As suggested in the previous post, Internet Tarot enthusiasts are usually predictable, uninformative, and more often than not, misleading. However, they are often entertaining in the same fashion as small children who are just learning about the world. Quick to assume that they are the first to consider whatever evidence they have just stumbled across, they routinely conclude that what they've found and the fantasies they spin about it are of the utmost importance for Tarot history. Laughably and predictably, they insinuate their preconceptions about fortune-telling and occult secrets into mundane works, again and again, and -- not surprisingly -- they have made such claims about Boiardo's Tarocchi. Matteo Maria Boiardo’s obscure 15th-century poems based on the numerical structure of a Tarot deck were translated last year, and last week the Association for Tarot Studies, in their December newsletter, republished that translation. In 2006, when the translation was first published online, the following lament was posted to a popular online forum, decrying the imagined fact that playing-card historians had ignored Boiardo’s Tarocchi, and proclaiming that a proper reading of Boiardo reveals hitherto secret and universal truths about they symbolism of playing cards in general and Tarot in particular.
The Tarocchi poem of Count Matteo Maria Boiardo awakes to some life in English language, after it had known in Italian long ago and somehow been rather overlooked by nearly everybody ... yes, a very curious Tarot and hardly of worth for anything. And as historical source to understand the origin of Tarot ... not important, much too curious a thing, leave it aside, nobody is interested. So - it seems - have thought 1000's of Tarot researchers all the time, researching for the orign of Tarot here and there, above, below, right and left, in front and behind: Where is the mystery? Boiardo was overlooked - how else is it explainable, that a complete text - a short one, but with 262 lines poem not counting title etc. about "real playing card history", and that means it's one the longest between all this collected snippets of playing card history, here a few words, there a bill and here a prohibition, and perhaps occasionally 3 sentences together - stayed untranslated all the time. And it was discussed in 1000,s of words various questions, for instance, what does this suits mean, existed card divination already in 15th century, was there something like Kabbala connected to all this Tarot stuff. Boiardo was overlooked ... Well, it's my prophetic day ... we've there somebody, who describes - in poetical form - what he understands with his suits ... and so should these suits be probably the best and most well known suits of 15th century ... as we've no better suit descriptions of others as far I know. So we get there a "real picture" of that, what really had been in a 15th century mind. Perhaps somebody understands that this not the answer ... no, this is the answer, at least it's the best available..
Hardly anything in that passage is correct, and much of it is absurdly false. The arrogance, ignorance and complete lack of critical thinking displayed is quite like the discoveries and imaginings of a small child who has incorporated some new notion into a larger world of make-believe. Was Boiardo’s Tarocchi overlooked by playing-card historians? Not at all. It was read, analyzed, taken into account and reported on repeatedly. It has, in fact, been singled out for special attention as one of the two striking exceptions to the standardized trump subjects in early Tarot decks, and very interesting in its own right. Below are quotes from and references to Gertude Moakley, Sylvia Mann, Michael Dummett, Stuart Kaplan, and Detlef Hoffman. Are there thousands of Tarot researchers? In fact, there have been very few researchers, i.e., scholarly students of playing-card history, although there have been many hundreds of cultists and fantasists, like the author of the above-quoted passage. The fact that fantasists have previously ignored Boiardo is a boon. (Would that the blessing had continued!) Does the Boiardo Tarocchi reveal what the suits mean? How could they? They have unique suits that are largely unrelated to the standard suit systems. The reason they are described in detail is precisely because they are a novel literary creation, and their unique symbolism is the point of the exercise. That is in contrast to real playing cards, where playing card games is the point. Does Boiardo’s Tarocchi tell about divination with playing cards or Cabalistic content in Tarot? Not at all. Were the suit signs in Boiardo’s Tarocchi the best known suit system of the 15th century? Again, an absurd notion. The poetry itself was very obscure, and the suit-signs were far from being well known. There is no indication they were ever used again! In contrast, the common suit signs of regular playing cards were widely known, and, within a given locale the local suit system was universally known.
Boiardo and Viti
Matteo Maria Boiardo (1441-1494), Count of Scandiano, served the Este court in Ferrara and was appointed governor of Reggio. He was an accomplished Italian poet, author of the humanist epic Orlando Innamorato, and he also translated Lucian and Apuleius into Italian. He is nonetheless most famous for his contribution to the Matter of France and its famous knight errant Roland (Orlando in Italian). (Right: Charlemagne discovers Roland slain; French MS, c.1415.) Although his book was written in a difficult and old-fashioned style, which limited its popularity, it strongly influenced the more appealing sequel Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.
