Etteilla and Variants Timeline II


With lots of new information recently, it has been hard to stay on top of what is where on the old “Etteilla Timeline and Variants” thread. So I’ve been working on an updated timeline that gives links to sources and to where those particular sources have been discussed, including other threads, 10 or 12 of them. So if you know roughly the year for something Etteilla-related, you can just go to that year, which will have enough links to get to where you want to go. And of course you can see how things developed, to the extent that we know what came when.

There is so much material that it will take five posts, on account of ATF’s length limit. They divide as follows:

(a) 1738-1783. This is mostly old material, but filled out with links.

(b) 1784-1792. A lot happened in these nine years.

(c) 1793-1814.

(d) 1815-1840.

(e) 1841-present

I will try to update periodically. PM me if I don’t. Likewise if you see an error on my part. That would cut down on unnecessary posts. If you aren't satisfied with my response, or lack of response, then by all means write a post. And of course do so if you have new information, or something to discuss.

1738. Jean-Baptiste Alliette born (per burial certificate), by his account on 1 March in Paris (Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett [DDD], Wicked Pack of Cards 1996, p. 76), son of a caterer (“maitre rotisseur,” DDD p. 77) by the same name.

Before 1750. Divination with tarot cards is recorded in a manuscript of Bologna, Italy, It uses 35 of the 62 cards of the Bolognese Tarocchini deck, divided into 5 piles of 7 cards each, with short divinatory meanings listed for each of the 35. The manuscript was discovered by Franco Pratesi, whose article is at (for the specific topic, go to “cartomancy list”). Another exposition is Ross Caldwell’s at; he also has earlier examples of divination with playing cards, including a suggestive Italian literary example by Folengo, 1527, using tarot cards). For a timeline of other early uses of playing cards for fortune-telling, see

1751-1757. Compiler’s note: Historical information for this period is all from Etteilla or his immediate followers. DDD’s main source this period is a 1791 booklet of 45 pages that survives in only one copy, in a Parisian private collection (DDD p. 274, n 64). However, from the quotations and paraphrases they give, the wording is virtually identical to that in the LWB that accompanies the current Petit Etteilla deck published by France Cartes, the main difference being that Etteilla’s word “cartonomancie” is replaced throughout by the word “cartomancie”. This change was made, according to Depaulis in a personal communication with Kwaw of Dec. 2015, for a 1796 reprint of the book. For more details, see below, entries 1791a and 1796b. To document the French wording in what follows, the French part of the LWB will be used (it also contains an English translation). The relevant pages in DDD are pp. 96-98.

1751-1753. As recounted by Etteilla or a close follower endorsed by him, reported by DDD, and apparently reprinted in the Little White Book (LWB) to the currently published Petit Etteilla (title page at; passage quoted is from LWB pp.9-10, and
In 1750, the art of drawing cards was unknown in France; but in 1751, 1752, and 1753, three elderly people worked at drawing them.

They were right, although having shuffled and cut a deck of 32 cards, they read the cards one by one; and when the Enquirer had drawn a sword, that [these old people alleged] announced sorrow; likewise hearts foretold happiness, diamonds the country [la campagne, mistranslated as “campaigns” in the English translation] and clubs money.

Fanaticism cried sacrilege, and in order to save these alleged sorcerers from the devouts, they were locked up, without being listened to, in Bicetre or the Salpetriere.
As DDD note, the characterization of the suits is the same as de Mellet’s in 1781. The Bicetre was one of the places where the Marquis de Sade later was sent (être_Hospital ). The Salpetriere was a prison for prostitutes, the mentally disabled, the criminally insane, and the poor (

1753. LWB pp. 10-12, for which see the previous entry, plus
From 1753, our savant renovated cartomancy by throwing out the art of drawing the cards one by one and replacing it with the art of reading the cards on the table as a whole. ... In giving the way of reading the significance of the cards, our author from 1753 wrote up not only the false meanings given each in their own way by the three elderly people but also gave the legitimate meanings, taking that of victory for the 9 of hearts, which was wrongly allocated to the 9 of diamonds by one of the three people, etc.

The art of drawing cards, according to Etteilla, could not be as modern as an invention as French cards. With the backing of ancient manuscript, he thought it came from the 33 sticks of a Greek, who used them in Gaul to pronounce oracles and had taken or naturally had the name Alpha.

