Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

Tarot in Literature I

The most important documents


Translation revised by Michael S. Howard, Feb. 2012


Domenico di Giovanni (Burchiello) - Matteo Maria Boiardo - Anonymous - Pietro Aretino - Teofilo Folengo (Merlin Cocai) - Paolo Giovio - Ludovico Ariosto - Flavio Alberto Lollio - Vincenzo Imperiali - Giovanni Maria Cecchi - Giovan Battista Marino - Alessandro Tassoni - Torquato Tasso - Vincenzo Belando - Baltasar Gracián y Morales - Emanuele Tesauro - Troilo Pomeran - Girolamo Bargagli. 



                            Here everything's grace and beauty.                          But among such joy and playing,

                            And such gentle hands,                                                 Take care, sweet young ladies

                            To hold such happy cards.                                            Not to be burned by the Fire of Love

                                                                                           (figure 1)


From Le Pitture di Pellegrino Tibaldi e di Nicolò Abbati, descritte ed illustrate da Giampietro Zanotti (The paintings of Pellegrino Tibaldi and Nicolò Abbati, described and illustrated by Giampietro Zanotti), Venice, 1756.

A mistake about Burchiello


Before starting to examine the documents that are the subject of this analysis, we would like to underline the mistake made by some tarot historians who have connected the term Triomphi, quoted in one of the Sonnets by Burchiello, to the Tarot cards,  when it is unequivocally the fact that  the author is referring to the Trionfi of Petrarch. The works of Burchiello (nickname of  Domenico di Giovanni) had great diffusion and for this reason were objects of much interpolation and remaking. Burchiello lived from 1404 to 1449 and was a professional barber in Florence; his shop became a veritable art circle that gave hospitality to poets and artists of every kind. In about 1440 - tarot had already appeared almost twenty years before with the name of Triumphs - he composed some sonnets that were collected with those of others under the title Sonetti del Burchiello, del Bellincioni e d’altri poeti fiorentini alla burchiellesca (Sonnets by Burchiello, Bellincioni and other Florentine poets in the burchiello style).  The printed edition, edited very late, in 1757, and which seems even to have been published in London (but in Livorno, actually), takes for granted that the sonnets are by our author.


Burchiello’s cultural position is clearly that of derisory parody of the project and values of Humanism. His real originality is expressed in the sonnets “alla burchia”, so called probably  because they referred (even if not directly) to the French tradition of “boat” verses (burchia: boat), which is to say, mixed at random, like the goods on river boats. Examples of this are the notable verses of his most famous sonnet, which, according to some critics, hide double meanings, primarily of an obscene type (impossible to translate into English):

Nominativi fritti, e Mappamondi,
E l'Arca di Noè fra due colonne
Cantavan tutti Chirieleisonne
Per l'influenza de' taglier mal tondi


To underline the mistake of attribution mentioned earlier, we report the whole Sonnet XXXI “Se tu volessi fare un buon minuto” (If you would take a good moment):



Se tu volessi fare un buon minuto,
togli Aretini et Orvietani e Bessi,
e sarti mulattieri bugiardi e messi,
e fa’ che ciaschedun sie ben battuto;
poi gli condisci con uno scrignuto
e per sale vi trita entro votacessi,
e per agresto minchiatar fra essi
accioché sia di tutto ben compiuto.
Spècchiati ne’ Triomphi, el gran mescuglio
d’arme, d’amor, di Bruti e di Catoni
con femine e poeti in guazabuglio:
questi fanno patire i maccheroni
veghiando il verno, e meriggiando il luglio
dormir pegli scriptoi i mocciconi,
Dè parliàn de’ moscioni,
quanta gratia ha il ciel donato loro,
che trassinando merda si fa d’oro

The Sonnet shows itself as a critique against idlers, false literati, the falsely learned, who are totally useless to society, of whom it would be better to be rid. The verses erroneously interpreted as referring to the tarot are the following:


Spècchiati ne’ Triomphi, el gran mescuglio
d’arme, d’amor, di Bruti e di Catoni

See yourself in the Triumphs, the great mix
Of arms, loves, Brutuses and Catos.


The verse “the great mix of arms, loves” could at first sight be understood as referring to the tarot: Love is represented in the VI Triumph, while the arms could remind us of the armour of various characters in the Triumphs. If we also consider that Cato is in the so-called Sola Busca Tarots (1), the attribution of these verses to Triumphs or tarots appeared plausible. To understand fully the true meaning (2), which is that the Triumphs indicated by Burchiello refer to the work by Petrarch and not to the tarot Triumphs, it is necessary to consider the whole stanza in which the quoted verses appear:


Spècchiati ne’ Triomphi, el gran mescuglio
d’arme, d’amor, di Bruti e di Catoni
con femine e poeti in guazabuglio:
questi fanno patire i maccheroni
veghiando il verno, e meriggiando il luglio
dormir pegli scriptoi i mocciconi,

See yourself in the Triumphs, in that mix

of arms, loves, Brutuses and Catos,
a jumble of women and poets:
these Triumphs make fools suffer
and stay awake in wintertime
and make idiots sleep
on their writing desks in summer

“Women” are present in Tarot cards, but there are not in them poets, who abound instead, together with a great variety of women, in Petrarch; but the next verses are really clarifying. First of all it is necessary to consider the meaning of “macaroni” (3), a term that in the Renaissance meant “fool”. Let’s read again the verses: “These (the Petrarch Triumphs) make fools suffer and stay awake in wintertime and make idiots (4) sleep on their writing desks in summer" (5). To understand Petrarch’s Triumphs, it was necessary to have a sharp literary mind, not a foolish one: for that kind of mind it would have been impossible to disentangle that great jumble of arms and loves, women and poets, Brutuses and Catos that we find in the work.




Boiardo was author of various tercets united under the name of Cinque Capituli, sopra el Timore, Zelosia, Speranza, Amore et uno Trionfo del Mondo (Five Chapters, about Fear, Jealousy, Hope, Love and one Triumph of the World) (6). 


The first four chapters allude to the suits of the cards (figure 2) while the fifth, structured in 22 tercets, refers to Triumphs. It wouldn’t have been easy to connect this work to tarot if the author hadn't inserted at the end of his work two sonnets: in the second, called Sonetto Escusato (Excuse Sonnet), he apologizes to his readers for having created this piece, while with the first, called Argumento de li detti capituli di Mattheo Maria Boiardo sopra un nuovo gioco di carte (Argument of the chapters by Matteo Maria Boiardo on a new game of cards), the author offers the true interpretative key of the work. The relationship between the figures of the Triumphs and the abstract subject matters of each tercet is not immediately clear, and this means that Boiardo, while composing his verses, was referring to a classically didactic tarot deck such as the Sola-Busca Tarot. Since the work has already been the subject of various competent analyses, it is considered unnecessary repeat the text and interpretation.


A poet in love


In Ferrara of the XVI century two sonnets (7) were dedicated to a noblewoman from an admirer who used various triumphs to describe the beauty of the woman and the strategy to conquer her.  The first of these two sonnets (figure 3) can be interpreted as a burlesque satire written by a man in love refused by his beloved as a tarot player. The woman preferred one of his rivals, a certain Giovanmaria, considered a fool by everybody. Jealousy, envy and rage give to the author words full of harshness towards both his beloved and his rival. This is its translation in current Italian:

“The house of the lady Mother Riminaldi can appear a Paradise, given the beauty of the woman who owns the house, the breadth of the road that surrounds the palace,  and the games and songs full of gaiety that continuously echo; but into this Paradise only those may enter who do not play tarot, such as that “famous madman” who is Giovanmaria. And if such a one as he can enter, it means that for one to hope to get in there, it is better to be without intellect, since every fool goes to Paradise”.


Here is the second sonnet (figure 4).


Par che l’angel, la stella, il sol, la luna
Col mondo, et chi con lui di viver brama, 
Odiano la beltà, che il ciel aduna 
Nel viso altier de la signora Mama. 
Forsi per esser tra le Dee queste una 
Che lor spogli del ben, che ‘l valor ama, 
O pur, per che ne morte, o ria fortuna 
Dal fermo suo voler maj la richiama: 
Però dee creder fermamente ognuno
Ch’un spirito malvagio habbia costei 
Supposta solamente al Bagattino, 
Per poter dire i buon tarocchi mej
Saran, s’avien ch’io giuochi, et questi uno
Vo trarre il Matto che ‘è cervel divino.


Because the angel, the star, the sun, the moon,
With the world, and the one who craves living,
Hate the beauty that the sky concentrates
In the proud face of the Lady Mother.
That from them is stripped of good, those who love valor,
Or maybe, because neither death nor bad fortune
Deters the firmness of her will:
But all must firmly believe
That a malevolent spirit has her,
Submitting only to the small Magician,
So that to be able to say the good tarots will be
Mine, I have to play, and this one card
I draw will be the Fool, which is the divine brain.

The Divine Aretino


Another important literary figure who wrote about tarot is Pietro Aretino. His work Le Carte Parlanti (The Talking Cards) (8) is composed in the form of a dialogue between the "talking" cards, and an artist who depicted them called "Paduvano", i.e. "the Paduan." for his birthplace. In this work, which in the beginning bore the title Dialogue of the divine Aretino in which he speaks of the games with an agreeable morality, Aretino also proposes an examination of the meaning of the tarot Trumps, in which transpires, accented with an evident sarcasm, an attitude of respectful homage towards cards and games.  Really, if used with proper moderation, card games are exalted  in many respects, as capable of teaching constancy, perseverance, attention, and how to lose and administer money with care and also the right amount of risk.



His interpretation of the Trumps is inspired above all by the emotions of the players and the consequences that the game induces in its practitioners. The resulting interpretations are sometimes very interesting, with content of a nearly doctrinal character; for example we find proposals about the heavenly bodies (Sun, Moon, Stars), Justice, the Angel, the Tower and the Popess. Regarding the three luminaries and the zodiacal signs, the interpretation, here as elsewhere in the Trumps, is consistent for the most part with what is presented in the Florentine tarots (in this case that the game can be played at every hour of the day and night); we even find the concept that "no glass can be broken down on earth if that which is above doesn't allow it", the reason for which is that "Heaven intervenes in the whole group" of the cards.


