Ronfa - Notes
- Dummett writes in Chapter VII of "Game of Tarot" to "Ronfa":
The first reference known to me from an Italian source occurs in the same sermon by an anonymous Dominican friar, dating from between 1450 and 1480,
which we have already cited as giving the first listing of the Tarot triumphs .
There are here two mentions of Ronfa, as if to two separate games: one is specifically to a card game ('Ronfa, ludus cartularum'), and the other to a
game bearing the alternative name of Buffa Aragiato, which may equally well have been a dice game or game of tables (i.e. backgammon game) 
the whole passage is one in which names of card games, dice games and backgammon games are indiscriminately jumbled together as being, according to the
preacher, names of devils. Of the game of Buffa Aragiato or Ronfa, the preacher comments that 'it is a cruel game, that has led many to poverty';
so it was certainly a game played for high stakes. Whether or not there was also a backgammon game called Ronfa, the card game was well established
in Italy by the 1490s:
in 1491 ronfae was prohibited by municipal edict in Bergamo ;
in 1492 a letter of Ippolito d'Este acknowledged the receipt, among other things, of a pack of cards
for playing the game (carte da rompha) ; in 1499 the Diano Ferrarese mentioned Rompha as among the games
played at the court of Ferrara . There are frequent references
to it in sixteenth-century Italian sources .
... However, although everything concerning the game of Ronfa is obscure, it seems highly probable that we should identify it with the
game played in France under the name of Ronfle. But, if so,
it goes back to the beginning of the fifteenth century: the earliest reference to Ronfle in Godefroy's dictionary is from 1414, with another from 1464 .
15 Robert Steele. 'A notice of the Ludus Triumphorum', etc. ... (my note: passage see below)
16 The famous manuscript compiled in 1283 at the order of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile on chess, dice, backgammon and board games mentions buffa cortesa and huffa de baldrace as backgammon games: see Alfonso el Sabio, Libnis de Acedrex, Dados e. Tablas (Has Schach^abelbuch. Konig Alfans des Weisen), ed. and trans. by Arnald Steiger, Geneva and Zurich, 1941, pp. 324-5, 328-9.
17 See W.L. Schreiber, Die altesten Spielkarten, Strasbourg, 1937, p.79.
18 See Giulio Bertoni, 'Tarocchi versificati' in Poesie, leggende, costuman^e del media evo, Modena, 1917, p. 218 (my note: passage see below).
19 See Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. XXIV, p. 376.
20 See the works of Berni and Cardano cited in footnote 11.
21 Frederic Godefroy, Dictionnaire de I'ancienne langue francaise, Paris, vol. 7, 1892, s.v. 'ronfle'.
The 1414 reference is from a manuscript, cited merely as Arch. JJ. 189, piece 226: 'Lesquelz compaignons commencr a jouer au jeu de ronfle.' The 1464 one is cited from the Lettres de Jehan de /-annoy, in Cabinet histonque, 1875, p. 241: 'Comme 1'on dist, I'onjoue aux cartes pour passer Ie temps, est a savoir a Ie roufle, a XXXI, au ghelicque, au hanequin et au franc ju.' There are other references without precise dates: one of 1537, given as 'Chicheface', Poesie des X^ et XV^ slides, vol. XI, p. 290, employs the term ruffle not as the name of a game but as a technical term in another card game, la Picardie: 'J'avais cinquante et cinq de roffle/ Enjouant a la Picardie.' I am afraid I have not checked these references.
