hist-games: Tarot in England from the late 1500s?

Michael Hurst mjhurst at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 7 08:19:26 PDT 2007

Hi, Chas,

I think that the dearth of records mentioning Tarot strongly supports 
the conclusion that Tarot never caught on in England. As for the popish 
and other Christian elements, they were offensive in Italy, too. They 
were deemed inappropriate for a card game. A number of variations were 
created in different locales, decks which either classicized the 
subjects or simply changed particularly offensive ones. Then, around the 
mid-1700s, modern decks with arbitrary trump subjects, double-headed 
cards, and French suit-signs began to take over in most regions where 
Tarot was then a popular game.

Based on the references I mentioned, a version of TdM would be the 
obvious choice for the "French cardes".

If you have 22 euros to spend on a deck, some historical considerations 
(surviving cards from Sforza Castle) suggest that the Parisian style of 
Jean Noblet (c.1650) may be closest to the decks originally imported to 
France from Milan, i.e., the oldest form of TdM. Originals as well as 
the reproduction can be seen at the site of Jean-Claude Flornoy, the 
artist who recreated the deck.

The Tarot of Jean Noblet

historic at historicgames.com wrote:
> Quoting Michael Hurst <mjhurst at earthlink.net>:
>> In any case, there appear to have been (assuming Pinkerton's
>> interpretation is correct) Tarot cards produced in England in the late
>> 16th century and recognized as a permitted game and a desirable social
>> skill (for young noblemen, who might well play the game when abroad) in
>> early 17th century England.
>   Interesting... the references I've read have all claimed that tarot 
> games never became popular in English-speaking countries. It would 
> make sense though that James I's Court might be more familiar with 
> them through Mary Queen of Scots time in the French court.
> I have always wondered if they were seen as too "Popish" or too 
> "idolotrous" in their symbolism by the Puritans and the Commonwealth 
> period and therefore never caught on. But it would make sense that 
> some of the Royalists in exile during the English Civil War may have 
> played them while abroad and brought them back at least among the 
> upper-classes with the increase in gambling in Restoration period.
> The question is what surviving style of cards would be best to use if 
> you are a English reenactor wanting to playing a tarot game "on 
> stage?" Perhaps something along the lines of the 18th century Tarot of 
> Marseilles? I dislike the Marseilles deck we sell because the swords 
> and the wands are hard to tell apart for many people.
> Chas
> -- 
> MacGregor Games
> http://historicgames.com

More information about the hist-games mailing list