The presence of Justice and the Angel is defined as a necessity, the first to avoid deception even in things almost impossible to do without fraud, and the second as the beatitude reserved for those who have lived in suffering. Concerning the Tower, here called "Mansion of Pluto", the author's interpretation underlines what I have expressed about this Trump (please read the essay concerned), where the God of Hell "drags to the accursed house everyone who lacks the prudence, the temperance and the strength portrayed on the cards". Of interest also is the evaluation of the Popess, from which results an unequivocal relation with Popess Joan. Aretino actually writes that she "is there for the shrewdness of those who defraud our being with falsehoods that falsify us". Even if nowadays we give to the Popess card the meaning of Christian faith, referring to the Mystical Staircase that the whole 22 Trumps signify, it is evident how much the myth of Popess Joan was present in the collective imagination of the Renaissance. Using tarots, Aretino also composed a famous satire (reported below under the entry “The satires”) and cited the tarot in the work La Talanta.


La Talanta, a comedy in five acts inspired to Terence  (Eunuchus) and Plautus (Miles gloriosus and Menaechmi), was commissioned to Aretino by the Venetian Company of the Sempiterni and was presented in Venice in 1542 with set design by Vasari. The plot takes place in Rome and tells the story of a modern Taide, Talanta, courted by four men of different ages and social conditions: the young Orfinio, the old Messer Vergolo (from Venice), and the elder Tinca (from Naples) and Armileo (from Rome). This last pretends to love her by frequenting her house,  where the slave Stellina also lives, the young girl whom he is really in love with. After kidnappings, escapes, imprisonments, disguises and a finale of sudden revelations (9), Talanta will give her love freely to Orfinio. 

I give the beginning of Act III Scene XII, where the following occurs between the parasite Branca and Captain Tinca.

Here are the original lines, followed by a translation.


Tinca: A. ferirmi tu ? volsi dire, afferrimi tu ?
Branca. Mi vi pare avere.
Tinca: Io le ne ho donata prima, perch'io l'amo, e poi per tormi dinanzi il pericolo de l'avermi a condurre in duello con non so chi Armileo, che la civettava d'ogni ora.
Branca: Me ne ero accorto, per essermene avvisto.
Tinca: Be, il dono le ha cavato l' anima eh ?
Branca: Non, si potrebbe dire.
Tinca: Quei poveracci, che denno portar le altre cose, rinnegavano ah ?
Branca:  Pensatel voi
Tinca: Rodevano i catenacci dentro in casa, o pur di fuori?
Branca: Da ogni banda.
Tinca: Che grafie rendette ella a coloro, che le mandarono i presenti?
Branca: Quelle, che renderebbe il Tevere a chi gettasse dentro un tesoro .
Tinca: Magnificando solamente la mia magnifica magnificenzia eh?
Branca: Padre sì.
Tinca. Toccossi punto de le mie prove?
Branca:  Non ve ne ragguaglio, per non parere adulatore .
Tinca: Le pajon grandi, n'è vero?
Branca. Grandissimi.
Tinca:  Adunque ella mi tiene per uno Ettor Trojano ?
Branca: Più ancora.
Tinca. Stimandomi fortemente ?
Branca: Ben sapete .
Tinca: Me ne congratulo.
Branca: Avete ben ragione di farlo.
Tinca: Di donde si cominciò il ragionamento?
Branca: Da l' organo de la voce; e dice, che bisogna che le orecchie, che l' ascoltano, abbino un buon nerbo.
Tinca:. Sua Maestà la commendò quasi in simil senso .
Branca. Per vostra fe .
Tinca: Dicendo, che ella rimbombava ne' petti, come i tuoni ne l' aria.
Branca: Sua Altézza vorria sentirvi fare un proemio a l’ esercito .
Tinca: Ella diventarebbe una Marfisa, udendo ciò, perocchè la mia eloquenza metterìa cuore a' tarocchi.
Branca: Bella similitudine!


(Tinca. Did you hurt me -- I mean, understand me?
Branca. It seems to me that I did.
Tinca. I gave it to her, firstly, because I love her, but also so to avoid the danger of having a duel with somebody named Armileo, who was flirting with her at all hours.
Branca. I was aware of it, being in its sight.
Tinca. Well, the gift captured her soul, eh?
Branca. No, if I could say it.
Tinca. And those poor creatures who brought the other things, they were denied?
Branca. You may think so.
Tinca. And did they gnash their teeth inside the house, or only outside?
Branca. In every group.
Tinca. And what did she answer to those who sent her presents?
Branca. The sort that the Tiber would give, to one who might throw in a treasure.
Tinca. Only glorifying my own magnificent magnificence, eh?
Branca. Holy Father, yes.
Tinca. Were the points of my exploits touched upon?
Branca. I am not going to list them, so as not to appear a flatterer.
Tinca. Great hymns of praise, isn't it so?
Branca. The greatest.
Tinca. So she holds me as a Hector of Troy?
Branca. Still more.
Tinca. Esteeming me strongly?
Branca. You know well.
Tinca. I congratulate myself.
Branca. You have good reason to.
Tinca. Where did the presentation begin?
Branca. With the organ of your voice. She said that to listen, the ears needed to be coupled with a backbone [i.e. courage].
Tinca. His Majesty has commended it in much the same way.
Branca. For your "fa".
Tinca. Saying that it resounded in the chest like the thunder in the air.
Branca. His Highness would feel like making you the introduction to an [army] exercise.
Tinca. She would become a Marfisa [warrior-queen in Orlando Furioso, who falls in love with Ruggiero], hearing me, because my eloquence would move the hearts of tarocchi.
Branca. A beautiful simile.)


Tinca's last speech affirms him to have so persuasive an eloquence as to be able to touch and soften even tarots: “since my eloquence could move the hearts of tarots ”. Here, we must understand the word Tarots with the meaning of "Knaves", but also of crazy, stupid, idiotic people, who do not know feelings. To understand the existing relationship between these categories of persons and the name assigned to Tarot cards, see the essays About the etymology of Tarot and Taroch - 1494.

The macaronic Merlin Cocai


The unquestioned master of the so-called macaronic literary genre was Teofilo Folengo of Mantua. Under the pseudonym of Merlin Cocai, he wrote, in his work Caos del Tri per uno, ovvero dialogo delle Tre etadi (Chaos of Three for one, or dialogue of the three  ages) (10), one of the very first proofs of the divinatory use of triumphs. Triperuno (Threeforone) tells his friend Limerno that he  had been brought the day before by four people to a room “where, as they found the triumph playing cards, they divided them casually and, to me, each of them told  of the triumphs they had, praying me to write a sonnet upon those cards”. The four divinations in verse are followed by a fifth sonnet, always centred on tarot. The sonnet that Triperuno composed for Giuberto,  on the basis of the cards he drew--Justice, the Angel, the Devil, the Fire and Love--explained: the fire of love, even if it apparently is an angel, actually it is a devil, so if there is malice there cannot be justice.


    Giustitia.   Angiolo.   Diavolo.  

              Foco.    Amore.


QUando 'l Foco d'Amor, che m'arde ogn’hora,

    Penso e ripenso, fra me stesso i dico,

    Angiol di Dio non è, ma lo Nemico,

    Che la Giustizia spinse del ciel fora.

Et è pur chi qual Angiolo l'adora,

    Chiamando le sue fiamme dolce intrico,

    Ma nego ciò, ché di Giustizia amico

    Non mai fu, ch’in Demonio s'innamora.

Amor di donna è Ardor d'un spirto nero,                   Dux malorum fæmina,

   Lo cui viso se 'n gli occhi un Angiol pare,                et  scelerum artifex. Sen. [Seneca]

   Non t'ingannar, ch'è fraude e non Giustitia.

Giustitia esser non puote, ove malitia

   Rispose de sue Faci il crudo Arciero,

   Per cui Satan Angiol di luce appare.


When I consider and consider again the fire of Love
that always burns me, I say to myself:
This is not an Angel of God, but the enemy
that Justice drove out of heaven.
And some still adore him as an Angel,
calling his flames a “sweet tangle”.
I deny this: one who falls in love with the Devil
never was a friend to Justice.
The love of a woman is the ardour of a black spirit,
whose face appears in his eyes to be an Angel,
but do not be deceived: it is a fraud, not Justice.
There can be no Justice, where the cruel
archer has maliciously placed his flames,
so that Satan looks like an Angel of light.

In the fifth sonnet are listed, even if in casual order, all  22 Triumphs:


Amor, sotto 'l cui Impero molte imprese

   Van senza Tempo sciolte da Fortuna,

   Vide Morte su’l Carro orrenda e bruna

   Volger fra quanta gente al mondo prese.

Per qual Giustizia (disse) à te si rese

   Né Papa mai, né s' e, Papessa alcuna?

   Rispose, chi col Sol fece la Luna

   Tolse contra mie Forze lor diffese.

Siocco, qual sei è quel Foco (disse amore)

  Ch'hor Angiol’ hor Demonio apparo, come

  Temprar sanno si altrui sotto mia Stella.                             Venere

Tu Imperatrice a i corpi sei, ma un cuore

  Benche Sospendi, non uccidi, è un nome

  Sol d'alta Fama tienti un Bagattella.


Love, under whose empire many deeds
go, lacking time, dissipating fortune
saw ugly and dark death on a chariot,
weaving among the many people taken in the world.
It [Death] said: by what justice, to you was rendered
neither pope nor, if there be one, popess?
The answer [of Love]: He who with the sun made the moon
defended them from my strength.
What a fool you are, continued Love, my fire,
that can appear as an angel or as a devil,
can be tempered by those who live under my star.
You are empress of bodies, but although you
can hang a heart, you can't kill it, and a name
Of high fame remains a small Magician .


The Satires


A further literary aspect centred on tarots was that of the satire. Among the papers collected by Giovio is an anonymous Gioco di tarocchi fatto in Conclavi (Game of Tarot done in the Conclaves) (11) (figure 5 - figure 6), while Aretino composed the Pasquinata per l’elezione di Adriano VI  (Lampoon for the election of Adrian VI) (12), which appeared in Rome in 1521 (figure 7 - figure 8). The Conclave was opened on December 27th 1521 and closed on January 9th 1522, with the election as pope of Adrian Dedel (Adrian VI). Since no one of the Cardinals seemed to obtain the majority necessary for the election, Aretino wrote that the decision was to make each of them pick up a tarot card and the one who drew the card of that name would be Pope. Among the 39 cardenals who attended the conclave, Aretino selected 22 among them who had more hopes of being elected.  Despite distributing all the cards, that of the Pope was not to be found. The clear aim of the satire was to affirm that none of the cardinals deserved to sit on the throne of Saint Peter. Aretino ended his work by writing that the cardinals, seeing the lack of the Pope card among the cards distributed, decided to go and search for it; and so the story ends: “While everyone tried, / Mantua, Siena, Farnese going for a walk / found a card, but it was an ace” [asso].

