1597 mention of "Tarotiis"

Ross G Caldwell

“Yet among invented games are ‘pages’, in which, while being played, certain traces of learning are even found, as in Tarots, and in those which are printed together with the sentences of the sacred scriptures and philosophers, by the printer Wechel of Paris. Human desire squanders all the rest, along with those like them, where money comes in the middle, and that desire is going to be felt.”

Inventi tamen ludi sunt foliorum, in quibus dum luditur, vestigia quoque quaedam eruditionis apparent, ut in Tarotiis, & iis cum quibus excusae sunt unà sententiae sacrae paginae & philosophorum, apud VVechellum Lutetiae typographum. Caeterum, & illis & similibus abutitur humana cupiditas, dum prodit in medium pecunia, & habendi desiderium.

[Pierre Gregoire, “Syntagma Juris Universi” (Lyons, 1597), Part III, Bk. XXXIX, §4 (p. 464)]

A few notes :

(translation comments and/or corrections welcomed :)

It's interesting to note that the canonist Pierre Gregoire considered the game to be "erudite."

It is interesting that Gregoire calls card games “folii,” because the generic name in Latin, as in most of the romance languages, from the beginning of the appearance of cards in Europe circa 1370, had been “chartae,” a plural form of “charta”, the old word for “a piece of paper” or simply “paper” (as a collective singular noun). From this derives Italian “carte”, French “cartes”, English “cards.” Perhaps Gregoire represents an attempt to distinguish in Latin between game “chartae” and maps, also “chartae”.

Gregoire declines “Tarotiis” in the ablative case, so that we may reconstruct a hypothetical nominative form - *Tarotium. This is interesting when compared with the first appearance of the word in Latin, 92 years earlier, where it has the spelling “taraux”. The “x” must then have had the sound “ts” (and not simply “s”); thus the pronounciation of the first is “tarots” (which is an attested form of the word), and the nominative singular of Gregoire would be pronounced “tarotsium” (or “tarotzium”).
(Presumably a spelling “tarocium” would have lead to confusion with the sound “tch” – thus the “ti” was preserved. In the Italian “tarocchi”, the postpositive “h” indicates the hardening of the consonant “c” before the vowels e and i; this orthographic rule is not used in Latin).

I don’t know which impression of Wechel Gregoire is referring to. Does anyone know how to find a list of all books printed by Wechel in Paris?


The oracle of Google shows a Christian Wechel as a printer in Paris in 1534 or thereabouts. Wechel published a number of books that had to do with Renaissance emblemology and mathematics.

The emblemology images are perhaps the most interesting here, and their images may relate to the Mantegna deck.

* http://www.mnemosyne.org/mia/showmanu?id=embmne_wec1534
* http://www.netnik.com/emblemata/alciatbook/alciatcontents.html

He was active as late as 1598, when he or his firm published books by Ambroise Paré on medicine. Wechel's firm appears to have concentrated on books requiring elaborate engraved illustrations, so emblemology, mathematics, and surgery are logical subjects for him. Wechel also published first editions of Rabelais, and important Cicero incunabula.

Ross G Caldwell

ihcoyc said:

The emblemology images are perhaps the most interesting here, and their images may relate to the Mantegna deck.

* http://www.mnemosyne.org/mia/showmanu?id=embmne_wec1534
* http://www.netnik.com/emblemata/alciatbook/alciatcontents.html

Beautiful examples, thank you.

Check out

what does it remind you of?

So the "Sentences" Gregoire refers to must have included emblems like this, but drawn from the Holy Scriptures and the Philosophers.


Thankyou both.

These are indeed beautiful additions to the resources hinting and reflecting Tarot imagery and iconographic influences possible.

...As to Love & Death, here is one which may encourage further look :)



I researched a little bit and it seems clear, that the passage doesn't refer to unknown playing cards, but to the 2nd edition of Alciato's "Book of Emblems", printed by the first printer of the Wechel-family, in 1534.

The Wechel-family printed in Paris and Frankfurt in 3 generations in 16th century, leaving Paris after the night of Bartholomaios 1574.
A letter from 1533 from Alciato to Wechel exists.



Ross G Caldwell

I think it has to be an emblem book of this sort.

Gregoire is drawing a comparison between Tarots and Wechel's emblem books, which is very interesting. I cannot imagine a way to "play" an emblem book - except to randomly open a page for a saying - which seems frighteningly close to divination, which Gregoire would surely not have approved of.

So is Gregoire saying that playing Tarots as he knew them had the same contemplative value as emblems with sayings?


I think, he refers to playing card decks of his time which combine figurative painting with scriptures SIMILAR To the Alciato-book and somehow SIMILAR TO Tarot (although this is without scripture).
Decks of this type are known to us - as the Tarot and as the emblem book of Alciato are known to us.

The Bussemecher-deck for instance (end of 16th century), but there are also others. The Boiardo deck belongs also to this category. The early German divination deck from begin of 16th century. The Endter decks from 1644 also.


Ross G Caldwell said:
Gregoire is drawing a comparison between Tarots and Wechel's emblem books, which is very interesting. I cannot imagine a way to "play" an emblem book - except to randomly open a page for a saying - which seems frighteningly close to divination, which Gregoire would surely not have approved of.
I suspect that you probably could play games of sorts with emblem books: i.e. guess the significance from the contents and allusions of the illustrations, without peeking at the text. This probably is not divination, but may well have suggested the use of such images for divination; after all, we are guessing at the possible significance of a picture.

