Friday, November 25, 2016

Nov. 26, 2016, 1426-1440 Florence: Convictions for card games in the Books of the Lily

(by Michael S. Howard)

This note reports his search in the "libri del giglio" for all the years 1426-1440, done with no expectation of anything interesting and not, in that regard, either disappointed or surprised. The original, "1426-1440: Firenze – Condanne per giochi di carte nei Libri del Giglio", is at, dated Nov. 26, 2016. This translation originally appeared on Tarot History Forum at

Comments in brackets are by me. I thank Franco for help in translating some of the more unusual words. With the two other notes referenced in the article, this completes Franco's survey of all the "books of the lily" for convictions for playing triumphs in the period from 1401 to 1450, in which only two explicit mentions were found, both in 1444 and probably the same incident.

1426-1440: Florence - Convictions for card games in the Books of the Lily
(by Franco Pratesi)

1. Introduction

In the last two years I have studied many times the Books of the Lily, containing the official records of the special revenue of the court [camera] of the commune, preserved in the State Archives of Florence. My attention was drawn especially to the fines paid by gamblers [giocatore d'azzardo] caught in the act. In the fifteenth century, with advancing years, it is observed that these documents for fines for games [gioco] become less frequent, until they disappear altogether. Also because of this observation, I decided to study year by year the records up to 1425 only [starting at 1401] (1), then moved to one sample study, of a book every five years, until the end of the series (2). From this sample study it turned out that the year 1445 had a record of infringements of interest much richer than average and this figure abnormally pushed me to resume the study and examine individual annual records for all the 1440s. After that further investigation, not planned initially, I saw no need to continue to examine those records again, and in particular to consult even those which I had hitherto neglected. Among other things, for the years that were left without documentation from this series of books, there was already some indicative data from the Captain's documents and the conservators of the laws.

Personally, I did not expect anything important from an examination of the records not studied and considered that quest completed. Some discussions recently appearing on the Tarot History Forum have been a push to return to consulting these books. Evidently some experts count on the possibility that, also studying the neglected books, one could find other significant data, like the two triumph players who unexpectedly appeared in 1444. The hope - or illusion as it may be - above all concerns the possibility of finding here some games of triumphs documented before 1440, the earliest date known today.

At least one expert (present as Phaeded on Tarot History Forum, but there will probably be more than one thinking like him) is convinced that the triumphs entered the playing cards as a result of the Battle of Anghiari (3). Then it is obvious that it would be enough to find some triumphs player sentenced before the battle to immediately refute that theory. But even without an interest in the case, to go back a bit further in time and get closer to the origin of the triumphs seems desirable to all experts: any step forward, however small, would serve to simplify the discussion; the views expressed in this respect differ only on how far back in time it is reasonable to go.

2. Books of the Lily

I have consulted Books of the the Lily No 22 to No. 35 inclusive, that is, from the year 1426 to 1440, as indicated in the table with the relevant data. These books were compiled annually by notaries of the common room in Florence, using sheets of large paper (about 40x30cm) and thicker than average, bound in parchment and often with a beautiful shield painted on the cover containing the red lily, the emblem of Florence. Most of the books examined are formed of 96 pages, but some have different numbers; the number of total pages, however, is not very significant, given the significant presence of white pages left over.

To compile these books there was a standard procedure, so that a given year could serve as a model for the next year’s book. The clerk in charge of compiling began with the number the pages and assigned a preset number to the various sections. The first section was always reserved for the podestà [like a mayor]; the previous page usually contained an index which referred to the initial page of the various subsequent sections. The second section was the captain of the people, and began as a rule at c. 10r or 12r (but in the early years considered starting from c. 20r, thus leaving more room for the podestà’s convictions). The third section was the executor of the systems of justice and typically began at c. 18r.
3. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=950

Subsequent sections are not of interest to us because they concerned revenue from other types of fines - absence from guard duty or council, women with too rich attire – or other revenue such as bail bonds for the Stinche [Florentine prison], or the amounts for rector leave permits (due to temporary absences from the office headquarters). In rare cases, the required pages for a given section were insufficient, and thus a second section was opened in the remaining white pages in other sections. Much more commonly encountered was the opposite case, where the pages reserved for a given section remained largely empty: if you took out the white pages, these large volumes would become very thin files. More details on each of the manuscript of the whole series can be found in the Inventorio dedicated to these books (4).