Venti duo cardinal senza romore
giucavano a tarocchi in la lor cella;
fe' Medici e mischiò, poi diè la stella
a Farnese, ad Egidio il traditore;
a Santa Croce diè lo 'mperadore,
Vico ebbe il sol, Grimano il bagatella
Grassi l'imperatrice e poi la bella
papessa Como, Mantova l'amore.
Ancona il mondo e l'angelo l'Orsino,
il matto Siena e Monte ebbe la luna,
la iustizia Colonna, el Soderino
il diavol, Flisco ruota di fortuna
Punzetta il vecchio, il carro l'Armellino,
la casa il frate in vesta bianca e bruna,
san Francesco n'ebbe una,
ciò fu tempranzia e Jacobacci morte,
Santi Quattro fortezza e stavan forte.
In questo furon scorte
le carte e restò Medici una crapa,
quando s'avvide ch'era fatto papa.
Onde smorto qual rapa,
disse: "Il papa mi tocca e non lo tegno."
Rispose il Soderin: "Non ne se' degno."
Mossonsi tutti a sdegno,
e tra lor ferno questa legge nuova,
che papa sia quello che lo ritrova.
Mentre ciascun si prova,
Mantoa, Siena, Farnese andando a spasso,
una carta trovorno, ma fu un asso


Twenty-two cardinals making no noise
Were playing tarot in their cellar;
Cardinal Medici took the deck and shuffled it, then gave the star
To Farnese, the traitor to Egidio;
To Santa Croce gave the emperor,
Vico had the sun, Grimano the magician,
Grassi the empress and Como the beautiful
Popess, Mantua had love.
Ancona had the world and Orsino the angel,
Siena the fool and Monte had the moon,
Colonna had Justice, Soderino
The devil, Flisco the wheel of fortune,
Punzetta had the old man, Arnellino the chariot,
The monk in white and black vestments, the house,
Sanfrancesco had  Temperance, and Jacobacci death,
Santi Quattro had Fortitude and stood strong.
At this point the cards were all shown
And Medici was left with nothing [crapa].
When he realized he would have got the pope [papa]
Then, pale as a turnip, [rapa]
He said: “The Pope falls to me and I don't have it”.
Soderin answered “You don't deserve it”.
Everyone was outraged
And they created this new law,
That whoever finds the card will be pope.
While everyone tries,
Mantua, Siena, Farnese going for a walk,
found a card, but it was an ace. [asso]


Satiric Ariosto

While we have dedicated a specific essay to his comedy La Cassaria  (13), now it is necessary to talk about the satiric side of Ariosto. His Satires were composed in tercets between 1517 and 1525 


The model for the style of life,  unusual at that time, is the great Latin poet Horace; and the literary style becomes more elevated in the autobiographic passages. where the expression and language are even more incisive, indignant and resentful. According to Cesare Segre, the most authoritative scholar of the Satires, the scope is so broad as to constitute a “representation” conforming to a reality of good and evil, for example one referring to the political and administrative corruption of those times. Satire VII, developed in Garfagnana, had been addressed to Bonaventura Pistofilo, secretary to Duke Alfonso I d'Este  In it Ariosto explains his refusal to become ambassador to Pope Clemente VII, expressing at the same time all his desire to live serenely in his beloved Ferrara. In verses 46-54 the writer offers us an extraordinary description of the Wheel of Fortune,  in every respect similar to the representation of that name in the Visconti Tarot, where the character who sits on the top of the Wheel is shown with donkey ears, that come out also from the ascending figure. 


Quella ruota dipinta mi sgomenta                                                       46
ch'ogni mastro di carte a un modo finge:
tanta concordia non credo io che menta.

Quel che le siede in cima si dipinge
uno asinello: ognun lo enigma intende,                                              50
senza che chiami a interpretarlo Sfinge.

Vi si vede anco che ciascun che ascende
comincia a inasinir le prime membre,
e resta umano quel che a dietro pende.                                               54 


That pictured wheel, I own, annoys me sorely,                                46
Which every master paints in the same way,
And such agreement I believe is not a lie,

When that which sits aloft they make an ass.
Now everyone may understand this riddle,                                       50
Without the sphinx to interpret;

For, mark well, each, as he climbs,                                                       
begins to Assify his upper members,
Those below remaining human still.                                                    54

Two literary men from Ferrara


Two precious documents of the XVI  century are about the tarot game in Ferrara. They deal with poetic writings composed by a famous literary man of that time, Flavio Alberto Lollio, and a friend of his, Vincenzo Imperiali. Both texts are in the same manuscript (ms. 257, cc. 30) in the Ariosto ibrary in Ferrara. The first is L'Invettiva contra il gioco dei Tarocchi (The Invective against the game of Tarot) by Lollio; the second is the Risposta all’Invettiva (Answer to the Invective) by Imperiali. In the first, Lollio describes in a playful way an unlucky hand in a tarot game of three players, in which he lost much money. So he curses the game in dazzling tones, showing off his erudition. In the second work, his friend Imperiali reinterprets that unlucky hand  in order to praise the game of tarot and to accuse Lollio of avarice. Lollio, a translator of Latin who supported Tuscan in the age-old quarrel about the language, was an orator, philanthropist and patron; Guarini called him “an excellent philosopher, full of fame, who composed various works well regarded for their doctrine, in particular a very celebrated Oration about his villa".  We here record from Lollio's text the passage in which, condemning the game of tarot, he shows his great literary ability:


Onde mal grado tuo, spogliar ti senti
Del buon c’havevi: et sembri la cornacchia,
che restò spennacchiata infra gli uccelli.
Alhora se tu fossi uno Aristide,
un Socrate, un Zenone, un Giobbe un sasso,
Tu sprezzaresti il fren della patienza,
Stracciaresti i Tarocchi in mille pezzi,
Maladicendo il primo che ti pose
Mai carte in mano, e t’insegnò a giocare.
Dove lasso quel numerar noioso
D’ogni Trionfo, ch’esca fuori? o quanto
Fastidio hai tu di questo, che non puoi
Pur ragionar pur dire una parola:
Anzi servar convien maggior silentio
Che non si fà alla Predica, o la Messa

Because of your bad luck, you feel yourself deprived of the good you had, and you seem to be the crow who, among all the other birds, had no feathers. Now even if you were an Aristides, a Socrates,  a Zeno, a Job, you would break the restraints that make you impatient, tearing the tarot cards into pieces, cursing the first person who put them into your hands and taught you to play. Where could that annoying enumeration of Triumphs have been permitted to be made?  Or, how much does this thing disturb you, since you cannot reason or say a word? Better to keep a greater silence than we keep during the Sermon or the Mass.


The Comedies of M. Gianmaria Cecchi, Florentine


The notary and comedic writer Giovanni Maria Cecchi (Florence, 1518-1587), was very close to the Medici Family, for whom he performed many public duties. As great lover of the Tuscan language he wrote many works useful for understanding the Florentine language of that time: a compilation of poems, a Sommario de’ magistrati di Firenze (Summary of the Florentine magistrates) (1562) and Per una storia istituzionale dello Stato fiorentino (For an institutional history of the Florentine State). Nevertheless, his fame is connected to the production of about fifty comedies, scenic intermezzi, dramas and spiritual farces. The twenty one comedies were written on Latin models, but with special care towards the contemporary world, so they became truly important documents about domestic and social life of that time. He also wrote original comedies such as L’Assiuolo (The Scops) and Il Diamante (The Diamond).


The comedy Il Corredo (The Trousseau), published in Venice in 1585 (by Bernardo Giunti), is of geat interest, above all for the knowledge about women's garments and costumes of the XVI century. The action, which obviously takes place in Florence, concerns the retrieving of a nuptial trousseau, among misunderstandings, contentions among the protagonists, etc. The drama is inspired by the ancients, as the author writes in the preamble “The Comedy is in Florence, & the stage shows this to you. The situation is new, but it already happened in part in Greece”.  In the sixth scene of Act Three, on the occasion of a dialogue between a bold-talking Hercules and his admirer Pecchia, the author puts in Hercules’ mouth an expression by which the bold talker wants to underline his own importance: “I was among them (as it is said) the Fooe [Matto] of theTarot”, which had become a typical idiom in the Renaissance, as the phrase “as it is said” put in parentheses suggests. From this phrase it is evident that at that time the Fool was the most important card, as was this Hercules for women, and as salt in banquets. 

Let’s read how Hercules justifies this affirmation:

Her. To tell the truth (above all with women), I have grace. I remember that in France
I really couldn’t get free from those fat Mon Ami (My love, meaning women),  and I say that sincerely as a captain, and sometimes my face was kissed so much it was worn out;  and in Spain, my hands. But hell, those Spanish women, when they kissed my hands, they sucked my rings as Gypsies do (it seems they wanted to take them away).
Pec. I’m not surprised; even men in this nation kiss the hands, and leave juice on them.
Her. And in Naples? What did those gentlewomendo to me? And those Princesses? If they are really noblewomen, it is better not to tell. I was among them (as it is said) the Fool in  the Tarot (the most desired), like salt in food and during banquets.
Pec.  Oh. I heard that making love is really great there
Her. I will tell you.

The expression that is the subject of the preceding example had a long life, since was still used at the end of the XVIII century. It was quoted, for example, in one of the Lettere Famigliari (Familiar Letters) of the literary figure Giuseppe Baretti (published in London, 1779) and in a subsequent publication in Milan, 1822, in the volume Scritti scelti, inediti o rari di Giuseppe Baretti con nuove memorie della sua vita (Selected writings, unpublished or rare, by Giuseppe Baretti, with new memories of his life). This work has the title Descriptive Letters; letter I concerning the Description of London.