Sometime in the late 1400s Boiardo wrote a poem related to Tarot. (The exact dating is of little significance but, given the commonplace nature of the work, it was probably fairly early, prior to 1470.) The poem included two sonnets and five capitoli. Each capitolo or section consisted of tercets, 3-line verses. Four of the sections contained 14 tercets each and the final section had twenty-two. This structure was borrowed from the design of a standard Tarot deck, with four suits of 14 cards each and 22 trump cards. In addition to borrowing the structure of the deck for his poem, the poem explicitly references the Tarot deck, mentioning carte and trionfi in the first sonnet. The fifteenth-century poems were first published posthumously, in 1523, and their influence on Tarot history appears to have been precisely zero. They were subsequently referred to by the anachronistic sixteenth-century name I Tarocchi.
Pier Antonio Viti da Urbino (c.1470-1500) was the brother of the well-known Renaissance artist Timoteo Viti. (Right: Timoteo Viti, St. Thomas a Becket and St. Martin of Tours, 1504.) According to a nineteenth-century source, Viti was a doctor and twice (1492 and 1498) served as Gonfaloniere, a prestigious civic post.
An Illustrazione (commentary) by Viti, written in the late fifteenth century, described Boiardo’s poems as being intended for an actual deck of playing cards, and described a game to be played with this deck. Whether or not Boiardo intended anything of the sort, Viti addresses his essay to a lady of the court of Urbino and “expresses the hope that his patroness will order such a pack to be made”. (The Game of Tarot, 420.) The deck as Viti described it would apparently have been a rather lavish production after the fashion of known hand-painted decks. It would contain 80 cards: one card for each of the two sonnets and one card for each of the 78 tercets. The tercet cards would be modeled on a regular Tarot deck, with four suits, each of which would have four court cards and ten pip cards, along with 22 trump cards. At some point a woodcut deck was actually commissioned, but it does not follow Viti’s descriptions in detail. Dummett notes that a surviving deck “missing the Matto, the trumps, and twelve other cards is mentioned by Merlin in his book of 1869” and that “another example, missing the Matto and the court cards, but including the trumps, was mentioned by Carlo Lozzi in 1900.”
Boiardo and Viti in Tarot History
Surviving examples of the Boiardo-Viti deck show a simple but well-executed production, in keeping with other good-quality woodblock decks of the period rather than a hand-painted luxury deck. Woodcut or painted, such novelty decks are often intriguing in themselves but usually of little value in adding to our knowledge of general playing-card history. Michael Dummett emphasized this and credited the insight to Sylvia Mann.
She was the first to draw a clear distinction, absent from the catalogues of any of the great collections of playing cards, between standard and non-standard cards: that is, between those of a kind normally used for playing, on the one hand, and on the other, all other cards. The distinction may at first sight look to be an obvious one: but obvious or not, it had not been drawn until Miss Mann drew it, and, once drawn it introduced a great clarity into the subject. [...] Isolated experiments in playing-card design occur again and again, and are often of great beauty and therefore of interest to those for whom the study of playing cards is an adjunct of art history; but they have no significance of the history of playing cards as such. [...]
[... applying that distinction] has been made a great deal easier by the realisation that, at all places and times, standard playing cards conform to one or another standard pattern, another concept introduced, in its generality, by Miss Mann.
(The Game of Tarot, xxi-xxii.)
Likewise, the poems are more interesting as a minor bit of literary history tangentially related to playing cards than they are informative about playing-card history per se, and the most valuable aspects of Viti's text in regard to the latter subject are his comments related to standard Tarot and its rules of play. Unfortunately, he offers limited insight into the regular game of Tarot.
Viti takes it for granted that his readers will know all about the games normally played with the ordinary Tarot pack, and restricts himself to an account of a special game to be played with Boiardo’s cards.… This somewhat jejune entertainment is hardly a serious card game; it is more consonant with the kind of society game described in various works such as Ringhieri’s Cento Giuochi Liberali. There is no reason for assuming that any of its special features derive from already existing games played with the ordinary Tarot pack, although we cannot exclude such a possibility; the main value of the account, for our purpose, is in respect of those few fundamental features which it does share with Tarot games as we know them. It is a trick-taking game; the trionfi serve as permanent trumps. It obligatory to follow suit if one can, and to play a trump if one cannot. Not only do all the court cards beat the numeral cards of a suit, but the order of the numeral cards runs in one direction in two suits and in the other direction in the remaining two. Without Viti’s commentary, we should have assumed that these were all features of Tarot games from the first; but it is pleasant to have confirmation of that assumption, and, although Viti is not purporting to describe ordinary Tarot games, the fact that his, or Boiardo’s, game has these features is some confirmation.
