The 1861 Essay of William Pinkerton


And now for something completely different. Lets see what other fun we can have with Tarot history. Not much, I'm afraid. If one is content with unsubstantiated speculation and finding the most appealing modern fantasy or traditional folklore, Tarot history is easy and fun, and the results usually fit your preconceptions quite closely -- what a surprise. Of course, that's properly termed historical fiction or pseudo-history. Real history is work, and even when you actually find something new and directly related to Tarot history (as opposed to all the tangentially related subjects that dominate this forum) it changes essentially nothing in the larger historical narrative. So, let's get boring here, and talk about something real.

There is an essay on Tarot by William Pinkerton in an 1861 issue of Notes and Queries. It is a fairly interesting account, and Pinkerton's essay does not appear to be commonly cited in Tarot bibliographies. Notes and Queries itself is a pop-culture periodical that is still in business.

Notes and Queries

Among other things, Notes and Queries answered inquiries. This particular article began by answering a question about the term "Jew Cisian dozen", which was an obscure reference to a card game. In an earlier issue, the Registers of the Stationers' Company were reproduced. These contained some items about patents of Raphe Bowes, and included that peculiar term. (Bowes patents are an interesting line of inquiry in themselves, involving a famous legal case, Darcy v. Allein, referred to as "The Monopoly Case" or "The Case of the Playing Cards". I'll post more on it below.) Here are pertinent snips from that issue.

xviij die Octobris. Mr. Raphe Bowes, Esq. Allowed unto him the wholle Sute of Mouldes belonginge to the olde fomme (sic) of plaienge Cardes, commonlie called the French Carde, by warrant from M warden Coldocke. Entred with the Jew Cissian dozen and all other things thereunto belonging.

Mr. Raphe Bowes, Esq. Item allowed unto him, by the warrant aforesaid, the new addicion of the wholle sute of newe mouldes belonginge to the old and newe forme of playeinge Cardes, commonlie called the Frenche Carde: with the Jew Cissian dozen, and all other thinges thereunto belonging.

[We can offer no plausible explanation of the "Jew Cisian dozen" mentioned in the two preceding registrations relating to the patent for playing-cards, which had been obtained by Mr. Raphe Bowes. He was the sone of Jerome Bowes, who, in 1577, had some dramatic project on foot (see Hist. Eng. Dram. Poetry, i.233). It appears that both the old and new form of cards were French, and that they were then cast, or made into moulds, which, for greater security, were entered at Stationers' Hall as if they were literary productions.]
(Vol. 12 2nd S. (295) Aug 24 1861 Page 142)

That passage raised the question which Pinkerton addressed. Among other things, he cited four references to Tarot in England, three of which appear genuine, and claimed that he could cite a dozen others, which -- unfortunately for us -- he did not. Given the general sobriety of his essay, however, along with the references he does give, it is not an altogether hollow claim. But he begins with his analysis of the Jew Cisian dozen.

With deference, but thorough confidence in the correctness of my opinion, I would suggest that the words "Jew Cisian dozen" are a corruption of Jeu soixante-dix-huit, a phrase still used in France to designate a pack of tarots; just as, in contradistinction, the pack of common playing cards is termed jeu de cinquante-deux. I scarcely need to observe, that the word jeu signifies a pack, as well as a game or play of cards: the German spiel karten, having exactly the same literal signification. I consider, then, that the "Jew Cisian dozen" meant a pack of tarots, which contains seventy-eight cards; and the "old form of plaienge cardes, commonlie called the Frenche cardes," was no other than tarots. It has been doubted whether tarots have ever been played in England; but I could give a dozen proofs that they have, one however may suffice. Cleland, in his Institution of a Young Nobleman, 1607, speaks of "honest house-games, as cardes, French cards called taraux, tables, and such like plaies.

