Vespasiano Da Bisticci

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Vespasiano Da Bisticci

Vespasiano da Bisticci (Fiorentino) (1421 – 1498) was a Florentine humanist and librarian.

He was chiefly a dealer in books, and had a share in the formation of all the great libraries of the time. When Cosimo de' Medici wished to create the Laurentian Library of Florence, Vespasiano advised him and sent him by Tommaso Parentucelli (later Pope Nicholas V) a systematic catalogue, which became the plan of the new collection. In twenty-two months Vespasiano had 200 volumes made for Cosimo by twenty-five copyists.

He had performed important services for the diffusion of classical authors when Nicholas V, the true founder of the Vatican Library, became pope. He devoted fourteen years to collecting the library of Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, organizing it in a quite modern manner; it contained the catalogues of the Vatican, of San Marco, Florence, of the Visconti Library at Pavia, and even that of Oxford.

Vespasiano had only a mediocre knowledge of Latin, and he is one of the few writers of the time who acknowledged it. He left a collection of 300 biographies, which is a source of the first rank for the history of fifteenth-century humanism: Vite di uomini illustri del secolo XV, published by Mai, Spicilegium Romanum, I, Rome, 1839; and by Frati, Bologna, 1892. ...
I checked the limited online edition of these biographies of Vespasiano da Bisticci for references which might touch our theme "gambling, playing-cards, games".

Nothing about playing cards directly ... but a few interesting passages, of special interest should be the statements about Alfonso, king of Naples, which possibly explain, why we do not have early playing card notes in Naples, but also about Giannozzo Manetti (1393-1459) for specific reasons.

(about Alfonso the Magnamious, King of Naples 1442-1458)
Vite di uomini illustri del secolo XV scritte da Vespasiano da Bisticci ... by Vespasiano (published 1859),M1

Italian original
XII. — In ogni cosa dimostrò la sua Maestà e la virilità dell'animo suo, e la sua innata bontà. Usava dire ispesso, a dannare il giuoco, quanto egli é pernizioso, e da essere detestato e dannato. Narrava che, sendo in età d'anni diciotto a Barzalona per le feste di pasqua di Natale, giucando una sera, aveva perduti circa a cinque mila fiorini. Avendogli perduti, chiamò uno suo cameriere, e disse che gli portasse danari. Portonne, e giucando cominciò a rivincere, e rivinti tutti quelli che aveva perduti, e tutti quelli che avevano coloro che giucavano. Avendo il re questo monte di fiorini innanzi, disse che ognuno istesse fermo; di poi disse al cameriere che gli arrecasse il lihric- ciuolo di nostra Donna ; e arrecatolo, lo fece aprire; di poi vi giurò suso con tutt' a dua le mani, giurando e promettendo a Dio e alla Vergine Maria, che mai più giocherebbe. E cosi osservò insino al di che mori. Di poi si volse, e disse a quegli che v' erano presenti : acciocché ignuno di voi creda che questo io lo facci per avarizia; cominciò a pigliare quegli fiorini colle mani, e dargli intorno a tutti quegli che avevano giucato con lui, in modo che gli distribui tutti. Fatto questo atto si generoso, disse a tutti quegli che v'erano: io conoscevo, che se io m' avevo a avviluppare in questo giuoco, egli era cagione d'impedirmi lo 'ntelletto, e non potere pensare a cosa ignuna che fusse degna; tanto era lo 'mpedimento che mi dava; e per questo mai sarà uomo, che mi vegga giucare. Questi sono i principi degni, ne' quali sono tante laudabili condizioni!

The English version of it:
The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of Illustrious Men of the 15th Century by Vespasiano Da Basticci (Translated by Emily
Waters, William George, Published 1997),M1

"He strongly condemned gaming, denouncing it as pernicious. He used to tell how, being then 18 years old, he was in Barcelona during the feast of Nativity and, happening to play one evening, he lost some 5 thousand florins. After he had lost them he called one of his chamberlains and bade him to fetch some money. When he was brought he played again and began to win, so that in the end he won back all he had lost and likewise all the money of his fellow-gamesters. With this heap of florins before him, he bade everyone keep quiet, and then bade the chamberlain to fetch the little book of Our Lady, and this having brought, he opened it and then and there made oath, with both his hands on it, swearing and promising to God and the Virgin Mary that he would never play again; a promise, which he kept to the day of his death."

