The Puri family sold 72x12 = 864 cheap decks (they sold these in dozens) according that, what we know about this business (totally 27 recorded activities). The prices of these cheap decks are comparable to the productions of Niccolo da Calvello (sold also in dozens) at the silk dealers lists. In the lists appears the terminus "Scempi", which elsewhere is also only used in the production of Niccolo di Calvello.
- Most playing card sales at the Puri family list belong to the last months of 1447, short after the death of Filippo Maria Visconti in Milan
- A similar increase of business activity in 1447 can be observed at the silk dealer lists, after the interest had fallen in 1445.
- 1447 is the year, in which Giannozzo Manetti fought against gambling in Pistoia.
- Archbishop Antonius fought against gambling in Florence (not dated). He was installed in Florence as archbishop by promotion of pope Eugen at 13 March 1446.
- San Bernardino had fought long time against card playing. He had died in 1444.
- Pope Eugen had been close to San Bernardino. He showed a strong interest to make San Bernardino a saint after his death (Bernardino became a saint - very quick - in 1450). Pope Eugen died in spring 1447.
- I think, one has to interpret the decrease and increase 1445-1447 at Florentine playing card lists before the background of the mentioned activities of San Bernardino, Pope Eugen, archbishop Antonius and Giannozzo Manetti.
The Puri family sold 49 decks for 5 Soldi or higher. Between these the Puri family sold 4 decks "above 20 Soldi" and 4 others near to 20 Soldi, all 8 decks were produced by Paparello and directly or indirectly connected to the attribute "Chorone", which for the moment presents an unsolved riddle. There's some suspicion, that Chorone might have been used as a name for a Trionfi card variant, something, which for instance in the broader definitions of Jacopo Antonio Marcello might have been called "a new Ludus Triumphorum".
Another artist, who supplied the Puri family with playing cards, had been Giovanni di ser Giovanni, nicknamed "Lo Scheggia", brother of the very famous artist Masaccio, who died early. Though less famous than his brother, Lo Scheggia is the only new Trionfi artist of a greater name in Florence and at the international market works of him are occasionally traded for 500.000 $ and more. Further there is the very interesting information, that in one of his pictures a naked Lady looks very similar to a Trionfi card used in an extant deck fragment once in the hands of Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pistoia. Between his works appear scenes from triumphal processions. Famous is a birth tray for Lorenzo di Medici, commissioned 1449 and showing a typical Fame in Petrarca's Trionfi poem style.
A third artist's name mentioned in the Puri family sale lists is not clearly readable, but the suspicion exists, that this might be Antonio di Dino Canacci, well known for his activities with the silk dealers, but also with the Lapini family.
Franco Pratesi had splitted in his article the sales in a cheap category (sold in dozens) and an expensive category (here 5 Soldi and higher). I transformed his data to an overview, counting dates of sales, sale activities, number of decks and received money. Cheap decks are nearly always sold in dozens, so it's clear, that this list only contained trades with clients, who sold decks themselves (for instance traders like Ser Andrea di Giovanni Bertelli, who in a half year sold about 20 decks, and nearly all as a single deck(and none of the decks above 5 Soldi and 6 denari. If the Puri family really also sold decks to final users of card playing, these humble everyday-trades don't appear on their lists (as far we know them).
Date of Playing card activity
Recorded playing card activity in Florence: 1447-09-07 till 1449-03-18
Sources are mainly taken from Franco Pratesi's new article series written from November 2011 till now, published
Puri and other merciai
It is not easy for me to define exactly what a "merciaio" is, and what a merciaio was. The word directly comes from "merce", and merce has an English equivalent in goods, wares, so that the shop may be intended at once as a shop where any goods can be sold and acquired; merchant (or "mercante" here) has exactly the same etymology, but is used for bigger trades.
In the course of time we have assisted to a kind of specialisation, so that a shop of this type still exists nowadays, and is owned by a merciaio, or more often a merciaia, his female counterpart. The major part of the goods on sale is addressed to those few women that still keep the old habit, and competence, to sew something by themselves: here they can find everything they may need, from clothes to ribbons and bands, from buttons to a few metal objects as pins and needles, and so on. Many other metal tools were once available at a merciaio, from nails, shears and knives, up to various professional tools, which now are commonly on sale in an ironware shop.
Both in the UK and the USA I have only spent a few days, and am not familiar enough with the local tradition of similar shops, and corresponding names. I am not sure that the sole word that I find for merciaio in my Zanichelli dictionary, haberdashery, is enough to convey the idea of the particular "shop" we are dealing with here. On the other hand, the English word mercer, which has the same origin and probably corresponds – or corresponded - better, is not even present in my Penguin English Student’s Dictionary.