As tarots have long since fallen out of use in England, it may not be out of place to give some account of them here. The pack consists of seventy-eight cards. Twenty-two of those are symbolic cards, termed atouts. The derivation of this word is most probably from a tutti, above all. The French word atout is not the representative of our English word trump. The atouts, besides their several symbols, are numbered from one to twenty-one inclusive. The unnumbered one seems to be the equivalent of the Zero in the Arabic numerals. For through this card, like its analogue, the cipher, represents no number in itself, yet it greatly increases the values of the other cards according to its position among them.[...]
(Vol. 12 2nd S. (302) Oct 12 1861 Page 294)

Pinkerton presented a table of trump cards (TdM sequence) and a description of the suit cards, and notes the existence of variations.

As may be supposed, there are considerable variations in the order, names, and numbers of the atouts. I have compiled the above list, however, from several ancient and three modern packs of tarots. Of the latter, one was made in Brussels for the Swiss market; the second in Paris; the third, although it bears the epigraphe Barcelona, I suspect was also made at Paris for the Spanish market. The symbols, too, though representing the same thing, are varied.

Pinkerton refers to Paul Boiteau D'Ambly's 1854 Les Cartes a Jouer Et La Cartomancie as a "wretched catch-penny publication". However, he also presents the legend of Henry Cuffe, apparently as told by Boiteau. That is, Pinkerton interprets the legend in terms of Tarot. Robert Chambers tells the Cuffe tale in his Book of Days, (online in several places), another pop-culture tome which was apparently first published three years after Pinkerton, in 1864, but does not mention Tarot. Edwin S. Taylor, (History of Playing Cards, 1865), also claimed the cards used must have been Tarot trumps, specifically the Devil, Justice and the Hanged Man. (That is according to an old TarotL post by Mary Greer.) This is the same interpretation, re Tarot, related by Pinkerton. We know that Pinkerton read Boiteau D'Ambly's book, and Kaplan and WPC note that Taylor is "practically a translation of an earlier work by P. Boiteau D'Ambly." (K:I-373.) Thus, Pinkerton and Taylor, because of their interpretation in terms of Tarot, appear to have both followed d'Ambly, while Chambers quoted Rowland directly. Rowland, in turn, quoted an earlier writer named Melton, but we'll get to that later.

Moving on, Pinkerton sensibly concludes that regular cards undoubtedly pre-date Tarot: "the tarots were an innovation, which, like many innovations on the chess-board, had a limited reign, and then sank into comparative oblivion." Of Antoine Court de Gebelin, Pinkerton says that Tony should have looked to emblem books. His comments are again reasonably sensible, more so than most of those presented before or to this day.

Of course, Gebelin derives the atouts, as he was inclined to derive everything else, from ancient Egyptian sources. The atout entitled the "House of God," representing a tower struck by lightning, he terms the "House of Plutus," and absurdly asserts that it represents the Memphian Tower of Rhampsinitus!! Now, the very symbol was a favourite one in the old books of emblems and devices, or impressas. It symbolized the danger of high station, and the comparative safety of the humble life. The "Wheel of Fortune," "Death," "The Last Judgment," and other tarots, may also be found in emblems and devices. And it is a suggestive fact that the earliest notice we have of tarots is at the very time when device-making was in its palmiest era. When Peter le Moyne said:-- "Philosophy and poetry, history and fable, all that is taught in colleges, all that is learned in the world, are condensed and epitomised in this great pursuit; in short, if there be an art which requires an all-accomplished workman, that art is device-making." There certainly could be no difficulty, at that period, to find symbols for a few fancy cards.

Pinkerton relates a remarkable anecdote about Tarot being known to Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie". The Young Pretender was born in Italy and grew up in Rome and Bologna, so the tale is quite probably true.

