Card numbers in the fifteenth century


Hi! Does anyone here know anything about card numbers in the fifteenth century? I read that most illustrations were in different positions. Some of these former positions are very interesting, and I would like to know more about it. I would also like to hear opinions about the possibility of using such numerations in our time. Thanks!


Kaplan, Tarot Encyclopedia II, has a chapter about the apearance of numerology in connection to the cards.
In 15th century is not much and the dating of the few examples is unclear. The normal handpainted decks had no numbers.

Ross G Caldwell

There seem to be three hand-painted decks with numbers still visible. It is not clear when the numbers were added - immediately after painting, or some years or decades afterward.
However, scholars consider them all to have come from Ferrara, and from what remains, they all seem to have the same number-scheme -

The "Charles VI" (c. 1480) cards are numbered:

i - Magician
iii - Emperor
iiii - Pope
v - Love
vi - Temperance
vii - Fortitude
viii - Justice
x - Chariot
xi - Hermit
xii - Hanged Man
xiii - Death
xv(?) - Tower
xvii - Moon
xviii - Sun
xviiii - World
xx - Judgement

(this implies a 20-card trump series, I think)

Two of the Castello Ursino cards (c. 1455) have numbers preserved -

10 - Chariot
11 - Hermit

And the Ercole d'Este tarocchi (1473) has some numbers -

1 - Magician
(7?) - Temperance
16 - Star
18 - Sun

It can be seen that with the dubious exception of the fragmentary 7 of the Temperance card in the Ercole d'Este tarocchi, all of these packs have the same numeration, and that it is very close to the Eastern (Ferrara-Bologna) ordering.

Personally, I consider these decks (except for Catania, given its date) evidence of 20-trump (or 21 if you include the unnumbered Fool) stage in the development of the trumps. What is missing? It looks like, with the Magician as i, the Emperor as iii and the Pope as iiii, in the "Charles VI" pack, there is room for only one card in between Magician and Emperor. So these packs seem to be lacking either a Papessa or an Empress. Given the instability of her position later on, I would guess it is the Papessa.

Since the numbering appears to be identical in the other packs of the same provenance, with the Sun as 18, it would seem that the numbering stopped at 20.

There is the possibility, keeping in mind that later traditions can preserve early evidence, that the packs resembled the Tarocco Siciliano, with two unnumbered cards - a Fool and a Wretch. But it seems like a slim chance.

Really, they look like packs that suppressed, or never had, the Papessa.



A wretch! I want to see the wretch! how did you say that in Italian?

Ross G Caldwell

firemaiden said:
A wretch! I want to see the wretch! how did you say that in Italian?

LOL - I'm translating loosely the unnumbered card "Miseria" from the Modiano Tarocco Siciliano. Sometimes it's called "PovertĂ " as well - so "Misery" or "Poverty". But I think, the man portrayed is surely in a WRETCHED condition :)

(thanks for the images Mark!)



Oh isn't that fantastic! Miseria, he is a miserable wretch indeed!