REVIEW OF A TWO-YEAR WORK
by Franco Pratesi, 31.10.2013
We are now reaching the end of the second “academic year” of my notes in Trionfi.com and it is time for a new balance. Exactly one year ago, a kind of balance was done with the printing of a booklet(1), in which eleven of the first notes were re-published with small improvements.
Now, we have the results of another year of research. Let me thus add here a short review of what I have inserted in these web pages. The aim of this review is to provide readers with a guiding light through a path that may look like a labyrinth. As readers I intend here anybody, and hope they are as many as possible. However, there is a category of readers, which this is addressed preferentially to; namely, readers who at the same time are writers.
My principal hope actually is that these results sooner or later can become a suitable basis for further development by researchers interested in the subject. I personally know the big difference that exists in any research between the situations, in which one either has to start from scratch, or can instead discuss and develop existing information.
Counting this one, there have been no less than sixty-four notes in two years. Their quality may be discussed, but the quantity is certainly more than enough. They do not always correspond to independent studies and can be regrouped according to a few sections of research. Let me first separate these notes into two main parts: the former earlier than 1600; the latter dealing with later times.
All the notes are listed in the appendix in chronological order, but will be reviewed here considering the mentioned division into two subsequent parts, and arranging them into coherent groups.
In both parts, I could publish some new information already one quarter of a century ago, after having initially limited my attention - within the history of games - only to chess. Then, a long interval has occurred in the years 1998-2010, in which I have almost exclusively studied the spread of the game of Go into Europe and the Western world.
When these notes began to appear in Trionfi.com, I was studying the history of playing cards again, and in particular the ancient mentions of games in the statutes of the Tuscan communes, and possible sources of the tarot sequence, as indicated below.
1 - BEFORE 1600
1.1. Games in the statutes
My attention to the old documents on playing cards had resumed part of the past vigour in late 2010, when I resumed my early studies on the statutes of the communes around Florence. In particular, I found one statute of 1529, in which Trionfi grandi and Germini were used as synonyms for the same game.
The first new study in this field was published some months after I had finished it;(2) when this article was printed, the notes, which I am commenting now, had already begun to appear. I have continued my research on the same field of card games mentioned in the laws and statutes, and a few notes have appeared on this subject.
The first such note was on an early mention, dated 1433, of the games of Diritta and Pilucchino . Another study reported on a game of Corone prohibited by the law around Siena and some playing cards indicated with that name in Florence in the years 1445 and 1447, respectively .
Significant for an early presence of Trionfi in Siena has been a reform of the local statutes with the game mentioned in 1451 . Some attention I have also dedicated to the situation in the middle of the 15th century in Arezzo .
1.2. Discussion on Trionfi
In the meantime, I continued to search for possible sources of the tarot sequence in candidate products of the literature and the fine arts of the time. The work looked for had preferentially to be something well know at the time and forgotten later on. On this subject I published a note here , and moreover submitted it for publication in The Playing-Card,(3) as a sequel of a similar article published there fifteen years before.
Alongside of studies reporting original information, unknown to all experts, I have also published some notes in which information already known has been discussed. I understand that the impact of this part is secondary; nevertheless, there are so many such discussions in the literature, and recently in the web pages too – most writers are only involved in this aspect, without adding any really new contribution.
In particular, I have published some further reflections on the earliest specimen known of Trionfi (or Trionfi-like cards, as somebody prefers) by Marziano . Moreover, I have discussed some features of Naibi, why a pack was named Paro , how they were traded by the dozens , which were the common attributes associated with them, and what could be their meaning .
In one of the first notes, I have suggested that the three known Rosenwald’s sheets could have been associated with a fourth one, forming together an early pack of Minchiate . In another note, I indicated that the artistic production of Lo Scheggia (whom I found active as a cardmaker) was around 1450 particularly many-sided and rich of triumphal patterns .
The plausible relations between trumps, triumphs, and tarots have been discussed ; similarly have been the proposals of possible connections with chess , and the earliest record about Germini, found by Lothar Teikemeier in a document of 1517 .