This account, from the current Petit Etteilla LWB, is at variance with DDD’s in one respect: they say it was the 9 of spades that for Etteilla deserved the meaning “victory”. (In the actual Petit Etteilla, Victory is the 9 of Hearts.) Either way, the passage dates Etteilla’s first writing on cartomancy to 1753. DDD p. 78 note that in his 1785 Philosophie des Hautes Sciences p. 116, he also speaks of 1753 as the date of his first writings. They also cite a statement by the editor of an “an V” (1796-7) book on cartomancy (see entry “1796-1797”), the editor says that he is simply “transcribing verbatim a short work of some folios which appeared at the end of the year 1771, under the title of Le Petit Etteilla.” DDD go on (all p. 98):
Etteilla allowed him [the editor] to reprint this ‘petit amusement’, since he had ‘given this method of reading the cards when he was 15 or 16 years old, and having verified it just at 33.’ Researches have failed to discover such a book, and we must note that Etteilla himself never mentions any work printed in 1771 or 1772. But 22 years is exactly Etteilla’s age in 1771, who actually ‘was 15 or 16 years old’ in 1753.
DDD think that what follows in the “an V” book, the “short work of some folios” is in fact the “Abrege de [Synopsis of] Cartomancie” of 1753. Whether it is the same as what appears in the modern LWB’s explanation of cartomancy is not clear. Only one section, called “Fragment d’Etteilla” (pp. 38-55 of modern LWB), is actually attributed to Etteilla. It says nothing about how to read the cards; instead, it is a very general account of the significance of card-reading in relation to the conduct of one’s life. Also, Etteilla does not claim that either this 1753 work or the 1757 that followed existed in a printed edition. In fact, Etteilla or his follower speaks of the “tyranny” that existed then, with its arrests and imprisonments (LWB p. 10). In 1770 he “opposed himself to the ignorance of fanaticism with as much force as reasoning and skill”. 1770 would seem to be the year of Etteilla’s first printed book, for which see entry 1770 below.

1757. Etteilla writes again, apparently a revised version of the 1753 work. as well as meeting his instructor in the tarot (
In the synopsis [abrege] of 1757, our author does not fail to emphasize again that drawing the cards one by one, so as to explicate them one by one, was an ignorance imitating the manner of finding oracles in the Odyssey of Homer, the verses of Virgil, and the abuse of the Fates of the Saints. In 1757, finally, our learned professor of cartomancy [was] instructed by a Piedmontese that the book of the first Egyptians, a book named THOT or TOUT, engraved in hieroglyphics and known under the name and the game Tarots, or better THAROH, summarized all the ancient knowledge, and was a serious study...
“Fates of the Saints” probably refers to one or more books of oracles that are selected by means of dice, each related to a particular saint. It is the medieval adaptation of earlier works in Latin and Greek that related various gods to each piece of advice. As to the “Piedmontese”, Etteilla says more about him in the 2nd Cahier, pp. 134-136. He was named Alexis, whom he met in Lamballe, Brittany. This Alexis, he tells us, was the grandson of “Alexis called Piémontese”. For the translation of this passage, see post 130. “Alexis Piémontese” was the pen-name of an Italian physician, generally assumed to be Girolomo Ruscelli, (1520-1566), who was most famous for a book of remedies still in print in the 1790s, per Wikipedia (

Some information not from Etteilla: Two women in Marseille are sentenced to 8 days in prison for because they had “taken advantage of the simple-mindedness of several people and took money from them under the pretext of finding for them things stolen or lost, by the means of some packs of cards” (Ross Caldwell at

1760. First mention of Etteilla in the archives: Jean-Baptiste Alliette owes 600 livres to one Jean Langlois. (DDD p. 77)

1763. Jean-Baptiste Alliette and Jeanne Vattier are sued for a job certificate delivered to a young apprentice. They are said to be seed merchants (“Marchands grainiers”). Other documents from the same source confirm that Etteilla sold seeds at least until 1769. Jeanne Vattier is Etteilla’s wife. (DDD p. 77)

1763-1767. Etteilla has at least one child, Louis-Jean-Baptiste, the only child mentioned in his 1791 death certificate (DDD p. 76). The son is called a “merchant grocer” there.

1765. Casanova, in his memoirs (written 1789-1797 per Wikipedia, short of funds toward the end), writes of 1765 Russia where a 13 year old girl he had hired would read the cards to tell where he had been that night (

1767. Etteilla separates from his wife (DDD p. 77, no documentation). They surmise that he may have begun his card-reading activities then. They observe later that in Philosophie des hautes sciences of 1785, Etteilla says:
It is in the company of my Xanthippe, in household embarrassments, among my children, in the distress of business, and other different mortifications that I have endured, that I conceived the hautes Sciences. (p. 140, quoted in DDD p. 79)
Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates, who Xenophon's Symposium characterized as "the hardest to get along with of all the women there are" (

From 1768-69. Alliette engages in print selling, mentioned as such in a 1797 bibliography of current French literature, ‘Alliette, by anagram Etteilla, Print seller in Paris”. In 1768, three thieves steal some books and prints. Alliette's shop was inspected on 11 March 1769 and found to have some of the stolen prints. Alliette was proved innocent of wrongdoing (DDD p. 80).