Here are some reflections on Westminster Abbey by the author:

Westminster Cathedral, which is to say the Abbey, has a considerable magnitude if not compared to our Cathedral in Milan, which wins double, whether you want it in measurement, or marble, or ornamentation. The Abbey is in Gothic style and majestically dark, in a different style than our Cathedral. I don’t know who the architect was. In it there are many cadavers of kings, writers, warriors, and singular artisans famous in their lifetime. The majority of the great English poets have their bones here. or a statue or bust, or at least a stone. Among them, as the fool  [matto] of the tarot, is Saint-Evremond (14), a Frenchman, of few furnishings (15), as little in philosophy as in poetry. An English friend of his buried him in the church, paying much money. I have to say that the honour of being buried or burying someone else in that famous Abbey is to be paid for in cash" (16).

 Giovan Battista Marino  

Giovan Battista Marino was born in Naples on October 14th 1569 and died in the same city on March 26th 1625. Considered one of the most important representatives of baroque Italian poetry, he created his own style, then called Marinismo. His works, exasperating the artifices of Mannerism, were centred upon an intensive use of metaphors, antitheses, and all the games of phonic correspondences, starting from Para-etymologic ones, exhibiting descriptions using verse with  soft musicality. In the XVIII and XIX centuries Marino's fortunes fell: his works started to be considered as both source and symbol of baroque bad taste. His work was reappraised during the XX century (he was very esteemed by Benedetto Croce), after the rebirth of interest in analogical procedures in poetry. Between 1602 and 1614 he wrote more than nine hundred poems, above all sonnets, collected under the title  La Lira (The Lyre). In one of these the author attrubutes the phrase "Fool of Tarots" to one of his acquaintances, not certain of his being wanted:

Murtola, tu ti stilli, e ti lambicchi
Quel cervellaccio da giocar a scacchi,
E da far oriuoli ed almanacchi,
E ti sprucchi collepoli e rincricchi;
Ma, mentre in tutti i buchi il naso ficchi,
E con tuoi versi tutto il mondo stracchi,
Ogni un t’appende dietro i tricchi tracchi,
E ti manda alla forca, che t’appicchi.
O grand’ archimandrita degli allocchi
O supremo arcifanfano de’ cucchi,
O burbucione, o matto da' Tarocchi
E non t’accorgi omai, che tu ci hai secchi?
Vattene ad abitar tra’mammalucchi,
O farai meglio a conversar co i becchi.

Murtola (Gasparo Murtola, of Genoa, secretary of Carlo Emanuele, Duke of Savoy), you rack your brain / that crazy wit in playing chess,/ and making watches and almanacs / and you are unburdened and carefree; / but while you put your nose in every hole, / and torment everybody with your verses, / everyone hangs behind you in tick-tack [=  click-clack,  = tsk-tsk, but also a table game] (17) / and sends you to the gallows so that you are hanged. / Oh great chief of fools, / oh supreme archcoxcombe of cuckoos / oh boaster, oh fool of the Tarot, / you don’t realize that now you have really bored us? / If you do not go to live among stupid people, / you’d better chat with cuckolds.


Tassoni’s The Stolen Pail

Poet and essayist, Alessandro Tassoni (1565-1635) wrote his most famous composition, La Secchia Rapita (The Stolen Pail), in 1614. The work in octaves was published in Paris just six years later. To get around the controls and censorship of the Congregation of the Index of Forbidden Books, in 1624 the author wrote a particular version for the Pope. The definitive one was published in Venice in 1630.

The poet took his inspiration from something that really happened in 1325, that he stuffed with fantastic events and anachronisms: the Bolognese, who invaded Modena’s territory, got thrown out and pursued to Bologna by the Modenese who, after stopping at a well to drink,  took away a wooden pail as a war trophy. Tassoni imagines that after the refusal of the Modenese to give back the pail, the Bolognese declare war on the Modense. The conflict concludes with the intervention of the Papal Legate., who imposes the following condition: the Bolognese would hold King Enzo as a prisoner and the Modenese would keep the pail. The really famous verses are those in which the Pope in Canto XII answers the questions of the Bolognese about the lack of money to provide for war expenses against the enemy city:

Octave I, verses 1-4

Le cose de la guerra andavan zoppe:
I Bolognesi richiedean Danari
Al Papa; ed egli rispondeva coppe,
E mandava indulgenze per gli altari.

The war events limped
The Bolognese asked the Pope
For coins [denari];  and he answered cups
And sent indulgences for the altars (18).


The expression “he answered cups” is connected to the locution “to give the two of spades” and also “give the two of cups” (in Italian), in a figurative sense, meaning to deny or refuse something firmly. Card players know that the two of spades is the card with the least value in the deck, but is enough sometimes to lose the game and therefore to cast the adversary out. Metaphorically the one who gives the two of spades, or the two of cups, or answers spades or cups, lets other people understand that his intentions are not favourable to  the one who’s asking (19).

In the XIII, XIV and XV Octave of Chant XII Tassoni tells how the Papal Legate, waiting to meet a Nuncio who had to give him some papal information, stopped with his escort in the Solera fields to eat some food. After lunch cards and table were prepared, so nobles and cardinals who accompanied the Legate started playing Tarot and Sbaraglino. This passage represents one of the moments viewed with suspicion by the Congregation of the Forbidden Books Index: since the game of Tarots was considered as a gambling game [gioco d'azzardo] at that time, and in particular forbidden to churchmen, the fact that Tassoni made many Cardinals play, and the Legate as well, who even pulls out of his pockets “a handful of  baiocchi (coins)” with the clear purpose of paying  his adversaries if he lost, could not be accepted.



E ‘l Papa già co’ Genovesi havea
D’un mezzo million fatto partito,
Talché sicuramente egli potea
Ragunar soldatesca a suo appetito;
Ma il trascorrer qua, e là ch’egli facea
Il trasse fuor del camin dritto, e trito,
Fin che con lunga, & onorata schiera
Egli arrivò ne' prati di Solera.



And thanks to Genoa the Pope had
Accumulated half a million,
So with no problems the Legate could
Gather as many soldiers as he wished
But going around as he did
Took him away from the right and proper path,
Till with long and honoured crowd
He came to the Solera fields.



Quivi stanco dal caldo, e fastidito
Fermossi a l'ombra e d'aspettar dispose
Il Nŭzio, a cui già un messo havea spedito
Per intender da lui diverse cose:
In tanto i servi suoi sù'l verde lito
Vivande apparecchiar laute, e gustose, 
Ed egli in fretta trattisi gli sproni,
Mangiò per compagnia cento bocconi


Here tired by the hot weather, and bored,
He stopped in the shade and ordered them to await
The Nuncio, to whom he had already sent a messenger
To understand from him many things:
In the meanwhile his messengers on the green grass
Had prepared lavish and delightful food,
And he fast took his spurs away,
Then ate not to leave alone hundred bites.


Mangiato ch’hebbe stè fuora pensiero
Rompendo certi stecchi di finocchi;
Indi venner le carte, e’ tavoliero,
E trasse una manciata di baiocchi,
E Pietro Bardi e Monsignor del Nero
Si misero a giuocar seco a tarrochi,
E il Conte d’Elci, e Monsignor Bandino
Giuocarono in disparte a sbaraglino



After eating he relaxed without thinking
Breaking some fennel twig to eat;
Then cards and table were brought
And he pulled out of his pocket some money
Pietro Baldi and Monsignor Del Nero
Begun playing at tarot,
And Count d’Elci and Monsignor Bandino
Played Sbaraglino separately.


In the letters of Tassoni, documented between 1591 and 1634, we find references to the Tarot, or better, ‘Tarrocchi’, as he wrote. Certainly he had a strong passion for the game, so strong as to ask for a couple of decks from the canon Annibale Sassi, a prominent cleric whom he knew had been transferred to Rome in the service of Cardinal Ludovisi: "È venuto a Roma il Signor Priore Bendidio e abbiamo fatta commemorazione lunga di V.S.  e la stiamo aspettando con desiderio grande e la preghiamo di portarci un paio di tarrocchi da far carnevale, o se non saranno a tempo, da giocare dopo Pasqua" (Sr. Priore Bendidio has came to Rome and we have made a long commemoration of Your Lordship, and we are waiting for you with great desire, and please bring a couple of tarrocchi packs for carnival, or if it here will not be time, to play after Easter).

In the same letter Tassoni asks the canon to search for information about a certain Modenese Count that he thought had committed wrongs against one of his knight friends. From this request and from another consideration expressed in another letter, we understand that Tassoni had not a high consideration of his fellow citizens: "Qui ci sarebbe necessità per interessi urgenti d'un cavalier mio signore di sapere se costi in Modana il conte di Culagna o suo padre hanno mai fatta alcuna falsità, della quale si potesse cavar fede autentica e si darebbe una grossa mancia a chi ne desse luce. Your Lordship. di grazia ne parli con gli amici, che mi pare impossibile che avendo essi fatte tant' altre indignità, non abbiano ancor fatta questa. N' è stato scritto anche al Sig.r cavalier Testi. V.S. gliene parli, che intanto all'uno e l’altro bacio le mani. Dì Roma, li 4 dell'anno 1625" (There is the urgent interest of a knight, my lord, to  know if Count Culagna or his father has ever done anything false, which could tear out authentic faith, and a large gratuity would be given to any who brought it to light. Your Lordship, please  talk with your friends, for it seems to me impossible that having done so many other indignities, that they have not done this one. It has also been written to Signor knight Testi. Your Lordship talks to them, and in the meantime I kiss his hands. From Rome, the 4th of the year 1625) (20).

A similar request for a Tarot deck is advanced by the same canon in 1627, two years after the first letter: "Alla fine l'oracolo d'Apollo è uscito e Nostro Signore ha dato il Vescovato al Sig.r conte Alessandro Rangoni a instaza del Sig.r Duca Conti parente suo. Però io me ne rallegro con cotesto clero, che non poteva per mio credere esser proveduto di pastore più a gusto suo; perciò che non sarà né avaro né bacchettone. Noi l'abbiamo invitato a giocare a tarrocchi, subito eh' egli sia in Roma; ma non abbiamo i tarrocchi, però se V. S. trova occasione di grazia ce ne mandi un paio. Di Roma, li 3 di Novembre 1627" (In the end the oracle of Apollo has come out and the Lord has given the bishopric to Signor Count Alessandro Rangoni at the request of the Signor Duke Conti his relative. However, I am very pleased with this clergy, who  now  in my opinion could not be guided by anyone more to their liking; therefore who will be neither miserly nor bigoted. We have invited him to play tarrocchi as soon as he comes to Rome, but we do not have tarrocchi cards. If Your Lordship, finds the time, please send two pack. Rome November 3, 1627) (21). 

