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Cards as "hieroglyphs"


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Cards as "hieroglyphs"


I know of at least three authors now before Court de Gébelin and the Comte de Mellet, who in the years c. 1570, 1603, and 1676, used the term "hieroglyphs" to describe cards in their moralities on tarot, playing cards, and minchiate respectively.

Circa 1570, Italy (north eastern Italy or Ferrara). First is the Anonymous Discourse. After discussing the symbolism of the four suits and court cards, and their purpose, he introduces the trumps -

"... so that, everyone knowing his own passions, and his mistakes, letting go of vanity, and the most temporary and hurtful pleasures of the part outside of the mind and the contemplation of God, there is therefore added to his most beautiful game XXII hieroglyphic images, which show different things, wishing that in the game they might supply what is lacking in the four (suits), and called trionfi, being proper aspects and passions that men triumph from. Fifteen of which, with the other four professions above said, explain from the beginning to the extreme end of active life, and the other seven the contemplative, with its end, which is God."

(... accioche conoscendo ciascuno le proprie passioni, e li suoi errori, lasciandole vanità, e li brevissimi, e dannosi piaceri da parte alzi la mente, e la contemplazione di Dio, è perciò aggiunse al suo bellissimo gioco XXII figure geroglifiche, che rappresentano diversi oggetti, volendo nel gioco, che in difetto delle carte de i quattro supplissero, e chiamolle trionfi, essendo proprii aspetti, e passioni, che dell'huomini trionfano. Quindeci de quali insieme con l'altro quatrro professioni sopra detto dal principio finl all'estremo fine della vita attiva dichiarano, e gl'altre sette la contemplativa con il suo fine, che è Iddio.)

1603, Spain. Number 2 comes from Kwaw's recent post on a book I had never heard of, on this thread -
http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=94131
(post #52)

"But I would like first to a point, on a term, a concept. Indeed, whether signs or figures, Luque Fajardo regarded these as icons of genuine hieroglyphs. The word hiroglifico appears in the title of five out of seven chapters, and its use is common in the same text, usually with the adjective or the noun moral moralidad. These hieroglyphs, which he defines as "silent figures who speak only by their appearance and represenatation", however, must be interpreted, and the author does not deprive us. Indeed, he carries a veritable interpretative debauchery of which I cannot but give a very pale idea.

“...Luque Fajardo, in fact, conceives of the hieroglyph like all men of his time. He perceives them as a mode of expression whose character is twofold. The first is the hieroglyph as both a mystery and a source of education, and the second aspect is the use of religion and morality as the mode of their exegesis. But the search for meaning is also lead by the words, not just on the pictures. Signs, says Luque Fajardo, are allegories and metaphors, but the very words which the designer has used are heavy with meaning."

1676, Florence. The latest, before de Gébelin, is from Paolo Minucci, in his commentary on the poem "Del Malmantile racquistato" by Perlone Zipoli (anagrammatic pseud. of Lorenzo Lippi) (Chapter VIII, stanza 61), explaining the mention of "minchiate" -

"The 40 are called Germini o Tarocchi: and this word Tarocchi, says Monosino, comes from the Greek hetaros: with which word, he says with Alciato, it Denotes those companions, who come together to play for nourishment. But I do not know this word, what it would be; I know well that hetairos and hetaroi means Sodales: and from this word, coming down into Latin, could be made the diminutive Hetaroculi, that is to say Little Companions. Germini comes from Gemini, a celestial sign, which has the highest number among the Tarocchi. In these Tarocchi cards are depicted different hieroglyphs and celestial signs, and each has his number, from one to 35; and the last five ending at 40 have no number, but are distinguished by the figures impressing their order of precedence, which is in this order Star, Moon, Sun, World, and Trumpet, which is the highest, and would have the number 40. The allegory is, that just as the Stars are outshone by the Moon, and the Moon by the Sun, so the World is bigger than the Sun and Fame, shown with the Trumpet, is worth more than the World: so much that when a man is gone, he continues to live through fame, when he has performed glorious acts. Likewise Petrarch made Trionfi like a game; since Love is superceded by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, and Fame by Divinity, which reigns eternally."