The Prussian national known only as Hisler studies with Etteilla in Paris. (Decker, The Esoteric Tarot 2013, p. 191.)

1770. Etteilla publishes Etteilla, ou maniere de se récréer avec un jeu de cartes par M*** (Etteilla, or a Way to Entertain Oneself with a Pack of Cards by Mr***) . It includes both upright and reversed meanings for a deck of 32 cards, plus a 33rd card, blank, called “Etteilla”. At the end he mentions ”les Taraux” in a list of methods of fortune-telling (DDD, p. 83). The book is reviewed in a couple of established journals.

1771. A “short work of some folios which appeared at the end of the year 1771, under the title of Le Petit Etteilla”, as reported by its reprinting editor in “an V” (1796) (DDD p. 98). No record has been found of such a book, nor does Etteilla ever refer to such a thing otherwise, according to DDD. They speculate that it might be the “Abrege” of 1753 referred to in the 1791 publication, reprinted 1796 changing the spelling of “cartonomancy” to “cartomancy”.

1772. Giuseppi Balsamo, an adventurer probably the same person later known as Count Allesandro Cagliostro, arrives in Paris from England (McCalman, The Last Alchemist, p. 32:
With creditors pressing, the couple hastily caught a boat to Calais on 15 September 1772.
The visit goes unnoticed except in court records. But the following is relevant to Etteilla. McCalman, p. 32, notes that in exchange for allowing a French nobleman access to his wife,
...Giuseppe was funded to set up a laboratory where he happily tried out the experiments from a sixteenth century book he’d acquired. It was Alesso Piémontese’s Secretes admirables, one of the most comprehensive occult manuals ever written, setting out detailed prescriptions for making paints, inks, medicines, cosmetics, and magical spells.
McCalman unfortunately does not cite his source, unless it is Photiedes, Les Vies de Cagliostro, p. 101f, his only reference for this period. Alexis, of course, was the first name of the “Piémontese” Atteilla claimed taught him about the tarot.

1772a. A small work, Lettre sur l’oracle du jour, gives, under the signature of one ‘Duchesse de ***, a flattering portrait of Etteilla (DDD, p. 79).

1772b. Etteilla publishes Le zodiac mysterieux, ou les oracles d’Etteilla (The mysterious zodiac, or Etteilla’s oracles). It is a collection of astrological predictions. According to a study by Halbronn in 1993, it was not real astrology (DDD p. 79). This work in an 1820 reprint by Gueffier jeune [the younger], rue Bourtebourg no. 12 (?) is digitalized at The 1772 frontispiece is at (which I get from

New edition of Etteilla's 1770 book, indicating that he had attained some success. Digitalized at There are colored engravings of several spreads as fold-outs in this book not part of the digitalized version, posted at

1773b. DDD p. 79:
Etteilla is alluded to in a small light-hearted pamphlet written by Claude-Nicolas Bricaire de La Dixmerie much about the same time. The writer says in a footnote that ‘the famous card-reader in China [here an amusing metaphor for France] prints his judgements as the author of l’Almanach des Muses prints his’, and adds this ironical comment: ‘The whole of China is divided between these two inspired men.”

1775. A print auction catalogue in Paris lists Alliette many times as a buyer (DDD p. 80).[/b]

In England, S. Hooper, according to the name on some of the cards, makes a deck with many of the motifs found later in the c. 1790 deck and others ( also earlier, i.e. the Minchiate Francesi. English works on playing cards were popular on the Continent, due to the popularity of Edmund Hoyle’s works, translated into French in 1761. For earlier English divinatory decks and uses of playing cards, see

1776. Alliette’s shop advertises in a directory. It says that he has traveled widely in the Provinces. (DDD p. 81) See also http://bibliotheque-numerique.inha....e-d-une-collection-d-estampes-montees-sous-v/, an advertisement of prints for sale by Etteilla.

Etteilla is in Strasbourg, settling as a “print-seller and bachelor, from Paris, legitimate son of Jean-Baptiste Alliette, burgess and caterer from there, and of Marie-Anne nee Bautray,” according to citizenship records there (he became a citizen of the city). He joins the guild for printers, print sellers, cardmakers, and book-binders. The guild record for 1781 lists him in “guild members no longer resident.” Etteilla himself verifies his stay in Strasbourg in a 1785 comment, saying that “when in Strasbourg, I was pleased to fix M. Cerbere’s youngest son’s birth chart” (DDD p. 82). He says that the best tarot cards are made there. But he objects to the cardmaker Jean-Baptiste Benoit’s removal of the “butterfly” on the “hieroglyph called the Star.” (Kaplan, vol. 2, reproduces the “Benois” deck, whose Star card has no winged creature. It is one of those decks that have replaced the Pope and has Benois producing in Strasbourg starting in 1780.)

