Sunday, November 6, 2016

June 7, 2016: Before 1377? Bohemia

Translator's introduction
(by Michael S. Howard)

What follows is my translation of Franco Pratesi's "Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377? Boemia", at Comments in brackets are by me unless otherwise indicated. In this case, for quotations, I have only translated a few short ones that Franco summarized instead of paraphrasing, or left without comment. Otherwise Franco's paraphrases seem full enough; the few details he has left out, if important, can be left for discussion in later posts. I originally posted this translation at

After the translation, I have put some comments of my own relating to both Poland and Bohemia, using material helpfully provided to me by Lothar Teikemeier.

For anyone new to these essays, it might be confusing that Franco starts by referring to John of Rheinfelden and then switches to talking about cards in Freiburg. John actually referred to himself in the document as living in Freiburg (the one north of Lake Constance in eastern Switzerland); he calls it oppidum nostrum (per Arne Jonsson, "Card-Playing as a Mirror of Society: On Johannes of Rheinfelden's Ludus Cartularum moralisibus", in Chess and Allegory, Stockholm 2005, p. 359). So the cards John talks about are in Freiburg.

Playing cards in Europe before 1377? Bohemia

1. Introduction

With the year 1377 the testimonies on the spread of playing cards in Europe become more seure and more and more frequent, growing exponentially. In some cases it appears rather obvious that this is not a notice about a game just come to the view of the writer, but rather of a game that had already spread for some time without ever getting precise documentation. If the cards came to Europe from Egypt, as many historians today think, one should find traces of the path, which instead still do not appear defined. There are also indications suggesting a possible origin from various regions. One of the first testimonies on playing cards in Europe is that of John of Rheinfelden describing a situation incompatible with a first appearance of the game: if the date 1377 in the Rhine region is true about a late stage of the game, it becomes essential to look for other traces in neighboring localities of earlier times.

It may also be observed here that the city of Freiburg (like those of Basel and Rheinfelden, possibly involved) also does not have the characteristics suitable to match a rapid arrival of a novelty from the Islamic world: it is a city far from the sea and the main trade routes, especially those from the East. The situation only becomes clear and easily acceptable to those who suppose a long spread of playing cards earlier, which was effected without leaving significant traces. Thus it happens that some rather vague and uncertain notices become worthy of study, ones that would not have received any attention if the testimony of Freiburg is attributed, as deemed appropriate by several

experts, a date near or equal to that of 1429, when the oldest preserved copy in Basel was written.

If in 1377 many playing cards are documented in Freiburg, and not in the ports of the Mediterranean, it would seem necessary to find an alternative way to come there leaving from Asia. (One's first impression in this regard is not very different from that of being confronted with the hypothesis of an arrival of the cards in the center of Europe by air.) Imagine the possible routes, starting from scratch. For obvious geographic reasons, one must necessarily prefer a terrestrial rather than marine one and then the same populations of Turkic origin who assumed an active role of Egypt ruled by the Mamluks could play their role as intermediaries directly from their lands around the Caspian Sea with transfers related to the Mongols, the Cossacks, in those commercial routes that starting from the Silk Road came to Kiev, Krakow, Prague and then into Germanic lands.

In the hypothetical path that leads to Switzerland from Asia by land, Prague can be a significant step. Here's how some faint trace that was reported there suddenly acquires great force, precisely as support for the idea of a Europe accessing cards from the East by land. Recently, a Prague involvement has often been brought to the attention of the readers of the tarot-history forum (1). It seems appropriate to delve a little into the issue and check the reliability of its notices and reconstructions. Stimulating this research on notices originating in Prague has been Lothar Teikemeier, as much in his writings about it, starting with a summary on the internet (2), as with personal communications and related discussions. As I was finishing this study, Michael S Howard has turned again the subject, including in it in a more extensive path (3). A verification of the proposed reconstruction with Prague’s involvement appeared to me useful, not so much for its manifest plausibility, but because any attempt that lends itself to reconstructing the path of playing cards in their arrival into Europe from distant regions of origin deserves attention.
1. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1064
3. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1096

2. The historical context

2.1. The Kingdom of Bohemia in its Golden Age.

A first summary reconstruction of the historical context of our interest can already be drawn from Wikipedia, as has become normal for us today, for example in "The history of Prague." It is found that in the years of interest Prague had an extraordinary demographic, urban, commercial, and cultural flowering. King Charles IV of the dynasty of Luxembourg became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and transformed Prague from the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia to the main city of the Empire, with, among other things, the oldest university in Central-Eastern Europe. The rulers of the Luxembourg family were supporters of the literary and artistic culture of the Renaissance, and maintained close contacts with the most illustrious and modern literati and artists. In particular, to realize the exceptional level of the cultural involvement of the sovereigns of Prague of that family with the environment of the Italian Renaissance one can consult with profit a splendid edition, the work of several authors. (4)

However, wanting to trace the history of the place and period of interest, the main reference manual is now considered the collective work of some academicians of the Czech Republic (5); in particular, our interest is Chapter V: "The Expansion of the Czech State During The Era of the Luxemburgs (1306-1419)", pp. 117-146 of the book cited, written by Miloslav Polívka; it is an excellent development, which will be taken in the following as a basis for various quotations on the subjects discussed. Unfortunately it is not an easy book to find; it is rarely an addition to Italian public libraries; I have had access to a copy from the University of Bologna, section in Forli, thanks to interlibrary loan managed by BiblioteCaNova, which made it easily accessible for me. The cover is shown in Fig. 1; I will extract only a little information on a few major personages and particular aspects.
4. Le rêve italien de la Maison de Luxembourg aux 14. et 15. siecles [The Italian dream of the House of Luxembourg in the 14th and 15th centuries. (P. Marque, ed.) Luxembourg 1997.
5. J. Pánek, O. Tuma et al., A History of the Czech Lands. Prague 2009.

Figure 1 - Cover of the book utilized in the text.

2.2. Charles IV of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia and emperor

It does not seem out of place in this case (some might say in all cases) to start the examination with the king in charge, Charles of Luxembourg (1316-1378). The king of Bohemia that we meet at the time was a very important person and it is easy to find plenty of information on his life and on his governmental actions. I will limit myself to onsidering a few facts, either for a certain curiosity, or for a possible involvement with the question of interest to us. A nod to the King/Emperor is made necessary for at least two reasons. The first is obvious, because it was due to some of his initiatives that Bohemia had an extra-

ordinary economic and cultural flowering. The second is less obvious and is derived from the opinions of some experts in the history of playing cards, Lothar Teikemeier in the head, who closely associates the spread of playing cards with the travel and weddings of monarchs. His father, John of Luxembourg, was the first king of Bohemia of that family, and maintained strong ties with his territory of origin and with various courts of Central Europe. For his son Wenceslas he prepared a "modern" education at the court of Paris, rare for a king of the time; among other things, he could boast of speaking five languages, including Latin; one of his teachers, Cardinal Rosière, became pope in 1342 as Clement VI.

