills. Is this Fame?
It seems to me that the "Charles VI" image (fourth from left) should be seen in the light of Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione. A similar figure appears to the narrator in a dream:49
...I raised my eyes to her blonde head
adorned with a crown and more splendid
and fair then the sun, and her comely
clothing seemed to be of a violet hue.
Smiling, she had in her right hand
a royal scepter, enclosed in her left
she held up a beautiful golden apple.
Her description rather closely matches the lady on the "Charles VI" card, except for not standing on a circle with hills and castles in it. And it is not quite an apple, but the familiar golden globe. But the globe is held out from her body, as though a prize, as opposed to how the Emperor holds his globe, close to his body. The golden apple, mythologically, was on the one hand the prize - the apple of Discord - awarded by Paris to the goddess he judged most beautiful, and on the other hand the fruit of the tree given to Hera as a wedding present. If a golden apple from that tree is offered, it is in virtue of the esteem of heaven. Gold, the most precious metal, which in pure form does not tarnish over time, also makes it symbolic of the Golden Age when humans and gods lived together. In alchemy red had similar symbolism.

In the poem, the lady leads the narrator to a narrow gate, with a steep path beyond; it leads to "the high place where your soul will be in glory [gloria]."50 "Gloria" and "fama" are fairly equivalent in Italian. The lady seems to be offering him a path to Fama, but of a different kind than that which the trumpet-master on the Angel card offers. The Cary-Yale was for a high member of the Visconti court, someone who could aspire to fame in this world. In Florence the game was of the people, and the corresponding Fama seems to be one anyone can aspire to, if perhaps as rarely won, the esteem of heaven.

Boccaccio doesn't say who his lady is. The poet utters a prayer to "you who move the third sphere" -  Celestial Venus - to make his account pleasing, after "she" - the guide - has led him to the high place.51 Whether the guide is Celestial Venus herself is left unclear. Vittore Branca, in his introduction to Hollander's translation, says: 52 
She is the Guide sent by heaven to the Poet; she is, if we really want a definition, the aspiration to virtue which lies at the core of every soul.
For the circle on the "Charles VI" card, on which the lady stands, we have to read on. Boccaccio's protagonist wants first to go nearby, where he hears "festive sounds."53  The entrance hall is lined with frescoes. The first one features a beautiful lady with figures from legend or history at her feet, all philosophers or poets. She holds a book and scepter, typical attributes of Wisdom. The next fresco has another beautiful lad with another golden apple, she holds a sword. A banner overhead proclaims her as "the Fame of worldly folk";54 the people around her are mostly people who won fame by force of arms. He adds that "around about this supreme lady ...was a perfect circle", declaring: 
I do not believe there can be anything
in the whole world, town or country, domestic or foreign,
which would not appear within this circle.
The lady is inside the circle, which goes "from beneath her feet to above her head," not above it, as in Pesellino's wedding chest. The card's designer seems to have taken the circle from one section of the poem and placed it below the lady of another section. It seems to be a matter of where the two ladies consider home: one in the world and the other above it.It is possible that the World of the World card is not this world at all, but rather that of the New Earth, as indicated by its position in the clouds. But I don't think so. It was part of the Ptolemaic world-view that our world was a round globe surrounded by the "upper air". And there is nothing suggestive of the New Jerusalem inside the circle we see.

Then, in frescoes around the room, the narrator sees ladies representing Wealth and Love, surrounded by famous rich people and lovers. In the next room he sees, triumphing over all, Fortune and her companion Death. He then meets his dream-beloved and after getting acquainted  the two resolve to undertake the trek up the mountain together. Then he backslides, but the intent was there.

It seems to me that Boccaccio has two Famas, each holding out her own "apple." By disregarding earthly fame, one can focus on achieving eternal Glory (which does not negate earthly glory, if it happens), the gift of God's esteem, which is the goal of the mountain climb, the climb being the life of virtue. 

Here it is relevant to see how the card serves its possessor in the game: it is the second most powerful card and can win many points when the score is totaled at the end of the game. He can still lose it to the Judgment card, but hopefully that won't happen, if he plays his cards right. That, I think, is how this card lives up to its appearance,having the trappings of Fame but not the same fame as a lower card in the deck might signify. In other words, the figure on the Rosenwald card is saying, this golden ball can be yours. 

Yet it is also a Fama in this world. The circle is divided into the usual three parts indicating Europe, Africa, and Asia. There is sometimes a cross on top: it is the Fama of a Christian life of virtue, to be played in triumph during the game and also a source of reward in the afterlife.  