- In a letter from Ippolito d'Este to his mother Eleonor of Aragon (mentioned above by Dummett), sent from Hungary on 2nd My 1492. (Modena, Archivio di Stato, Casa e Stato, Carteggio estense, b. 135.) is written:
"Ho receputo le berette, guanti, guanteri, balle, balloni, capelleti, forme, bachete da sparaviero, TRIUMPHI DORATI,
CARTE DA ROMPHA, seconda che se contenne ne la sua
de VI de marzo, et vedendo la benignita et dolceza cum la quale vostra exzellenza mi manda dicte cosse et essendo le prefate dignissime et per darmi grande
delectatione et piacere, baso la mane a vostra excellenza rendendogene immortale grazie, dolendomi che io non habii che sapii che li habii da piacere, perche mi
sforzaria di fare qualche parte del mio debito" (text given by Ortalli, "The Prince and the Playing cards")
Note: The writer differentiates between "triumphi dorati" (= "golden triumphs", likely trump cards
with golden background, typical for old Visconti-Sforza and Este cards) and Carte da Rompha .
- Bergamo 1491 (mentioned above by Dummett): § 171 "Si quis in domo, curia, ?rto, brolo vel aliqua alia tenuerit ludum alea, Biselantiae, vel reginetae, sozi, santii, oche vel alterius cuiusvis generis ludi alearum vel CARTARUM ad
tertam et quartam, fluxi, RONFAE vel CRICHE, vel generis CARTARUM, exeptis TRIUMPHIS, scachis et tabulerio,
cadat in poenam libr. 50. - § 172: Nullus audeat vel presumat ludere ad azzarum, nec ad aliquem
ludorum predictum sub poena libr. 12 ... et intelligatur ludere si reperti fuerint habere ante veliuxta
se discum, taxillos, vel cartas vel aliud praeparamentum ad ludendum. Salve quod non comprehendantur in presenti
capitulo ludentes ad TRIUMPHOS, ad tabuleriam et schachos ad libr. 5." (text given by Schreiber (1937), p. 79.)
Note: "Ronfae vel Criche" are given in context.
- Ludus triumphorum (mentioned above by Dummett): "In quinta stantia sunt quinque puncti figurantes quinque ludos. Quorum primus dicitur Perdi o vinci. Secundus dicitur Sette o sey. Tertius Buffa Aragiato, aut Ronfa, id est desconza hay la borsa (del buffa aragiato). Et est crudelis ludus, quia multos ducit ad paupertatem. Quartus dicitur Scarga lasino, id est quicquid habet in domo. Et remansit nudus et levis. Quintus A uno tracto e mezo.
Aliter In quinta sunt Ronfa, ludus cartularum, Crica ludus trium cartularum. ('Cruca' melius sonaret.
Nam in lingua sclava dicitur panis; quia ludit panem filiorem. Et ludit hoc
ludo dando cartulas a 3 a 3.) Milaneso; vel al 50, (ad quem numerum qui
citius pervenerint cum cartulis lucrantur), ludus cartularum novus.
Falcinelle (sive, A la terza a la quarta) ludus cartularum.
Fuxo, volve cartam in principio. (Ludus cartularum noviter inventus.
Sed interpone l post f, quid est fluxus. Et significat instabilitatem denariorum, quia sicut fluxus emittat sanguinem hominis sic ludus, &c.)"
Note: Ronfa is noted in context to Crica ("... sunt Ronfa, ludus cartularum, Crica ludus trium cartularum ..."
From Ludus triumphorum
- Franco Pratesi (Playing Card, Vol. XIX, No. 1, August 1990), writing later than Michael Dummett, gives an allowance of some games for
10th December 1450 in Florence for "dritta, vinciperdi, trenta and trionfo",
which is repeated in 1463 with the addition of "cricca" and "ronfa".
Note: Ronfa and Cricca are again noted in context.
As the passage of the Dominican monk should be nearer to 1500 than 1450, the note from 1463 (Florence) should give the oldest Italian reference for Ronfa.