Profitable marriages

In 1423, at the age of seven, the future king and emperor was confirmed in Paris and changed his name to that of his godfather Charles IV, King of France; in the same year his wedding with his noble contemporary Blanche of Valois was celebrated. This very early marriage (obviously consumed in due course) was just the first of many that followed, for himself and for his children, always with an underlying gain of territories for the Bohemian crown. I take these exemplary cases by copying the relevant passages from the book cited.
Shortly after this [his confirmation--added by Franco] the seven year-old prince was married to Blanche of Valois, who was the same age. The diplomatic reasoning behind this was that it would be wise to join both kingdoms dynastically. (p. 126.) His marriage with Anna of the Palatinate cleared Charles's way to the west and facilitated his attempt to gain control over towns and castles between Tachov and Nuremberg, where a new group of fiefs were established, creating what was referred to as New Bohemia (Nové Cechy) from 1356. (p. 129.)

His third wife, Anna of Šwidnica, brought with her the Šwidnica-Jávor principality in Silesia, and his fourth, Alžběta of Pomerania, supported Charles's interest in the northern regions of Europe, which he achieved with the purchase of Brandenburg in 1373.

The Emperor had seven children and his decisions about their marriages served the aims for his dynastic policies and the security and expansion of the Czech state. Markéta married Louis of Hungary, Katežina Rudolf IV of Habsburg and later Otto of Brandenburg, Eliška Albrecht III of Habsburg, Václav Johanna and then Sophia of Bavaria, Anna the English king Richard II, Sigismund (Zikmund) Maria of Hungary Jan of Görlitz Richardis of Sweden, and Markéta Johann of Hohenzollern. These dynastic alliances bear witness to Charles's political grasp and perspicuity. (p. 130.)
The passage reported ends with the comment that these dynastic alliances testify to Charles's political capability and perspicuity. If a few more comments can be added, we can think about how many military campaigns, certainly of more uncertain outcome, would be needed to achieve territorial expansion comparable to that. But there is a secondary aspect that could become important to some experts, who see in the weddings of princes unique opportunities for the propagation of playing cards: obviously in this crowned family occasions like that were not lacking.

Situation in the Holy Roman Empire

After the death of his father in 1346, our king collected many important titles: Roman-German King from 1346 and then from 1349; Charles I, King of Bohemia from 1347; King of Italy from 1355. He reached his most important position, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1355. We are concerned here especially with Prague, but the actions and influences of this monarch spread to much of Europe (and not only with the marriages already encountered).

As King of Bohemia, Charles was the monarch of a state located close to other realms, those of Poland and Hungary in particular; unlike those, the Kingdom of Bohemia was one of the states that formed the Holy Roman Empire; thus its ruler was the only King present among the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire; the others were, notoriously, three archbishops (Cologne, Mainz and Trier) and three heads of state, who, however, did not have the actual title (Count Palatine, Margrave of Brandenburg, Duke of Saxony). Such an organization had existed for centuries, but it was firmly organized precisely by Charles IV, with his famous Golden Bull of 1456. For the first time, a the papal coronation of the Emperor was no longer required, substituting for him the three German archbishops. In 1355, Prague became the capital of the Empire.

Privileged relations with the Catholic Church

Of particular interest with regard to our study is the relationship of Charles IV with the Catholic Church, which proved very useful both in restraining the demands for greater autonomy by the Bohemian nobles and in international diplomacy.
Of first importance was the accession of Charles's former teacher in France,

Rosière, to the Papal See as Clement VI in 1342. The Pope emphatically supported the Luxembourgs against Ludwig the Bavarian, who was in conflict with the Curia over his refusal to subordinate earthly authority to that of the Church, and violently effected the imperial coronation. The position of the new Pope brought substantial support to his former student both in the Czech context and international politics. Clement VI fulfilled Charles's request that the Prague bishopric be raised to an archbishopric, which came about in the spring of 1344. Arnošt of Pardubice, a confidante, advisor and supporter of Charles, occupied the office. Ecclesiastical structures in the Czech state were overhauled, adding the newly established bishopric of Litomyšl. The establishment of the Prague archbishopric itself was the decisive factor in the Bohemian crown lands unhitching themselves from ecclesiastical subordination to the archbishops of Mainz and further loosened their relation to the Roman Empire. (p. 128.)
It is exactly this Archbishop we must continue with in this study, omitting other religious aspects, such as the absence of effective action by the imperial throne in defense of the persecuted Jews.

2.3. Bishop and Archbishop Ernesto da Pardubice

We have seen that in a central role in the politics and culture of the time was the bishop, then archbishop of Prague, Ernest of Pardubice (Czech Arnošt of Pardubice, German Ernst von Pardubitz, Fig. 2) 6. This personage was the center of important developments that took place in those years in the Bohemian capital. Arnost was appointed bishop of Prague in 1443 and in the following year the Diocese was promoted to Archdiocese and Archbishop holder obtained among other things the right to crown the king of Bohemia. Ever since Charles IV had founded in 1348 the prestigious Prague University, the archbishop kept by law the post of Chancellor. His education had been perfected especially in the field of canon law, with the university studies he had been able to complete in Bologna and Padua.

The archbishop was in office a full twenty years, until his death, and was therefore a witness and promoter of very significant events. He was very active, and also had a significant role as a valued adviser to the king. He compiled many texts of administrative law, mostly aimed at the reorganization of the diocesan structure, accompanied by a strengthening from an economic point of view,

making the situation of the church more solid and prosperous. Later it was also the exorbitant wealth of the church, which owned among other things, about a third of the agricultural land of the country, contributing to the development of the Hussite movement, ending with revolution.

Figure 2 – Archbishop of Prague Ernesto da Pardubice.
(Narodni_muzeum, Prague – from wikimedia Commons)

2.4. Trade developments in Prague

Of particular interest for our purposes is the information on market developments and the economy in general. In this regard I will only extract some general information from the same academic treatise.
In 1348, Charles founded the New Town in Prague, endowing it with many privileges and thus enabling the influx of artisans and merchant, while also

connecting the town with European markets all the more closely. He thus reduced the influence of the patriciate of the Old Town in Prague, which up to this time held the monopoly on the commercial centre of the Bohemian crown lands with foreign trade. (p. 132.)

