Michael Dummett on the Boiardo deck
- and a short remark of Sylvia Mann
Michael Dummett's basic work of Tarot research "Game of Tarot" gives some informations to the Boiardo-deck.
"... a pack designed by the poet Matteo Maria Boiardo (1441-1494. It was to have four suits, made up of the usual fourteen cards each, but with the non-standard suit-signs of Whips, Eyes, Arrows and Vases; in addition, it was to have a Fool (Folle) and twenty-one non-standard triumphs. Again,
there was no correspondence between their subjects, each of which represented some quality, such as patience, modesty, etc., and was symbolized by an appropriate historical character, and the standard ones (33)"
|Note 33, related to the above text: - "Each card was to bear a descriptive tercet composed by Boiardo; there were also to be two extra cards, bearing sonnets by him. The resulting poems, consisting of the two sonnets and the tercets arranged to make five *capitoli*, one for each suit and one for the triumphs, were printed separately in 1523 in a volume published in Venice and containing poems by various authors. They were reprinted, under the title 'I Tarocchi', together with a previously unpublished commentary by Pier Antonio Viti da Urbino (c. 1470-1500), by Angelo Solerti in *Le Poesi Volgari e Latine di M.M. Boiardo* Bologna, 1894, pp. 313-38, with notes on pp. xxxii-xxxv, and again in
Zottoli (ed.), *Tutte le opere di Matteo Maria Boiardo*, Milan, 1936-7, vol. 2, pp. 702-16, with notes pp. 748-9. The title 'I Tarocchi' is not Boiardo's; neither he nor Viti uses the word *tarocchi*, but, instead, *trionfi* (sometimes for the twenty-one triumph cards, sometimes for the pack as a whole). The suits represent four passions: love (Arrows), jealousy (Eyes), fear (Whips), and hope (Vases). Each court card depicts an appropriate Biblical or classical character. The Fool (called by Viti *macto*) is called *il Mondo* (the World), a reversal of the usual practice by which the World is the highest triumph card; each of the actual triumph cards represents some quality, such as patience, modesty, etc., and is symbolized by an appropriate historical character, there is no
correspondence with the usual triumph subjects. Viti's commentary is addressed to a lady of the court of Urbino, he expresses the hope that his patroness will have a pack made in accordance with the designs he describes. She must have done so, since Carlo Lozzi, 'Le Antiche Carte da Giuoco', *La Bibliofilia*, vol. I, 1900, pp. 37-46 and 181-6, mentions just such a pack, though missing all the court cards, the Fool and all the triumph cards. (Merlin naturally does not recognise this pack as a Tarot pack, and Lozzi fails to connect his with Boiardo's poem). The pack illustrated by Merlin
was very probably identical with one sold at Christie's in 1971 to Signor Carlo Alberto Chiesa of Milan; this was a pack printed from wood blocks, and also missing the Fool and all the triumph cards, as well as the few court cards and numeral cards. For more illustrations and further details, see M. Dummett, 'Notes on a fifteenth-century pack of cards from Italy', *Journal of the Playing-Card Society*, vol. I, no. 2, February 1973, pp. 1-6. The pack is now in an anonymous Swiss collection."(Game of Tarot (1980), pp. 76-77).
Sylvia Mann reported in the first edition of the I.P.C.S.-Journal in the year 1471 about a sale at Christie's, "what must be considered one of the most remarkable collections of playing-cards ever to come on the open market. The property of the late Captain H. E. Rimington Wilson, the collection cannot have exceeded one hundred packs, but almost every one was of the highest quality or interest, and many, so far as the present writer is aware, were previously unrecorded." With the number 310 is listed:
310. 44 cards of a 15th-century Italian pack with fanciful suit-marks (though based on Italian ones) of Cups, Arrows, Eyes and Whips, Merlin calls this pack the "Jeu des Passions" as each suit represents a passion. Although the exact composition of the pack was not absolutely clear, each suit had four court cards (King, Queen, Cavalier and Jack) and ten numerals, all cards bearing three lines of verse. Merlin mentions the pack being [end of page 12] acquired in 1861 for 400 francs. In 1971 it made 350 gns. (source)
In our internal discussion the opinion was expressed, that the related cards appear as too cheap as if they could have originated directly from the scene around Boiardo (Ferrara) or from the situation of Vito in Urbino in the late 90ies. Also it's remarkable that the 44 cards didn't contain any trumps, perhaps a sign, that the trumps were not included in the production (see some of the cards). Especially it was remarked, that the Greek hero Jason is presented as knight on a horse (not - as expectable, on a ship) and neither Boiardo or Viti could be imagined to have realised this fault.
(composed by autorbis)