(The Game of Tarot, 421-2.)
Nonetheless, although revealing little about the game of Tarot or the decks with which it was played, the details of the Boiardo/Viti deck and the game described by Viti are certainly fascinating in themselves. Boiardo’s poems also provide a unique example of the well-known literary borrowing termed Tarocchi appropriati.
Tarocchi appropriati was a popular literary adoption of some aspects of the Tarot deck. Such borrowing was most common in the sixteenth century, and in its most typical form, the borrowing consisted of the 22 trump subjects which were playfully compared with 22 people. In Boiardo’s Tarot poems we see a different kind of borrowing, using the structure of the Tarot deck rather than the subjects of the trump cards, and also a different use for the borrowing -- to provide form for verses about the popular subject of the Four Passions. As noted above, the poems also make explicit reference to carte and trionfi, emphasizing the borrowing. The opening sonnet explains that the Four Passions of the soul are the forty pip cards in the game, and give the suits their meaning. Novel suit-signs were used to represent these allegorical meanings: Whips for Fear, Eyes for Jealousy, Vases for Hope, and Arrows for Love. The verses corresponding to trumps and court cards used biblical or classical figures as exemplars.
As an example of Boiardo’s approach consider the King of Whips (Fear). Boiardo chose King Dionysius the Elder (c.430-367), also known as Dionysius of Syracuse, (most well known for the legends of Damocles and of Damon and Pythias, and as an exemplar of tyranny). In accounts by ancient writers including Cicero and Plutarch, Dionysius is also remembered as pathologically fearful. The King was reportedly so afraid of barbers and their implements that he insisted on being shaved with sharpened walnut shells or, depending on the account, hot coals. In some of the tales he is shaved only by his own daughters. Boiardo wrote:
FEAR: Dionysius, instead of a barber,
Had his own daughters shave him with coals, in order
To avoid iron; and in the end he did not avoid it.
Because it is difficult to avoid what has been decided by heaven.
From the time of Petrarch and Boccaccio, a great deal of humanist writing involved clothing essentially medieval moral subjects in classical garb. In the same way, Tarot was reinvented to be more appealing to Renaissance sensibilities. The Boiardo-Viti Tarot was one of several known novelty decks in which the medieval-Christian Triumph of Death allegory of standard Tarot was replaced by subject matter more congenial to sophisticated Renaissance tastes. Playing cards commissioned by nobles were routinely illustrated with such classical subjects. Gods, pagan heroes, figures from the Roman Republic, and the like, were all reflected in various decks, both Tarot and regular four-suited decks. (If Tarot had originated as a deck commissioned by the nobility, then the standard deck would almost certainly have reflected such sophisticated humanist content.) Because Boiardo’s poems were initially organized according to the structure of a Tarot deck, they were a ready-made subject to be turned into a Tarot deck. Combined with Viti’s commentary, the poems provide a handbook for the deck in the same fashion as the Marcello/Marziano commentary on the four-suited deck created for Filipo Maria Visconti.
(In January 2006, the poems were translated into English by “P. Marco”, aka “Dr. Arcanus”, and Ross Caldwell, and put online at Tarotpedia. The translation is both valuable and interesting. However, the main Tarotpedia article on Boiardo is full of crackpot speculation concerning Kabbalistic influences and an idiosyncratic theory of early Tarot history, and should be ignored. Some of the discussion pages, conversely, contained valuable information which should be in the main article.)
The Four Passions and Their Exemplars
Everyone understood the Passions and their significance. A list of just the most prominent ancient, medieval, and Renaissance authors whose writings treated the Stoic subject of the Four Passions would read like a Who's Who. Names like Virgil, Cicero, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Petrarch, and so on, only begin to suggest the pervasiveness of the subject. As an example, Saint Thomas’ Summa Theologia has a large section devoted to the subject. Here is a passage from Question 25, First Part of the Second Part: Whether these are the four principal passions: joy, sadness, hope and fear? (Also see questions 22, 23, and 24.)