Tarots were played in the highest circles of Roman society in the latter part of the last [18th] century. Mrs. Miller, authoress of _Letters from Italy_, describing an interview with the person "stiled Il Re" (Charles Edward Stuart) says:--

"We were at the Princess Palestrine's conversazione. He asked me, if I understood the game of Tarocchi (what they were about to play at); I answered in the negative; upon which, taking the pack in his hands, he desired to know if I had ever seen such odd cards: I replied that they were very odd indeed: he then displaying them said, 'Here is everything in the world to be found in these cards, the sun, the moon, the stars; and here, says he (showing me a card) is the pope; here is the devil (and added) there is but one of the trio wanting, and you know who that should be'." Of course the one wanting was an allusion to himself, in his English, but unjust, title of Pretender."

Pinkerton doesn't like anything about the game of Tarot, but it is not clear how well he understands the game.

With all its variety of cards, tarocchi is a childish, insipid, monotonous game. I have often seen it played in the coffee-houses of New Orleans, frequented by the Creole descendants of the French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana. The great point of the game is to form verzicole, or sequences; the Matta or Fool representing any other card, of which its holder might be deficient, to form the sequence.

Notes and Queries can be accessed online in several ways, including Google Books and some subscriptions services. However, the best source appears to be the Internet Library of Early Journals.

Notes and Queries Vol. 12 2nd S. (295) Aug 24 1861 Page 142

Notes and Queries Vol. 12 2nd S. (302) Oct 12 1861 Page 294


James Cleland's Institution of a Young Nobleman

So what does the would-be researcher do after finding something new, something like Pinkerton's essay with it's assorted interesting goodies? Well, make stuff up, of course. After all, history begins with speculation. That's were all the really cool stuff comes from, getting as far from that "middle ground" of factual foundation as possible. That's why Tarot history is easy and fun. Oh, wait... that's Tarot PSEUDO history.

What the would-be researcher *might* do is follow up on some of the leads, tracking things down, expanding on what he found in a methodical, step-by-boring-step approach, building a foundation before taking each step. Let's try that a bit.

Pinkerton's main example of Tarot in England has been well known among playing-card historians since Samuel Weller Singer's 1816 Researches into the History of Playing Cards. It is the mention in James Cleland's 1607 Institution of a Young Nobleman. Here is the quote:

His Maiesties [King James I] permission of honest house games, as Cardes, French Cardes, called Taraux, Tables and such like plaies, is sufficient to protect you from the blame of those learned men, who thinke them hazards; as for myself, I thinke it great simplicitie and rusticitie in a nobleman to be ignorant of any of them, when he cometh into companie: yea I would wish you to be so perfit in them all, that you may not be deceived or cousened at play.

A young English nobleman might naturally desire familiarity with the pastimes of Continental nobility, and Tarot was certainly such a game. Michael Dummett noted that "such occasional references do not controvert the proposition that neither in Spain nor in England has the game ever been generally known." This is a reasonable conclusion in the absence of additional evidence.

Still, the claim that some permission had been given for Tarot suggests that the game was sufficiently well known to generate official notice. Cleland might have been referencing a permission specifically mentioning Tarot (rather than simply cards) granted a couple decades prior to King James' 1620 license to Clement Cottrell, or the famous declaration known as the Book of Sports. Both of these show a tolerance of games which would be consistent with such an earlier pronouncement. Perhaps a document recording some such official notice is lurking somewhere, as yet undiscovered. Another lead...


Raffe Bowes and "Jew Cisian Dozen"

Pinkerton also discussed a series of documents which indicate that Tarot cards were *printed* in England during the late 16th century. But first, a brief legal digression. Although early in Queen Elizabeth I's reign a statute forbade the importation of playing cards, in 1571 she granted a 12-year patent (monopoly) to Ralph (Raffe, Raphe) Bowes to import, manufacture, and sell playing cards, and to license others to sell them. Bowes' patent was renewed on June 13, 1588, for twelve years, and on his death the patent was granted to Edward D'Arcy, (a Groom of the Chamber to Queen Elizabeth), August 11, 1598. A court order on November 3, 1600 declared that D'Arcy, "shall haue entred as mr bowes had the ij sutes of moulds for playing cards wch were entred to mr Bowes xj Octobr' 1588." (The term "sutes of moulds" refers to sets of printing blocks.)