Canon Sassi sent the tarot cards, but Tassoni was forced to refuse the shipping costs and to give them up, because of the excessive cost of the heavy papal taxes. The bitterness of not being able to take them pushed him to say that those who got them would have not been able to play with them like he would, and he complained that there were at the time none of  his countrymen who could help in that situation (when you need them they are never there): "Sono venuti i tarrocchi; ma gli hanno pesati con le lettere e tassati sei pauli; io non gli ho voluti e gli ho fatto sapere che non sono lettere. Staremo a vedere che faranno. Quando vogliano piú d’un testone, vo che se ne servano essi a iocare e mi consolo che non gli sapranno adoperare, come gli veggano; né meno ci sono qui modanesi, che gli siano per riscuotere a quel prezzo. Di Roma, li 20 dì Novembre 1627" (The Tarrocchi arrived, but they weighed them together with the letters and taxed them six pauli: I did not take them, and I  told them that they were not letters. We will see what they do. If they want more than 1 testone (one paulo), I want that when they see them, they play the game, and I take consolation in  knowing that they will not know how to do it; nor are there here any Modenese to take them at that price. Rome 20 day of November 1627) (22).


Tasso and the Tarot


For the occasion of research that aims to particularize the word Tarot in great Renaissance literary texts, after La Cassaria by Ariosto we come to the Dialogues of Tasso. Two of these are very important, both because the author cites the tarot, and also for understanding his feelings towards the game, fortune, love and other matters that he delineates with almost philosophical characteristics (An extensive discusion of this work is in an essay in Italian).                


Tasso was a great player and lover of tarot, so much so that he considered the game as an art: we are informed in one of his letters, of September 16th 1575, sent to “The very Magnificent Mr. Luca Scalabrino” in Rome. Writing about theatrical machines and other wonders, he concludes his letter in this way: “So this admirable and wonderful [thing] suits every part of the epic poem, in which, however, that which treats of errors is necessary, on which I will write another time, since now I’m tired and I want to play tarot, an art in which for me is more success than the poetic one” (23).


Tasso wrote the two dialogues about the game with one year between them: Il Romeo, o‘ vero del Giuoco (The Romeo, or about the game), composed during his first year of imprisonment, appeared in the Parte prima delle Rime del signor Torquato Tasso, insieme con altri componimenti del medesimo (First part of the Rhymes of Signor Torquato Tasso, together with other compositions by of the same)(Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1580) while Il Gonzaga Secondo, o ‘ vero del Giuoco, dialogo del signor Torquato Tasso (The Second Gonzaga, or the Game, dialogue of Signor Torquato Tasso) was published separately in 1582 (Venice, Bernardo Giunti and brothers).

This second one, which is configured as a correction (it could be defined in this way) of the Romeo, was written by Tasso in Saint Anna Hospital in Ferrara in 1581,  that is to say, one year after writing the Romeo, and it then was printed the next year. To these two dialogues we have dedicated a specific essay in the Italian version of the web site. For this English version we report the Matter of the Romeo and the passages in which  the word “tarot” appears, and also the “Tarochi” version, which clearly show the attraction of Tasso for this game.

Matter of the Romeo, or about the Game


At Carnival 1579 Count Annibale Romei, Ferrara Cavalier, and lover of every kind of game, but very acculturated and full of style, talked very much about the game, in the presence of Margherita Gonzaga, recently married to Alfonso II Este, and of the two princesses of Ferrara, Lucrezia and Eleonora. So the author pretends that Annibale Pocaterra, a young man studying philosophy, who had listened to that reasoning, finding himself in  conversation with lady Margherita Bentivogli, talks to her of the games and to the degree that she asks, he explains the basic points of the discourse he heard. This is The Romeo, the summary of that conversation. It deals first with the pleasure obtaining from one game or another. And it deals also with chess, of its origin, and the study it requires: passing then to examine the word "Game", it can be seen that it has a double meaning, and it means not just victory and winning money or something strictly connected to money, but also the imitation of real things such as tournaments, assaults, and so on. Leaving aside this second way of games, we define the first, saying that it is a ingenious fight for fortune among two or more people, done for pleasure or entertainment of the soul, in which the last thing is money or measured by money. This definition is explained by showing how the player has to be honoured and has to be allowed to know clearly, in this kind of game, the role played by fortune and that played by ingenuity. Finally we talk about that mix of hope and fear that the player feels; and the conversation ends with some considerations about the sweetness of winning (24)

The Romeo, or about the Game
Speakers: Annibale Pocaterra and Margherita Bentivoglia

M. B.
Don’t you play?
A. P. I’m more able to turn Socratic cards then these ones: sometimes I do play primero; but I like some others. And in this company since there was no place for me to play primero I preferred looking instead for a pleasant and challenging game of Trappolla or Sbaraglino with someone.
M. B. You would have found company for Tarot.
A. P. I would not refuse to play such a game.
M. B. Let’s set aside this second way, since it is proper to theatres, and talk about the other, much used at home; sometimes in public, and it seems to me that it is an imitation of the first. So not only chess represents war, but also the ball [pallo] or tarot  [tarochi] and many other games of this kind,  of which some seem to be a kind of imitation. We women make some other little games in our private rooms, and according to me the first are different from the second.

Tarot and Commedia dell’Arte


Vincenzo Belando, almost certainly Sicilian, wrote two works. The first is Lettere facete e chiribizzose in lengua antiga, venitiana, et una a la gratiana, con alcuni sonetti e canzoni piasevoli venitiani e toscani e, nel fin trenta villanelle a diversi signori e donne lucchesi et altri (Funny and nifty letters in ancient Venetian language and one in Graziano style, with some sonnets and pleasant Venetian and Tuscan songs and, at the end, thirty villanelles to various gentlemen and ladies from Lucca and others), published in Paris in 1588. The second is the comedy Gli Amorosi Inganni (The Amorous Deceptions), which he started in 1593 and finished and published in Paris in 1609. Belando was a writer and actor (maybe also a gourmet, an activity  from which he started to earn money, considering the typical economical difficulties of actors of that time). He belongs to the heterogeneous category of court emigrants who exported culture, services and jobs from the Italian courts to the French ones.


When he went to Paris, he then lived there permanently taking acting roles as lonely buffoons or as pedants, engaged externally by theatrical companies passing through.                                            

                                                                                       Italian and French Comedians

Published when its author was already old, The Amorous Deceptions is presented as a testamentary work. The name Catonzo, who in the work is a Sicilian servant emigrated to Paris, is an evident autobiographical projection of the author, degraded, of course: the name Cataldo, which alludes to the job of castaldo, therefore butler, with a comical deformation becomes Catonzo.

With this comedy, one of the many published by actors (in this case by one who “never went to school, and hardly knows the syllables”, as Belando writes to the “good reader” in the introduction), the author intended to arouse laughter and certainly not to give proof of academic or prose-writing ability, prerogatives that did not belong to him: “if you laugh about my foolishness, don’t do it with open mouth, but in the way girls do when someone tells them they are going to get married, which is to say with a cachino smile” (25). 


There are many dialects used in the best way, so as to be understandable, used in the comedy by as many characters: “If she does not speak Florentine, she speaks half Tuscan; if Zanni does not speak  bergamasco completely, he will speak half Lombard, no more comprehensible; the Magnificent will speak in the ancient Venetian language, and not in the modern way of Venice; the Spanish will speak Castilian as much as  he can; the Sicilian, in my original language, will explain his concepts in the most understandable way, even if I have been away from my native land for forty-four years” (26).

The structure of the comedy underlines the primitive level of the Commedia dell’Arte, regarding the plot and the distribution of roles. There are two relationships with a partner exchange (Cinzia and Camilla, The Captain and Dorotea); a Magnificent who teams up with Zanne (instead of another old man); another zanni (Catonzo) and a young serve. The locales shift from Sicily to Naples, then passing through Rome, Genoa, Milan, Marseille, Avignon, Lyon and Saint James of Galicia (the course taken by the author in reaching Paris), while the other culture's locales that Belardo loved so much are strictly Parisian, such as Greva Square and Place Maubert, sites of capital executions and meeting places of wrongdoers, besides the inns such as the “Bue Coronato” and “Poma de Pin”. Everything’s flavoured with scents of Loire wines, Frontignan  Muscat and abundant food meticulously described.

We have prolonged this illustration on the work, because it seems to be made in an extraordinary way and in particular the dialogue, opening with the thirteenth scene of the first Act, between the Magnificent and his servant Zanne. The subject is love – with an involvement of Fortune and Predestination - in which there are writings and thoughts by Petrarch, Burchiello, Virgil and by other  important classical authors. 

Here we report the indicated passage followed by the translation from current Italian:

His is what I desired to tell you, my lord, which is to say that this love has made you vile, you were worthy and now you are idle; from shrewd made awkward, from scholar to ignorant,  from wise to fool, and from a Spanish horse it has made you a horse to accompany mules, since from the moment you fell in love, you just compose, write sonnets and sing in the streets and nothing more, holding in your hand your book of Petrarch [The Triumphs of Love], and you seem the fool of tarot and worse: because it is impossible to eat at your place, the kitchen is cold, the cellar is empty as a cavern, everything is upset, you’d better return to your senses and go to your daughter's, and forget this love, that fits you like a saddle on a donkey….Get hold of  [Sté in] your brain, my lord. 


In this case the expression “fool of tarots” moves away from the meaning connected to the game Cecchi gave to it in his comedy Il Corredo (The Trousseau) (see above), and it assumes a psychological value, that of a character who, overpowered by madness, goes away alone, without taking care of what is happening around him, so much to be recalled to reason with the expression “Get hold of your brain, my lord”.

Not to be the “Nine of the Tarocchi”


Baltasar Gracián y Morales, the celebrated Jesuit writer of the early 17th century, (1601-1658), published his famous work, the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia [Oracle Manual and Art of Prudence] in 1647. Widely translated (27), also in Italy beginning in 1670, this volume was widespread during the Enlightenment, in an era of heated and renewed interests in the philosophical aspects of the essay.