The other Petrarchan triumph to be located is that of Pudicitia. Pudicitia is a person's excellence in gender-related virtue, either masculine or feminine. So for a woman it would be chastity among other things, and for men more about honor, bravery and other manly virtues. When Petrarch spoke of "her of whom I write" ("Triumph of Pudicitia", line 23), he was thinking of the feminine side, and of his beloved Laura. Since virtues were typically represented as female, the feminine gender will do for both.

If so, where is Pudicitia in the cards? The earliest known Chariot cad is that of the Cary-Yale, with a feminine figure in the chariot (Fig. 5, center). In 2008 Jean-Michel David on Tarot History Forum identified the object held by the lady on the Cary-Yale Chariot as a jousting shield (Fig. 5, center).56 There is a thin red line that seems to be there as a guide to the artist.The shield held by the Empress (Fig. 5, left) is more easily identifiable because of the black lines..
In Petrarch's poem, Pudicitia is described as locked in combat with Love (lines 49-50):
Never was there a fencer so adept
At turning blows aside.
and so on. Of special interest is this (lines 118-119):
She wore, that day, a gown of white, and held
The shield that brought Medusa to her death.
The Visconti radiant dove is not the head of Medusa, so we cannot say that lady on the card is the virgin Athena. But at least we have the white horses, the color of purity. What makes the shield particularly that of Pudicitia is the psychomachia tradition in which Petrarch wrote, the battle between virtues and vices, with virtues paired with their opposing vices. Pudicitia or Castita was paired with Libido, the kind of love associated with Cupid.57 This is what is in the poem, and also in the Cary-Yale Chariot card, situated between Love and Death. Yet the card also departs from Petrarch: She carries no chains, and there is no bound Cupid. Moreover, a male groom minds the horses; the victory seems a joint eff58 Pudicitia's chariot becomes chaste Bianca Maria's wedding carriage entering her dowry city of Cremona, the joining of two famous families, ducal for her and military for him.
ort..Such an interpretation also fits the probable occasion for the deck, a commemoration of the wedding of Bianca Maria Visconti with Francesco Sforza.
In the A order decks the figure on top is clearly male, the "Charles VI" (Fig. 6, below, far left) and id (Fig. 6, center) and probably male, such as the figure wearing masculine clothing in the "Alessandro Sforza" card (Fig. 6, 2nd left, also called the Catania or Castello Ursino, from its present location).59 The chariot emulates that of the Roman military leaders in the triumphal processions celebrating their victories. With the Medici "palle" (balls, in a circular pattern) on its front and the foot-soldier's halbern, the "Charles VI" chariot might signify the triumph of the Florentine citizen-soldier under Medici leadership.

These seem to express the manly side of Pudicitia, gender related excellence. It is a departure from Petrarch, but no more than the Cary-Yale does in its portrayal of Love. Both require the overcoming of Love's instinctual and emotional attachments and fears characteristic of Pudicitia in both genders.
Other early cards have feminine figures on top  (PMB, Fig. 6, 2nd from right, from the Pierpont- Morgan Library in New York; far right, from Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer [French museum of playing cards], Issy-les-Moulineaux, both early 1450s). As in the case of the A order World cards, there are objects and figures on them resembling those on chariots illustrating Petrarch's "Triumph of Fame": a golden disc or globe, a sword, a horse-drawn chariot. Boccaccio's figure of "fame of worldly folk", who holds a sword and golden apple, rides in a chariot drawn by four horses. In the PMB the horses even have wings, another attribute of Fame.

Animal-drawn chariots appear on the mid-century illustrations of all six Petrarchan triumphs: Fame is not unique. Horses in particular are also on the "Triumph of Love". Also, a sword as much as a shield associates the figure with the combatant of Petrarch's poem. In the original Psychomachia of Prudentia, Pudicitia "pierces Libido's throat" with a sword.60 Feminine Pudicitia is also suggested by the abundance of ladies: she is their queen. As for flying horses, they were seen on depictions of the chariots of the sun and moon. In literature, there were the winged horses in Plato's Phaedrus, then a work to which much attention was being paid: Chastity is specifically mentioned in such a chariot (Phaedrus 254).61

In this regard we might ask, why would a lady representing Pudicitia, or a man representing the triumph of arms, be on a chariot at all, given that Petrarch gave only one of his triumphs a chariot, namely Love? I see two possibilities. On the one hand, the artists thought first of the triumph of arms, for which a chariot was the custom. Alternatively, as the only one of the Petrarchan truimphs that actually has a person triumphing over forces beyond his or her control, it represent the soul trumphant over its lower nature, which is what Plato's image was about, too. In the case of the Cary-Yale, this triumph would be a joint product of the man and the woman on the card.

