Ross G Caldwell
whipsilk said:While the Mamluks were centered in the eastern Mediterranean, there could have been interaction and exchange during the crusades -- seems much more likely than the cards coming to Europe by way of the Moors in Spain. During this period, "saracen" was often construed in Europe to mean anyone/thing of Arabic/Islamic origin.
Yes, you're right about Saracen.
But Crusades are unnecessarily early; there was plenty of communication and trade between north Africa and the Levant and western Europe in the late 14th century.
Besides the big players like Venice and Genoa, Sicily was always right there in the middle, and we have treaties and other documents between the Caliph (or was that a Sultan?) of Tunis and Gian Galeazzo Visconti and Filippo Maria Visconti. I'm sure I've read of similar things with Louis of Orléans as well; and Genoa, with international outposts, was a French possession during Louis' time. So he could have gotten cards directly from Egypt.
Some people have interpreted the cards as coming with Valentina Visconti in 1389, when she went to Paris to marry Louis (thus the "Lombard" cards), but Louis' connections were vast and his activities and concern for what he wanted to do in Italy make such an explanation superfluous.
Cards are not well-known in Arabic-Mamluk sources, and they are always called "kanjifeh" or "ganjifah" - this is a Persian word and betrays their origin. So the question, for the Mamluk origin hypothesis, is why Europeans called the cards "naïbis" (pronounced "na-EE-beece", or "na-HEE-bees").
Accepting the theory of a Mamluk origin for the regular pack, my tentative hypothesis would be that the "naïbi" figures - the lieutenant-king (or vice-king) and second lieutenant-king played an important role in the game first learned by Europeans. It could have been some kind of trumping game like Karnöffel, where the highest card is the naïb, who defeats the Kings (just as Mamluks rose from slaves to a royal dynasty).
So my hypothesis is that the Mamluks called cards "kanjifah", but the particular game "naïbi", and that around 1370, both Italians and Catalans became acquainted with this game.