Winding down my website’s tenth anniversary summer celebration. Even here in sunny Santa Barbara, where weather rarely happens, I can feel a subtle shift in the air as we head toward autumn. To finish up the series, here’s a grab bag of articles that don’t fit into any category.
Around the year 1565, two men on opposite sides of northern Italy wrote down their thoughts about the moral lessons in the tarocchi deck. In the 1980s, both essays were discovered by playing card researcher Franco Pratesi, and were recently published in Italian and English as Con gli occhi et con l’intelletto: Explaining the Tarot in Sixteenth Century Italy. Generous footnotes and introductory material by Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis and Marco Ponzi put the essays in their historical context. This extremely important book shows us how a typical, well-educated Christian of the time would have seen the cards, without the distractions of occultism and Egyptomania that came a few centuries later. Read more
Tarocchi, trionfi and carte, oh, my! Playing card historian Franco Pratesi has put up a chronological list of links to all 313 of his articles on tarot and playing card history. The only other way to get access to these articles, written between 1986 and 2013, is to subscribe to several rather obscure journals.
Of special interest to my fellow tarot history nerds: Read more
The Italian researcher Franco Pratesi spent decades combing through archives in Florence and Bologna, uncovering the earliest references to playing cards and trionfi decks. His research is available in a compendium of more than thirty-five articles posted on Trionfi.com. Having all of his research compiled in one place, in English, is an incredible resource for anyone interested in tarot’s fifteenth century origins.
(Note: the terms tarot and tarocchi were not used in the 15th century. The game was called Trionfi or Triunfi, and the deck “carte da trionfi”.)
Pratesi is best known for discovering a single sheet of paper dating from before 1750 that gives divinatory keywords for 35 cards from a Bolognese deck. This discovery shows that divination with tarot developed in Italy early and probably independently of the French tradition. In the article “Tarot in Bologna: Documents from the University Library”, Pratesi supplies background on Bologna’s ancient tarot tradition and its 62-card Tarocchini Bolognese. He cites other documents he found in the archives like a political sonnet that uses the names of the trump cards in order; and some examples of tarocchi appropriati where trump cards are assigned to people. Read more