This was all quite excellent for Bowes, and then for D'Arcy, until Thomas Allein, a London haberdasher, started making and selling cards in 1601. This resulted in the landmark legal case of Darcy v. Allein, known as "The Monopoly Case" or "The Case of the Playing Cards", as it is commonly cited to this day. For any who might want to look up the case, spoiler alert: The ruling was that monopoly, while good for the patentee, was bad for the commonwealth. Little of that interests us here, but there is a lot more online if anyone is intrigued. We are presently concerned with some peculiar wording in the patent entries, the term "Jew Cisian dozen".

PATENT to RAFFE BOWES and THOMAS BEDINGFIELD, Esquires, to import playing cards into this kingdom, and dispose of them in large or small quantities, notwitstanding any Act, &c. formermade, &c.
June 13, 1571

ALLOWANCE by the Stationers' Company to RAFFE or RALPH BOWES. "The whole sute of mouldes belonging to the olde fourme of plaieinge cardes, commonly called the French cardes, with the Jew Cisian dozen, and all other thinges thereunto belonging. Item.—The newe addition of the whole sute of new Mouldes belonging to the olde and newe forme of playeing cards, commonly called the French cards, with the Jew Cisian dozen, and all other things thereunto belonging."
October 18, 1588

ALLOWANCE by the Stationers' Company to RAFFE or RALPH BOWES (ante, p.50) to be printed, "the wholle sute of carved mouldes in woode or caste in mettal belonging to the oulde fourme of playing cardes, commonly called the French carde, with the Jew Cisian dozen, and all other things thereunto belonging."
January 8, 1589

ENTRY at Stationers’ Hall for RAFFE or RALPH BOWES "to print these markes folowing, which are to bind up cards in, viz., a dozen m'ke. Jtem, a Sizian m'ke. Item, a Jew m'ke."
January 12, 1590

As noted above, Pinkerton explained the puzzling "Jew Cisian dozen" phrase by noting that the 78-card Tarot deck (and the game) is jeu soixante-dix-huit (zhew swahsah(n)t-dee-zweet), a game of 78. This term might readily be corrupted into jew cisian dozen. This interpretation coincides neatly with the playing-card context of the entries, and also fits with the reference to the "French cardes", the same term used by Cleland two decades later: "French Cardes, called Taraux".

Pinkerton's interpretation was quoted above, and it seems plausible, although the fourth entry in the patent records above suggests that the term "Jew Cisian dozen" may have been incomprehensible to the clerk who wrote it down. (That fourth entry seems to have been for wrappers to package the Tarot cards.) All in all, Pinkerton's report suggests that not only were Tarot cards known in England, as evidenced by Cleland, but also printed there, however briefly.


Lady Miller and the Young Pretender

Pinkerton also gives an anecdote showing how English travelers might have become familiar with the game. He quotes an 18th-century account from Lady Miller’s Letters from Italy, written in 1770-71 and published in 1776. Discussing Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Lady Miller acknowledged that the Pretender was an affront, not to be spoken to by a decent English gentleman loyal to the Crown. However, "it struck me as very ridiculous for me, a woman, not to reply to the Pretender if he spoke to me, as such a caution would bear the appearance of passing myself for being of political consequence; added to these considerations, I had great curiosity to see him and hear him speak." Her conversation was related, including the following discussion about Tarot, which they were about to play. Above I quoted Pinkerton's retelling; this is her account:

This evening, after quitting the Cardinal’s, we were at the Princess Palestrine’s conversazione, where he was also. He addressed me as politely as the evening before. The Princess desired me to sit by her; we played with him: he asked me, if I understood the game of Tarocchi, (what they were about to play at); I answered in the negative, upon which, taking the pack in his hands, he desired to know if I had ever seen such odd cards: I replied, that they were very odd indeed; he then displaying them said, "Here is every thing in the world to be found in these cards, the sun, the moon, the stars; and here", says he, (showing me a card) "is the Pope; here is the Devil", (and added) "there is but one of trio wanting, and you know who that should be". I was so amazed, so astonished, though he spoke this last in a laughing, good-humoured manner, that I did not know which way to look; and as to a reply, I made none, but avoided cultivating conversation as much as possible, lest he should give our conversation a political turn.