In the proceeding of the story Alfonso gave all the money back and "no man sall ever again behold me at the gaming table"
<A HREF="">Newadvent to Bisticci</A>

Archbishop Antonino,M1
"One afternoon, after officiating at the church of S. Stefano, he passed by the loggia of Buondelmonte, where he overthrew the tables at which some gamesters were playing, and there was not one of those fellows who did not bend the knee to him and looked not ashamed at having been caught gambling."

Pandolfo Pandolfini
"He hated gambling, which he rated as time wasted",M1

Francesco del Bennino
"Instead of passing his time uselessly as others would over gambling and vanities, Francesco would always, during his daily work, and at dinner, and at supper, cause to be read to him either Giovanni Cassiano, or the sermons of S. Efrem, or some other devotional work.",M1

Bartolomeo De' Fortini
"He succeeded so well with his pleasant counselling that in a short time most of the people gave up their idle habits and gambling and civil broils and took up some useful work."

Cosimo de Medici
"Both at his villa and in Florence he spent his time well; taking pleasure in no game, save chess, of which he would occasionally play a game or two after supper by way of pastime. He knew Magnolino, who was the best chess player of his age.",M1

Vittorino da Feltre
"He allowed his pupils to play fitting games, and the sons of the gentry were required to learn riding, throwing the stone and the staff, to play palla jumping and all exercises good for bodily training, permitting them these recreations after they had learnt and repeated their lessons.",M1

Giannozzo Manetti (1393-1459)
a person of some interest in more than one way.

1. he was responsible for a sharp attack on gaming in Pistoia in 1446/1447, which adds to our general suspicion, that in the 40's of 15th century the situation for playing cards was difficult.

2. He became a crowned poetus laureatus in 1443 ... this is of interest to the general Trionfi development, for instance to Alberti's literary contest in 1441. And of special interest is Bisticci's "they crowned him with a laurel crown, a custom which had not lately been observed." ... which should mean, that an old custom was revived after a long time.

"He condemned the worthless and the sluggards. Gamblers and gaming he hated as pestiferous abominations.",M1

"Giannozzo was governor of Pistoia and, as at Pescia, would accept neither gift nor tribute. He kept more servants and horses than the law allowed. The place was given to gaming; indeed the people thought of little else. Hating this vice as he did, he resolved to put an end to it as long as he was there, and to effect this he issued a proclamation that whoever should play any forbidden game should be taken and treated with four strokes with a rope. Moreover, he fixed a fine which every offender would have to pay, wherefore during his time of office gaming ceased."

(Source of possible interest in this matter: Giannozzo Manetti, Chronicon pistoriensis [Historia pistoriensis], in Rerum italicarum scriptores, a cura di L. A. Muratori, vol. XIX, Milano, 1731, coll. 987-1076, probably written 1446 - 1447)

Pistoia had 996 households in 1442, Manetti's work started Oktober 1446.

"On his return to Florence he was drawn for the Assembly, and about this time Messer Lionardo of Arezzo died (1443). The Signoria decided that his memory should be honoured in every possible way. It was decreed that the custom of delivering a funeral oration should be revived and Giannozzo was charged with this duty and that he should be crowned with laurel after the ancient custom. To these obsequies all the illustrious men of the city came to his coronation. Many prelates attended, as the court of Rome was then in Florence, and Giannozzo delivered an oration worthy of the subject, and they crowned him with a laurel crown, a custom which had not lately been observed.",M1


Generally we have to assume, that Bisticci was against gambling (and likely also against cards). He suffered personally after the attack on Lorenzo de Medici in 1478, cause he had to leave the city. It seems, that his biographies were written after this.
Lorenzo generally was attacked, that he had a bad influence on the youth - likely the new gambling activities in connection to cards belonged to this category.

Generally Bisticci should have also suffered by the change of his own business - the new printing industry was his oppnent.

He possibly might be seen "as rather conservative" ... but generally his presentation somehow makes it difficult to believe in a strong playing card development in Florence already in 1450.
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