The Fool in the 5x14 theory

Ross G Caldwell

le pendu said:
Of course.. looking at the trend.. maybe a 4x14+2 should be explored as the standard because, overwhelmingly, that seems to be the trend of the numbers? Of course, 4x14+5 seems to be a trend too. Or maybe, what historians have suggested for years might just be the case here.. that cards were lost?

Sincerely, I don't mean to be pig-headed about this; but I resent the assumption that the 5x14 theory is somehow "proven", when to me at least, if I can even define what the 5x14 theory means, it has not.

Funny you mention the "4x14+2" and "4x14+5" ideas, perhaps tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless...

One idea I have explored with regards to the evolution of the number of trumps is that the "Imperatori" decks had 4 or 8 trumps, and that these got incorporated into the trionfi series...

The rationale is that each suit would have a card higher than the King - logically the Emperor.

Since, two suits are inversely ranked, there is a distinction, that could be seen as "Temporal Authority" (Emperors) and "Religious Authority" (Popes). So - two Emperors and two Popes.

The naming of a game with such a structure as "Imperatori" or even "VIII Imperatori" is logical, if we think that the Kings and the Emperors/Popes had the same scoring value. Such a name is attested for Tarot (although rare) - apparently an old German name for tarot was "Siebenkönigsspiel" - Seven Kings Game. The "Seven Kings" are the four literal Kings, and the three Trumps with scoring value, as all scored the same. So here they are all called "Kings" and it seems possible that a game with eight cards of the same value could be called "8 Emperors".

Since the suits had no ranking among themselves (that is to say, Swords are not more powerful than Batons, etc.), the trumps cards didn't either - they could have been played like the "Papi" in the Bolognese game later - all equal, and the last played to a trick wins.

I speak hypothetically of course. The hypothesis of evolution continues that these four Popes and Emperors were retained when the full series of trumps was developed; and their relative equality was also retained, like a "fossil" of this earlier Emperors game.

I think the "consensus" (noted between quotes because so few authorities have actually commented on the question) that the tarot structure was standardized by 1450 is based on the fact that the game was known in Ferrara, Milan and Florence by that date, and implies a wider distribution. The differences between the traditions as we know them are cosmetic, and all have 22 trumps (including the Fool). Therefore, it seems likely that the form of the game known by 1450 had this structure, since it is impossible to imagine a change in a single location (such as jump from 14 to 22 trumps) affecting all these regions equally.

Autorbis' theory has everybody using a 5x14 deck until as late as 1468, and then everybody jumping to 4x14+22 because of a hypothetical change by Galeazzo Maria Sforza for a hypothetical wedding deck. But I can't see that the decks in Florence, Bologna, Milan and Ferrara all had the 5x14 structure, and then all the players in those regions decided to do what Galeazzo Maria Sforza is pretended to have done, remade the game, rearranged all the trumps and started mass-producing it.

The strongest argument for some other structure remains, to me, the 1457 70 Big Triumph Cards note. This has to be accounted for, and the arguments are for a shortened pack, a "scribal error", or a 5x14 theory. As I noted, there is no evidence ever for tarot a pack with, say, the 2s and 3s of every suit removed (thus 70 cards), so the shortened pack in this way is purely hypothetical too. Scribes are known to make errors, but this seems a rather cheap way out.

We have to note that this 70 card "Big Triumph Cards" pack was probably actually made for Galeazzo Maria Sforza, when he visited Ferrara in 1457. He was 13 years old, around the age when children of the Este court seem to have been introduced to the game.
 

le pendu

Ross G Caldwell said:
Funny you mention the "4x14+2" and "4x14+5" ideas, perhaps tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless...

One idea I have explored with regards to the evolution of the number of trumps is that the "Imperatori" decks had 4 or 8 trumps, and that these got incorporated into the trionfi series...

The rationale is that each suit would have a card higher than the King - logically the Emperor.

Since, two suits are inversely ranked, there is a distinction, that could be seen as "Temporal Authority" (Emperors) and "Religious Authority" (Popes). So - two Emperors and two Popes.