I have published and discussed again the relevant text by Notturno Napoletano of 1521 , and suggested that an ancient building in Florence of the Alberti family could have had some relation with the Tower card of tarot .
In one case, I could discuss some new information coming from Sicily, where I had already performed a few studies many years ago. In this instance, the information came from a journal article, and involved dates near to the end of the time interval considered in this first part .
1.3. Research in the account books in Florence
A new sector of research had been opened in the meantime. In particular, I was stimulated by Lothar Teikemeier to pay attention to the findings of Arnold Esch. They had already been pointed out to card historians by Thierry Depaulis, but had obtained more detailed data with the publication of a book,(4) in which Ross Caldwell had found some earlier information.
I checked the book, and found there the news of Trionfi imported into Rome in 1453, still earlier than the dates previously remarked by card experts. This gave origin to my first note in Trionfi.com, after Lothar Teikemeier had kindly offered the fitting space there . I could then find some traces of the following activity in Bari of Giovanni da Pistoia, probably the same merchant who had brought Trionfi into Rome in 1453 .
Further notes followed; to begin with a report of my unsuccessful attempts for searching in Florence the items exported corresponding to those found in Rome as imports . Later on, Arnold Esch provided me with a piece of unpublished information from a basic article,(5) which has been in the press for a long time, and I could comment on some arrival of Naibi in 1428, again into Rome .
A remarkable increase in that research came from my finding of an old article, which indicated that account books were kept in the AOIF of merchants with records of Trionfi by Filippo di Marco traded in the years 1453-58 . Nobody had understood for certain that these Trionfi could have been just playing cards. A following study of these sources included the discussion of a court case about the ownership of some woodblocks for the production of playing cards .
I could thus perform a research in these books of merchants and retailers still kept in the AOIF and found some instances of trade of playing cards, described in several of my notes. New useful information was found in the account books of the shops of Lapini, for the years 1415-22 and 1453-55 , and of Puri, in 1447-49 .
It was the confirmation of something that I had suggested many years before; that Naibi were widely spread and hardly touched by the recurrent condemnations by the laws and the clergy; that the unlimited attention given by too many authors to the early tarots from the courts of Milan and Ferrara was hardly defensible.
Particularly significant was then the study in the account books of a shop of silk dealers, Lorenzo di Bartolo and Matteo di Zanobi, which had been indicated to me by Thierry Depaulis from an article dealing with the artistic production of the time.
These silk-dealers offered Naibi and Trionfi on sale, as did other retailers . Most interesting have been the entries in their account books of the card packs, which they had directly acquired in the years 1431-60 from the cardmakers themselves, often as partial payment for goods bought in their shop .
A special finding in these account books was the mention of a dozen of “Naibi di Trionfi” in the year 1452 . This could be assumed as a confirmation that the quotation of 1440 for the “Naibi a Trionfi” acquired by Giusto Giusti was a plausible information. It had been found by Thierry Depaulis in the transcription by Nerida Newbigin(6) of the only extant copy of this part of Giusto Giusti’s Journals, dated in the 17th century.
I thus made a specific research on Giusti’s works and on previous studies about them. Among other information, I could find that this copy of the Journals, relevant paragraph included, had already been published in 1991 by Lucia Ricciardi,(7) in her dissertation .
Other account books of the AOIF provided further data, including some assorted shipments by Andrea Banchi in 1456 , and a shipment to Venice of cards and triumphs by Francesco and Carlo Cambini in the year 1461 .
The common evidence in all these documents was that Naibi were widely traded, and Trionfi just a new version of them, similarly available on sale, even from retail dealers.
The same situation has been found in another document, from another archive. In an account book of personal expenses, kept in the ASFI, the record of one ordinary pack of Trionfi was found for the year 1451. The purchaser was a common notary, and he noted that this pack had been acquired for his own entertainment – certainly something substantially different from the witness coming in the same years from the courts of Ferrara and Milan .
The disproportion in useful results in this field, many from the small AOIF, and few from the huge ASFI, has been rather unexpected. I believe that there is much useful material to discover in the rich sections of the ASFI, even from the earliest times, to begin with Notarile antecosimiano, and Mercanzia, which however are far from easy to investigate for any amateur.