What I have tried to justify above is that in the store that we intend to visit now more goods are likely to be found than we are ready to expect, and in particular it will be possible to find there packs of playing cards too.
Maybe some information on the family of the owners, Puri, could be useful; this family however is not among the best known in Florence, and I could find no particular information on them. I must however frankly admit that I have only verified that this family was not present among those recorded in Catasto 1427. Further research I did not perform, and thus it is not surprising at all that I did not yet find anything about them - especially considering that I am finding little or nothing even when I do search.
On the cover of the book that will be used below we find a sentence that is noted also in the catalogue of the archive(4) clearly indicating that the owner left Florence and moved to Milan. "A dì 12 novembre 1451 si partì Maso da Firenze et andò al nome di Dio a Melano." After all, let us neglect the information on the family and focus only on the account books that they have left in AOI; who they were is not so much interesting for us, just something that they were trading.
Another point that might be useful to discuss concerns the purchasers. As far as I have understood it, most of the trade, or at least most of the trade of our interest, was from merciaio to merciaio. I have not been able to locate the destination of all the goods sold: in most cases, only the name of the purchaser is indicated, often together with the indication that he is a merciaio.
In a few cases, I have not been able to read the place where the purchasers were active, even if is indicated. However, I am certain that a remarkable part of the playing cards that we will encounter below were sold to purchasers who did not live in Florence. Two of them were certainly from Pisa, one from Pistoia: these three purchasers together may account for a significant part of the trade of our specific interest, say about one third. For instance, the big sale of no less than 160 packs of different qualities recorded on 8 November 1447 was to Nicholo merciaio in Pisa. Another purchaser was active in Dicomano, and another in San Casciano, small country towns not far from Florence, and this is a clear proof that using these cards at the time was current in the countryside too.
One thus obtains the impression that, at least for certain goods, our store acted as a wholesale seller, whereas the colleagues purchasers as sellers by retail. In any case, it is evident that any merciaio coming from a smaller town to make a fresh supply of specific goods in Florence was carrying out a reasonable kind of trade.
I am not sure at all that one can also deduce from the above that playing cards were only produced in Florence at the time; it is of course easy to imagine that here one could find a wider choice of items and prices.
When Ross Caldwell and me in 2003 started to collect Trionfi notes between 1442-1463, we had about 27/28 entries (which I nowadays would count as 31). The major part were the documents of Ferrara, which were collected by Gherardo Ortalli and Adriano Franceschini in the "Prince and the Playing Cards" (1996), after the base laying works of Michael Dummett and Stuart Kaplan around 1980. This collection included 2 notes about Trionfi cards in Florence, found by Franco Pratesi in his earlier work (allowances of the Trionfi game in 1450 and 1463). A graphical representation of this time (with 27 entries) shows the dominance of Ferrarese documents (in black) with a few notes only from other locations (in red; see picture to the right)
In the period 2004 till October 2011 it was possible to add 4 further notes (Siena 1452, Padova 1455, Ancona c. 1460 and Valerio Marcello c. 1460), mainly thanks to information given by Thierry Depaulis.
Franco Pratesi started his new article series in November 2011. Since then the list has gotten 67 new documents till September 2012 (65 of them found by Franco Pratesi, one, now the oldest of September 1440, by Thierry Depaulis, and another one by Veber Gulinelli, who controlled the earlier work of Franceschini and found an overlooked document) and nearly all are related to Florence or its surrounding.
A small book (118 pages) was published around Christmas 2012, Franco Pratesi: "Playing Card Trade in 15th Century Florence" as IPCS Paper No. 7 (ISSN 0305-2133). It contains some of the articles, which before had appeared at this website, those, which treat the early time of 15th century. Thierry Depaulis commented in his foreword: "This book is a landmark in the history of early playing cards in Italy".
Well, maybe not the book, but the research is clearly a landmark in various interests. For the collection of early Trionfi notes it somehow means, that we have within the year 2012 about 200 % more data for the period 1440-1462 than mankind had collected in the 200 years before.
In August 2013 the new report of Arnold und Doris Esch: "Aus der Frühgeschichte der Spielkarte. Der Import von carte da giocare und trionfi nach Rom." in Gutenberg Jahrbuch 2013, 88. Jahrgang, p. 41-53, arrived in our redaction. It contains 106 new references to Trionfi decks, which all were found in the customs registers of the city Rome for the period 1453-1465. With this the number of all earlier Trionfi cards records has been doubled and should have reached then c. 210 (from which a few are only considered to be "Trionfi card notes" and don't contain the word "Trionfi" or something similar).
I'd started to sort the new Trionfi card documents overview in October 2012. Articles will be possibly changed according improvements in research.
Old Overview about Trionfi Card documents in 2003
Overview about Trionfi Card documents in 2013