Romain Merlin 1859, "E-series was an Album"
- Model book Hypothesis
It seems that Romain Merlin, in 1859, already proposed that the E-
series was an "album" (i.e. what we are calling a "model-book"):
"M. Duchesne ainé (Jean Duchesne 'the elder', 1779-1855),
conservator of the Department of Prints in the Bibliothèque
Impériale, submitted in the Annuaire historique de la Socieété de
l'histoire de France of 1837, pages 172-213, some 'Observations sur
les cartes à jouer' (Remarks on Playing Cards), which is
incontestably the best essay which has been published on this
We must emphatically state that we owe to the work of this
savant a large part of the documents which we have utilized. Our
ideas are very much similar to his. We only believe that, in
regarding the engravings called cards of Mantegna as an instructive
game wherein the cards could be shuffled ([Duchesne] p. 203), M.
Duchesne is far removed from the truth, everything showing that
these engravings were not to be separated in detached sheets, like
cards are, but that they were only to be an album."
Merlin goes on to give his interpretation to the series - the first
such I know of:
"If one should try to penetrate into the intention of the author,
perhaps it would not take long to discover, in the arrangement
adopted for these figures, a philosophical thinking and a real moral
Indeed, in each ten, the highest subject is the last number,
the less elevated the first; thus the Pope, the highest dignity in
the Christian world, is the last in the series E; Apollo, master of
the Muses, the last of the D-tens; the premier science, Theology,
closes series C, just as the premier Christian virtue, Faith, only
appears at the end of series B; finally God, the first cause, is the
last of the whole group, as number 50.
From another angle, the order in which the letters which
distinguish the series are placed seems to indicate to us the
thought of the author, and tells us, beginning with the final series
A, that is to say by the number 50, the first cause or God:
'Adore God before everything and admire his works (series
A); practice the Virtues (series B), before cultivating the Sciences
(series C); cultivate the Sciences in preference to the Arts (series
D); and see in Honors (series E), only the least of benefits.'"
[R. Merlin, "Nouvelles recherches sur les cartes à jouer", in _Revue
archéologique_ XVI (1859) pp. 281-283]
(collected by Ross Gregory Caldwell