1.4. Research in the account books in Tuscan archives out of Florence
Outside Florence, it is even more difficult to find account books kept by retailers in the 15th century, as I am looking for. The archives listed in the appendix are not those that I have visited with that aim – they are only those, in which something interesting could be found. Maybe future visits will allow that list to increase.
For the moment, when extending my search in Tuscan archives out of Florence, I could find some remarkable results first in Prato, and then more documents in Arezzo, especially in the ASFdL.
In the ASPO I studied the account books of a kind of village shop, managed by a notary and his family. The entries are there very detailed and a few Naibi were recorded in the years 1429-30 .
In Arezzo, it was found that Naibi could be hired out there already in the year 1400 , and that a pack of Naibi was included in 1410 among the personal properties to be transferred in a move from Florence to Arezzo . Another study described the trade of playing cards in Arezzo by Agnolo di Giovanni in the years 1421-39 .
One of the notes from Arezzo shows a capillary distribution of playing cards already manufactured in a standard way in Florence, and sold to and by retailers in minor towns. This occurred in the years 1400-08, when most of the records of playing cards have instead been found in the documents of one or another royal court; apparently, Naibi already existed by then in standard variants, better known from later times .
In spite of all early mentions of Naibi traded in Arezzo, the earliest selling of Trionfi recorded there, which has been found until now, is only of the year 1471, as recorded among the cards sold by Stefano Minucci in the years 1457-71 .
2 - AFTER 1600
Let us now examine the second part, from centuries nearer to us. The main place investigated is again Florence; the research however often involves the whole of Tuscany.
2.1. Production of playing cards
Whenever the production of playing cards is studied, it is usually the same question to study it in Florence or in Tuscany, because production of playing cards in minor centres was not allowed. As an exception, one has to take the production of independent Lucca into account, and I could give some information about it too .
I had begun the study of the Florentine cardmakers in the 1980s, but I left it unfinished when I changed the subject of my studies. One of the main reasons was that I was disappointed in front of the extremely different situation of the official documents kept from various times. I could find a lot of information for given years or decades, much more than basically required, together with the fruitless research of the smallest information for other times. This did not even occur, as it appeared easy to predict, so that the documents became increasingly frequent for times nearer to us.
The notes compiled on this topic are already in a noticeable number and the situation is now elucidated to some extent, at least for the years dealt with. Work of course remains to be done, even for the years already documented, because this kind of information can hardly be complete.
The study of an official register of Ufficio del Bollo has provided rich information on Florentine Minchiate exported in the time interval 1729-62 . The records for some of the towns mentioned for this particular trade were completely unexpected both for quantity and destination involved.
A note has examined the tax stamps used in Florence in the years 1752-80 and it has been established that - contrary to previous suggestions - there did not exist a production of Tarocchi, different from Minchiate .
Then, the card production and trade in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany has been described for the years 1775-87 , and 1791 . Another note deals with the card production in the Etruria Kingdom, in the years 1801-07 .
The time interval for which we have the most complete documentation is certainly that of the last decades of the Grand Duchy, after the restoration of the Hapsburg-Lorraine House. I first described two official yearly balances for the years 1839 and 1841 , and then the whole set of the balances from 1814 to 1862 . Later on, I could discuss some additional, less homogeneous, information, coming from the same archival group, including a pioneering application of chromolithography to the production of playing cards .
A special case included in the same period, for the years 1821-29, has been that of cardmaker Giuseppe Berrettari producing Minchiate, from an account book kept in the ASFI, but in a section coming from Siena ; further documents could be found later on from the Florentine office, dealing with a local state manufacture, active for a few years just for producing Minchiate .
Of course, the production of playing cards in Florence continued also after the end of the Grand Duchy in 1860, but rather unexpectedly the corresponding documents are more difficult to discover. Up to now, I could only describe official documents from a few years around 1880 .