D. Vicenzo Giovanni De Lastanosa reprinted the work of Gracián in 1659 entitled Oraculo Manual Y Arte de Prudencia, Sacada Dé los Aforismos que se discurren en la obras de Lorenço Gracian [Oracle Manual and Art of Prudence, From the aphorisms that occur in the works of Lorenço Gracián] (28). In the Italian translation of the latter work (29), each aphorism was characterized by a specific number and title, lacking both in the original work and in the reprint by De Lastanosa.


Of our interest is aphorism 84, Not to be the Nine of the Taroccp that serves at every point of the game, whose title reprises the subject expressed by Gracián in the corresponding aphorism, “Nor ser malilla” (Not to be malilla). The term “Malilla” is explained in Lorenzo Franciosini’s Vocabolario Espanol, e Italiano [Spanish and Italian Dictionary] (30): “The Malilla is the nine of coins in the game of tarocchi, which serves at every occasion in that game”. He then brings in a Spanish expression deriving from that term, "Servir de malilla, o como malilla" [to serve from malilla, or as malilla], giving the following explanation: "To be of value serving and doing everything, that is, the waiter, the sweeper, the buyer, and the like other services, which in Rome have started to be given all to one person, and this is not as bad as one who finds himself accepting it so as to have that fresh loaf every morning, & wine as God knows it” (31). However, it is necessary to know that since at present the presence of the tarot is not known in seventeenth-century Spain, the relationship "Malilla = Nine of the tarocchi" is exclusively due to Italian interpreters who found the function of that nine suited to underline the meaning of the Spanish word.


In practice, just as the nine of coins turns out to be a card capable of serving any situation in the game, “serving from [da] malilla” means for a person to become the point of reference for all the needs of a gentleman, to serve him to such an extent in everything as to become indispensable. In practice, to assume every task to oneself. Franciosini considers as an unbecoming attitude that some gentlemen assign one, just so they can have a fresh loaf every morning and their favorite type of wine.


To give oneself totally to every need of a gentleman would not be in itself unseemly, if he did not then become his lackey, losing his dignity.


In the following passage, taken from another work by Franciosini, we report an example of how the lords considered and treated these characters: "Este mi criado, Señor D. Iuàn, es como malilla, que ago dello que quiero" (This servant of mine, Señor Don Juan, is like the Nine of the Tarocchi, with whom I do what I want (I make him do whatever I want). (32)


"Vizio è di tutto l’eccellente, che il suo molto uso venga ad esser abuso; l’istesso bramarlo tutti avidamente và à terminare nell’infastidire tutti. Grande ìnfelicità non esser buono per nulla; non minore volere esser nato, fatto per tutto. Questi tali vengono à perdere col molto guadagnare; e dopoi sono tanto abborriti, quanto per lo inanti furono desiderati. Questa proprietà del Nove de Tarrochi s’attacca ad ogni sorte di talenti, che perdendo quella prima stima di rari, acquistansi il disprezzo di dozzinali. L’unico rimedio di tutto, che vivamente spicca frà tutti, egli è conservare un tal mezzo nell’eccesso del suo splendore, che la Eccellenza consista nella finezza del talento, e la Moderazione nell’ostentazione di esso. Quanto più risplende una Torcia, tanto si consuma più, e dura meno. Scarsezze di pompose mostre si ricompensano con usure di lunga, e soda stima" (33).


Translation into English:


“Therefore, being the nine of the Tarocchi becomes a vice, since over time one's proper position is abused. Desiring it ardently, over time it annoys everyone. Doing nothing good is a great unhappiness, but so is accomplishing everything. The great gain received from service is then lost, since if at first these types of servants are desired, over time they become detested. This characteristic of the Nine of the Tarot concerns every type of talent, which by losing the first esteem of being rare, becomes despised as common. The only remedy for this, clearly known to all, is to maintain the proper mean in manifesting one's splendor, since excellence consists in the finesse [subtle use] of talent and moderation in its manifestation. The more a torch shines, the more it is consumed and the less it lasts. When our pompous shows are scarce, they are rewarded with a long and firm respect”.


The Aristotelian Telescope


Abbot Girolamo Tiraboschi writes in this way about Emanuele Tesauro (Second Part – Volume VII) in his Storia della Letteratura Italiana del Cavaliere Abate Girolamo Tiraboschi, Consigliere di S. A.S. Il Signor Duca di Modena, dall’Anno MDC all’ Anno MDCC (History of the Italian Literature of Cavalier Abate Girolamo Tiraboschi, Counsellor of H. S. M. Lord Duke of Modena from the year MDC to the year MDCC) printed in Modena in 1793. “Count Emanuele Tesauro, a noble from Turin and a Knight of the great Cross of the Order of Saints Mauritius and Lazarus, in mid-century wrote many works on various subjects; he published in Turin, 1654, Il Regno d’Italia sotto i Barbari (The Italian Kingdom under the barbarians), a work in which, as in all the others, it is possible to see an author with a lively mind, who could have had an honourable place in the Republic of Letters if he had not been given to the prejudices of his century”.

Tesauro, a literary figure and historiographer, was born in Turin in 1592 and died in the same city in 1675.  He entered the Jesuit Order in 1611. He wrote historical works, among which were the Campeggiamenti  di Fiandre (Campaigns in Flanders) (1646) and the summarial Italian Kingdom under the Barbarians (1654). In the same year he composed the Cannocchiale Aristotelico (The Aristotelian Telescope), the most important essay of baroque rhetoric, in which the author highlights and defines clearly the relationship between the forms privileged by the literati and the innovative tendencies that the transforming world was imposing upon to the mentality of the 1600s. (Extensive discussion of this work in an essay in the Italian version).


The expression "Aristotelian Telescope" is an oxymoron, a rhetorical figure that consists in bringing together two terms in strong antithesis: in this case classical Aristotlelian philosophy and modern science. While the Aristotlelian philosophy – for which everything has its place in a system, and which uses the deductive system (by reference to a general statement the particular is explained) - Galilean science, symbolized by the Telescope, uses the inductive method, which is to say, observing the particular leads to the enunciation of a general theory. In this case the oxymoron had the function of bringing the two divergent aspects nearer, giving an acceptable dress to the methods of reasoning founded upon metaphor, which for the author represents the rhetorical figure par excellence, as capable of connecting distant phenomena through basic analogy.


The complete title is Cannocchiale Aristotelico, o sia Idea dell'Arguta et Ingeniosa Elocutione che serve à tutta l'Arte Oratoria, Lapidaria, et Simbolica esaminata co’ Principij del divino Aristotile (Aristotelian Telescope or Idea of the Witty and Ingenious Locution that serves all Oratory, Lapidary and Symbolic Art examined with the Principles of the divine Aristotle).  Here we report, from the edition printed in Turin in 1670 (by Bartolomeo Zavatta), the passage in which the author, talking of the “Composed Symbols” of the “Mute” kind in Chapter II, dedicated to “Instrumental Causes of Witticisms”, introduces the symbols of Tarot and Chess. The close examination of Chess is reported because, according to new charming discoveries by Lothar Teikemeier. tarot might have been born from an elaboration of the latter game. A close examination of the Aristotelian telesceope  has been made in a specific essay in Italian.

Instrumental Reasons
- Chapter II
About the Oratory, Symbolic & Lapidary witticisms (pages 57 - 58) 

“Finally from the same origin proceeds what is agreeable and ingenious in MUTE GAMES, representing some heroic subjects.  Such is the game of Tarot, a worthy concept of barbarian genius, where you see every  person of the world becoming shuffled and mixed, each with his own emblem: The Rich with Money, Drunkards with Cups, Warriors with Swords, Shepherds with Staves. Emperors, Prelates, Angels, Demons: it is as though the player grasping a bunch of cards in his hand had the world in his fist: & playing, metaphorically, is none other than putting the universe into confusion; & the one who  ruins it the most is the winner. But the most heroic and witty game, even a school of war, is Chess, where in a small battlefield are two armies, one of White Assyrians, the other of Black African Moors: & here there are Kings, Queens, Soldiers, Knights, Towered Elephants; and  Infantrymen: at the sign of the two players, as War Masters, facing, assaulting, liyng in wait, surprising, running, helping, hurting, covering, imprisoning, leaving the world: finally after defeating the adversary's army & imprisoning its King (the only one whose life is preserved) there is a difficult but sweet victory, a conflict with no blood, but not without the loser’s anger. A game in fact born from the warrior intellect of Palamedes among the Greek tents, in order to fight against idleness, so you must not be surprised, if from Zeus's brain was born armed Pallas, since from a soldier’s brain is born armies. So what is this game, but a heroic symbol, a continuous metaphor? These little images animated by a living hand allegorically represent the conflict of wits; for the Witticism they have the moves. So the player is transfigured into the personalities represented by wooden soldiers: & in our images lives the player’s mind" (34).


Tarot and Chess therefore, according to the author, belong to Heroic Subjects; they are Mute symbols (images of words) and are Composed. The author writes about Composed Symbols: “In the COMPOSED WITTICISM are confounded two or more simple witticisms…; in this way the Witticism that is nothing but a poetical Imitation, mixing the MUTE and TALKING methods, & from these or between these, gives birth to a numerous variety of attractive Symbols; many of them even today are known more by sight than by their true names as appraised by the literati” (page 39).