These four are commonly called the principal passions. Two of them, viz. joy and sadness, are said to be principal because in them all the other passions have their completion and end; wherefore they arise from all the other passions... Fear and hope are principal passions, not because they complete the others simply, but because they complete them as regards the movement of the appetite towards something: for in respect of good, movement begins in love, goes forward to desire, and ends in hope; while in respect of evil, it begins in hatred, goes on to aversion, and ends in fear.
In short, we fear what will end in sadness, and we hope for what will end in joy. St. Thomas cites Boethius (among others) as an authority, in the same manner he cites Fathers of the Church, Aristotle, etc. Here is a passage from Boethius.
The stream, that wanders down the mountain's side, must often find a stumbling-block, a stone within its path torn from the hill's own rock. So too shalt thou: if thou wouldst see the truth in undimmed light, choose the straight road, the beaten path; away with passing joys! away with fear! put vain hopes to flight! and grant no place to grief! Where these distractions reign, the mind is clouded o’er, the soul is bound in chains.
Petrarch's, De Remediis, his most respected work during the 15th century, was a series of dialogs between Reason and the Passions. The philosophical subject matter, Reason versus the Passions or the related theme of Virtue and Vice, was ubiquitous. The use of games, including dice, chess, and card games, as the basis for literary creations and moral allegories, was a well established tradition dating back centuries before Boiardo and Viti. The use of biblical and classical persons as exemplars of human qualities and behaviors, or abstract concepts including virtues, vices, triumph, reversal, downfall, and so on, was one of the hallmarks of Renaissance humanism. So despite their novelty, Boiardo’s poems based on the structure of a Tarot deck, and the deck and game Viti created from those poems, were perfectly characteristic of their age.
Viti’s Trump Cards
The trumps of the Boiardo-Viti Tarot had allegorical subjects such as Patience which were illustrated by historical figures, exemplars. There is no apparent correspondence with standard Tarot trumps. The subjects exemplified are virtues and vices. “The first trump is The Fool, followed by cards titled with various personal emotions and experiences—Idleness, Labor, Desire, Reason, Secrecy, Grace, Disdain, Patience, Error, Perseverance, Doubt, Faith, Deception, Wisdom, Chance, Modesty, Peril, Experience, Time, Oblivion, Strength.” (Kaplan, I:28.) If considered in pairs, the design contrasting virtues and vices can be seen. Idleness and Labor form an obvious pair, and other readily apparent pairs include Disdain and Patience, Doubt and Faith, Deception and Wisdom, etc. Peril might be the cost and Experience the benefit, for example, while Folly, which is identified with the World it loves, is effectively paired against the Fortitude by which the world’s charms are resisted. Some pairs seem to be direct opposites, some might represent deficiency and remedy, while others—such as Time and Oblivion—suggest cause and effect, but the general nature of the design can be seen by reading down the two columns of the table.
|1. Idleness||2. Labor|
|3. Desire||4. Reason|
|5. Secrecy||6. Grace|
|7. Disdain||8. Patience|
|9. Error||10. Perseverance|
|11. Doubt||12. Faith|
|13. Deception||14. Wisdom|
|15. Chance||16. Modesty|
|17. Peril||18. Experience|
|19. Time||20. Oblivion|
When the subjects are examined in terms not merely of the abstract allegorical qualities but according to the examples given in the verses, the paired design becomes more clear. Perhaps the first thing to note is that the vices are exemplified by male figures and the virtues are female.
|1. Sardanapalus||2. Hippolyta|
|3. Actaeon||4. Laura|
|5. Antiochus||6. Grace|
|7. Herod||8. Psyche|
|9. Jacob||10. Penelope|
|11. Aegeus||12. Sophonisba|
|13. Nessus||14. Hypermnestra|
|15. Pompey||16. Aemilia|
|17. Caesar||18. Rhea|
|19. Nestor||20. Dido|
Desire and Reason are a traditional opposition, one of the Four Passions of the Soul triumphed by Reason. The verse on Desire uses Acteon as its exemplar, who according to Ovid looked upon Diana and paid a great price for his desire. Reason is exemplified by Laura, whose Chastity famously triumphed over Cupid. Another example is Error. It is exemplified in terms of Jacob, who wanted Rachel but was deceived by Laban. His error was in fact overcome with Perseverance: “Now look this way: behold the patriarch, Mocked and yet constant, who through seven years Served to win Rachel, then for seven more: A mighty love that hardship could not quell!” Perseverance is then illustrated with Penelope and Odysseus, separated for 20 years while Penelope fends off suitors.
