hist-games: Cartomancy debate

Thierry Depaulis thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr
Sun Feb 18 01:28:54 PST 2001


>Thierry Depaulis wrote:
>> All these books ask the 'consultant' to use a random generator -- mostly
>> dice. Then according to the chart you get a page number and a sentence
>> number which is supposed to answer your questions. Some books use playing
>> cards instead of dice, e.g. the so-called (German) 'Kartenlosbuecher' (=
>> literally "card-fortune books"). Here playing cards are not actually
>> 'read': they are just used to give you a page/sentence number. It is the
>> great difference between these early methods and later cartomancy.
>>
>> Such books appeared as early as the late 15th century. They were quite
>> popular in Europe (I know no English example) and were called in German
>> 'Losbuch', in French 'Livre de sort', etc. One of these, written by Lorenzo
>> Spirito, was a best-seller around 1500-50.

and Chas asked:
>Many thanks for the clarification! Can you recommend sources for further
>reading on the topic of these fortune-telling books?

Unfortunately the main source of my knowledge is an unpublished doctoral
thesis written in French by a young Dutch woman... However, all these early
books are listed in Manfred Zollinger's authoritative "Bibliographie der
Spielbuecher des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts", Vol. 1: 1473-1700, Stuttgart:
Anton Hiersemann, 1996 (Hiersemanns bibliographische Handbuecher, Bd. 12).
Still available but very expensive!

They form the "Los- und Orakelbuecher" section (starting with Lorenzo
Spirito's "Sorte" of 1482, ending with Marc Vulson de la Colombiere's
"Palais de la Fortune", 1696).

Manfred is working on the next volumes, dealing with the 18th century.
Thierry Depaulis

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