The third member of that diabolical trio, of course, was the Catholic Pretender himself. Given that she was in Italy, that the Young Pretender was born in Italy, and that he spent much of his childhood in Rome and Bologna, the tale is hardly surprising. It interests us here because it demonstrates how English travelers would be introduced to the game, and thereby explains why Cleland would consider it important to a young nobleman's education.

Let's take a moment at this point to observe this boring, tedious tracking down of little details that, step by step. This is what builds up a coherent understanding of a bigger piece of the puzzle, each part building context for the whole. The details are to be understood *in* context, rather than taken out of context and distorted to fit a preconceived theory. And all this work, looking up the sources discussed by Pinkerton and related subjects, and it's all for such a tiny little corner of Tarot history. I can certainly see why so many prefer speculation -- just making things up -- to actually *looking* things up.

So from Pinkerton's account there appear to have been Tarot cards produced in England in the late 16th century and recognized as a permitted game and a desirable social skill (for young noblemen, who might well play the game when abroad) in early 17th century England. In addition to Bowes, Cleland, and Lady Miller, Pinkerton also mentions a fourth example connecting England with Tarot—Henry Cuffe. For various reasons it is almost certainly apocryphal, but it was often repeated in the 19th century, and it is the most well known of the four among the occult Tarot community. But it too needs to be tracked down.


The Legend of Henry Cuffe

Like Bowes and the legal case of Darcy v. Allein, Henry Cuffe was an important figure in an involved and famous historical incident, the Essex Rebellion. For any who might want to look up the event, spoiler alert: Cuffe and the other villains were executed. But little of that interests us here. We are presently concerned with an alleged prediction of his execution, a prediction which allegedly took place 20 years before the hanging, and which was allegedly performed with Tarot cards. If true, this would be not only the earliest example of fortune-telling with Tarot cards, but the earliest example of something resembling modern cartomancy with any cards.

William Rowland, in his 1652 Judiciall Astrologie, Judicially Condemned, tells a story of Henry Cuffe, secretary to the Earl of Essex, having his death foretold twenty years in advance of the fact. That would have been when he was 18. This prediction, according to the earliest known account of it, (Rowland copied it verbatim from John Melton's 1620 Astrologaster, or, The Figure-caster) was based on astrology and sorcery. However, when Cuffe scoffed, the "Wizard" had him draw three cards. The cards drawn were three Knaves (Jacks). Cuffe was then instructed to interpret the meaning of the cards for himself. The first Knave Cuffe interpreted as himself. The second Knave he interpreted as the judge who would sentence him. The third Knave he interpreted as the hangman who would execute him. "Knaves one and all" appears to be the point of the mildly clever story, and before being picked up by Rowland it was probably an urban legend with some implied social comment regarding the Rebellion probably intended. Melton (and Rowland) are available online at Early English Books Online.