...Jews worked for the most part in commerce and finance, and, as in Europe in general, they met with significant problems in the Czech state. (p.134.)

...While at the beginning of the 14th century, merchants from Regensburg did the most business with the Bohemian crown lands, from the mid-century they were replaced by merchants from Nuremberg, who settled in Cheb and Plzen, dominating commerce with the eastern parts of the Empire. (p. 134.)
To get a more complete view of the situation, one can turn to books compiled specifically on this topic. It so happens that at this point we are faced with a difficult choice. There is a specific book that is the unique one of its kind listed in the bibliography at the end of the chapter written by Miloslav Polívka, p. 146 of the book cited (7), from which one would say that this is sufficient to ensure its accuracy. I have been able check with Google Books that this text contains no news on the trade and production of playing cards at the time. We will examine later another book on trade in Bohemia in the era being examined (8), which is also the theme of our specific interest; that book is not mentioned in the academic treatise of Czech history, and it might be inferred that its historic contribution was not found to be particularly useful. In conclusion the choice to deepen our knowledge of the subject is between a book deemed "serious", but does not consider playing cards, and one that sees the cards, but the validity of which has not had an acknowledgment from the studies of later historians.

3. Notices from Prague on the first cards in the Czech Republic

Understandably some notices on the history of playing cards in the Czech Republic is also in the Czech manuals on card game, of which some will be examined. However the source that looks oldest and most detailed corresponds to the book on the history of Bohemian trade mentioned last, which we go now to consider.
7. G. Juritsch, Handel und Handelsrecht in Böhmen bis zur hussitischen Revolution [Commerce and Commercial Law in Bohemia up to the Hussite Revolution]. Leipzig-Vienna 1907.
8. F. L. Hübsch, Versuch einer Geschichte des böhmischen Handels [Attempt at a History of Bohemian Commerce] Prague 1849.

3.1. Hübsch 1849

The main text responsible for the notices to be examined is by a nineteenth century author, Hübsch, who in his book on the history of trade in the Czech Republic already mentioned, signaled more of a useful document on the local spread of playing cards before 1377. The book must be carefully considered, taking into consideration, however, that at the start we are faced with a leap of five hundred years between the original documents of the mid fourteenth century and the notices coming on that basis to us from the middle of the nineteenth century; this fact obviously removes a large part of the documentary value of the testimony. Nevertheless, we will try to give faith to the accuracy of the historical research of Hübsch, the author involved, and look at the information that he gives us.

We are fortunate that the book in which the information of interest is contained has been recently reprinted by the related publishers Nabu Press, BiblioBazaar, and BiblioLife; for those involved we can provide some ISBN numbers, not all but more than necessary (9). In fact, we are even more fortunate than that, because we can find online a digital version in the form of an e-book of a copy of the book that bears the stamp of Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis (10).

Before presenting the passages related to playing cards, it seems useful to give some information about the book and its author, taking it especially from the preface, in the absence of other sources. The author dedicates the book to Mr. Karl Kinzlberger, his friend and sponsor, owner of commercial and production activities in Prague. To induce him to carry out this research a prize was offered in 1797 by the "Gesellschaft der königliche böhmische Wissenschaften und Künste" [Society of the Royal Bohemian Arts and Sciences] for a history of Bohemian trade from antiquity to the present. No author was committed in its regard until 1838, when Hübsch was induced to do it himself.

Hübsch’s qualifications are not indicated precisely, but it is certain that he was not a professional historian, nor a college professor, nor a young researcher; he tells us only that he made several trips at home
9. 2010: 9781144267061, 2010: 9781148104904, 2010: 1289510148, 2013:

and abroad for his profession of trader, taking the opportunity to gather a lot of historical and especially commercial documentation.
Ich bin zwar kein Gelehrter vom Fach, aber der Erfahrungssatz, dass der Architekt über die Rauten und der Chemiker über die Dinge der Natur am sichersten Auskunft geben können, gab mir als einem praktischen Kaufmann die Bestimmung, Geist und Hand an dieses Werk zu legen.

[I am not a scholar by trade, but of the empirical proposition, that the architect can give the most certain information about diamonds and the chemist about the things of nature, which gives me as a practical businessman the determination, mind and hand to put into this work.]
It is based, in short, on his practical experience in commerce, rather than on some academic preparation. Thanks to some scholars who have helped him in the research, like Josef Kaiina and above all Dr. Rudolf Glaser of the Prague University Library.
Eben so gaben mir zur Ergänzung des vorliegenden Werkes die von mir in ganz früheren Jahren gesammelten Materialien, welche ich zum Behufe einer industriell-merkantilischen Encyclopädie benutzte, den bestmöglichsten Vorschub.

[Just so they gave me, to supplement the present work of materials collected by me in years quite earlier, which I used as the the best possible encouragement to the purpose of an industrial-mercantile encyclopedia.]
The author tells us that he was further supported to complete the work from the materials that he had already gathered many years before to build an "industrial-mercantile encyclopedia" (of which perhaps we may find the first issue in some library) (11). The preface ends with a reference to a sense of patriotism and nationalism.
Gewiss blickt auch ein jeder Böhme, in welchem das Gefühl für National-Ehre noch nicht ganz erstorben ist, mit wahrer Wonne und Stolz auf die Thätigkeit und Emsigkeit seiner Voraltern zurück.
Certainly every Bohemian in whom the sentiment of patriotic honor is not totally dead observes for with pleasure and pride the activities and commitment of his ancestors. Indeed, leafing through the book we often encounter harsh criticism about the work of foreigners in the Czech Republic, beginning with the Germans, which to us seems a bit strange from the pen of an author with a German name who writes in that language, but those were notoriously years of strong nationalist claims throughout Europe.
11. F. L. Hübsch, Grosse industriell-merkantlilische Encyklopa¨die alles Wissenswürdigen und Interessanten aus dem Gebiete der gesammten Waarenkunde und Waarengeschichte: mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Europa's Handel, Industrie und deren Geschichte Bd. 1 H. 1 [Big industrial-mercantile Encyclopedia of all worthy and interesting knowledge out of the areas of the collected true arts and true history: with special reference to the trade of Europe and its history, Vol. 1, No. 1]. Prague [1843--added by Franco].

An initial examination without presumption indicates the presence in the text of many references to previous work: on the one hand this shows a certain seriousness of writing, tending to the academic level, but on the other is quite contrary to the author's preface, in which he heralded the presentation of data derived mostly from research conducted in person from documents of the time (of which in truth there are found to be some quotes).

