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Other early Notes about Playing Cards (- ca. 1420)

The following list was extracted with permission of the author from Michael J. Hurst's Collected Fragments of Tarot History

Added comments by ourselves are in GREEN

1371 Catalonia, Spain.
The earliest reference to cards in Europe, "it first appears as naip in a Catalan document of 1371." This reference from Parlett seems not to be repeated in any of the other sources examined, and comes from a 1989 article in the Journal of the International Playing Card Society, by Luis Monreal, which post-dates most of the other sources used for this list. (P 36.) This apparently appeared in the Diccionari de rims commissioned by Peter IV, King of Aragon. (Ortalli, 175.)

1377 Basel, Switzerland.

Dominican Johannes von Rheinfelden authored the essay Tractatus de moribus et disciplina humanae conversationis, although this dating is suspect.

1377 Paris, France

Ordinance prohibiting "card-play in contexts clearly directed at the working classes". A similar ordinance from 1369 did not mention cards. (P 35, 37; GD 10.)

1379 Viterbo, Italy

Cola di Covelluzzo’s Viterbo Chronicle reports, "In the year 1379 there was brought to Viterbo the game of cards, which in the Saracen language is called nayb." In fifteenth-century Italy, in France, and in Spain from 1371 to this day, cards were referred to as naibi, nahipi, naips, naipes, naibbe, naibbi. (GT 11, 43-44; K I:32; P 36.)

1379 Brabant, Belgium

Account-book of the duke of Brabant, Wenceslaus of Luxembourg and his wife Johanna, "describes a fete held at Brussels in 1379 at which cards were played." There is also an entry noting the purchase of a deck of cards, quartspel mette copen. (K I:24; GT 10, 65; P 37; B 64.)

1380 Nürnberg, Germany

Card playing with small money is allowed by a statute. NSW
(web page)
Rainer Müller gives the date 1381 and details:  "rennen mit pferden (horse-racing), schiessen mit armbrusten (crossbow-shooting), carten (playing cards), schofzogel (= chess), pretspil (boardgame = backgommon ?) und kugeln (Bocchia ?)" is allowed at the "Hallerwiese".

1380 P Barcelona, Spain
Inventory including reference to "a game of cards comprising forty-four pieces". (K II:1.)

1381 Marseilles, France

"A certain Jacques Jean (son of a Marseilles merchant) bound for Alexandria, Egypt, pledged to his friends Honorat d'Abe and Micolas Miol, before a notary, not to gamble or play games of chance on his journey: primarily taxilli (the greatly condemned dice), but also scaqui (i.e. chess which actually enjoyed a good reputation) and nahipi. The pledge to forsake gambling was a well-known obligation in Mediaeval juridical practice, especially as far as dice were concerned. But here the novelty was the inclusion of cards among the unacceptable games." (Ortalli 176; K I:24; B 45.)

1384 Nuremberg, Germany

A manuscript notes the "widespread adoption of the new game throughout Europe". Dummett reports this, noting that he was unable to confirm it. (GT 11; B 29.)

1392 P France.

Account book for King Charles VI, "Given to Jacquemin Gringonneur, painter, for three packs of cards, gilt and colored, and variously ornamented, for the amusement of the king, fifty-six sols of Paris." These are not the so-called Gringonneur cards, aka Charles VI cards, which are a late fifteenth-century Ferrarese Tarot deck. These three decks might be better compared to the 1440 Tortona deck. (K I:24; GT 65-66; P 37.)

1393 Florence, Italy

Chronicle di Giovani Morelli "contains a warning against the use of dice by children. Morelli describes naibi as a kind of game, and from the context it appears it was one which only children played, possibly for instructive purposes." (K I:24.) Ortalli refers to Morelli's "Ricordi – memoirs written between 1393 and 1421". (Ortalli 181.) Compare this with the 1424 Ferrara reference to acquiring decks for children, and the 1516 entry.

1395 Bologna, Italy

"A certain Federico of German origin, suspected of pushing counterfeit coins in Bologna in 1395, also sold cartas figuratas et pictas ad imagines et figuras sanctorum." (Ortalli 197.)

1396 Paris France

"At the French court a hawker or maker of cases, Guion Groslet appears in the account books of 1396 for having sold an estuy for the cards of Queen Isabelle of Bavaria (Charles VI's wife)." (Ortalli 178.)

c.1400 Mamluk, Egypt

"The future Sultan al-Malik al-Mu’ayyud is recorded to have won a large sum of money in a game of cards in about the year 1400". (GT 42.)

c.1400 P Mamluk, Egypt

A nearly complete deck (47 cards) from this provenance was found in the Topkapi Sarayi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. As reconstructed, it was a 52-card deck "virtually identical with the Italian variety of the Latin-suited pack". (P 40; K I:53, 56; H 19.)

1402 Ulm, Germany

Cardmaker (kartenmacher) mentioned as profession in registry. (Betts, 109.)

1403 Aragon, Spain

The King of Aragon, Martin el Humano, requested some playing cards, un joch de naips. (Ortalli 178.)

1408 Orleans, France

Inventory of the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, listing "ung jeu de quartes sarrasines and unes quartes de Lombardie (‘one pack of Saracen cards; one cards of Lombardy’)". (GT 42.)

1408 Paris, France.

Court records describe con artists using cards in a simple scam "with a psychological resemblance to Three-card Monte." (Giobbi; P 73.)

1414 Barcelona, Spain

Multiple inventories referring to Moorish cards: "j joch de nayps moreschs" and "j joch de nahyps moreschs", both meaning "1 pack of Moorish playing cards". (GT 42.)

1414 Nürnberg

From 1414 - 1500 in Nürnberg 38 card producers are counted. NSV
(web page)

c.1415 Bologna, Italy.

A portrait of Prince Fibbia, dating from the later seventeenth century, bears an inscription identifying him as "inventor of the game of Tarocchino in Bologna". This apparently legendary attribution appears to be a Fibbia family tradition, intended to explain their arms on some Bolognese cards by attributing the game to Prince Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia (1360 - 1419). (K I:32 -33, II:2, GT 66-67.)

1418 Augsburg, Germany.

Cardmaker (kartenmacher) mentioned as profession in registry. (Betts, 109.)


Beal, George. Playing-Cards and Their Story. David & Charles Ltd., 1975. (B)

Kaplan, Stuart. The Encyclopedia of Tarot. U.S. Games Systems Inc., 1978. (K I)

Dummett, Michael. The Game of Tarot. Duckworth, 1980. (GT)

Parlett, David. The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford University Press, 1990. (P)

Ortalli, Gherardo. "The Prince and the playing cards. The Este family and the role of the courts at the time of the Kartenspiel-Invasion", Ludica 2: Annali di storia e civiltà del gioco. Fondazione Bennetton Studi Ricerche, 1996.

Hoffmann, Detlef. The Playing Card: An Illustrated History. New York Graphic Society, 1973. (H)

Kaplan, Stuart. The Encyclopedia of Tarot: Volume II. U.S. Games Systems Inc., 1986. (K II)

Betts, Timothy. Tarot and the Millennium. New Perspective Media, 1998. (Betts)

Giobbi, Roberto. Brian Ochab’s History of Cards. (Giobbi) web page essays the history of cards from a magician’s point of view.