We are interested only the first three sections, of the podestà, the captain and the executor These three foreign rectors and the respective groups of notaries and guards had various tasks, and the activity that we encounter documented here was certainly secondary. For our part we cannot make a distinction among the three personages and study them together regarding what was collected in these books.

What is involved is in any case the registration of the commune revenue established in these three sections, however, exclusively in fines paid by those who were caught in the act carrying weapons, gambling [giocare d'azzardo], or going out at night. Our interest is limited to gambling games [giochi d’azzardo], especially looking for players of naibi. These infringements were initially controlled only by the three foreign rectors, but in the time of our interest the executor's office was abolished and for these tasks of civic policing the podestà and captain were put side by side and gradually replaced by conservators of the laws and the eight of the guard (of whose documents of that time, however, we find only fragments).

3. Overall results

The study was based on individual books with annual registrations, but some assumptions are necessary. The data of interest presented in the Books of the Lily are not precisely defined. For our main purpose of finding documentation of card games, and potentially
4. Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Inventario V/500.

triumphs, we cannot reconstruct exactly the situation at the time. For one thing, it should always be remembered that here you only see cases where players were caught in the act and forced to pay the fine, while countless other cases could be accounted without incurring penalties.

The main shortcoming of this data for our purpose is, however, that the type of game is almost never distinguished. The game of Zara [a dice game], which probably was the most widely played, is explicitly mentioned in a very small part of the records. I summarize the figures in the table below, in which the last three columns are reserved for the total number of fines, the total of those for games and the number of those which indicated explicitly cards or naibi. The year in question is the main one of the register, but in fact the documentation always begins in these books with 1 February and ends in January, inclusive, of the following year.

A detail that I did not follow, but which could be studied with profit if one wanted to go more deeply, is the assignment of the data in correspondence to the rectors: the office of foreign rectors usually lasted six months and fines recorded in each section of the book are usually by the action of three different groups present one after the other, that of the central half being wholly one group; but at the beginning the records match the final activity of the previous group, while the last record is associated with the initial activity of the group that was then beginning its duty. If two successive rectors had a very different attitude in controlling offenses - one more rigid, one more tolerant - we might see here a behavior in essence corresponding to the average between the two.

These cautions are intended to once again warn against a supposed statistical validity of the data collected. The reported figures are in fact considered as guidelines. If this were not enough, I can add that I have counted the items only once, without checking the number (something that with numbers you should never do), so that in the data listed there may be some elementary errors.

*No. 22 is severely damaged; there are only fragments of a few pages, and not of the first three sections of interest. **Here the fines for absence at council are not counted, which in other books are listed separately. ***The entire c. 18, which contained most of the executor's records, is missing.

Especially in the particular case of card games it would be absurd to use these results to obtain statistical evaluations, the number of cases not being obtainable in which the game indicated without specification could be that of our interest; This applies particularly to cards and naibi, but at the limit could also relate to triumphs.

The number of naibi players we find here is only a small part of the whole. In the first place it is possible, and in some cases could be confirmed, from the books of the rector who had made the conviction, that the cases here registered simply as “game” might have been regarded precisely as the game of naibi. The situation could have been much more favorable for us if the card games were punished by a fine different from dice games; but instead, being only the fine, the record did not distinguish what case it was, with certain exceptions.