Basically an amateur historian who compiles a book of three hundred pages on a matter of this kind, even if based on clippings and various notes, deserves our understanding and appreciation, if only because he did not have Wikipedia at his disposal, nor our comfortable methods of cut and paste. However, going back to the issue that concerns us most directly, it is preferable to reproduce in full the passage related to playing cards. [Translator's note: the translation of this passage into English is discussed in detail in my comments]
Das Lumpenpapier kam zu Anfang des XIV. Jahrh. aus Italien nach Böhmen, denn von dieser Zeit sieht man Manuscripte auf diesem Papier geschrieben, welche sich auf unsere Zeiten in einigen Bibliotheken erhielten. ...Die Spielkarten waren um diese Zeit [zu Anfang des XIV. Jahrh.] bereits im Gebrauche, allein sie waren nicht von Holzschnitten abgedruckt, sondern blosse aus freier Hand gezeichnete Bilderumrisse gewesen, die mittelst der Patronen übermalt wurden. Mau brachte diese anfänglich aus Nürnberg, woselbst sie bereits einen gangbaren Erwerbszweig ausgemacht haben. (p. 181.)

Auch ein Kartenmaler Namens Jonathan Kraysel aus Nürnberg kommt 1354 in Prag vor. Ob sich vordem schon ähnliche Künstler in Prag befanden, oder ob die Spielkarten von den Schilderern geliefert wurden, kann nicht diplomatisch nachgewiesen werden. Die ältesten zuverlässigen Nachrichten vom Gebrauche der Spielkarten in Böhmen finden sich im Jahre 1340 vor, allein da solche schön früher, wie dies Urkunden darthun, von polnischen Edelleuten zum Zeitvertreibe angewendet wurden, so ist es auch wahrscheinlich, dass diese Spielblätter, wie bereits bemerkt, schon unter K. Johann, zu welcher Zeit sie die Höflinge in Frankreich kennen gelernt haben, in Böhmen bekannt gewesen sind. Ob man solche aber damals in Böhmen selbst und von welchen Leuten verfertigt hatte, oder ob sie durch fremde Kaufleute nach Böhmen gebracht wurden, dies lässt sich nicht bestimmen; genug, wir sind für jetzt dahin angewiesen, zu glauben, dass der erste Kartenmacher der aus Nürnberg gekommene Künstler gewesen sei. (p. 242.)
The beginning sounds pretty obvious: the paper (of rags) arrived in Bohemia from Italy at the beginning of the fourteenth century; in this case the documentation is remarkably easy: they are the same sheets of paper that remain

from that time in the libraries to document it directly, without the need for any specific historical research. Playing cards, again at the beginning of the fourteenth century, were already in use but only painted, because the use of forms of wood came only later from Nuremberg where it already constituted a significant productive sector. There follows the most precise information, the only one, of the card maker Jonathan Kraysel who came to Prague in 1354 from Nuremberg; while there are no reports of active card makers previously in Prague, the cards could be produced by painters of other kinds. The first reliable notice for playing cards in Prague is of 1340. The same source indicates that the game even before the previously mentioned 1340 was familiar among Polish nobles and in France. Perhaps already at the time of King John [reigned 1310-1340: added by Franco], Bohemian nobles had learned to play cards in their stays in France and cards were common in Bohemia. One is not able to reconstruct if the playing cards used were produced locally or imported from foreign merchants. Hübsch resolves the uncertainty by suggesting that precisely Kraysel would have been the first manufacturer of playing cards active in Prague.

In summary, the essential information for us is that the card game was known in the first half of the fourteenth century not only in Prague, but also in other cities and states. These reports remain very vague; what is certain is that none of the information presented for the fourteenth century indicates  the exact text or the precise source. These are very surprising notices that will be discussed again later.

3.2. Carl von Höfler 1862

The printed publication of a fourteenth-century reference to playing cards, often cited by Czech authors who have studied the history of playing cards in their country, appeared in a nineteenth century collection compiled from ancient documents of the Council of Prague, also of the era of our interest (12). The document that concerns us, among those due to Archbishop Ernesto of Pardubice, is his Latin treatise Synoda brevia of 1353, containing many provisions regarding especially the diocesan organization and rules of behavior of the clergy. Among the people whose company must be avoided are cited players of dice and cards.
12. C. von Höfler, Concilia Pragensia: 1353-1413. Prager Synodal-Beschlusse. Praag 1862.

Preterea quia per inhonestos clerícos dehonestatur honestas clericorum omnibus et singulis archìdiaconís presentibus committimus in virtute sancte obedientie mandantes quatenus omnes et singulos clericos suorum archidiaconatuum quos cohabitare cognoverint mulieribus juvenculis, armorum delatores, taxillorum alearum cartarumque lusores in domo vel extra domum incendiariorum raptorum et exulum prostatas seu medìatores furum furtorumque receptatores et nocturnos divagatores qui receperint pariterque foverint corrigant et puniant prout culpe qualitas expostulat et requirit ipsorum rebellionem inobedienciam et pervicaciam per censuram ecclesiasticam compescendo, premissa tamdiu per eos fieri volentes donec a nobis aliud habuerint in mandatis. (p. 3.)
Evidently the Archbishop had learned the Latin language also in the writings of Cicero, but to us all of the reasoning turns on one word alone, cartarumque. Therefore, they are to avoid not only the lusores taxillorum alearum, dice players, but et cartarum, also those of cards; taxilli and aleae are two words often used interchangeably at the time, meaning dice or games done with them. The cartae, or carte, as was more often written at the time, were obviously our playing cards.

3.3. Other historical contributions from Bohemia

Fr. Zuman 1929

In this case we are not confronted with a book or a lengthy monograph, but a simple article in a Czech journal, written by an author who published in the same journal several other items in those years. The magazine in question is not easy to find in European libraries, except of course those in the Czech Republic; I did not find a copy in Italy, and I can only thank the professionalism of an English librarian if I was able to find one (13). The part of our interest, copied below, is unexpectedly and incredibly short; even knowing about it beforehand, it was not easy to find. I acually expected more extensive comments. Instead there is only one sentence in the text that concerns us, but especially of interest is the final part of the reference, two words in parentheses, as follows.