Appropriated Tarot


A real literary sub-genre came from the habit of setting tarots in rhymed verses that  “appropriated” them to various personnages of different social classes. Among the most famous of these poems in the XVI century we may recall the one about Florentine prostitutes described above, the Motti alle Signore di Pavia sotto il titolo dei tarocchi (Mottos to the Ladies of Pavia under the title of tarots) (35); the Triomphi de’ Troilo Pomeran da Cittadela composti sopra i Tarrochi in Laude delle famose Gentil donne di Vinegia (The Triumphs by Troilo Pomeran of Cittadella composed upon tarots to praise the famous Noble women of Venice) (36) of which we report two pages from the original text (figure 9); the verses of Trionphi de Tarocchi appropriati (Triumphs of appropriated Tarots) (37) dedicated to Ferrara women; the Triompho delle nobili donne di Cesena (Triumph of the nobles women of Cesena) (38); La Bellezza della mia Diva, posta nelli Triōphi delli Tarocchi (The Beauty of my Diva placed in the Triumphs of the Tarot) (39) and Il Trionfo Tridentino (The Tridentine Triumph) by Leonardo Colombino (1524-1580). This last triumph is a poem of 86 stanzas that Colombino, notary and amateur writer, a very prominent character in the city, dedicated to Christoforo Madruzzo, Prince-Bishop of Trent and his protector. The poem was recited during  the festival that the bishop proclaimed  on May 3, 1547 to celebrate the imperial victory of Mühlberg against the Protestants. The festival took place at the Palazzo all’Adige, just outside the city, with parades accompanied by music, recitations and dances. On that occasion the ladies of the noblest families impersonated the symbolic figures of the Tarot. The Devil (verse XXIX) was interpreted by Mrs. Bartolomea Podestessa:

Apena il Diavolo nel giardin comparse
Che già scandalizar comincian molti,
Tanta zizania dai belli occhi sparse
A chi nel mal oprar vi eran già involti.
Ma a questa Podestessa già non parse
Che in gratia alcun di lor fossero tolti
E altri che il suo consorte mai in eterno
Non speri entrar la porta del suo inferno.  

Literal translation:

As soon as the Devil in the garden appeared
who already was beginning to scandalize many,
Spread so much discord from her beautiful eyes
To whom in evil works you were already involved.
But to this Podestessa it already seems
That in grace none of them were removed
and others of them, her consort ever in eternity,
Hopes not to enter the door of her hell. [Her husband hopes that no others will enter the door of her sex]

The only example we have of the use of the Minchiate or Germini (Tuscan Tarots) in the "Appropriata" manner, belongs to the middle of the XVI century and has the title of I Germini, sopra quaranta meretrice della Città di Fiorenza, dove si conviene quattro ruffiane, le quali danno a ciascuna il trionfo, ch’e a loro conveniente dimostrando di ciascuna il suo essere. Con una aggiunta nuovamente messa in questi. (The Germini, concerning forty prostitutes of the City of Florence, in which four procuresses give everyone a Triumph showing them their condition. With a new add in this work).

The writing, by an anonymous author, was published in Florence in 1553. It is a  very characteristic and unique composition, with the four cardinal virtues (indicated by the numbers 19, 18, 17 and 16, and called salamanders) matched with the four procuresses. Each of them introduces in turn nine famous Florentine prostitutes, street whores, who worked in squares and local markets, identified with the other 36 cards of Germini arranged in descending order from higher to lower. In this work there is a mention of Padovano, cited by Aretino in his work Le Carte Parlanti (The Talking Cards), here represented as a manufacturer of Germini that was printed well and on good paper

After the “excuse stanzas” of the author (in which is cited the above mentioned Padovano), introduced by a woman pimp, there are the verses concerning the 40 prostitutes, divided into four groups of ten. After this, every woman describes herself and her qualities in an octave, all in relation to a specific Triumph.  Here we report some octaves, starting with the one concerning the First Procuress and then three prostitutes to be identified, in relation to the Triumphs, respectively with Charity, the Hanged Man, the Moon and the Star. 

Prima Ruffiana

Io sono il diciannove, e fui puttana
nella mia gioventù molto onorata
persino in trentotto anni stetti sana
poi venni come gazzera pelata
per sostentarmi mi feci ruffiana
duna figliuola chi mero allevata
e perché male ella non capitassi
la presto a chi vuole e meco stassi.


The first procuress

I am the nineteen, and I was a whore
of great honour in my youth,
I was healthy until I was thirty-eight,
then I became as bald as a magpie.
To make a living, I became the procuress
of a I girl I had raised.
To save her from all misfortune,
I lend her to whoever wants her, but she lives with me. 

XII  La Fiammetta (L'Appeso)

Io son quel traditor poltron di Gano
e impicchato pel pie come ognun vede
e Fiammetta per nome chi mi chiamo
non tengo legge alcuna e nonno fede
del sangue de furfanti sol mi sfamo
e manchami un calzin: del ritto piede
e’nchasa ognun trema alla mia voce
sono il dodici e sto in borgo la noce.

  Fiammetta - The little flame (The Hanged Man)

I am Gano, that treacherous idler,
and hung by the feet, as anyone can see,
and my name is Fiammetta,
I respect no law and I have no faith,
I only feed of the blood of scoundrels
and my right foot has no sock.
In my house everyone trembles at my voice,
I am the twelve and I live in Borgo la Noce.

XXXVII  La Ricciolina

Man fatto de Germini la Luna
la Ricciolina sono e son pur bella
e certo che mi doggo di Fortuna
po che non piglio piu su che la Stella
che meritavo desser io quelluna
che avessi delle trombe la novella
a certamente me fatto gran torto
ma pur perdono, e volentier sopporto.

Ricciolina - The curly-headed (The Moon)

They made me the Moon of the Germini
I am the curly-headed and I am beautiful,
so I complain of Fortune
since I do not win on anything higher than the star,
but I deserved to be the one
that got the news from the trumpet.
What has been done to me is a great wrong,
but I forgive and I am willing to be patient. (40)

XXXVI  La Buda

Quella che apparse a Magi in Oriente
Diana stella sono, & son la Buda
che non conosco amico ne parente
più traditora son che non fú Giuda
son ‘co gli amanti mia si diligente
quando chentro cõ lor nel letto nuda
chognun per amor mio forte martella
bella son io e degna della Stella.


XXXVI Buda (The Star)


I am that star of Diana that appeared
to the Magi in the East, I am Buda
who does not know respect to friends nor relatives.
I am more treacherous than Judas.
I am so diligent with my lovers,
when I am naked and I go to bed with them,
that everyone hammers strongly for my love.
I am beautiful and worthy of the Star.

The habit of combining verses and tarot meanings continued through the following centuries, so much so that in Bologna during the XVIII century this practise became common. An anonymous poem has as its ironical subject the canons of Saint Peter’s Church, among whom it is possible to identify names belonging to low clergy and good business people. The poem has the title Thrionfi de Tarocchi e motivi latini appropriati a ciascuno dei canonici di San Pietro (Triumphs of Tarots and Latin mottos appropriate to to each of the canons of Saint Peter) (41) where we find names of Triumphs in Italian and mottos in Latin. Among the satiric attributes we find a “scarcely sufficient”, a “never sufficient”, a “his tongue is a sharp sword” and a “brothers be sober” near others with positive connotation such as “shines everywhere” and “powerful in thinking and acting” (figure 10).

Also addressed to ladies by an anonymous author are the verses whose title is I Trionfi de Tarocchini Apropriati ciascheduno ad una Dama Bolognese con la spiegazione in fine per capire meglio li sudeti Trionfi ossia satira da N.N. (The Triumphs of Tarocchino each  Appropriated to a Bolognese lady with the goal of better understanding the aforesaid Triumphs, or rather satire, written by N. N.) (42). The work, certainly dated before 1725 as it still has the figures of the four Popes, is divided in two distinct parts: the first lists the correspondences between Triumphs and each lady; in the second, near the ladies' names, has information about their fathers, husbands, fathers-in-law, and nobility appellation, with a reason for the attribution given to every woman as described in the first part. Among the various attributions some are really brutal, as for example that of the Devil, appropriated to Countess Baldi “because she is terribly ugly and deformed”. 

A board game with Tarots


Girolamo Bargagli, who lived between 1537 and 1586, man of letters and legal expert from Siena, was a member of the Accademia degli Intronati (Academy of the  Dazed) (here he was called Materiale), which represented, in the second half of the XVI century, the most meaningful centre of production of regular comedies. Bargagli’s most famous work was certainly La Pellegrina (The Pilgrim), which he wrote in 1564 on behalf of Piccolomini, to whom Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici (afterwards, from 1587, Grand Duke of Tuscany) had turned. But Piccolomini had many interests and duties, and he passed the charge to his young colleague, who asked for help from another academy member, Fausto Sozzini, called Frastagliato. This Intronato stuffed the text with numerous polemical allusions concerning the corruption of the clergy; for this reason the work was presented and printed only in 1589, after Bargagli’s death. On his brother Scipione's initiative the work was presented, even if censored in some parts, by the Intronati in Florence for the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinando I who, after taking off the cardinal's purple robe in 1588, the following year married Cristina di Lorena, niece of Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France.

Historians of music know this work very well, since on the occasion of its presentations Count Giovanni Bardi created six intermezzi, with words by Ottavio Rinuccini, Giovanni de' Bardi, Giambattista Strozzi, and Laura Lucchesini; it was performed by the most famous artists of the time, such as Emilio de' Cavalieri, Cristofano Malvezzi, Luca Marenzio and Giulio Caccini. It was a memorable show and couldn’t have been otherwise, given the names of the participants, the costumes and the scenography by Buontalenti.


Bargagli’s work in relation to Tarot is the Dialogo de' giuochi che nelle vegghie Sane­si si usano di fare del materiale Intronato (Dialogue of games usually seen in Siena, utilizing [di fare del] Intronato material) (Siena, 1572), a real essay on the games of the time, whose improvement was attributed by the author to the Academy of the Intronati. The work is composed of a series of sentences or judgments born of a dialogue in which precisely the Intronati take part. About tarot (judgment 57) we read: “And I even (added Mansueto) have seen the game of Tarot done, so as to give to give to everybody the name of a tarot and then someone declaring and calling, for his own reason, that to the one or another was given this or that tarot name”. It is evident that the game of tarot, as described here, has to be seen in relation to pasquinades, sonnets and mottos based upon the association of a triumph to a certain person.

Rebel Tekeli

The liberation of Hungary from the Moslems assumed in Europe the character of a true crusade against infidels. The Noble Hungarian Imre Thökoly (1657-1705) who had fought on the side of the Ottoman Empire, denying his native land and his religion, became the emblem of betrayal. Meaningful about that is a sonnet of condemnation addressed to him centred on the Bologna Triumphs given in descending order, Il giuoco de Tarocchini sopra Michele Tekely Ribello (The Game of Tarocchino above Michael Tekely Rebel) (figure 11) where the traitor Tekely (inexact transcription of the last name) is called “Angel of Hell” for pushing Turkey to war against Austria. By the end of the sonnet we understand that the work was written when Thökoly was still alive, after his great defeats, so probably about the last decade of the XVII century.