2.2. Gaming houses
Another big sector of this part is that of documenting card playing in the main academies and gaming houses of Tuscany, especially in the 17th-19th centuries, to begin with Florence. Also this sector is not new in my studies, because I devoted to it my first articles in the 1980s. However, I have extended it remarkably now, and intend to proceed further in this direction.
This sector of the history of card games in not yet studied in depth by professional historians, who usually cannot spend their time about such trifling objects as playing cards. Nevertheless, we do have some useful repercussion from their scholarly studies. As a matter of fact, there have been several scholars, who have deeply studied the history of theatre, and Florence had a remarkable part in this sector too.
Now, it often happened that there were gambling rooms associated with a theatre. Venetian Ridotto is just the greatest and best known example. It is thus possible for us amateurish historians to find that some of the results of scholarly research are directly transferable into our sector. In particular, we can commonly begin our research on the basis of an already established bibliography.
As for performing further research, my personal reasons for studying some of these documents are easy to explain. When I visit an archive, I initially look for new documents coming from the most interesting 15th century. Usually, I am disappointed to be unable to discover anything of that kind, and am then glad if at least I can find some more recent files, dealing with historically significant situations in our field.
I could thus already study some documents on the main gaming rooms in Florence, Pisa, Arezzo, and Prato. In the next months, I hope to extend the study to other towns of Tuscany.
In the ASPI I found a loose sheet with a puzzling distribution of playing cards , and a register of Casino dei Gentiluomini (1691-1707), which I could discuss with reference to the situation in other towns . It was only open to gentlemen, but it was not really a bleak gambling room, as usually considered by the historians, because Minchiate and board games were typically played there, in which the skill factor had a significant part.
In the ASAR I found documents on card playing at Accademia dei Costanti in the years 1835-55 . On the other hand, for Prato I could follow the events Accademia degli Infecondi for the whole 18th century, with registers kept in the ASPO, and official account books in the ASFI .
For Florence, the research is much more complex, because of the several such places that have existed, sometimes short-living. I could give some information on early Evangelista academy for the years 1674-85 , and Accademia degli Aquilotti for 1693-98 . They were two academies with a long history, situated not far from San Lorenzo. In the Santa Croce area was instead located the Accademia dei Cadenti, studied for the years 1712-17 .
Not surprisingly, the three academies mentioned had already been studied in some detail, thanks to the parallel stage activities performed in their theatres.
My most recent contributions are related to the Stanze of Teatro del Cocomero, in 1799-1807 , and in 1807-29  – my research on their books and folders is still under way for other times. The Stanze can be considered as the most important gaming rooms of Florence, in the course of several centuries.
For the 17th century, I have discussed two laws promulgated in Florence on playing cards . The former is of 1606 and mentions Tarocchi together with Germini; it is the sole quotation of Tarocchi as a card game (and not just as some cards of Trionfi or Minchiate) that I could find up to now in Florence. The latter is instead of the end of the century, and only deals with Minchiate, giving an insight into their wide spread within the whole town.
A Capitolo, containing the rules of Minchiate in poem form, was seemingly first published in Leghorn in the middle of the 18th century, but had probably been compiled a century earlier on. This is a very early date for a work of that kind and opens a few questions. A specific note  deals with this Capitolo and the small number of its specimens still existing in the public libraries.
Last come two notes on isolated subjects. One deals with a rare atlas of 1779, printed in a small format, such to as to allow its pages to be cut and used as a pack of Minchiate. I could describe several specimens still in existence in public and private libraries, with new information about them .
The Italian card game of Cucu has been discussed in one of the notes . I had already found new information about it in the past, but in this case I added some discussion on a few weakly based theories, which tend to attribute to the game an early date, to the point of considering this special pack as a forerunner of Trionfi, or even of Naibi.
3 - CONTINUATION OF THE RESEARCH
It is fairly simple to state which are the intentions and the objectives: this research seems to me worth of a continuation. Of course, it would be better if a professional historian reached the conclusion that this subject is worth of some academic research, involving dissertations and scholarly contributions.