Of course, bibliomancy is a long tradition; you usually see references to sortes Vergilianæ or sortes Biblicæ, opening Vergil or the Bible at random to find some sort of insight; and there was some dispute as to whether this use of the Bible actually constituted forbidden divination. My recollection was that it was allowed, at least by some authors, until the publication of vernacular Bibles; then it became controversial. Augustine did as much in the famous Tolle, lege incident. There's a record of the Christian emperor Heraclitus resorting to this to decide military issues.

Myself, I use Finnegans Wake. With the Bible you might land on a passage of genealogies or telling you not to eat a weasel because it doesn't chew the cud. But every page of Finnegans Wake is oracular.


A section from a previous post on 'Egyptian Origins' I think may fit in here:

"Another literary form inspired and modeled upon the Horapollon, and one from which I believe it is possible to draw parallels with the Tarot, is the Emblematic Tradition. The 'emblemata' were essentially 'mutus liber', picture books. A typical emblem book contains a picture with a poem explaining its allegorical meaning. Popular up until the 18th century, the first book that started the form was the 'Emlemata Liber' [The Book of Emblems] by Alciati, which was reprinted over 130 times between 1532 and 1790. It may or may not be relevant to tarot studies that he produced his emblems at the request of a Visconti:

Alciato's earliest mention of his emblem book is in a letter to Francesco Giulio Calvi, a bookseller, 9 January 1523.

"During this Saturnalia, at the behest of the illustrious Ambrogio Visconti, I composed a little book of epigrams, which I entitled emblems: in separate epigrams I describe something which, from history or from nature, signifies elegantly (libellum composui epigrammaton, cui tituli feci Emblemata: singulis enim epigrammatibus aliquid describo, quod ex historia, vel ex rebus naturalibus aliquid elegans significet) after which painters, goldsmiths, and metal-workers could fashion the kind of thing we call badges and which we fasten on hats, or use as trademarks, like the anchor of Aldus, the dove of Froben, and the elephant of Calvus, which is long pregnant, but produces nothing."
end quote from:


Alciati's emblem book was directly inspired and modeled upon the hieroglyphic genre:

"Alciato's words from his Commentary on the rubric 'On the meaning of things and words'. He says: '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.'
End Quote.

Alciato's book, Emblemata, composed at the suggestion of a member of the Visconti family during, as he put it, 'Saturnalia', was the start of a form of literature [and divination] that was popular up until the eighteenth century. I think it interesting, in respect of some of the similarities to be found between emblematic and tarot images, that he clearly states here that they composed in the genre of Egytptian hieroglyphics. According to Mario Praz, emblems were generally regarded as contempory equivalents of the sacred signs of the Egyptians throughout this period. While de Gebelin may have been wrong about the Egyptian origin of the tarot, is it possible that the Tarot too, like Alciato's emblems, were composed in the genre of what then was understood by 'Egyptian' hieroglyphics? I think it possible that, given the parallels between tarot and the emblematic tradition, the tarot images too could also have been percieved as 'contempory equivalents of the sacred signs of the Egyptians'. [The above quote by Alciato is quoted in Claude Mignault of Dijon's "Theoretical Writings on the Emblem: a Critical Edition, with apparatus and notes" first published in 1573. Which might be of interest to anyone here curious of how symbols, images, emblems were percieved and interpreted at the time and how they were thought to have originated among the chaldeans, Egyptians and Hebrews. The full text, in Latin and English, can be found here:]


Of the similarities and parallels that can be drawn between the images of the tarot and emblemata traditions some examples. You might wish to explore the sites and links they provide and you will find many more examples. Here for example is an interesting picture of Fortune from an old book of English emblems which may be of interest:


This figure looks very similar to me to that in the TdM 'World' card.

It is very lunar too. The Hebrew letter Tau is also attributed to luna in most of the pre-ari/gra versions of the SY that follow the Chaldean ordering of the planets. If there is a connection between this portayal of 'Fortuna ut Luna' and the TdM world card there is the problem of the four kerubic animals. I would suggest that in this context they could be interpreted as representing the 'four winds', as the figure is accompanied by the 'winds of change' or 'fortune' as represented by her windswept hair and billowing scarf?

Also interesting about this (17th cent) book of emblems is its connection with divination. The emblems are divided into four 'lotteries' [each with 56 lots], and one uses a method of casting a lot to pick an emblem/poem and divine a moral to be interpreted according to one's present circumstance. Each of the four lotteries is attributed to one of the four directions/winds, and these are symbolised by our winged faces in the lottery table at the back of the book.

As well as the connection with the 'World' of the Tdm and the emblematic 'fortuna', there is also I think a connection with the 'World' of the Minchiate and the emblematic 'fama', which you can check out on Uri Raz's site here:


Then compare this with the image here:


Note the figure on the world in the Minchiate is standing on a globe surrounded by four winged faces, very similar to those at the end of Withers book of emblems used as a lottery table to pick a lot to divine from, Here:


The fact that in the minchiate the Globe is surrounded by four winged putti faces that have an [IMHO] unambiguous relationship to the winds/directions I believe gives some credence to the interpretation of the four kerubic animals in the TdM also being interpreted as winds/directions. However, the four holy creatures are a more complex symbol and one may draw possible other meanings as well, for example, that they may also symbolise the bounds of God's providence in which fortune is restrained, a common theme of the time."

From a post in the thread here: