hist-games: Cartomancy debate

Chas webmaster at historicgames.com
Fri Feb 16 08:25:45 PST 2001

Thierry Depaulis wrote:
> Taylor's "History of Playing Cards" is essentially the mere translation
> (without credits!) of a French book: Paul Boiteau d'Ambly, "Les cartes a
> jouer et la cartomancie", Paris, 1854. Of course Taylor had not read the
> books he "mentionned", but Boiteau had.
> If it is p.455 you have in mind, I can say Horatio Galasso has nothing to
> do with cartomancy! A copy of the book is in the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal
> in Paris (France...) where Boiteau saw it. It is a card-trick manual (one
> of the earliest).

That was my point. Taylor says "fortune telling proper seems here to have been
confused with games of skill in many ways" and I was merely speculating
whether those who have argued for the early existence of cartomancy may have
also suffered from this confusion/mistake that Taylor mentions.

> Marcolino's "Le Sorti" of 1540 (mentionned p. 454) is not exactly
> "cartomancy". It is more fortune-telling with the help of a pack of playing
> cards (trappola cards!) used as a random generator.
> For Marcolino (or Marcolini) da Forli see: Detlef Hoffmann and Erika
> Kroppenstedt, "Wahrsagekarten", Bielefeld: Deutsches Spielkarten-Museum,
> 1972, p.26-28.

I guess I don't understand your comment. I have always understood "cartomancy"
as a generic term meaning fortune telling with either standard playing cards
or tarot cards. Are you perhaps making a distinction between a simple form of
fortune telling by turning playing cards at random, and modern tarot reading?
Tarot readers also use their decks as random outcome generators. The only
difference I see is that tarot readers also have a formalized system for
interpreting the cards and their relationships to each other.

Can you tell us more about "Le Sorti"? As you've described it, it would
possibly refute the current theory that fortune telling with cards did not
appear until the 1700's. Taylor does say that Marcolino called his system a
"pleasant invention" and therefore it was probably not a serious attempt to
read the future. But I understand the first fortune telling games in the
1700's to have been novelty solitaire games, is what Marcolini described
different somehow?

Perhaps it's just my perception? I find it hard to draw a distinct line
between novelty cartomancy games and "serious" fortune telling.

MacGregor Games
Purveyors of historic pastimes to re-enactors around the world
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