In 1779, Cagliostro introduces his “Egyptian Rite” in Mitau (in what is now Latvia), from material gathered in London (an alleged manuscript by "Cofton," possibly, per McCalman p. 41, a "minor Oxford scholar of eastern religion named George Costard”), Leipzig (from Dom Pernety), etc. Then does the same in St. Petersburg, Warsaw, and elsewhere, healing the sick and conducting seances. Sept. 1780, Cagliostro arrives in Strasbourg to much publicity, continuing to heal and gain adherents. (Source: Roberto Gervaso, Cagliostro, pp. 69, 82, 92; confirmed in McCalman.) Cagliostro’s popularity could have influenced Etteilla. Pernety is an alchemical writer referred to by Etteilla in his 2nd Cahier, 1785.

1781. Publication of vol. 8 of Le Monde Primitif by Court de Gébelin, claiming an Egyptian origin for tarot (essay on tarot uploaded at; translated in Rhapsodies of the Bizarre, by J. Karlin). De Gébelin clams that the images reflect Egyptian ideas and allegories, and so constitute an “Egyptian Book,” just as Etteilla will two years later. The volume also includes an essay by le Comte de M*** [de Mellet] (same website and book), who goes so far as to call the tarot cards “The Book of Thoth,” just as Etteilla will, consisting of hieroglyphs and describing Thoth’s teachings on cosmogony, i.e. on the origins of the universe. For de Mellet the trumps start with the 21st card and proceed downwards. Etteilla will similarly start his sequence with four of the last five trumps, in his case identifying them with four of the first six days of creation in Genesis.

Etteilla publishes combination hislérique, Hisler's lotto system. (Decker, The Esoteric Tarot p. 191.)

1782b. Etteilla applies to the royal censor to publish his new work on the tarot. (DDD, p. 83). Of Etteilla’s application, DDD write (p. 83):
The Book Office (‘Librarie’) archives have kept the mention of his original title Cartonomanie [sic] [the censor’s misspelling of “cartonomancie”] Egiptienne, ou interprétation de 78 hierogliphes qui sont sur les cartes nommées Tarots (Egyptian Cartonomania, or Interpretation of the 78 hieroglyphs which are on the cards called Tarots). But the manuscript was denied publication. In the right-hand column, someone has written “rayé du 20 novembre 1782’ (canceled 20 November 1782). This corresponds well to what Etteilla says in his 1787 Léçons theoriques et pratiques du livre de Thot; DDD p. 99:
In 1782, upon the report of a rigid censor, we were forbidden to print them [the arguments of the Book of Thoth]; they were printed in 1783, under a vague title, a title which got us a more tolerant censor...
The title that won acceptance was Manière de se récréer avec le Jeu de Cartes nommées Tarots. And despite Etteilla’s protests, his word “cartonomancy” was soon replaced by its derivative, the equally new word “cartomancy,” first proposed by one of his students in 1789 (DDD p. 99).

1783a. Etteilla has three confirmed publications: Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots: pour servir de troisième cahier a cet ouvrage (A way to entertain oneself with the pack of cards called tarots: serving as the third book of this work) was first; then the “premier cahier,” or first book (or perhaps "notebook"); and lastly a “Supplement” to the “premier cahier” (DDD p. 84). It is not clear whether it was the “first cahier,” the “third cahier,” or both, that he had submitted in 1782. But the 1st Cahier makes reference to something in the 3rd, DDD say. The 1st Cahier has as its frontispiece an engraving of Temperance, later to become his Temperance card. The book is at The 3rd Cahier has Prudence as its frontispiece, which will later become Etteilla’s Prudence card. A transcription of the text is at, with an English translation following, also posted without interruptions at The 3rd Cahier associates upright and reversed keywords with the standard “Marseille” tarot cards as rearranged by Etteilla; the number cards’ upright keywords correspond to those of the keywords of the 1770/1773 book; and the upright keywords for the number cards not represented in the piquet deck derive from the reversed meanings in 1770/1773, as explained by Kwaw in post 8 of the thread “In general but not always the fives are reversed tens, twos reversed sevens, fours reversed nines.”

1783b. An additional possible publication is L'Homme à projets, which Etteilla said in 1791 was first published this year, and which he was reissuing to show the accuracy of its predictions.

c. 1783. Charles Greille-Saint Leger de Bonrecueille (b. 1753) moves to Lyon and sets up a secret society known as the Temple of the Sun, whose members called themselves the "Unknown philosophers", following the lead of Louis-Claude de St. Martin (1743-1803), who referred to himself by the same term and had moved to Lyons in 1773. (Decker p. 191, from Robert Amadou, "Alchemie et Société Sécrète," L'Autre Monde, no. 98 (1985) pp. 24-29; no. 99 (1986) pp. 18-23, 57.)