(Le 40 si dicono Germini o Tarocchi; e questa voce Tarocchi, vuole il Monosino, che venga dal Greco etaros: colla qual voce, dice egli coll'Alciato, Denotantur sodales illi, qui cibi causa ad lusum conveniunt. Ma quella voce no so, che sia; so bene, che etaipos e etaroi vuol dire Sodales: e da questa voce diminuita all'usanza Latina si puo esser fatto Hetaroculi, cioe Compagnoni. Germini forse da Gemini, segno celeste, che fra Tarocchi col numero e il maggiore. In queste carte di Tarocchi sono effigiati diversi geroglifici e segni celesti: e ciascuna ha il suo numero, da uno fino a 35 e l'ultime cinque fino a 40 non anno numero, ma si distingue dalla figura impressavi la loro maggioranza, che è in quest' ordine Stella, Luna, Sole, Mondo, e Trombe, che è la maggiore, e sarebbe il numero 40. L'allegoria è, che siccome le stelle son vinte di luce dalla Luna, e la Luna dal Sole, cosi il Mondo è maggiore del Sole, e la Fama, figurata colle Trombe, vale più che il Mondo; talmente che anche quando l'uomo n' è uscito, vive is esso per fama, quando ha fatte azioni gloriose. Il Petrarca similmente ne' Trionfi fa come un giuoco; perchè Amore è superato dalla Castità, la Castità dalla Morte, la Morte dalla Fama, e la Fama dalla Divinità, la quale eternamente regna.)

In the last, Minucci has called Gemini and the other Zodiacal signs "celestial signs", and the rest of the trumps "hieroglyphs", just like the Anonymous author.

It should be noted that, at least, the first and last authors make no claim to Egypt, although the Anonymous believes that tarot is one of the three games of the ancients. Also, deriving the name from Greek seems to imply a belief in an ancient origin (the Anonymous does as well, different from Alciato/Monosino/Minucci).

Ross
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I've been noticing this, too, so I'm glad you brought it up. The source of this word and concept seems to have been the “Hieroglyphica of Horus Apollo". The Iversen book is very helpful. Here's from my notes on it:

1419: A monk, [or Florentine traveller named Christoforo Buondelmonti} discovers a manuscript from the 5th century known as the “Hieroglyphica of Horus Apollo" or Horapollo on the Greek island of Andros. It was alleged to be a Greek translation of an Egyptian work which explained the hidden meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs. It arrived in Florence in 1422 and, although false, had a great impact on Renaissance thought & was an inspiration to the Emblem books. It was first printed in Venice in 1505 in Greek, and in 1515 in Latin.

See: _The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition_ by Erik Iversen [Princeton NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1961] p. 65, and http://www.netnik.com/emblemata/#Hiero

Mary
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Quote:
1676, Florence. The latest, before de Gébelin, is from Paolo Minucci, in his commentary on the poem "Del Malmantile racquistato" by Perlone Zipoli (anagrammatic pseud. of Lorenzo Lippi) (Chapter VIII, stanza 61), explaining the mention of "minchiate" -
Is available online here:

http://books.google.it/books?id=7YQH...&ie=ISO-8859-1

****

Novelle letterarie pubblicate in Firenze (1748)

Though not speaking here of tarot the author speaks of hieroglyphs in relation to the invention of erudite card games covering moral philosophy, geography, meteors, festivals, of grammar and diverse sciences (hope you don't mind if I leave it to Ross or Marco rather than google to provide a decent translation, there may be spelling errors in my copy but the link to the source is below):