13. F. Zuman, Casopis Spolecnosti Prátel Starožitnosti Cesckoslovensk, Ch. XXXVII (1929) 161-185.

K nám prý prišel první výrobce, kartár z Norirnberka, r. 1354. (44)

(44) Hübsch: Geschichte des böhm. Handels, str, 242, (Zpráva nedoložená.) (p. 174.)
The sentence in the text is easy and broadly confirms that the first card maker that came "with us" [da noi] was a card maker from Nuremberg in the year 1354. This we had already met in the book by Hübsch and therefore we cannot be surprised if footnote 44 refers precisely to that book, reporting the author, title, and also page number. In the end, the only new part, of great interest, is narrowed down to the two words in parentheses. For people like me who only read a few words of Czech, the Google translator can be useful. The words in brackets are read then roughly as "report unfounded" [rapporto infondato]. As often Google translations are not yet fully reliable, I decided to check the translation in other languages, will be the ear of the reader to choose the preferred version: English report unsubstantiated, German Bericht unbegründete, French rapport sans fondement”. Well, at least there is a certain consistency in the translations. Personally I am left a little in doubt if the brackets refers only to that specific reference or should be extended to the whole book, but there is no need to punish him; we choose simply the minor criticism that is enough for our purposes.

Hübsch’s source at least no longer exists, and it is even suspected that it never existed. Of course, one can always assume, and maintain, that a document, later nowhere to be found, was at the time very carefully examined by Hübsch, and that this news was extracted from him faithfully; there remains in any case the disappointment of not being able to completely control a notice that would need precisely a control on the original source, in order to be a significant result.

Ivan Honl 1947 .

Perhaps the most authoritative among the authors who, writing on card games, also have dealt with their history, is Dr. Ivan Honl, who deals with it at the beginning of his book (14). For us the beginning of the relevant chapter is sufficient, copied below.
14 I. Honl, Z minulosti karetní hry v Cechách. Prague 1947.

Povšechný prehled vývoje karetni hry v Cechách.
Karty mají svuj puvod v Oriente, pravdepodobne v Persii, Indii nebo v centrální Asii, a do Evropy byly prineseny nejspíše križáky v XIII. veku. Puvodne byly malovány, pozdeji, po vynalezení drevorezby, byly jednotlivé obrázky ryty do špalíku a tišteny. Nejstarší cechy hotovitelu karet jsou doloženy již v XIV. stol. v Norimberce, Augšpurce, Ulmu a Štrasburku.

U nás v Cechách se první zmínka o kartách ciní r. 1353, kdy arcibiskup Arnošt z Pardubic zakázal duchovním osobám prechovávati kostkáre a hráce v karty, cartarum lusores (1); hned roku príštího je pak v Praze doložen malír karet cili kartýr, jenž sem prý prišel z Norimberka (2). (p. 9.)
We find two distinct parts presented one after the other. In the first it is recalled that the cards originated in the East and were brought to Europe from Asia by the Crusaders probably in the thirteenth century. They were originally cards painted freehand, but printing them from engraved wooden forms was later introduced. The oldest guilds of playing card manufacturing are dated in fourteenth century Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm and Strasbourg. These are uncertain notices, which if need be will be verified separately; for Bohemia we can continue.

The second part concerns Bohemia and reads roughly as follows. Here in the Czech Lands the first mention of the cards came in 1353, when Archbishop Ernesto of Pardubice forbade to the religious [i.e. members of orders] betting and card games, cartarum lusores (that would be players of cards, actually). In the following year it is in the documents that a painter of playing cards came here from Nuremberg. The two references indicated are, for the first, Concilia pragensia, p. 3, and for the second, the book by Hübsch, p. 242.

Omasta – Ravik 1969

In other books about card games with historical information published in Prague, the authors do not usually claim any priority for news of Bohemian origin, except possibly the citation of the Archbishop of Pardubice in 1353. This also happens in the book of Voitek Omasta and Slavomír Ravik with its 210 pages similar to large playing cards (15).
Nebylo tedy divu, že karetní hru stíhal i u nás jeden zákaz za druhým. Podle ustanoveni arcibiskupu Arnošta z Pardubic z r. 1353 – prvniho to dochovaného
15. V. Omasta, S. Ravik, Hráci – karty karetní hry. Praha 1969. 
písemného zakazu karetni hry n Cechich, bylo duchovním osobám zakázáno prechovávat kostkáre a hrace v karty – cartarum lusores. (pp. 22-23.)

[Rough translation: Not surprisingly, card games were prosecuted and banned with us one after another. Under the provisions of Archbishop Ernest of Pardubice from c. 1353 - the first preserved
15. V. Omasta, S. Ravik, Players - Card Game cards . Prague 1969.]
written ban on card games in Bohemia, a religious person was prohibited from harboring and betting with card players - cartarum lusores. (pp. 22-23)]
Zdenek Štáhlavsky 2000

In a recent article, “An Introduction to Playing-Cards from the Czech Lands”, Zdenek Štáhlavsky (16) says as follows.
First origins in the 14th century. The first known mention of playing-card manufacture in the Czech Lands was made when Joseph Hübsch wrote, in his book “Geschichte des böhm. Handels”, that the first card maker in Bohemia came from Nuremberg in 1364 (1). Unfortunately this information cannot be verified (2) but whatever the date of their introduction, it is a fact that the easy-going Czech people started to play card games from very early times. (p. 65.)
Reference (1) is to the book by Hübsch, and we have the satisfaction of seeing mentioned, unusually, also his first name, Joseph. How this transcription in English of his real name is compatible with the initials F. L. that we usually find, remains a mystery to me (luckily, at least at this time, of very secondary importance). Reference (2) is to an article by Zuman of 1929, mentioned above, of which, Štáhlavsky comments "unfortunately this information cannot be verified".

4. Discussion

4.1. Discussion of the document of the archbishop

I would start the discussion from the second reference, because it is easier. In this case, it is a document of which it is necessary to examine the original, to check whether the insertion of the word cartarumque after tassillorum and alearum (i.e. "and of cards" after "of dice" for the games) can be interpreted as a subsequent interpolation or an error in reading. In my long experience on Tuscan manuscripts, it happened to me several times to see the word for cards added above the line of some prohibition in which were originally present
16. Z. Štáhlavsky, The Playing-Card, Vol. XXIX, No 2 (2000) 65-69.[Online starting at Use "next" button for succeeding pages.]

only dice.

In the book cited by Carl von Höfler the signature of the codex ia indicated (17). I then turned to the services of the Národní knihovna České republiky for a reproduction of the paper with the passage of interest. The librarians (Petra Hofbauerová and Jindrich Marek) replied to me from the famous Carolinum of Prague with remarkable professional ability [professionalità] (18).

The information received was clear and comprehensive. First of all, I was informed that a digital copy of the manuscript is available online on the net. They also added two other important pieces of information. 1) The manuscript originated in the fifteenth century (partly definitely the beginning of the century, due to the presence in the beginning of an autograph of Jan Hus, in part at the end of the twenties, still of the fifteenth century). 2) The year 1353 corresponds to the origin of the text, but not of the book. The text - Statuta Synodalia of October 18, 1353 - was written into the codex in the 15th century (19).