The naming of a game with such a structure as "Imperatori" or even "VIII Imperatori" is logical, if we think that the Kings and the Emperors/Popes had the same scoring value. Such a name is attested for Tarot (although rare) - apparently an old German name for tarot was "Siebenkönigsspiel" - Seven Kings Game. The "Seven Kings" are the four literal Kings, and the three Trumps with scoring value, as all scored the same. So here they are all called "Kings" and it seems possible that a game with eight cards of the same value could be called "8 Emperors".

Since the suits had no ranking among themselves (that is to say, Swords are not more powerful than Batons, etc.), the trumps cards didn't either - they could have been played like the "Papi" in the Bolognese game later - all equal, and the last played to a trick wins.

I speak hypothetically of course. The hypothesis of evolution continues that these four Popes and Emperors were retained when the full series of trumps was developed; and their relative equality was also retained, like a "fossil" of this earlier Emperors game.

Hi Ross,

Personally, I think you may be on to something there. I'm stating the below not to sidetrack this discussion, but to express why I think there might be some connection to the Emperors game and Tarot.

When looking at the existing trumps of the Cary-Yale Viscont, I see three sets of possible influence.. The Emperors game, Petrarch's Triumphs, and the Virtues. I realize that how I assign the cards is controversial and unproven in any way.. it's just my wondering:

Emperor: Emperor game
Empress: Emperor game

Fortitude: Virtue of Fortitude
Temperance: Virtue of Temperance
Justice: Virtue of Justice
Faith: Virtue of Faith
Charity: Virtue of Charity
Hope: Virtue of Hope

Love: Petrarch's Triumph of Love
Chariot: Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity
Death: Petrarch's Triumph of Death
World: Petrarch's Triumph of Fame
Hermit: Petrarch's Triumph of Time
Angel: Petrarch's Triumph of Eternity

To me, the odd thing in the inclusion of the Emperors. And that makes me wonder if they "should" be there for some reason, and might that reason be that the game is based on or connected to the Emperor Game?

I can easily see the Pope and Popess representing additional Emperors, making 4, although I also wonder if the Popess in other decks is just a translation of the Virtue of Faith. It's all conjecture, and I haven't been able to move beyond basic inquiry.

Another wild thought, I wonder if the Emperor, Empress, Pope, Papess, and the addition of 4 Queens to the Tarot might = "8 Emperors" ?

Ross G Caldwell said:
I think the "consensus" (noted between quotes because so few authorities have actually commented on the question) that the tarot structure was standardized by 1450 is based on the fact that the game was known in Ferrara, Milan and Florence by that date, and implies a wider distribution. The differences between the traditions as we know them are cosmetic, and all have 22 trumps (including the Fool). Therefore, it seems likely that the form of the game known by 1450 had this structure, since it is impossible to imagine a change in a single location (such as jump from 14 to 22 trumps) affecting all these regions equally.

Autorbis' theory has everybody using a 5x14 deck until as late as 1468, and then everybody jumping to 4x14+22 because of a hypothetical change by Galeazzo Maria Sforza for a hypothetical wedding deck. But I can't see that the decks in Florence, Bologna, Milan and Ferrara all had the 5x14 structure, and then all the players in those regions decided to do what Galeazzo Maria Sforza is pretended to have done, remade the game, rearranged all the trumps and started mass-producing it.

The strongest argument for some other structure remains, to me, the 1457 70 Big Triumph Cards note. This has to be accounted for, and the arguments are for a shortened pack, a "scribal error", or a 5x14 theory. As I noted, there is no evidence ever for tarot a pack with, say, the 2s and 3s of every suit removed (thus 70 cards), so the shortened pack in this way is purely hypothetical too. Scribes are known to make errors, but this seems a rather cheap way out.

We have to note that this 70 card "Big Triumph Cards" pack was probably actually made for Galeazzo Maria Sforza, when he visited Ferrara in 1457. He was 13 years old, around the age when children of the Este court seem to have been introduced to the game.
I don't in any way discount the possibility/probability of a 70 card deck, and agree it is likely that it was a 5x14. My point is only that there was obvious experimentation with decks, and we do not know what the 14 Trump cards were. I personally suspect they were are pattern different than the 14 remaining Bembo cards.

best,
robert