"...cosi ha invéntato le Carte erudite di Filosofia Morale, di Geografía, di Meteore , di Scoria sagrâ e profana , ed anche di Grammatica, tutte figúrate, per mezzo delle quali presto giugner potranno all'acquisto delle divisare scienze ; onde ei si lusinga , che tale invenzione non debba esser discara , ma bensi utile ; e perciô ha gia improntato grossa somma in Venezia a fine di presto farle comparire al Pubblico con gli opportuni libretti di respettive istruzioni. TI lavoro dellee dette Carte farà fatso con turto il biron güilo, attofi i difegni ein t ti delle figure, e de* geroglifici, con caratteri vari, corrispondenti alla stampa de' libretti, pur con caratteri diversi vergati. I Signori, che vorranno associarsi si compiaceranno anticipar subito lo sborso di Lire Veneziane, o Paoli Romani, numero sedici, o in Venezia in poter del Sig. Gio. Batista Recurti Libraro , 0 in Ferrara in poter del Signer Giuseppe Barbiert Líbraro, col quale denaro anticipato avranno i primi due Giuochi, со' loro libretti, cioè di Storia Cronológica sacra , e di Geografía, e se brameranno le figure tutte miniate re dorate, ed i libretti più nobili con busti, si degneranno anticipar. Lire Veneziane, o Paoli Romani numero trentadue per detti due Giuochi. I Signori poi non associati pagheranno i mazzi di Carte un terzo di più, e correranno il rischio di non trovarli, quando gli ricercheranno, poichè non se ne stamperà gran quantità, almen per ora , essendo il lavoro non poco dífficile, e premendo di follecitamente passare alia stampa , e pubblicazione degli altri Giuochi, per meglio appagare colla varietà l'altrui genio."

http://books.google.it/books?id=0o8E...#PRA1-PA492,M1

****

Images in emblematic tradition and iconography that share in common some subjects of the tarot are also treated as 'hieroglyphics'. His emblemata Alciato specifically mentions is in imitation of the Egyptian mode of hieroglyphics (as understood from the Horapollo), created at the behest of Ambrogio Visconti during Saturnalia:

"During this Saturnalia, at the behest of the illustrious Ambrogio Visconti, I composed a little book of epigrams."

'Words signify; things are signified. But things too can sometimes signifiy, such as the hieroglyphs in Horus and Chaeremon. In this genre I too have composed a little book in verse whose title is Emblemata.'

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=21013

The iconography of the moon for example Ripa associates with the madness, of the lovestruck and of carnival - to which hieroglyphs also testify. He also speaks of 'painted cards' (dipinte carte) and 'festival pages' (Sagre Pagine) in relation to the triumphs of the 'bizarre season' when theatres are opened and feasts and dancing allowed? (The question being the inadequacy and probable errors of my interpretation).


"La Luna, per esser simbolo della Pazzia, ognuno può conoscere se si propriamente data al Carnevale . Che la Luna denoti stoltezza, lo testifica Piero ne' suoi Geroglifici, altroché si rileva dalle stesse Sagre Pagine,
nelle quali il Pazzo è paragonato alla Luna : Stultus ut Luna mutatur.

"Chi più Pazzo di chi è amante di si scioperato tempo?

"Veste abito bizzarro e teatrale, in una parte di cui si mirano dipinte carte ed intromenti musicale, nell' altra vari piatti di vivande per denotare che in questa Stagione la Bizzarria trionfa, i Teatri si aprono, i balli si permettono, i banchetti picchè in qualunque altro tempo annuso sono, e richiesti.


Iconlogia di Cesare Ripa, Cesare Orlandi, p.292

Kwaw
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Hi Mary,

thanks for bringing up Horapollo, which is key to understanding the 16th century's and subsequent use of the term. The Anonymous author considers his attempt to moralize the tarot the first of its kind (and he is widely read), so it is an important witness to the influence of the emblem genre (deeply informed by the impact of Alciato and translations of Horapollo), as well as negative evidence for such moralizations of tarot before him.

Iversen's quote has to be "unpacked" a bit I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teheuti
1419: A monk, [or Florentine traveller named Christoforo Buondelmonti} discovers a manuscript from the 5th century known as the “Hieroglyphica of Horus Apollo" or Horapollo on the Greek island of Andros. It was alleged to be a Greek translation of an Egyptian work which explained the hidden meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs. It arrived in Florence in 1422 and, although false, had a great impact on Renaissance thought & was an inspiration to the Emblem books. It was first printed in Venice in 1505 in Greek, and in 1515 in Latin.

See: _The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition_ by Erik Iversen [Princeton NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1961] p. 65, and http://www.netnik.com/emblemata/#Hiero
I don't know where to find a survey of possible indications of the extent of the influence of the original manuscript; i.e. how many copies were made before the end of the century, allusions to it in 15th century authors, that sort of thing. My impression is that it had little impact until the end of the century, and even then remained in Greek the whole time (very popular books would have been translated at least into Latin, if not the vernacular). Another important thing to keep in mind is that the first *illustrated* version is not a manuscript, but a printed edition - the first French translation, in 1543.