With this information, I could immediately close the investigation on this, but I still wanted to see the manuscript text. It is evident that the volume is a miscellanea containing texts on various topics, written mostly in Latin, but also in Czech. In the passage of interest, on page 99r, the word cartarumque is written clearly and on this page does not appear added above the line or in the margin (possibly here would be the enclitic -que to be inserted later, but this is clearly of no importance).

In conclusion, the dates of the writings in this codex vary but remain in the early fifteenth century, let's say around 1410; at that time, cards were already widespread, and it becomes natural for someone who transcribes a prohibition of dice games also automatically to add those of cards. I do not think the original of 1353 can be found, and I do not think that if it were we could read cartarumque, unless as a visibly later addition. In short, we can move forward in our quest, forgetting Bishop-Archbishop Ernest of Pardubice.
17. Cod. Bibl. Univ. Pragensis III. G. 16. f. 98.
18. e-mail 24.05.2016.

4.2. Discussion of the notices received from Hübsch

In the case of the book about commerce, the discussion becomes more complex. It has already been observed that the book had little following and especially presents the difficulty of a half millennium leap between the original document and when it comes to be transmitted. Let us try anyway to give faith to the witness and just re-read critically what that author wrote about it. As you see in the text copied above, it lacks all the conditions for what we were looking for. We needed information about an arrival in Prague of playing cards from some Asian country, or at least one in Eastern Europe. Here is talk instead of a card maker, the first documented in Prague, who would come in 1354 from the German city of Nuremberg, where cards were in common use. This notice goes in the opposite direction to that expected, even coming from a town that actually has gone down in history for its early and abundant production of playing cards, but still in the post-1377 era. In my opinion, the "card maker" coming to Prague from Nuremberg in 1354 could in fact have come, but only as a painter of any images, sacred or profane, almost two decades before playing cards were really present.

Not only that. Hübsch also includes other possible areas of origin, other countries where the cards were commonly used previously, at least among the nobility: Poland and France. According to that vision (which to us seems decidedly anachronistic) of a card game now spread throughout Europe, playing cards would arrive in the Czech Republic, like many other commodities, from regions that were further west, and which had long been a more marked progress in the production and trade. As for France, we can agree that new elements of fashion and culture had just arrived in Bohemia, but unlike Hübsch we know that cards were not widespread and could not therefore be part of the new objects that came from there. As for Poland, there are fewer studies about it in the literature of ancient card games, and I decided that it was worthwhile to study further that question as well; the result of that study was that there was no confirmation of the Polish source for the

notices found somewhere and somehow by Hübsch (20).

However, it remains in essence an impression If one is convinced that in the mid fourteenth century, or earlier, cards were already widely used in Central and Southern Europe, one can better understand the fact that in examining some ancient documents, you interpret as playing cards objects that you would probably have interpreted differently if you had known that in the hypothetical home regions playing cards did not exist. For us instead it becomes inevitable to trace back the route taken: they arrived in Krakow starting from Prague, but it was found that Krakow can be deleted; we had to then go back to Prague, with doubts raised as to the validity of the information.

In Prague they had arrived starting from Freiburg, but now it can be concluded that Prague will need to be deleted; then here we are back again in Freiburg. Is this testimony also clear? Not necessarily; yet here it would be enough to cancel the 1377 Freiburg and keep only the 1429 Basel, but neither is this result easy, at least for now. In fact, among the many manuscripts, dated 1377 or earlier era, with references to the card games that are known only from later copies, the Freiburg is atypical, because that citation of playing cards cannot be explained simply by subsequent introduction of their name. On the other hand, the Florentine provision of 1377 is stored in multiple logs, and in its original script exactly that year, but also in that case the card game unambiguously has the character of a certain novelty (noviter inolevit) together, however, with a spread that had already become excessive and disturbing.

5. Conclusion

The testimonies noted on card games in Europe before 1377 are more or less dubious. However it is not easy to forgo some contribution like that because of the unsatisfactory manner in which today the arrival of the cards in Europe is known all over: the secure notices from 1377 and the years immediately following do not usually present themselves as evidence of a very recent arrival of the cards, and thus a search going back in time at least a few years appears mandatory.
20. [translated in this blog as the entry for June 2, 2016]

In most of the reports of playing cards in Europe prior to 1377, the uncertain pieces of information often become the subject of much discussion and end up being backed mainly by those who can seem to see them as support useful for their reconstructions on a larger scale. Personally, for any date prior to 1377, I consider now prejudicially any case where it impossible to verify the original, but which is only known from later copies, as unreliable witnesses.

Here one of the possible routes of access to Europe has been examined, through the Kingdom of Bohemia. Although the need to find some trace in some European city previous to 1377 is clear, the documents relating to Bohemia are not verifiable. In one case, the 1353 document is known only by a copy of the next century, and there is no guarantee that the reference to playing cards (one word in the text!) should not be a subsequent interpololation.

Also, the historical reconstruction proposed in the nineteenth century, found in a book devoted to trade in those years in Bohemia, appears to our eyes as insufficiently founded. The author involved, Hübsch, appears led to an error in misinterpretation of what he was able to read in some document, from his belief in a spread of playing cards into France and other European countries during the fourteenth century, with the possibility of their entrance into Bohemia from the most advanced Western and Southern states, together with a host of other cultural and commercial innovations introduced in the "golden age".

When we try a possible route of entry into the Czech Republic from eastern territories, it is found that at that time all the new fashions and cultural innovations came instead to Prague-from south-central Europe. Even the uncertainty between 1377 and 1429 for the reference to playing cards present in the Tractatus of John of Rheinfelden ends up receiving a point in favor of the later date, which, however, will not be nearly enough to decide the complex issue in an effective manner .

Franco Pratesi – 07.06.2016

Comments on Bohemia and Poland
(by Michael S. Howard, from )

want to make some comments relative to Franco's notes on Poland and Bohemia. Here again is Hübsch, this time followed by my attempted translation that includes input from Huck (Lothar), via email, with comments by me in brackets by me to indicate points still unclear to me:

Das Lumpenpapier kam zu Anfang des XIV. Jahrh. aus Italien nach Böhmen, denn von dieser Zeit sieht man Manuscripte auf diesem Papier geschrieben, welche sich auf unsere Zeiten in einigen Bibliotheken erhielten. ...Die Spielkarten waren um diese Zeit [zu Anfang des XIV. Jahrh.] bereits im Gebrauche, allein sie waren nicht von Holzschnitten abgedruckt, sondern blosse aus freier Hand gezeichnete Bilderumrisse gewesen, die mittelst der Patronen übermalt wurden. Mau brachte diese anfänglich aus Nürnberg, woselbst sie bereits einen gangbaren Erwerbszweig ausgemacht haben. (p. 181.)