Unfortunately, none of the trump cards from the Viti-inspired deck survive to the present. However, given the extant court cards, which illustrate similar subjects in a plain and direct manner, it is easy to imagine what the trumps must have looked like. It is worth noting that this woodcut deck does not follow Viti’s specifications. For example, Viti described his preferred illustration of Polyphemus, the Page of Arrows: he would be shown as a peasant dressed in a single sheep skin, with a bagpipe at his feet and some sheep in the background. This would reflect the figure as portrayed in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and various works of art. However, the illustration in the woodcut deck is not merely simpler (no sheep or bagpipes) but different (dressed as a Roman soldier rather than a sheepskin-clad peasant).
Viti’s Pip Cards
Whips, Eyes, Vases, and Arrows formed a unique set of suit-signs. On the other hand, novel suit-signs turned up again and again in playing-card history. Many examples can be given from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These examples include both Tarot decks like that of Caitlin Geofroy (which used the suit-signs of Virgil Solis’s regular deck, lions, monkeys, parrots, and peacocks) and regular decks like the animal and bird suited decks that began before Tarot was invented.
Likewise, many different allegorical or symbolic interpretations of suit-signs were offered throughout the history of playing cards. From Brother John’s early comment about two suits being good and two being bad, Meister Ingold’s moralization, the fifteenth-century naming of the French court cards, a essay by Galcottus Martius, Pietro Aretino’s characterization of the suits in 1543, Innocentio Ringhieri’s association of the suits with the four Cardinal Virtues a few years later, a 1582 book by Gosselin associated the suits with the four elements, all the way through to Claude François Menestrier’s 1704 interpretation of the four suits as social allegories. The allegorical subject matter of Boiardo’s novel suit-signs was a universally known and significant one, which he explicitly labeled as such—the four passions of the soul—in his poem.
In his opening sonnet, Boiardo declares that the 40 pip cards describe the passions of the soul. Then he explains the symbolism of the suits-signs, and finally makes an odd comment about the numbering of the verses. “The number in the verses runs: one, two, three, ending at the highest.” This refers to the way he begins each verse. (Viti’s Commentary expands on the device, apparently considering it quite clever.) The first word of each of the 40 tercets is the allegory of the suit, for example, timor or fear for the suit of Whips, while the second word always starts with the initial letter of the corresponding number. Counting in Italian begins uno, due, tre, etc., and thus the second word of the lowest-numbered cards/verses begins with u, d, t, etc. For example, in the first three tercets of the Speranza capitolo, the second words are unita, dubio, and terminata, respectively.
SPERANZA unita tien co `l corpo un'alma
Talor, che senza lei non staria in vita,
Poi spesso giunge a victoriosa palma.
SPERANZA dubio alcun non ha smarrita,
Ma sta ferma e constante in fino al fine,
Quando Ragione il suo sperare aita.
SPERANZA terminata in un confine,
Se vol passar piu in là che non convene,
Prima che coglia el fior, trova le spine.
Viti’s Court Cards
The court cards, like the trumps, all reference exemplars from classical and biblical sources. Assigning notable figures to the court cards of regular decks has been traditional in playing-card history. Famously, the French-suited decks have named court cards. A late fifteenth-century deck from Lyons, for example, is described by Detlef Hoffman.
The kings, for example, are called “le Duc de Langre” or “le Duc de Ramis” and the queens have very much more poetical names, such as “la Belle Cleme” or “la Sebule” and also those of goddesses of antiquity such as “Venus”, “Juno”, and “la Pucelle”—which might be regarded as meaning the same as Pallas Athene. The knave answers to “Paris” and the ship with wiich this Trojan shepherd abducted Helen can be seen in the background.
(The Playing Card, 30.)
Gertrude Moakley summarized the assignments in Boiardo’s poems.
