18th century historiography of playing cards
Thanks to Google Books and Gallica, just about everything needed for the study of 18th century writers on playing cards is available online. Unfortunately, you have to read French and Italian, but I'm going to translate all of these and make them available to English readers on the web.
It is important to study these old writers. With them, you can often see the origin of legends that grow and become dispelled over time - or not. More importantly, they often tell anecdotes and make asides that with careful and gentle consideration might open a window on the world in which they wrote their ideas about playing cards.
Claude-François MENESTRIER (1631-1705), "Bibliothèque curieuse et instructive"
Menestrier’s brief remarks and anecdotes are often considered the first attempt at the history of playing cards. He considered playing cards to have been invented 300 years before, in France, to keep Charles VI occupied during his madness; he believed that the Germans were the first to print cards (as opposed to painted ones like Gringonneur's for Charles VI), since they invented woodcut impressions. He also thought that the Germans invented tarot cards, and that Italy was the last place in Europe to have playing cards.
Jean-Michel Constant LEBER (1780-1859) “ Collection of the best dissertations, notices, and monographs relating to the history of France”, published in 1838, contains the essays of Daniel, Beneton de Peyrins, Bullet and Rive between 1720 and 1779, including his own comments in 1838, as well as essays between the reproduced articles.
Gabriel DANIEL (1649-1728), “Origine du jeu de piquet trouvée dans l'histoire de France »
(in Leber 1838 pp. 247-265)
Original publication in the « Journal de Trévoux », also known as « Memoires pour l’histoire des sciences & des beaux arts », May 1720 (volume 20) pp. 934-968 (in the PDF, pp. 231-240)
Etienne Claude BENETON de Morange DE PEYRINS (1669-1752), “Dissertation sur l’origine des jeux de hazard”
(in Leber 1838 pp. 201-219)
This essay is not cited anywhere that I have read, but this author may be the first historian to assert that playing cards were invented by the Chinese (page 216), and that the Romans used these, and “joined to them other figures bearing images of some of their principal gods, Emperors and Empresses, showing them on triumphal chariots…” Beneton de Peyrins is thus earlier than Court de Gébelin in speculating on tarot’s origin – according to him, it was Roman.
Jean-Baptiste BULLET (1699-1775), “Recherches historiques sur les cartes à jouer »
(in Leber 1838 pp. 266-361)
A study frequently cited in the 19th century.
Karl-Heinrich von HEINECKEN (1706-1791) « Idée générale d'une collection complette d'estampes », pp. 239-245
Asserted that playing cards were invented in Germany, and were the first printed objects.
Saverio BETTINELLI (1718-1808), "Il giuoco delle carte"
A poem, not a history, but he introduced the novel idea of the Italian origin of playing cards (Canto II, vv. XXXV-XXXVI), for which he was often cited in the subsequent literature.
Jean-Joseph RIVE (1730-1791), “Eclaircissements historiques et critiques sur l'invention des cartes à jouer".
(in Leber 1838 pp. 362-384)
A correspondent and perhaps friend of Court de Gébelin, Rive is cited in the former’s 1781 essay, and seems to have been his major source for the history and lore of tarot cards.
Antoine COURT DE GEBELIN (1719-1784), "Du jeu des Tarots" in "Le Monde Primitif", vol. VIII, pp. 365-394
(all of the volumes of « Le Monde Primitif » are at gallica.bnf.fr )
Louis-Raphaël-Lucrèce DE MELLET (presumed) (1727-1804), "Recherches sur les Tarots" in "Le Monde Primitif", vol. VIII, pp. 394-410
Johann-Gottlob-Immanuel BREITKOPF (1719-1794), "Versuch den Ursprung der Spielkarten”.
The most important study of the 18th century. Not available on the internet.