Here is the beginning of the sonnet:

Angel d'Inferno sei Michel, che al Mondo
Tentasti d'Austria il Sol rendere nero,
tu la Luna Ottomana, astro che immondo
suscitasti fellon contro l'Impero.

You are an Angel of Hell, Michael, since to the World
you tried to darken the Sun of Austria; you traitor,
Against the Empire, you aroused the filthy
Celestial body that is the Ottoman Moon.

A ruinous politics


In the Almanacco della Commedia Umana per il 1886 (Almanac of the Human Comedy for 1866), published by Sonzogno, appeared a satire done with tarots on the economic, social and political life of Italy. The work, which has the title Il Nuovo Giuoco dei Tarocchi (The new Game of Tarots), was written giving two quatrains to each Triumph card, the figures of which were freely moulded for the occasion and framed by sketches of an allegorical type.

The Magician is associated with Agostino Depretis, Prime Minister of the time; the verses that accompany the card of the Pope (Leo XIII) appear as a heavy accusation of a radical type to the Vatican's riches; the card of the Emperor criticicizes Foreign Minister Pasquale Mancini, guilty of the new alliance with Austria and Germany; the Hanged Man becomes the good taxpayer overburden by taxes, particularly those of the tenth of war and on milled goods.

Really expressive are the verses that accompany the Tower card (figure 10) against the colonial politics of the government, which had occupied Assab Bay in 1870 and Massawa in 1885. Prophetic verses, we daresay, as they foresaw the decay of Italian ambitions in Eritrea that occurred one year later in Dogali, on January 25th 1887.

Here are the verses:

Con tant’arte l’avevan fabbricata
A base di perfidia e ipocrisia,
Che di supporla un giorno rovinata 
Per lo men reputavano pazzia. 

Eppur non correrà lunga stagione 
Che si vedrà cangiar questa bonaccia 
In uragan tremendo, e il torrione 
Di sé nemmen più lascerà la traccia.


With so much art they fabricated it
Based upon perfidy and hypocrisy,
That for supposing it one day ruined
One was at once reputed mad.

Yet there will pass not much time
Til we see this calm passing by
In a terrible hurricane, and the tower
Will leave no trace.


1 - The Sola-Busca Tarot dates back to the end of the XV century. Its name derives from the owners’ family. Recently they were sold for 800.000 euro (really a good price) to the Italian State for the Brera Picture Gallery. The artist, probably the miniaturist Mattia Serrati (whose monogram M. S. is on several cards) did not depict traditional Triumph figures, except the Fool, but rather warriors and personnages of the classical age (for example Lempius, Catullus, Nero, Sabinus, Cato, etc.), and in two cases biblical characters: Nabuchodonosor (Triumph XXI) and Nimrod (Teriumph XX). Of the latter it is possible to make a parallel with the meaning of the Tower, as the figure (the Bible cites him as Nimrod or Nemrod and attributes to him the idea of the construction of the tower of Babel)  is shown in front of a column hit by fire descending from the sky. The 56 minor cards, in contrast, are illustrated with everyday and fantastic scenes.
2 - The excellent examination is due to Giuseppe Crimi in the work L' oscura lingua e il parlar sottile. Tradizione e fortuna del Burchiello (Obscure language and subtle talking: Tradition and fortune of Burchiello),  Manziana (Rome), 2005, page 210.
3 - About “macaroni” with the meaning of “fool”, compare: Angelico Prati, Vicende di parole, (Facts about words), in “Il Folclore Italiano” (Italian Folklore), IX, 1934, Pages 33-35.
4 - Burlesque Sonnet LXXXI, 5-8: “Questo si è, ch' egli han patito pene / a star tanto in su' libri spenzolati, / sì che meritano d'essere dottorati / e ser Pecora faccia questo bene”  (So it is / that they had pains / spending time on their books / so they deserve to get their doctorates / and Mr. Pecora has to do this good thing).
5 - About the parody trend in verses compare F. Petrarca, Rime Extravaganti (Extravagant Rhymes), 6, 9-11: “di questa spene mi nutrico et vivo / al caldo, al freddo, a l'alba et a le squille; / con essa vegghio et dormo, et leggo et scrivo” (Of this hope I eat and live/ with the heat, with the cold, at dawn and when the bells ring; / and with it I see and sleep, I read and write), in  Francesco Petrarca, Trionfi, Rime Estravaganti, codice degli abbozzi (Triumphs, Extravagant Rhymes, codices of drafts), edited by Vinicio Pacca and Laura Paolino, introduction by Marco Santagata, Milan, 1996, page 674. 
6 - The work, printed in 1523, was written by Boiardo probably towards 1487.
7 - Two amorous sonnets, in Gaspare Sardi, Adversaria…, cod. lat. 228 = ά. W. 2, II, two little sheets between the cards, Ferrara, ca.1530-1560. Modena, Estense Library.
- Venice, 1543.
9 - In the literature of the theatre and the novel, it is an act by which a character knows his true identity or that of someone else, of which he was ignorant until that moment for various reasons.
10 - Venice, 1546.
11 - Ms. 2.5. I/30 Rome 1550; fund P. Giovio. Como, Municipal Library.  The anonymous writer's satire refers to the conclave after the death of Paolo III Farnese, from which emerged as Pope Cardinal Gianmaria Ciocchi del Monte, who took the name  Julius III (February 7th 1550).
12 - Rome 1521, Cod. Magliabechiano XXXVII.10. 205; c. 14v. Florence, National Library.
13 - A closer examination of the Cassaria can be found in an essay by Andrea Vitali.
14 - A French writer, Charles de Saint-Évremond (1613-1703) left a great series of writings, mostly short and for occasions: gallant poems and letters, moral or philosophical considerations, dialogues, apologies, novels and comedies. His opinions about literature and theatre make him one of the sharpest critical minds of the century. For this reason he was  mentioned everywhere; and he was also there in Westminster, just "a fool in the tarot". 
15 - The expression “of few (short) furnishings" means that Saint-Évremond was (wrongly) considered by the author a scarcely important writer. In the figurative sense, actually,  furnishings means the ensemble of ideas that enrich the basic culture. The characterization "few" identifies him as an author who has given a mediocre contribution to knowledge.
16 - Page 329.
17  -  The expression "Tricche tracche" was used to explain the sound of a thing that suddenly broke out or the clamour of clacking hands against the one who was ridiculed. Crusca does not report it, while it was used by Burchiello “every chestnut in shirt and fur/ bursts and jumps from the heat and makes tric tracche”.
18 - Indulgences were communicated by the Pope from the altars.
19 - Of a subtle meaning is the expression “to count as the king or jack of swords”, which is to say, to be worth nothing.
20 - Le lettere di Alessandro Tassoni tratte da autografi e da copie e pubblicate per la prima volta nella loro interezza da Giorgio Rossi (Letters of Alessandro Tassoni taken from autographs and copies and published for the first time in their entirety by Giorgio Rossi), in "Collezione di opere inedite o rare dei primi tre secoli della lingua” (Collection of rare or unpublished works of the first three centuries of the language). Published by the Royal Commission for language texts in the provinces of Emilia, Volume 84, Bologna, Romagnoli-Dall'Acqua, 1901. Book IV (1625-1632), Letter CCCXLII (1), p. 313.
21 - Ibid, Letter CDXXVI (84), p. 381. 
22 - Ibid, Letter CDXXVIII (86), p. 383.  
23 -
 The letter appeared in the volume Unpublished Letters by Torquato Tasso, taken from Manuscripts by Marc’Antonio Foppa conserved by Abbey P. A. Serassi in the Casa Falconieri in Rome (Pisa, 1827).
24 - Cesare Guasti, Dialogues by Tasso, Vol. II, Florence, 1858, page. 3. 
25 - Cachinno: literally “resounding laughing” to indicate a gentle laugh.
26 -  The sentence is in an introduction to readers, defined as “Good reader”.

27 - We must remember the success of the German translation edited by Schopenhauer.

28 - Amsterdam, at the house of Ivan Blaev, MDCLIX [1659]

29 - Oracolo manuale e Arte di Prudenza, cavata dagli Aforismi che si discorrono nell’Opre di Gratiano, [Oracle Manual and Art of Prudence, extracted from the aphorisms discussed in the works of Lorenço Gracián], Brought to Light by D. Vincenzo Giovanni De Lastanosa, Parma, for Mario Vigna, n.d. [no date], [1670].

30 - Lorenzo Franciosini, Vocabolario Español, e Italiano, Aora Nuevamente sacado à luz, Segunda Parte [Spanish-Italian Dictionary, Now newly brought to light, Second Part], s.l., s.e. [Samuel Chouët], n.d. [no date] [1665].

31 - Ibid, p. 486.

32 - Lorenzo Franciosini, Dialogos Apazibles, Compuestos en Castellano, y traduzidos en Toscano – Dialoghi Piacevoli Composti in Castigliano e tradotti in Toscano [Pleasant Dialogues Composed in Castilian and translated into Tuscan], Geneva. At Leonardo Chouër, et Socij (& Co.), M.DC.LXXXVII [1687], pp. 17-18.

33 - Oracolo manuale e Arte di Prudenza, op. cit., pp.83-84.

34 - The belief that Chess had been invented by Palamedes under the walls of Troy was still alive in the XVII century.
 - Pavia 1525-1540, ms. 8583, cc. 258-269. Paris, Bibliotèque de l’Arsenal.

36 - Venice, 1534
37 - In Gaspare Sardi, Adversaria…, cod. lat. 228 = ά. W. 2, II. Ferrara, c.1530-1560. Modena,  Estense Library.

38. See the omonimous essay (only in Italian)

39. See the omonymous essay.

40 - Since in the game the trick-taking power of the Moon is superior to that of the Star, but not to the cards after it, the girl complains of not being combined with Judgement, a card superior to that of the Moon in trick-taking, and which announces itself to the world with trumpets. 
- Ms. 3938 / CIII /25. Fund Ubaldo Zanetti, XVIIIth century. Bologna,  Universitary Library.

42 - Ms. 83 / 9 Fund Ubaldo Zanetti. Bologna, XVIIIth century. Bologna,  Universitary Library.

 Copyright  by Andrea Vitali  © All rights reserved 2005