It was customary in his time to think of the court cards in each suit as having a personal name. For his fancied set they were to be: in the suit of Love, Polyphemus for the Page, because he loved Galatea; Paris for Knight, because of his love for Helen of Troy; Venus for Queen, pictured in a car drawn by swans, as she is shown on a wall of the Schifanoia Palace at Ferrara. Jupiter would be King [because of his many amorous adventures]. In the suit of Hope, Horatius Cocles, noted for his bravery, would be page; Jason, Knight; Judith of Bethulia, Queen; and Aeneas, King, because of the hope which sustained him in his journey from Troy to Italy. Hundred-eyed Argus would be Page in the suit of Jealousy; the Knight, Turnus, rival of Aeneas for the hand of Lavinia; the Queen, Juno, to be shown riding in a card drawn by peacocks, whose many-eyed tails are a symbol of watchful jealousy. Juno’s jealousy of the amorous Jupiter was proverbial. The King of this suit would be Vulcan, Jealous of Mars’s success with his wife Venus. In the suit of Fear the court cards are to be Phineus, Ptolemy, Andromeda, and Dionysius, all unhappy victims of this emotion.
(The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo, 48-49.)
For a more detailed example, the Page of Arrows is shown as Polyphemus, the Cyclops whose love for the sea nymph Galatea was the subject of poems by Theocritus, circa 275 BC. We can compare the old poetry of Polyphemus with Boiardo’s punning synopsis.
His desire eclipsed convention; there was no
Sending apples, or roses, or exchanging locks
Of hair, none of the usual things. He was
Truly insane, could think of nothing else.
“But if I am too shaggy, look: I have
Oak logs, and, unquenched by covering ash,
The spark of never-wearying fire within my cave.
I could endure being singed to the quick by you-
My only eye, the sweetest thing to me,
I'd let you burn it.”
LOVE made this big giant, Cyclops,
So full of love for Galatea,
That possibly no lover burned as much as he did.
Viti even specified a special game for his deck. Not content to describe the deck to be created from Boiardo’s verses, he also detailed the way it was to be used. Just as the deck desired by Viti is a novelty item, far removed from standard Tarot decks, the game envisioned by Viti is a rather fatuous diversion, a parlor game not likely to have been indulged more than a few times at best. It largely takes for granted the regular cardplay of Tarot, telling us virtually nothing about the game on which this elaboration is based. Instead, it describes additional elements: Viti’s pastime overlays a reading of the poems before the card game itself, and some unusual procedures after the normal play is finished. (Viti cannot have been much of a card player.) His instructions are well summarized by Dummett.
This game falls into four parts. The two cards bearing the sonnets are first set aside, and then each draws a card to determine the dealer, who is the one drawing the highest card. When the cards have all been dealt out, the first part of the game consists simply in each player’s reading out the verses on his cards, from which, Viti naively remarks, much amusement may be had. It is not explained what happens when the number of players is such that the cards cannot be distributed equally and exhaustively. The second part of the game consists in playing out the cards in tricks: it is necessary to follow suit when possible, and, when not possible, to play a trump. Nothing is said about the way the Matto is played. Among the numeral cards, the higher-numbered beat the lower-numbered in the suits of Arrows and Vases, but, in those of Eyes and Whips, the lower-numbered beat the higher-numbered; among the trumps the higher-numbered win. At the end of the play, each player is paid by every other player who has won fewer tricks than he has as many scuti as the difference in the number of tricks they have won. At this stage, those who have won no tricks fall out of the game, the third part of which now takes place. Using the cards they have won in tricks, each player reckons up points as follows: he counts one positive point for each card he has in the suits of Arrows and Vases, and one negative point for each card in the suits of Eyes and Whips; presumably trumps do not count either way. When the points have been thus reckoned, each player may demand from any other who has a lower score that he hand over to him any card of the demander’s choice. Presumably it is meant that one card is to be surrendered for each point of difference in the scores, and presumably also, if a players asks for a card which the other does not have, he cannot try again. In choosing which card to ask for, a player will have an eye on the fourth part of the game: this consists in each player’s putting together the longest sequence of consecutive cards which he now has in his hand. The winner—the player with the longest such sequence—can demand from the loser (presumably the player with the shortest sequence) everything that he has about his person; clearly, one needs to deposit one’s valuables elsewhere before sitting down to play this game.
(The Game of Tarot, 421-2.)
Thus, Boiardo’s poems and Viti’s deck and game are remarkable novelties based on Tarot. They are a wonderful example of the type of pastimes which might appeal to Renaissance intellectuals, and provide insight into the type of subject matter which might be incorporated into games for the upper classes. Unfortunately, they tell us extremely little about the standard game itself; they say even less about standard decks with which the popular game was routinely played; and they tell us nothing at all about the earlier origins of Tarot itself. The appropriati and the novelty deck are just that, a literary exercise and a unique, one-off deck for a peculiar parlor-game elaboration of Tarot. And they were certainly not overlooked by playing-card historians.