It seems clear from various indications that the players punished by the foreign rectors’ groups were only one part even among those surprised playing. Generally it seems to convey a not very severe attitude by the guards. Even in the worse alternative of captures, in a substantial number of cases an anonymity is allowed to the incriminated, with which they avoided at least the most severe penalties, established for repeat offenders; that in itself is a clear indication that the guards acted with considerable autonomy. Often one gets the impression that one player was punished for all, maybe choosing a foreigner or a Florentine poor person.

Even more indicative are the frequent records of coats or other clothing items left by the players who managed to escape from the place of the crime. The indicted would not be able to escape capture so easily if their escape had not been most often permitted, if not favored, by the same guards. To confirm this assumption we find that in many cases we do not read that the coat in question had been abandoned, but it is frankly written that the coat had been tolto a uno che giuchava, removed from one who played, by guards.

[Translator's Note: here I am translating “giuchava a naibi” and the like as “played”, as opposed to "gambled", even though gambling is assumed. In this note, I use "gambling" to translate "gioco" or "giocare" only when "game" or "playing" is inappropriate in English. In Italian there is no separate word "gambling"; it is as though we were to say "gaming", but in English the usual word is "gambling" or "playing".]

4. Fines for card games

For card games I can add new data to that already communicated; I extract from the registration in the document only the phrases of major interest; I do not keep the spelling, often present, of naibj, the manner then

current of writing the final i at the end of any word; the date of capture is entered in yyyymmdd format.

[Translator’s note: “Baptized” refers to the practice of dumping water over a person who had been imprisoned in lieu of paying the fine, a ceremonial forgiveness of the sin upon his release, perhaps including an agreement to leave town. I thank Franco for help in translating this part.]
Libri del Giglio N. 23
(Cap) c. 16v 14271010 Uno mantello tolto a uno che giuchava a naibi.
(Cap) c. 17v 14271125 Uno mantello romagnuolo tolto a uno che giuchava alle charte.
(Ese) c. 22r 14271226 Uno mantello turchino tolto a uno che giuchava overo stava a vedere al giuocho delle charte.
(Ese) c. 22r 14271226 Uno mantello di panno nero a uno che giuchava come sopra.

[Books of the Lily No. 23
(Cap) c. 16v 14271010 One coat removed from one who played at naibi.
(Cap) c. 17v 14271125 One coat of Romagna removed from one who played at cards.
(Exe) c. 22r 14271226 A blue coat removed from one who played at cards or was observing the game of cards.
(Exe) c. 22r 14271226 A coat of black cloth from one who played as above.]

Libri del Giglio N. 24
(Cap) c. 13r 14280405 Piero d’Antonio calçolaio preso perché giuchava alle charte.
(Cap) c. 13v 14280418 Uno che non volle dire il nome trovato giuchare alle charte (altri sembrano insieme ma non è specificato il gioco).
(Ese) c. 22v 14281114 Guasparre di Zanobi chalzaiuolo popolo di Santo Piero Magiore preso perché fu trovato giuchare al giuocho de naibi.
(Ese) c. 22v 14281114 Francesco di Giovanni di Salvi popolo di Santo Piero Magiore preso perché giuchava a naibi.
(Ese) c. 22v 14281114 Jacopo di Piero di Santi popolo di Santo Ambrogio perché giuchava al giuocho de naibi.

[Books of the Lily No. 24
(Cap) c. 13r 14280405 Piero d'Antonio calçolaio [shoemaker] taken because he played at cards
(Cap) c. 13v 14280418 One who did not want to give his name found playing at cards (seems with the other but the game is not specified).
(Exe) c. 22v 14281114 Guasparre di Zanobi chalzaiuolo [stocking maker] district of San Piero Magiore taken because he was found playing at game of naibi.
(Exe) c. 22v 14281114 Francesco di Giovanni Salvi district of Santo Piero Magiore taken because he played at naibi.
(Exe) c. 22v 14281114 Jacopo di Piero di Santi district of San Ambrogio because he played at game of naibi.]