Yet all these card do exhibit characteristics of the "Triumph of Fame": the golden ball and a weapon or scepter. If so, it is worldly fame, fame before death, as indicated by the card's place in the sequence. Excellence in pudicitia brings fame. Some unclarity remains, then as now. It is no wonder that the card became known simply as "Carro" without further specification, just as the other became simply "World". However a relationship to Petrarch's "Triumph of Pudicitia", I hope, is at least plausible, even if the cards depart from Petrarch's own treatment of the theme in one way or another.

Adding these six to the matrix we have:

What I want to draw attention to are the horizontal associations between virtues and Petrarchans through sharing the same row. Temperance is the virtue governing Love, Fortitude is necessary to achieve excellence, Prudence, in one placement,  manages Time, and Justice is to be had after Death, in the recognition of one’s merits by Heaven and in the rewards and punishments of the Last Judgment. Putting Justice with Time is not such a good fit, although it is possible: justice in one’s lifetime can only be hoped for. But Prudence is a better fit: depictions of the virtue often showed her with two or three faces, one behind, one in front, for past and future, and perhaps one in between, for the present. In the so-called "Tarot of Mantegna”, c. 1465 Ferrara or Venice, Prudence looks both to the past and to the future; the mirror serves the same purpose (Fig. 7, left). An explicit example is a famous painting by Titian and his assistants, Allegory of Prudence Governed by Time, c. 1550-1565 Venice (Fig. 7, right), with three faces; the third looked toward the viewer. On the painting was the motto, "From the past / the present acts prudently / lest it spoil future action.62

If these associations were part of the early game, then knowing them would have been as important as knowing the gods in each order would have been for Marziano. As I have argued in his case, some special status for trumps in the same row as the suit led would serve an educational function, teaching no less than the relationship of the virtues to handling major life-concerns. As such it would have been part of a long tradition of games designed to teach the virtues. Emilia Maggio observes that:63
In the tenth century, Bishop Wiboldus of Cambrai had contrived an elaborate dice game in which Charity would finally beat the vices. The purpose of this game was to dissuade students from gambling and lead them, through pleasure, to the practice of virtue.
In the same place Maggio also cites Johannes of Rheinfelden, probably writing in 1377, about a card game whose purpose was to “teach noblemen the rule of life ... and inform [the people] of the way of laboring virtuously.” Marziano too, declared, in the quote already given, that his goal was for the player "to be aroused to virtue”.

If trumps have to be learned in rows, virtues in company with corresponding life-concerns  it is a perfect game for children and their parents. In Ferrara 1442 it was in fact for two children that a deck of triumphs was purchased, the 9 and 11 year old brothers of Leonello d’Este. It is one of numerous references to playing cards for children collected on

Notes to Section 5:
44 Manucci 1676 (cited in Vitali 2007), Moakley 1966, pp. 47-48; Shephard 1984, pp. 34-37; Pratesi 1998, p. 111, Vitali 1995c, p. 5. Moakley and Shephard identify the six Petrarchans with groups of cards within a full sequence of 21 or 22; the others are unspecific. I am identifying them with individual cards.
46 On, search "Tarot dit Charles VI". For the PMB, see Dummett 1986.
47 Folengo 1527, p. 156 (Mullaney transcription and translation, p. 143). Pomeran: Dummett 1993, p. 421. Minchiate: Depaulis 2007, p. 43.
48 Pesellino:; Apollonio: For the "Charles VI" card, see note 46. For the Cary-Yale card, see "Visconti Tarot" on the website of the Beinecke Library, Yale University,
49. Boccaccio 1986, p. 7 (Canto I, lines 36-42)..
50. Ibid, p. 9 (Canto I, lines 68-69)
51. Ibid, p. 11 (Canto II, line 2).
52. Ibid, p. xx of Vittore Branca's introducion..
55. Ibid, p. 1 (Canto II, line 45).
56 Post 12 at
57 Katzenellenbogen 1964, p. 2, for Pudicitia, and 21 n. 1, for Castita.
58 Depaulis 2013, p. 20
59. For Catania card (on right), Maggio 2016; for "Charles VI" (left) see note 46.
60 Katzenellenbogen 1964, p. 2, n. 1.
61 Plato 1987, p. .
63 Maggio 2014, p, 229, citing Balderic's Chronicon Cameracense et Atrebatense, Book I, Ch.87. The next reference is to Johannes' De Moribus et Disciplina Humanae Conversationis.
64, trans. Ross Gregory Caldwell, ed. Lothar Teikeimeier, citing Franceschini 1996 (1993?), p. 170. The other references are at The earliest is in the Chronica di Morelli, an addendum to Malespini 1718, p. 270. Morelli began his chronicle in 1393 (p. 217) and died in 1444.

