hist-games: Biribissi (was: Greetings and a question)

Britt tierna.britt at gmail.com
Mon Sep 24 10:48:43 PDT 2007

> > But I digress. I have found a non gambling version of an Italian gambling
> > lottery called Biribissi from "At Home in Renaissance Italy", the V&A Museum
> > website. There was a description of play in Giacomo Casanova's book 'History
> > of My Life', ppg 12-13. Any other reference to this game is in Italian which
> > I do not read. Is anyone able to help me find the rules and instructions of
> > how to play Biribissi?

Hmmm.  I find the spellings 'biribi' and 'biribis' in _Fun and Games
in Old Europe_ by W. Endrei and L. Zolnay. Little about the game
itself, save that was a 'pot' style lottery, "the tokens resembled
olives, were marked with numbers, were hidden in a sack, and only the
tokens were drawn. There was a single winner; the one who held the
winning number."

Biribissi is described in 'History of My Life' by Giacomo Casanova,
find the section here:

Biribi has a terse Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biribi

A description of the players:

Another name reference is hoca, introduced to France by Cardinal
Manzarin, who apparently made a fortune on hoca-casinos.

Google books search hits on this tidbit:
Whoo, that one has instructions for biribi!

And nother, in PDF:
Here's the text from this page:

Cavagnole and biribi
Biribi, a form of lottery taken from Italy in the 17th century,
comprises a card of 70 numbered
squares, an equivalent number of small parchments rolled up inside
small olives and a helmet
placed on a bag containing the olives. All the players place their
stakes on a numbered box,
then an olive is drawn out of the helmet. The winner is the player who
placed his stake on the
numbered box corresponding to the number on the parchment. His
winnings are 64 times the
value of his stake paid by the banker.
Cavagnole is a similar game
to Biribi, but each player is given a card of five (occasionally nine)
numbered squares and places his stake on one of these squares.

Barnhart, Russell T., 'Gambling in Revolutionary Paris- The Palais
Royal 1789-1838', apparently has a very good description.

And Biribissi is also an apparently popular name for cats.  :)

This help?

- Teceangl

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