Libri del Giglio N. 25
(Pod) c. 4v 14290702 Antonio di Salvi da Agnone e
(Pod) c. 4v 14290702 Jachopo di Pace di Chasentino furono trovati giuchare ale charte.
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Michele di Michele da la Magna fu preso per giuocho de le charte (battezzato).
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Romanello di Christofano da Roma fu preso per giuocho de le charte.
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Antonio di Chola da Viterbo fu preso per giuocho de le charte.
(Pod) c. 6v 14290918 Uno mantello di cholore cilestrino duno che si fuggì che giuchava a naibi.
(Pod) c. 6v 14290918 Uno chappuccio di cholore cilestrino preso per giuocho di naibi.
(Cap) c. 16r 14290719 Antonio di Mateo da Firenze fu preso per giuocho de naibi, overo charte.
(Ese) c. 18r 14290205 Due sanza nome furono presi per giuchare alle charte fuori della porta.
(Ese) c. 20r 14290703 Antonio di Stefano di Francesco popolo S. Lorenzo di Firenze fu preso per giuocho delle charte de naibi.

[Books of the Lily No. 25
(Pod) c. 4v 14290702 Antonio Salvi of Agnone and
(Pod) c. 4v 14290702 Jachopo di Pace of Chasentino were found playing at cards.
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Michele di Michele of Germany was taken for game of cards (baptized).
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Romanello di Christofano of Rome was taken for game of cards.
(Pod) c. 6r 14290913 Antonio di Chola of Viterbo was taken for game of cards.
(Pod) c. 6v 14290918 One coat of pale blue color from one who fled who played naibi.
(Pod) c. 6v 14290918 One hood bluish color taken for game of naibi.
(Cap) c. 16r 14290719 Antonio Mateo of Florence was taken for game of naibi, or cards.
(Exe) c. 18r 14290205 Two without name were taken for playing at cards outside the door [or gate].
(Exe) c. 20r 14290703 Antonio di Stefano Francesco district of San Lorenzo di Firenze was taken for game of cards of naibi.]

Libri del Giglio N. 27
(Cap) c. 12v 14310521 Uno sanza nome fu preso per giuocho de naibi (battezzato).
(Cap) c. 12v 14310529 Una giornea nera e uno capuccio cilestrino tolti a uno che giuchava a naibi.
(Cap) c. 13r 14310603 Matteo Melanese da Prato fu preso per giuocho di naibi.
(Cap) c. 13v 14310809 Baldassarre di Bartolomeo del popolo di Santa Croce fu preso per giuocho di naibi.
(Cap) c. 13v 14310809 Piero di Francia fu preso per giuocho di naibi.

[Books of the Lily no. 27
(Cap) c. 12v 14310521 One without name was taken for game of naibi (baptized).
(Cap) c. 12v 14310529 One black tunic and one pale blue hood removed from one who played at naibi.
(Cap) c. 13r 14310603 Matteo, Milanese of Prato, was taken for game of naibi.
(Cap) c. 13v 14310809 Baldassare di Bartolomeo of the district of Santa Croce was taken for game of naibi.
(Cap) c. 13v 14310809 Piero of France was taken for game of naibi.]

It is found that at the time the use of the term “cards” or naibi was indifferent for the related game. Also confirmed is the observation of the frequent presence of foreigners and unidentified players among the convicted, as well as those who do not appear because they "escaped." The fact remains firm that this information about card games is only valid as far as it is explicitly registered; not vice versa, usable to exclude its presence when we read only of convictions for games.

The purpose of this further research, however, went further: not only to identify card players among those convicted of gambling, but also any players of triumphs among the card players. Personally I was not too disappointed that I have not found any trace of triumphs; if we want to indicate the earliest date (actually, the only) obtainable from documents of this kind we should stop at 1444. Finding those two cases was already an exceptional occasion; the presence of those sentences is not to suggest that the the game of triumphs was strictly prohibited in Florence in those years; we can legitimately assume that in other environments and among other players it was now widespread, so much so as to discover among the playing cards commonly produced and sold in the city even those more recently introduced decks.

