created since 2003       

Kids and Playing Cards

in 15th century

A lot of documents of early playing card indicate, that very young persons had been involved in the game. I've listed some entries:

Florence, Italy: The Chronicle di Giovanni 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.

Decembrio (short after 1447) notes about Filippo Visconti , that he liked playing card since his youth. Many of the existing documents are related to Filippo in his adult life.

Parasina , the young wife of Niccolo III. in Ferrara and known from 3 card documents, was at the time of the documents 18 - 19 years ( 1423 - 1424 ) old. One entry about her talks from inexpensive "playing cards for our girls". In the case, that this refers to her 2 daughters - the both are just 5 years old.

In the many documents about card prohibition in and around Florence one from Sesto Fiorentino, 1432, especially considers the youth: card playing is allowed at holidays, until the bell rings the Ave Maria; this law is given to avoid, that the local youth do leave the commune during the holiday to play “a zara” (a dice game).

Bianca Maria Visconti in 1441 was a 15-years old girl, when she visited Ferrara and possibly caused the invention of 5x14-Trionfi deck.

The second entry (July 1442), in which the name "Trionfi" appears, speaks of a deck for Ercole and Sigismondo, the young half-brothers of Lionello d'Este. They are at that moment of time 9 and 11 years old.

The Hofämterspiel is suspected to have been produced for the young king Ladislaus Posthumus of Bohemia, perhaps ca. 1455 . Ladislaus died 1457, just 17 years old.

Galeazzo Maria Sforza made with 13 years a visit in Ferrara ( 1457). In a letter to his father Francesco Sforza he talks about card-playing and tennis.

Ascanio Sforza, * 1455, later cardinal, was in his youth extremely fond of card-playing. Once his oldest brother Galeazzo Maria forbade him to play (age of Ascanio unknown, the story is given by Klaus Schelle: Die Sforza.). The love to cards endured in his adult life.

In a letter between Lorenzo de Medici, borne 1449, and his friend Pulci the term Minchiate appeared the first time ( 1466; the letter is lost). Lorenzo is then 17 years old.

The Mantegna Tarocchi, not really a card play, is occasionally considered to be invented for educative purposes, the date of the first edition of the set of 50 engravings is unclear.

The Sola-Busca-Tarocchi , probably produced 1491, is seen by some researchers also as an educational deck.

May 1492: In a letter from Ippolito d'Este to his mother Eleanora of Aragon various games are noted, also Trionfi cards, which should be send to the young guy. Ippolito, later cardinal and archbishop and active part in a familiary scandal of the Este, is then 13 years old. (Ortalli, p. 201)

In 1502 in Germany the Franciscan monk Thomas Murner published an educational deck based on the Institutes of Justinian, thus beginning the tradition of educational cards. "With the intention of increasing interest in reading, I have tried to counter immoral games through this extremely uplifting game ...." A second game from Murner, teaching logic, was published in 1507.

In the account book entries from 1516 in Ferrara, which contain one of the first use of the word "tarocchi", also decks for the use of Ercole d'Este are mentioned. Ercole, later duke of Ferrara, was then 8 years old (Francesschini in Ludica 2). This entry was long held as the "oldest" reference to the word Tarocchi, but recently (2004) two other references from 1505 in Ferrara and Avignon were discovered (source)