Auch ein Kartenmaler Namens Jonathan Kraysel aus Nürnberg kommt 1354 in Prag vor. Ob sich vordem schon ähnliche Künstler in Prag befanden, oder ob die Spielkarten von den Schilderern geliefert wurden, kann nicht diplomatisch nachgewiesen werden. Die ältesten zuverlässigen Nachrichten vom Gebrauche der Spielkarten in Böhmen finden sich im Jahre 1340 vor, allein da solche schön früher, wie dies Urkunden darthun, von polnischen Edelleuten zum Zeitvertreibe angewendet wurden, so ist es auch wahrscheinlich, dass diese Spielblätter, wie bereits bemerkt, schon unter K. Johann, zu welcher Zeit sie die Höflinge in Frankreich kennen gelernt haben, in Böhmen bekannt gewesen sind. Ob man solche aber damals in Böhmen selbst und von welchen Leuten verfertigt hatte, oder ob sie durch fremde Kaufleute nach Böhmen gebracht wurden, dies lässt sich nicht bestimmen; genug, wir sind für jetzt dahin angewiesen, zu glauben, dass der erste Kartenmacher der aus Nürnberg gekommene Künstler gewesen sei. (p. 242.)
Here is my translation with help from "Huck" on THF. My numerous and lengthy comments in bold:

"Rag paper came at the beginning of the 14th century, from Italy to Bohemia, because from this time you can see manuscripts written in this paper, which in our times are held in some libraries. ... Playing cards were at this time already in use, but were not printed from woodcuts, but were outlines of images drawn freehand, the which by means of stencils. They were brought initially from Nuremberg, where they were already a viable source of income. (p. 181.)

"Also a card painter named Jonathan Kraysel of Nuremberg appears in 1354 [vorkommen = appears; Huck says it is not clear that he comes in 1354; the name may simply have appeared in a 1354 document] in Prague. Whether there previously had been similar artists in Prague, or playing cards were supplied by the painters cannot be detected diplomatically [schilderer in modern Dutch = painter, per Wiktionary; but perhaps it is something related, such as a draftsman; Huck finds in Google Books a German book of 1755 whose title starts "Schilderern und Mahler", where Mahler = painters: I cannot figure out from the context what a "schilderer" is, precisely; "diplomatische" means "[edition .. that scrupulously reproduces the ancient original, in manuscript or printed, in its exact spelling, respecting it all details of form (like abbreviations, punctuation) and any possible errors in lettering and spacing, for which I thank Franco and the Dizionario Treccano]. The oldest reliable notices of the use of playing cards in Bohemia can be found in 1340, but such already earlier, as documents could show [darthun = show, demonstrate; but Huck says "could show", which is a lesser claim], were used by Polish noblemen for pastimes, so it is likely also true that these playing cards, as already noted [it seems here that Hübsch has talked about playing cards before 1340 in an earlier passage, either unknown to us or removed in the final redaction], were already learned under King John, at which time they were learned by courtiers in France and [or, more likely, from whom they were] known in Bohemia. Whether such were manufactured in Bohemia itself, and by what people, or they were brought by foreign merchants to Bohemia, cannot be sufficiently determined; we are for now instructed therein to believe that the first card maker was the artist who had come from Nuremburg (p. 242)."

At any rate:

1. Documents show (or could show) that playing cards were in Prague by 1340. It cannot be proved that they were there earlier.

2. Documents also show (or could show) that Polish nobles had playing cards before 1340.

3. It is likely that playing cards were in Prague during the time of King John (reigned 1310-1346, died fighting on the side of France against the English, but from c. 1335 shared much power with his son, especially after his blindness in 1439).

4. It is likely that playing cards were known in France during the time of King John. Cards may have been learned by Bohemians in France who brought their knowledge to Bohemia.

5. As far as we know, playing cards were first made in Prague by a painter from Nuremberg first documented in 1354.

Is proposition 5 in conflict with the rest? If the conditional "as far as we know" is not added, then it is. So for consistency, I add the conditional. Then it may be, for all Hübsch knows, that cards were in Prague before 1354, but that is beyond his knowledge. [Added later: However then what about the documents for 1340? Perhaps these are not certain documents. Added still later: on "diplomatische" see my added comment at the end of this post.]

Hübsch writes in what appears to be a careful way, but we do not know if he is reliable. It would help if other data he gives in the book about Bohemian trade were compared with what is known now. But perhaps that is beyond researchers' competence.

If Hübsch is accepted, then playing cards were made in Nuremberg before 1354. How would they have gotten to Nuremberg? Most likely they would have come to Nuremberg from points south, especially Italy. Wikipedia reports that in the 13th century
Nuremberg soon became, with Augsburg, one of the two great trade centers on the route from Italy to Northern Europe.
By the time of the Luxembourgs, its importance would only have increased. Charles IV went to Italy himself as a teenager, serving Luxembourg interests. Hübsch knows that rag paper came from Italy, yet he does not say that cards came that route.

In Southern Europe, the earliest certain record of cards is 1377 Florence, perhaps preceded by 1370 Barcelona. Both occurrences, however, indicate that playing cards are not new in either area. It is possible that playing cards took a while to become a public nuisance; if so, 1354 may not be too early for Nuremberg.

But there are also Hübsch's points 1 to 4, as I have labeled them, suggesting an even earlier arrival than from Nuremberg, one that includes "Polish nobles" and even France. Thus the possibility of a northern route, bypassing the Mediterranean countries, is opened up, although Hubsch is silent about it. I do not know whether such a route would have gone primarily through Prague; it is much easier, physically, to go through the relatively flat plains of Poland than the mountains and forested hills of the Carpathians. Also (
...Arab merchants including Muslims arrived in Polish lands during the time of Mieszko I, as can be seen by a large number of Arab coins found in numerous archaeological sites throughout modern Poland.[3]
Mieszko I was 10th century. I do not find anything comparable for Bohemia. Prague is in a valley surrounded by mountains and forested hills (see ... ic-139583/), perhaps not conducive for trade unless it is particularly in or out of that valley (which can be from any of the four directions). From Poland trade east would simply go westward into first Silesia (which under Mieszko had been part of Poland), with mixed German and West Slavic populations, and then Germany proper. Trade to Prague from Germany would go southward on the Moldau River, and even eastward through the hills further south (the route from Nuremberg (elevation 1700 ft. to Nuremberg's 1100). Any customs, such as card games, picked up en route could go any route, even if there is no trace of cards en route. Trade could also go up the Danube and overland. After the Black Death came to Europe, 1348 (in Prague the same time as Southern Europe), however, the route through Poland would have been preferable because of less virulence there.