Even if the fact that for the years 1426 to 1440 no conviction of that sort was not found, we are not permitted to infer that triumphs were still not widespread among the Florentine population. As with other card games, also for the game of triumphs the absence of a witness does not necessarily correspond to the absence of the event of interest. On the other hand, neither is it reasonable to consider the absence of convictions for triumphs as proof that the game existed and was allowed, albeit informally.

5. Data from different archives.

In some cases we can do cross-checks with data recorded in several books, and especially with the books kept by the foreign rector during the semester in which he was in office. In this way we can also clarify some items that had remained of uncertain reading. So, for example, a few sentences of this type are recorded also in the Books of the Captain (5). Comparing to the data already reported I can now dissolve the uncertainty about the origin of Baldassare di Bartolomeo: the district that I had failed to read was simply that of Santa Croce (Holy Cross).

But the most interesting of these comparisons is that of verifying whether they are the same items or if the specification of the game is only present in some. In particular, some convictions for card games had been reported in the Books of the Captain that are not found in the Books of the Lily, which are simply indicated as convictions for games. Even these examples may be helpful, however, if only to correct some data previously found, including the transcription of difficult to read names, or to add some particular.

Thus for 1427 we find (here with only the indication of “game” and not “cards”) Piero Neri Piccolino from Castel San Giovanni and a Giulianodi Guasparre of borough San Felice in Piazza (instead of Antonio Gaspero of S. Felicita; among the saints Felice and Felicita I will have certainly erred, but I hope not also between Antonio and Giuliano). For 1429 we find Ulivieri Antonio of the borough of San Romolo, Bartolo instead of Bartolomeo and Domenico di Martino from Vinegia (instead of Valencia), with the last player who does not pay because baptized, however, registered only for games [gioco] in the Books of the Lily.

Similar cases may have occurred for other years and other foreign rectors. Sometimes the opposite case also happens, of card games present in the Books of the Lily and indicated only as a game in the books of the foreign rector. However, the impression is given that the increase in numbers derivable from these cross-checks reveal rather limited results, without dissolving the fundamental question that a significant increase in the fraction of card games to the total games remains hidden forever under the generality of giuocho that we read in these documents.
5. ... P400-Z.pdf

A different case is that of a cross-check that takes into account the activity of conservators of the laws (6). In those documents you will find that the information came primarily from complaints lodged by means of tamburazioni [use of a kind of ballot box for depositing names secretly but not usually anonymously], and many of those cases ended with the acquittal of the one denounced; for this reason it would be useless to look for them in the Books of the Lily.

6. Conclusion

The Books of the Lily from 1426 to 1440 have been examined in order to complete the picture of the results already obtained in previous years and for the ten years after. Attention has been focused on fines for gambling, which unfortunately were the same for the different types of game, from dice to cards, so rarely specified by type. The convictions for games by the foreign rectors showed overall a tendency to decrease over the years but not obtaining certainties on the fraction of card games in the total. Typically we get the impression that the controls were not very strict.

The hope (on my part, in fact little) was to find in these books of the Lily not just some further indication on naibi, as indeed has been found, but also on triumphs. To justify such a hope could be considered two testimonies on triumphs found for the year 1444; that case was not at all expected and one could think that even for some previous years we would have again met a surprise of that kind.

Regarding card games, few indications are found; not only were none found for triumphs, but advancing into the 1430s there are no longer even explicit records of card games. Because of the insufficient precision of recorded items, the absence in the Books of the Lily examined of sentencing for triumphs – as verified here from 1426 to 1440 - cannot be used as proof that the game does not yet exist, nor, conversely, that it was now considered perfectly acceptable and no longer subject to fines.

Franco Pratesi – 26.11.2016

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