There was another Wizard (as it was reported to me by a learned and rare Scholler, as we were discoursing about Astrologie) that some twentie yeeres before his death told Cuffe our Countreyman, and a most excellent Graecian, that hee should come to an untimely end: at which, Cuffe laughed, and in a scoffing manner entreated the Astrologer to shew him in what manner he should come to his end: who condiscended to him, and calling for Cards, entreated Cuffe to draw out of the Packe three, which pleased him; who did so, and drew three Knaves: who (by the Wizards direction) layd them on the Table againe with their faces downewards, and then told him, if hee desired to see the summe of his bad fortunes reckoned up, to take up those Cards one after another, and looke on the inside of them, and he should be truly resolved of his future fortunes. Cuffe did as he was prescribed, and first took up the first Card, and looking on it, he saw the true portraiture of himselfe Cape a Pe, having men compassing him about with Bills and Halberds: then he tooke up the second Card, and there saw the Judge that sat upon him: at last, he tooke up the last Card, & saw Tyborne, the place of his Execution, & the Hangman, at which he then laughed heartily; but many yeres after, being condemned for Treason, he remembred the fatall Prediction of the Wizard, & before his death revealed it to some of his friends. If this be true, it was more then Astrology, and no better then flat Sorcery or Conjuring, which is divellish.
(John Melton, Astrologaster, or The Figure-caster, p.42.)

Slightly different details were invented by different writers. For example, in some versions the cards were changed, by sleight of hand, into the detailed pictures described. The salient point here, however, is that some of these 19th-century retellings include the supposedly obvious fact that the cards used were Tarot. Willshire quotes Taylor on this point:

It is evident that the cards used by the cartomancist on this occasion were tarots. The first drawn was in all probability an atout, called the traitor, which in some Italian packs held the place of the devil, the second could be no other than Justice, and the third would be sufficiently shadowed forth by the hanged man (Le Pendu).
(William Hughes Wilshire, Playing and Other Cards, p.162.)

We might reflect for a moment on Taylor's ignorance and fantasy, so similar to the inventions we see here daily. Also, before proceeding, let"s look at a timeline of (potentially) relevant events and publications.

* 1581 Henry Cuffe's execution allegedly predicted
* 1601 Henry Cuffe's execution took place at Tyburn

* 1600-1613 Samuel Rowlands' Knave books were published
* 1620 John Melton's Astrologaster, or, the Figure-caster
* 1652 William Rowland's Judiciall Astrologie Judicially Condemned

* 1770 Etteilla's A Way to Entertain Oneself with a Pack of Cards
* 1781 Court de Gebelin’s Monde Primitif

* 1816 Samuel Weller Singer's Researches into the History of Playing Cards
* 1854 Paul Boiteau D'Ambly’s Les Cartes a Jouer et la Cartomancie
* 1861 William Pinkerton's Notes and Queries essay (Jew Cisian Dozen)
* 1864 Robert Chambers' Book of Days
* 1865 Edwin S. Taylor's History of Playing Cards
* 1870 Andrew Steinmetz's The Gaming Table: Its Votaries and Victims
* 1876 William Hughes Willshire's Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and Other Cards
* 1905 John Brand's Faiths and Folklore (the only citation of Melton)

Samuel Rowlands' Knave books, along with Jean-Baptiste Alliette (Etteilla) and Antoine Court de Gebelin, form an important part of the chronology even though none of them mention the legend of Henry Cuffe. They are probably much more important in the creation of the legend than the actual events of Cuffe's life and death. The original account appears to be more of a literary joke about three Knaves diversely interpreted than a journalistic report of cartomancy with Tarot. The account in Melton follows a popular series of books earlier in the 17th century. The use of Knave cards as symbols for knaves and their characteristic (knavish) behavior is both obvious and commonplace. Rowlands wrote several Knave works based on that conceit. These were written in verse, witty, and judging from the number of reprints and subsequent books they were quite popular. They included Tis Mery When Knaves Mete (1600), which was banned; the expurgated version, The Knave of Clubbs (1609); The Knave of Harts (1612); and More Knaves Yet (1613). Here is a brief snippet.

Wee Knaues (whom all men Knaues do call)
That serue Knaues turnes to play withall,
Imploid for precious Time's abuse,
And turned to euery Cheaters vse,
That in the Ale-house day and night,
Cause drunken knaues to brawle, and fight.