The situation seems to me better in Italy than in other countries, both for the richness of our archives and the quality of local experts. Reasons for optimism subsist. For the 18th century in Tuscany, a few chapters of a scholarly book look as a suitable and promising instance.(8) Hopefully, in a few years scholars and students will dig more and better of such material from the archival sections, generally investigated by them with superior aims up to now.
On my part, I hope to continue for some time, but with a few exceptions - of the 18th and 19th centuries - I have some ideas about what to research, but unfortunately not yet any about what I will be able to retrieve; and I know very well from my own experience the big difference between these two verbs.
The main results of my research of the last two years in the field of the history of playing cards and card games have been first published in the web pages of Trionfi.com, as welcomed by Lothar Teikemeier.
As a whole, the new information has been published in sixty-three notes. In this 64th instance, I have tried to briefly review their global contents, to begin with suitably grouping the notes into coherent sections. Two main parts are separated by their date, earlier or later than 1600.
With very few exceptions, all the new information derives from Tuscany, and especially – as easily understandable – from Florence. Now, several experts are ready to acknowledge the relevance of Florence for the history of playing cards. I remember however that when I supported something of that kind many years ago, most experts concluded at once that my hypotheses were just based on parochialism.
There are a couple of persons, who have assisted my work and thus deserve part of its merits – and faults. First here is Lothar Teikemeier. He stimulated the compilation of notes in this form, to be inserted in these web pages. Moreover, he has been the sole expert - to my knowledge - who has processed my data, and presented new tables and plots, which may let it become easier for readers to grasp the quantitative aspects implied. In a few cases, he amended mistakes in my texts.
Less frequent has been here the “usual” assistance by Thierry Depaulis, whose origin can be dated back to the 1980s. He suggested and edited the re-publication of selected notes from the first year in the mentioned booklet.(1) He moreover gave some hints, here and there, which helped me in updating my knowledge of the literature, and in a few cases could even represent a true guideline for research.
(1) Franco Pratesi, IPCS Papers No. 7. North Walsham 2012.
(2) The Playing-Card, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2012) 179-197.
(3) The Playing-Card, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2012) 95-114.
(4) Arnold Esch, Economia, cultura materiale ed arte nella Roma del Rinascimento. Roma 2007
(5) Arnold und Doris Esch, Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 88 (2013) 41-53.
(6) Nerida Newbigin, Letteratura Italiana Antica, III (2002) 41-246.
(7) Lucia Ricciardi, Feste e giochi cavallereschi nella Firenze laurenziana attraverso le memorie di Ser Giusto Giovanni Giusti d’Anghiari, Facoltà di Magistero, Università di Firenze, 1991.
(8) Andrea Addobbati, La festa e il gioco nella Toscana del Settecento. Pisa 2002.
A1 - List of the notes of the first year, 2011-2012
 1453: An Early Arrival of Triumphs into Rome. (3.11.2011)
 1839-41: Florentine Card Production. (18.11.2011)
 Rosenwald’s Fourth Sheet. (24.11.2011)
 New Information from a Sicilian Journal. (05.12.2011)
 1433: Diritta and Pilucchino Before the Court. (11.12.2011)
 1486: Giovanni da Pistoia di Bari. (17.12.2011)
 1521: Notturno Revisited. (26.12.2011)
 Early Playing Card Export from Florence. (29.12.2011)