6. The secular and spiritual powers

To attain fourteen subjects, equaling the number of cards per suit, there needs to be four more cards. Given that the cards below the trumps are headed by kings, it makes sense that at least one of them would be an emperor. In Italy at that time, there were two basic systems of authority, each with its own traditions. At the head of each was one man, the Emperor for one and the Pope for the other. In the tarot lists there are often four such personages, Emperor, Empress, Pope and Popess. In two, the strambotto and Minchiate, there are only three, omitting the Popess. In one, the Bolognese, there are four, but all are designated by the same masculine term “papa”. Among the partial decks that survive there are three that have one or two imperials but no papals among its surviving cards: "Alessandro Sforza", Brera-Brambilla, and Cary-Yale. So which of these alternatives came first?

There were other card games in the early 15th century besides Marziano’s that seem to have had trumps, in the sense of cards superior in trick-taking power to the highest cards of the other suits. One is “VIII Imperadori”, documented in 1423 Ferrara, for a deck made in Florence.65 All we have is the name, but 8 is twice 4, so perhaps 2 served as extensions of each suit, as Pratesi has proposed.66 We don’t know who these “Imperadori” were, but one possibility comes from Johannes of Rheinfelden, who described a game where the suits represented four empires. Arne Jönsson of the University of Stockholm writes:67
As regards the four suits, they represent, in Johannes' opinion, four kingdoms, namely the four successive world monarchies, Babylonia, Persia, Macedon (or Greece), and the Roman Empire. As his symbol the Babylonian king has a man's head, the Greek king has bells, and the Roman king an eagle. Johannes tells us that he does not understand the Persian king's symbol.
These same empires are assigned to the suits in an essay on Minchiate in 1747, indicative of a tradition.60  The highest suit, the Roman, notably has the eagle as its symbol, the same as for Marziano, while Bells are what correspond in German and Swiss suits to Coins. These two would then be the same as those Pratesi postulated as the basis for Marziano’s suits. We could then imagine, for "VIII Imperadori", two figures for each empire as extensions of the suits, arranged hierarchically with Romans highest, since each empire conquered the one before it.

However it is not important that the eight “Imperadori” have been those in particular. It is the number, which is 4x2, suggesting pairs, coupled with imperials, personages whose power crosses national boundaries, that matters.

Actually only one such personage is needed per suit, if there are other trumps. There were two transnational hierarchies then, one headed by the Pope and another by the Emperor. The Emperor had a spouse, the Empress. So did the Pope, in his case the Church. Aquinas had said, “The Pope, who is the viceregent of Christ throughout the entire Church, is called the spouse of the universal Church.”68 Such figures could be arranged hierarchically, either spirituals or males first. There were also the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire, each with a secular and a spiritual head. In the West there were also rival claimants to the throne of Pope or Emperor; they could be considered Popes and Emperors, too. In such a context it is no wonder that Bologna's cards are of ambiguous gender. The only thing clear is the division between spiritual and secular. (Fig. 8, the little numbers on these Bibliothèque Nationale cards must be late additions by someone in France, because they continue on the other trumps in precisely the "Tarot de Marseille" order.)
With this kind of doubling there isn’t a hierarchy between those with the same title, Pope or Emperor, until one resigns or is defeated. That could explain why in Bologna and Piedmont there seems to have been no ranking among them, priority being given to the one played last in a trick.69

Another card game with trumps was Karnöffel, first recorded in 1426 Bavaria.70  That was over the Alps from Italy, but many Italian nobles and church people had been in that region for church councils in Constance and Basel. In further support, there is an edict of 1420 in in Milan where Filippo found occasion to outlaw games “not in accord with the ancient system.”71 What that means is not completely clear, but it is not likely that he meant games that have Aces as the most powerful number card in two suits and Tens in the other two, because his own game did that, and others. He more likely was thinking of games like Karnöffel that made low cards, allegorically characters at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the most powerful.