Given the popularity of Knave stories at the time when the legend regarding Henry Cuffe is first reported, it appears to be an offshoot of that genre. (Searching through Samuel Rowlands' Knave books, and any other Knave books of the period, might turn up the original version of what became the Cuffe legend. Yet another lead....) The Knave books appeared at the time when Cuffe's execution (more generally, the Essex Rebellon) was extremely prominent news of the day, and his incorporation into such a trope is to be expected. The subsequent adoption of the story, which involved fortune-telling, into books on astrology is likewise not surprising. This chronology suggests that the original version of the story was a purely literary invention rather than a journalistic report.

Here we have ventured one foot beyond the fact-based "middle ground" into the realm of speculation. Note, however, that one foot remains planted on the firm foundation of fact. That means that the speculation is pretty boring -- no soaring flights of fancy.

Another factor suggesting a literary rather than journalistic origin is the long-established evolution of playing cards for fortune-telling. Playing cards had been used as a selection or randomizing device since the Mainz lot book of the early 16th century, but this was nothing like modern cartomancy. Specialized fortune-telling decks, basically printing the readings of a lot book on the cards themselves, begain with Dorman Newman's 1690 deck, famously published by the Lenthall company. Given this larger historical context, as an account of actual practices it appears anachronistic and less likely than as a literary invention, wherein the magical fiction of the tale makes sense. Modern-style cartomancy appears virtually unknown before 1770, when Etteilla published the first book on the subject. (One of the most persuasive arguments that there was no long-standing oral tradition of cartomancy prior to that time is the rapidity with which the practice spread and florished after 1770.) In 1783, Etteilla published A Way to Entertain Oneself with a Pack of Cards called Tarot. The many secondary tellings of Cuffe's legend are all post-Gebelin. Again, historical context and chronology matters when it comes to evaluating these secondary reports.

Both playing-card historians and antiquarians enjoyed telling the legend of Henry Cuffe. Some added bits about the cards being Tarot, while others stayed closer to the version in Rowland's anti-astrology book. Just as the original story appears to be a literary invention based on the genre of Knave books, the elaboration in terms of Tarot appears to be based on the modern myths spread by Etteilla and Court de Gebelin. So, albeit interesting in its own right, the legend of Henry Cuffe's three Knaves cannot be used to support Tarot in England.


The Judicial Astrology Debate

As an aside, the two 17th-century reports of Cuffe's legend, Melton and Rowland, were part of a decades-long series of polemical writings about the efficacy and morality of judicial astrology and astrologers. In 1601, John Chamber wrote A Treatise Against Judiciall Astrologie, a broad indictment of astrologers, condemning them all as charlatans. In 1603, Christopher Heydon wrote A defence of iudiciall astrologie: in answer to a treatise lately published by M. Iohn Chamber. The debate picked up again when, in 1618, William Perkins wrote A Resolution to the Countryman, Proving It Utterly Unlawfull to Buy or Use Our Yeerely Prognostications. In 1620, John Melton wrote Astrologaster, or, The figure-caster. In 1624, George Carleton wrote Astrologomania: the madnesse of astrologers. In 1650, Nathaniel Homes wrote Daemonology. In 1651, William Ramsay wrote Lux Veritatis. Then in 1652, William Rowland wrote "Judiciall Astrologie Judicially Condemned. Upon a survey and examination of Sr. Christopher Heydons apology for it, in answer to Mr. Chambers, and of Will. Ramsey's morologie in his pretended reply (called Lux veritatis) to Doctour Nathanael Homes his Demonologie. Together with the testimonies of Mr. W. Perkins resolution to the countrey-man; Mr. John Miltons figure-caster; and Dr. Homes his demonologie, all here exhibited against it, seconded and backed by 1. Evident scripture. 2. Apparent Reason. 3. Authority of Councils. 4. Justice of Laws. 5. Arguments of Fathers, Schoolmen, and Modern Learned men. Concessions of Ptolomy, &c. friends of Astrology. 7. And the wicked practises of Astrologers themselves." It is significant that he adopts Melton's anti-astrology book, his source for the Cuffe story which might otherwise have been forgotten.


