The legendary “da Tortona” deck, grandfather of all tarocchi/tarot decks, is now accessible thanks to a small but incredibly rich book by Ross G. Caldwell and Marco Ponzi; and a recreated deck by Robert Place, The Marziano Tarot.
About 1420, the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, asked his secretary and advisor, commonly known as Marziano da Tortona, to invent a card game. Marziano created the Game of Sixteen Deified Heroes, a deck of cards with four suits numbered ace to ten and an extra suit of illustrated cards – the same format as the game of trionfi/tarocchi/tarot invented about 15 years later. 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