The game used an ordinary deck, but one suit was picked randomly to have some trump cards. It is hard to reconstruct precisely how many there were capable of beating the kings and below, but at least four are mentioned, of which the highest was called the Karnöffel. Playing card historian David Parlett says of this card:72
In fact its primary meaning is a scrotal hernia and, by extension in some contexts, the testicles. By further extension it also came to mean a rough, uncouth and violent rogue, thence a Landsknecht or lansquenet [foot soldier], and, later still, satirically, a cardinal of the church. 
There was also the Devil, a trump when led. Next were the Pope and one or more Emperors; Parlett says just one, which is consistent with a c.1450 German poem, but a 1546 dialogue gives four, for the four empires described by John of Rheinfelden. That information plus the name "Kaiserspiel" for the same or similar German game, suggests a relationship to "VIII Imperadori" in Italy. The c. 1450 poem speaks of "holy figures" without giving a number. Whether they all beat the kings is also unknown.73

There is a certain parallel in the Tarot: the Bagatella is a kind of small Devil, in that his profession is deceiving people. Likewise the Matto is a kind of Karnöffel. We only have to put the Pope highest, then the Emperor, then the other two. In that case the game of Karnöffel suggests an alternative to doubling the Pope and Empero: there might have been one or two of the low characters instead. While the Empress card corresponded to a real person, the Popess did not, and could easily be interpreted as the Pope’s mistress or the legendary “Pope Joan”, who got elected pope disguised as a man. Some might make fun of the Church by means of this card. To avoid brawls it could be omitted. In that case something analogous to the Karnöffel or Devil might substitute, as the lowest trump rather than the highest, although in Milan it still probably would be unacceptable to have such a figure trumping kings. In Minchiate the Bagatella even looks like a father with his children, comparable to how some of the early dignitaries were shown, such as the "Alessandro Sforza" Empress, Rothschild Emperor, and "Charles VI" Pope (Fig. 9, far left).74
But he is not a dignitary, and the Matto, shown in Minchiate playing with two children, even less so.Since the Empress is well enough represented in the early cards (in the A-order's "Alessandro Sforza" and the C order's Cary-Yale), I do not think it very likely that one low figure would be grouped with three high ones at the start. But I cannot rule it out, nor even two such figures..

I will use the terms “papa” (Italian for “father”, and by extension "big man") and “papi”, plural, even when one or two are female or low characters, as the simplest shorthand for the four.

There are now three or maybe four sources, besides the four regular suits, for the game of triumphs: the four cardinal virtues, the six subjects of Petrarch’s Trionfi, and either the game of Eight Emperors, for the “papi” and the idea of trumps as extensions of the suits, or Karnöffel, at least one of whose trumps might count as a “papa”. The “papi” would naturally be in the low part of the order, because allegorically they are subject to the virtues and Petrarchans. We get a 4x3 matrix plus two outside the matrix. Below, the "/" sign means "or".
It might be that one or two of the two lowest “papi” would more properly be put below the matrix, as Bagatella and/or Matto. However the present matrix is more meaningful, in that there is a column for each source. Above, if I put only one “low” figure in parentheses, it is to keep the matrix simple.

What remains is to see how this postulated ur-tarot, as the original from which the various orders sprang, would develop into what came later.

Notes to Section 6:
65 Franceschini. 1993, lines 137ff under “i", cited by Caldwell at
66 Pratesi 1998, p. 112; Pratesi 2016.

67 Jönsson 2005, p. 370.
68 Vitali, 2018a, citing Brunetti, 1747.
69 Contra impugnantes, pars 2 cap. 3 ad 22: "Et ideo Papa, qui obtinet vicem sponsi in tota Ecclesia, universalis Ecclesiae sponsus dicitur" and "...Unde Christus et Papa et episcopus et sacerdos non computantur nisi unus sponsus Ecclesiae." Cited by Marco Ponzi at  

70 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi, p. 17 and note 8, pp 30-31.
71:, citing F. Malaguzzi Valeri, La corte di Ludovico il Moro (Milano, Hoepli, 1913-1917), vol. I, p. 268. 

73 The variations are admirably summarized by "Huck" (Lothar Teikemeier) on Tarot History Forum, At, post 30, he discusses the 1450 and 1546 sources. 
74 Minchiate: Empress: Maggio 2016. Emperor: Pope: (search terms “tarot dit Charles VI"). All except the Empress are held by the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

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VITALI, Andrea, 1995c. "L'Harmonia Celeste", La Carovano dei Tarocchi: Storia, Arte, Magia, pp. 5-8,
VITALI, 2007. "Il Malmantile Racquistato - Un Generale che amava troppo i Tarocchi", with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 2009. "San Bernardino e le Carte da Gioco Carte regolari e trionfi nelle cronache sulla vita del Santo"., with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 2018a. "Note allegoriche al Giuoco delle Minchiate",, with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, and ZANETTI, Terry, 2005. Il Tarocchino di Bologna: Storia, Iconografia, Divinazione, dal XV al XX secolo, Edizione Martina, Bologna.

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