How boring was that?

That essay may be tiring and relatively uninformative to read. At the end of it, perhaps the idea of Tarot in England is a bit more plausible than it was before. If so, that is not because I made stuff up, but because I looked stuff up. It's not sexy and startling, but it's real.


P.S. Another interesting English reference to Tarot comes from 1769. In a book on the manners and customs of Italy, Giuseppe Baretti has a short chapter (217-223) regarding Tarot games. He suggests the superiority of Minchiate and Tarrocco to the most popular card games of Britain (Whist), France (Piquet), and Spain (Ombre). He notes that Minchiate is popular "all over Tuscany and the Pope's dominions" while Tarrocco is popular "in Piedmont and Lombardy."

An account of the manners and customs of Italy:
with observations on the mistakes of some travellers, with regard to that country

Author: Baretti, Giuseppe Marco Antonio, 1719-1789
Volume: 2
Subject: Sharp, Samuel, 1700?-1778; National characteristics, Italian; Italy -- Social life and customs
Publisher: London : Printed for T. Davies and L. Davis


This looks like interesting stuff and a lot to digest, I shall certainly give it some proper attention tonight. However, I must admit that I am more of a card player than a card historian and so it was Mr Pinkerton's description of the game itself that struck me. The use of Matto for a wild card and the mention of verzicole tells us that he's describing the game of Minchiate. While the tarocchino games also use Matto for a wild card and employ sequences, they also employ the Bagatto for a wild card. Further, the term verzicole is not used in tarocchino and the games/cards have never really left Bologna. Minchiate's popularity did spread however, though I had not guessed as far a field as Louisiana!

It does seem a little odd that he should describe such a distinct game that uses 97 cards when discussing a pack of 78 cards. This alone is reason to assume that he was not at all familiar with the games themselves. Of course, that he describes tarocchi as "a childish, insipid, monotonous game" is another good reason. I have only played Minchiate on a couple of occasions (its just not easy to get people to learn these games) but that's enough to convince of it's greatness - a monster of a game, no question, but very, very, clever stuff!


History suffers along with so many others as well. What passes for philosophical arguement or scientific reasoning by many can give cause for despair. Philosophy is my subject and I have learned over the years to just keep my mouth shut.

Perhaps I have become overly cynical but I have reached the point where I believe that most people don't care about what is true or false, right or wrong. What most people care about is what they prefer, for whatever reason, to call true or false, right or wrong.

Academia is also suffering the effects of this with so much made up non-sense available to students. I dropped a unit on film in my first year at university when I discovered I could get a 2:1 from 3 hrs work inventing all kinds of twaddle 'wrapped up' in a convoluted vocabulary. People can write and have published 'academic' work describing the three characters in Jaws as representing three socio-economic stages of US history or exploring Dracula as being aboug Bram Stoker's homosexuality (yes, she knew he wasn't but said that it was an interesting way to read the book - and get an Masters degree). Relativism increasingly dominates Sociology, Cultural Studies, and Literature. Get the lingo right and you can write and believe whatever you want - anything goes. It is all so much easier than working to learn the truth.

Well, there's my rant. These days I keep my mouth shut and just engage with interesting matter when it presents itself. Otherwise, I restrict myself to card games and the artwork. This is interesting though, as I mentioned, for the curious description of tarocchi. I've been going through my notes since posting and can only find the two groups of games, tarocchino and minchiate, that score for sequences. I shall have to break out Dummett and have another read through tomorrow but for now, it does look as if you've found something interesting (at least to me) about the spread of this game.


Thanks for posting this again Michael, this time I saved it; not only for the information within it, but as a model of how to present such.