Here is a map (from Frantisek Smahel, The Parisian Summit, trans. Miller and Millerova, Prague 2014, p. 153.

Besides Hübsch's report, another reason for hypothesizing a land route from the east--at whatever time--is simply the look of German cards. They do not look derived from the Mamluk cards or any of the Latin suit-symbols closely related to the Mamluks. Bells, acorns, hearts, and leaves are not much like staves, swords, cups and coins. Moreover, on the number cards they appear on trees, at the end of branches coming out of a central trunk--even the hearts. Latin suit symbols do not do this. It might he that German card makers were simply inventive and for some reason wanted to distinguish cards there from cards in Latin countries. It might also be that they had a somewhat different model to inspire them.

Hübsch is a self-styled expert on Bohemian trade, but he has no idea how the 1440 cards he finds indications of would have gotten there. But there are other means of transmission early on besides trade. There were Tatar mercenary soldiers recruited from the same general area as the Mamluks, speaking similar Turkic languages. Wikipedia says (
A continuous presence of Islam in Poland began in the 14th century. From this time it was primarily associated with the Tatars, many of whom settled in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth while continuing their traditions and religious beliefs. ...

In the 14th century, the first Tatar tribes settled in the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Skilled warriors and great mercenaries, their settlement was promoted by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, among them Gediminas, Algirdas and Kęstutis. The Tatars who settled in Lithuania, Ruthenia and modern-day eastern Poland were allowed to preserve their Sunni religion in exchange for military service. The initial settlements were mostly temporary and most of the Tatars returned to their native lands after their service expired. However, in the late 14th century Grand Duke Vytautas (named by the Tatars Wattad, that is defender of Muslims) and his brother King Władysław Jagiełło started to settle Tatars in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic borderlands.
Gedaminas ruled Lithuania from 1315 or 1316 until 1341; the others mentioned followed. Poland and Lithuania were united first by marriages and peace treaties and then from 1377 on by formal union when the female king of Poland married the duke of Lithuania, who then ruled Poland jointly with her and later by himself.

These Tatars/Tartars were called "Lipka Tatars" from the Crimean Tatar name for Lithuania. Wikipedia says of them that they came at the beginning of the 14th century, adding: (
The first settlers tried to preserve their shamanistic religion and sought asylum amongst the non-Christian Lithuanians.[5] Towards the end of the 14th century, another wave of Tatars - this time, Muslims, were invited into the Grand Duchy by Vytautas the Great. ...The Lipka Tatar origins can be traced back to the descendant states of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan - the White Horde, the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate and Kazan Khanate. They initially served as a noble military caste but later they became urban-dwellers known for their crafts, horses and gardening skills. Throughout centuries they resisted assimilation and kept their traditional lifestyle. While they remained very attached to their religion, over time however, they lost their original Tatar language, from the Kipchak group of the Turkic languages, and for the most part adopted Belarusian, Lithuanian and Polish.[6]
It is not known, at least by us, whether Tatar mercenaries carried playing cards with them. However it is reasonable to hypothesize that they did. Only a century before they had lived quite close to China, and in the meantime had served in Ghengis Khan's army. Also they came to Christian Europe from the same Black/Caspian Sea areas that the Mamluks were recruited from and at some point in the 14th century took on the same Sunni branch of the Muslim faith. If later they excelled in crafts, it seems to me likely that some soldiers would have made crude but adequate cards for the rest.

From Lithuania, it is easy to imagine cards spreading to soldiers and others in the border areas of Poland, starting in the north and continuing to the east. From there they would spread to the lands of their fellow West Slavs in Silesia, which by then was part of the Crown Lands of Bohemia. In that time boundaries changed far more often than the people living in them, who still were only a step away from a tribal existence. Linguistically the three regions were close together. The areas I am thinking of, being border regions where mercenaries would be deployed, are far from Krakow, and of different tribes than the Vistulans there (see

After cards are in Silesia, it easy enough for them to go south to Prague. Since many Germans live in Silesia, they can easily spread west into the nearby German states. Alternatively they could go to Germany directly from the Baltic ports of the Teutonic Knights. From the north of Germany they go south to Nuremberg and even Freiburg, creating variations as they go (and possibly mixing with cards coming from further south). I see no reason why they must have left traces for researchers starting in the 19th century to find. For the Muslim world, the book Gambling in Islam cites only two specific early references to playing cards, one clearly 16th century and the other (the Arabian Nights) not verifiably earlier.(There is also one unclear reference to the early 15th century, citing Meyer, whose book I have not examined, but none earlier. Why should we expect more from the barely literate Latin/pagan Northeast? However if authentic 14th century texts from the region do exist that prohibit only dice and not cards, that would be worth something.

In fact, that is true more generally. It is not enough to find, anywhere, texts purporting to be copies of pre-1377 documents where reference to cards might be later interpolations; what is needed is genuine pre-1377 documents from those areas where cards would be expected to be mentioned, if they existed there. For example, Franco says that one book on trade in Google Books contains no references to playing cards of this era (using the search function for "Spielkarten" or "Karten", I presume). But also nothing shows up for "Spielen" (games), "Würfel" (dice), or "Glücksspiel" (gambling). Such activities, which surely existed, are either not his concern or are not in documents.

So what we are left with is hypotheses, both for and against. In favor, all we have is unconfirmed reports to go on, plus the different look of German cards, and it is not known whether the Muslim troops carried playing cards. But it is reasonable that they would have, with the transmission I have suggested; so it is a reasonable hypothesis, enough to account for Hubsch's unconfirmed reports and others of its ilk, such as Prague 1353, Amsterdam 1365 (‘Makers of playing-cards in the Netherlands’, Journal of the Playing-Card Society, vol. IV, no. 2, 1975, pp.34-7) and Berne 1367. Even France is not excluded, from which nobles with King John could have brought cards to Prague, as Hübsch seems at one point to suggest. However John traveled extensively trying, with moderate success, to impose his will in Poland, Lithuania, Silesia, and Hungary (albeit fighting against Lithuania, then pagan, on the side of the Teutonic Knights) (see I cannot see how the information that Franco provides affects such a hypothesis, which does not require any sponsorship by Charles IV--although he did not only admire Italian fashions--and can coexist with a hypothesis of transmission from the south during or after his reign.

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