 1453-58: Florentine Triumphs by Filippo di Marco. (12.01.2012)
 Palazzo dei Diavoli and the Tower. (17.01.2012)
 1463: Cardmakers and Woodblocks on Trial. (21.01.2012)
 1447-49: Naibi on Sale. (27.01.2012)
 Naibi by Pairs. (07.02.2012)
 Naibi by the Dozen. (12.02.2012)
 Naibi with Attributes. (25.02.2012)
 1439-54: Naibi Sold by Silk-Dealers. (03.03.2012)
 1445-47: The Riddle of the Crowns. (11.03.2012)
 1791: Production and Sale of Playing Cards in Tuscany. (24.03.2012)
 1517: Germini Among Other Games. (28.03.2012)
 1452: A Dozen of Naibi di Trionfi. (02.04.2012)
 1429-30: Naibi Traded in Prato by a Notary. (06.04.2012)
 1415-55: Naibi Traded at Lapini Store. (10.04.2012)
 1431-60: Naibi Acquired by Silk-Dealers. (20.04.2012)
 1451: New Laws Against Gambling in Siena. (24.04.2012)
 The Italian Game of Cucu. (05.06.2012)
 On Trumps, Triumphs, and Tarots. (10.06.2012)
 1440: Studies on Giusto Giusti. (09.07.2012)
 In Search of Tarot Sources - After 15 Years. (11.07.2012)
 Chess and Playing Cards, Tarot Included - Selected Opinions. (09.08.2012)
 1461: Cards and Triumphs in a Cambini Shipment to Venice. (15.08.2012)
 1456: Curious Shipments by Andrea Banchi. (18.08.2012)
 1451 – One common Pack of Trionfi. (15.09.2012)
 1779: Atlante Tascabile e Minchiate. (01.10.2012)
 1674-85: Minchiate at the Evangelista Academy. (20.10.2012)
 1693-98: Minchiate at the Aquilotti Academy. (26.10.2012)
A2 - List of the notes of the second year: 2012-2013
 1400: Naibi on Loan in Arezzo. (01.11.2012)
 18th Century: A Card Game in Pisa. (05.11.2012)
 1410: Naibi in a Move from Florence to Arezzo. (08.11.2012)
 1400-08: Florence-Arezzo Trade of Naibi. (24.11.2012)
 1457-71: Cards Traded in Arezzo by Stefano Minucci. (09.12.2012)
 1421-39: Playing Cards Traded in Arezzo by Agnolo di Giovanni. (15.12.2012)
 Around 1450: Lo Scheggia’s Many-Sided Production. (03.01.2013)
 1801-07: Card Production in the Etruria Kingdom. (12.01.2013)
 1775-87: Card Production in Tuscan Grand Duchy. (26.01.2013)
 Around 1450: Some Official Documents for Arezzo. (27.02.2013)
 Domanda e Risposta. (07.03.2013)
 1428: Naibi Coming to Rome. (18.03.2013)
 1810-11: Playing Cards in Lucca. (22.03.2013)
 About 1420: Reflecting on Marziano’s Pack. (25.03.2013)
 1729-62: Exports of Florentine Minchiate. (07.05.2013)
 17th Century: Germini, Tarocchi, Minchiate. (14.05.2013)
 1835-55: Arezzo, Card Playing at Accademia dei Costanti. (18.05.2013)
 1815-61: The Production of Playing Cards in Tuscany. (15.06.2013)
 1821-29: Puzzling Minchiate by Giuseppe Berretari. (18.06.2013)
 1752-80: Tax Stamps on Tarocchi in Florence? (23.06.2013)
 1821-29: Puzzling Minchiate Revisited. (05.07.2013)
 1814-62: Additional Evidence on Card Production in Tuscany. (16.07.2013)
 1691-1707: Cards at Casino dei Gentiluomini in Pisa. (31.08.2013)
 18th Century: Card Playing in Prato. (13.09.2013)
 Around 1880: Control on Playing Cards in Florence. (19.09.2013)
 1799-1807: Florence - Playing Cards at Cocomero. (11.10.2013)
 1712-17: Florence - Playing Cards at Accademia dei Cadenti. (17.10.2013)
 1807-29: Florence - Playing Cards at Cocomero. (24.10.2013)
 Review of a Two-Year Work. (31.10.2013)
A3 - List of the archives where the documents described have been found
AOIF - Archivio Storico dell’Ospedale degli Innocenti di Firenze
ASAR - Archivio di Stato di Arezzo
ASCFI - Archivio Storico del Comune di Firenze
ASFI - Archivio di Stato di Firenze
ASFdL - Archivio Storico della Fraternita dei Laici di Arezzo
ASLU - Archivio di Stato di Lucca
ASPI - Archivio di Stato di Pisa
ASPO - Archivio di Stato di Prato
ASSI - Archivio di Stato di Siena
BNCF - Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze
BRF - Biblioteca Riccardiana di Firenze