Wikipedia's page is a very good overview of the topic, and a sampling of the list of editions -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieroglyphica

Important dates - first Latin translation - 1515
First French translation - 1543
First Italian translation - 1547

Then there is the more detailed and authoritative Studiolum page -
http://www.studiolum.com/en/cd08-horapollo.htm

The popularity can be guaged by the fact that it had 30 editions in the 16th century, and of course alongside Alciato's Emblemata and the genre he began, it was a veritable avalanche of "hieroglyphs" in that century.

This is how our various commentator's use of the term has to be understood - in the context of the emblem-hieroglyph genre. My Italian dictionary dates the vernacular appearance of the term "geroglifico" to "before 1555" (thus that is the earliest date they have); the French "hieroglyphique" is first attested (according to the Robert) in 1529.

The last few paragraphs of that latter page are well worth studying and absorbing, as they describe the outlines of the "new sensibility" which prepared for the explosion of the emblem genre.

So, when Iversen says that the Hieroglyphica had "a great impact on Renaissance thought", we have to keep in mind that this is not the 15th century Italian Renaissance (since there were no editions of it in that century and no illustrated copies), but the wider European Renaissance of the 16th century.

I really would like to know how many copies of the manuscript were ever made; I would think it unlikely to be many, since the Italian humanists would more like to have translated it (as a commission from or dedicated to some potentate) than to keep copying it in Greek for 80 years.

So the Studiolum's comment that "In spite of its being confined originally to a tight circle of Florentine Humanists in the fifteenth century, its content would become enormously popular at the end of the century, with the dissemination of the new sensibility represented by Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphilii (written around 1467 and published in Venice by Aldo Manuzio, in 1499)" makes a lot of sense.

There are a some past threads where we've discussed Horapollo and the emblems, I'll try to find them.

Ross
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Hi, Ross,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
Then there is the more detailed and authoritative Studiolum page -
http://www.studiolum.com/en/cd08-horapollo.htm
Quote:
Studiolum now publishes on its website the complete text of the 1547 edition of the Hieroglyphica, the only Italian translation prior to the 20th century.
Horapollo, Delli segni hierogliphici, Venecia 1547
http://www.studiolum.com/en/horapollo/001.htm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
There are a some past threads where we've discussed Horapollo and the emblems, I'll try to find them.

Ross
Horapollo is mentioned in passing in several threads, but the following discuss it at some length:

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=33952

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=14397
(from post 12 by JMD on)

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=15936

Kwaw
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One of the reasons I started this thread was to put to rest, or clarify, a scholarly legend that Court de Gébelin was the first to call tarot cards "hieroglyphs", and that it was a stupid mistake.

In reality, he was just the first I know of to work out the meaning of the term to its logical conclusion - if the cards are hieroglyphs, they must be Egyptian (other people before him, including the Anonymous author and Beneton de Peyrins in 1738, thought tarot was ancient - I mean, from at least classical times). He was the great synthesizer, the right man at the right time, but he did not invent everything.

I think de Gébelin understood "hieroglyph" to mean what generations of emblematists and symbol-interpreters took it to mean, that is a symbol with an obscure meaning, with both a referent and a moral, that had to be interpreted. As we have seen, other people into the 17th century took them that way too, although it never became a mass movement.

It was the Egyptomania of his time - in particular, the adoption of Egyptian symbolism into Freemasonry - that gave him the background to make this connection.

Ross
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
One of the reasons I started this thread was to put to rest, or clarify, a scholarly legend that Court de Gébelin was the first to call tarot cards "hieroglyphs", and that it was a stupid mistake.
There's something very powerful in the Egyptian-Tarot myth that takes hold of the human imagination in a pretty spectacular way.

It is an important thought that the Tarot was described as hieroglyphs from early on, even without the direct Egyptian connection, because of the acknowledgment of them as "sacred pictures" with divine, hidden meaning that could only be fully revealed to those who knew how to read them.