- Schreiber (1937) in the footnote 140 gives the following info: "In einem 1526 in Rom geduckten Buch, dessen
Verfasser Berni war, werden folgende Kartenspiele aufgezählt: Primero, Bassato, CRICCA, TRIONFI, TRIONFI PICCOLO, il Flusso, Trentuno, Noviera, Sestiera,
Quintiera, RONFA. Desgleichen macht Hieronymos Cardanus in Cap. 16-25 seines Lib de ludo aleae viele Angaben über Kartenspiele: Baseta, CRICONES, TRIUMPHI, TRIUMFETI, Sequentiae,
SEQUENTINUM TAROCHI, centum, Trpola, ROMFI, Scaltara, tum alii multi. Von dem RONFA scheint auch in dem 1585
zu Paris erschienenen Gedicht "Triomphe de Belan" die Rede zu sein:
Les Italiens aux dez, les Anglois au TRIOMPHE,
Au tripot le Flamand, le Tudesque a la ROMPHE.
Ein Kartenspiel "RONFLE" soll heute in Vogesengebiet gespielt werden."
Translation will follow.
- A Collection of old wordbooks entries presents:
- 1587 (English-French):
[Triumphus, phi,] [m. g.] A triumphe, a solemne pomp or shew at the returne of a Captaine, for a victorie that he hath gotten: also a play at cards so called, [Lod. Viv.]
- 1598 (English-Italian):
Ronfa, a game at cardes called ruffe or trumpe.
Ronfare, to snort, to snarle. Also to tuffe as a cat. Also to ruff or trump at cards.
Tarócchi, a kinde of playing cardes vsed in Italy, called terrestriall triumphes.
Trionfare, to triumph, to reioyce, to get the conquest. Also to reioyce greatlie. Also to trump at cards.
Trionfetti, a game at cardes as our trump.
Trionfo, triumph, ioy, gladnes, which is a solemne pomp or shew at the returne of a captaine for some victorie gotten. Also a trump at cards, or the play called trump or ruff.
Tronfare, to puffe, to swell, to blowe vp. Also to trumpe at cardes.
Tronfio, puffed, swolne, full, blowne vp. Also a trumpe at cards, a game at cards called trumpe.
- 1599 (English-Spain):
Triúmfo, or Triúmpho, a triumph, or reioicing vpon victory, a game at cards so called.
- An online-etymology-dictionary notes the following (a playing card document of 1414 is otherwise unknown to us):
"kind of large collar, stiffly starched, worn in 17c.," 1523, originally in ref. to sleeves (of collars, from 1555), probably a shortened form of
ruffle. Card-playing sense is a separate word, from a former game of that name (1589), from M.Fr. roffle, earlier romfle (1414),
from It. ronfa, perhaps a corruption of trionfo "triumph" (from Fr., cf. trump). The game was in vogue c.1590-1630.
- REMPHAN, rem'fan: The name of a deity mentioned only in Acts vii. 43. The readings of the name in the manuscripts are numerous, including the forms Rompha, Romphan, Rempha, Rephart, Raiphan, and Raphan. The passage is a free quotation from .Amos v. 26, in which the New-Testament (A. V.) "Remphan" (R. V., "Rephan"; Westcott and Hort, Rompha) displaces the Old-Testament "Chiun" (Babylonian Kaawanu, "Saturn"), here following the Septuagint manuscripts BAQ, which read Raiphan or Rephan. No deity named Remphan or Rephan is known, nor is the form known to occur as a title or name for Saturn. On the ground that the change from the form Chiun to Remphan, etc., occurs in the Septuagint, which was made in Egypt, explanations have been attempted, but have proved unsatisfactory, which take into account supposed Egyptian names or combinations, e.g., a Coptic form meaning "king of heaven" (it seems far to go to seek a Coptic form, and the Egyptian equivalent of this Coptic would bear no resemblance to "Remphan"), or an alleged title of Seb (=Saturn) meaning "youngest of the gods" (which is far-fetched, unusual, and unlikely). The best and generally accepted explanation is that the Septuagint form, which Acts borrows, is a mistake in the reading of the Hebrew for "Chiun," a mistake easily explicable when the form of the letters is taken into account.
GEO. W. GILMORE.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The commentaries on Amos and Acts; Schrader, KAT, p 409, note 1, 410 note 6; idem, in TSK, 1874, pp. 324 sqq.