Mary
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Hi, Ross,

I'm not sure what you're saying here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
One of the reasons I started this thread was to put to rest, or clarify, a scholarly legend that Court de Gébelin was the first to call tarot cards "hieroglyphs", and that it was a stupid mistake.
As is often the case, there is an ambiguous term at the middle of this paradox. The term "hieroglyphs" may be taken in at least two senses: that commonly used by people today, meaning a kind of Egyptian writing, and that used during the emblematic era, in which it means no more (nor less -- it was a rather extravagant Neoplatonic conception) than "symbolic images". It would be amazing if someone of that era did not consider the trumps, and any other group of allegorical images, to be hieroglyphs.

On the other hand, Court de Gébelin's seemingly singular (and certainly seminal) contribution was not the use of the term "hieroglyphs". It was the association of Tarot with ancient Egypt and assorted fatuous interpretations along those lines, including an absurd etymology. In any but the most tenuous sense, that connection would seem to be ludicrous.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
In reality, he was just the first I know of to work out the meaning of the term to its logical conclusion - if the cards are hieroglyphs, they must be Egyptian (other people before him, including the Anonymous author and Beneton de Peyrins in 1738, thought tarot was ancient - I mean, from at least classical times). He was the great synthesizer, the right man at the right time, but he did not invent everything.
Here it sounds as if you are saying that Court de Gébelin was the first to mistake Renaissance and emblematic-era hieroglyphs for Egyptian hieroglyphics. Given his distance from both the medieval tradition of symbolism embodied in the Tarot trumps and from the Renaissance and later emblematic tradition of hieroglyphs, along with his need/desire to borrow other people's ideas in order to fill out his vast history of the ancient world, this seems understandable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
I think de Gébelin understood "hieroglyph" to mean what generations of emblematists and symbol-interpreters took it to mean, that is a symbol with an obscure meaning that had to be interpreted. As we have seen, other people into the 17th century took them that way too, although it never became a mass movement.
Here, on the other hand, it seems as if you are saying that he did not make that mistake, (or that others did too), that he took the term the same way they did.

In addition to not making the association with ancient Egypt, I'm also not sure they inflicted such tortured interpretation on the cards, such "interpretative debauchery" as was indulged by Court de Gébelin. That passage you quoted from the 1570 commentary re the Hanged Man and his friends seemed pretty sober and consistent with the whole body of contemptu mundi sensibilities and works that are at the heart of the trump cycle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
It was the Egyptomania of his time - in particular, the adoption of Egyptian symbolism into Freemasonry - that gave him the background to make this connection.
And this can be taken as supporting either of the above two readings of your post. On the one hand, it sounds as if you are again distinguishing Court de Gébelin from earlier writers, as if Egyptomania was a novelty of his time and not theirs. On the other hand, Egyptomania appears to be a commonality of antiquarians of many eras, a tendency to believe that everything interesting is ancient and everything ancient is ultimately Egyptian. So I'm just not sure to what extent you are comparing Court de Gébelin with earlier writers and to what extent you are contrasting them.

Best regards,
Michael
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teheuti
There's something very powerful in the Egyptian-Tarot myth that takes hold of the human imagination in a pretty spectacular way.

It is an important thought that the Tarot was described as hieroglyphs from early on, even without the direct Egyptian connection, because of the acknowledgment of them as "sacred pictures" with divine, hidden meaning that could only be fully revealed to those who knew how to read them.

Mary
One of my interests is the development of the Thoth legend in relation to tarot, as well as the idea of the antiquity of cards. This can be traced a little through the equivalence of Thoth-Mercury in Primaudaye, who, with Northbrooke, was inspired by Daneau a little earlier in the century. Ultimately it comes down to understanding the term "alea" to mean cards, and that therefore ps.-Cyprian's treatise against "aleatores" was against cards *and* dice. Pseudo-Cyprian's treatise "De Aleatoribus", the inspiration for Bernardino's "Diabolic Liturgy", becomes recombined with the latter in the 16th century with the knowledge of Plato (through Ficino's translation), and voilà, the Devil who invented cards (because he invented alea) is known by name - Theuth-Mercury.

Except for the popular sermons and publications of the 16th century, mentioned above, this sort of discussion stayed in the dusty confines of scholarly footnotes, until 1781.

Ross
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