Saturday, December 23, 2023

Sept. 24, 2023: Two 17th century poems on minchiate

Franco found two 17th century poems on the subject of minchiate, the extended Florentine tarocchi game and deck using 97 cards instead of the usual 78. The poems make reference to various cards and strategies in the game. Not wanting to deprive the reader too much of the pleasure of discovering these details, I simply refer the reader to Most are obvious; but note in particular the terms "versicole" and "sminchiare." A versicole is a special combination of cards for extra points. And the object of "sminchiare," the playing of one's high trumps early in the game, is to capture a succession of high trumps, down as far as the 28. That gains the team doing so so a large number of points, to the extent that three or more in sequence are captured.

For the more difficult or downright unclear passages, of which there were many, I have relied on Franco's judgment. Remaining mistakes are on me. Comments in square brackets are mine, for this translation. The notes can be found at the bottom of each page of Franco's pdf, the page numbers for which are in the left margin. (The Italian original, at, put the "Notes on the Poems" at the end of the essay.) This translation also appears at and the post following.

Two seventeenth-century poems on minchiate

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

In this study, I present two unknown poems by a seventeenth-century Florentine poet forgotten by everyone. These are testimonies on the game of minchiate at the time, and this fact alone makes them of interest, because pieces of information on this game become numerous only in the following century. For this reason I transcribe the two poems from a manuscript and comment on them briefly. On ancient references to minchiate it is rather rare to find the author's name indicated; not only that, for the numerous books of the Rules, even when the authors are cited, I had to do extensive research to obtain some information on their lives. In the case in question here, we are fortunate enough to know exactly the author's surname, Porcellotti, and doubt only exists regarding his baptismal name between Sebastiano and Bastiano.

2. Porcellotti Bastiano or Sebastiano

I thought that Sebastiano was the baptismal name and Bastiano the name modified from common use. To my surprise, I verified in the registers of those baptized in those years in Florence [note 1] that Bastiano was indeed the most frequent name at baptism, much more than Sebastiano. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate our Bastiano or Sebastiano in these records. More than one explanation can be considered. The first is that it is there and you haven't noticed it. The second is that he was registered without a surname. In fact, perhaps half of the (Se)Bastianos still do not have a surname and are registered only with their father's name and profession and their grandfather's name. In this specific case, the difference between having the surname Porcellotti and not yet having it does not seem huge. A third possibility is that our personage was not born within the city walls and therefore would have been baptized in a parish church in the Florentine countryside. However, to make us prefer the name of Bastiano there is a poem (in the same manuscript of interest for minchiate) in which the poet complains about bearing that very name, common among the common people.

On Porcellotti's life we have some useful information from short ancient biographies. Thus, from the Internet repertoires we can find Giulio Negri's [note 2] Istoria, in which we read the following.

Sebastiano Porcellotti. Florentine by origin, soldier and captain by profession, friend of Mars and the Muses, he handled the sword and the pen with equal reputation. His facetious and conversational genius made him loved by everyone, serving as a very joyful entertainment for all, with his very pleasant rhymes, which also made him dear to two Supreme Pontiffs, Alexander VII and Clement IX, great Protectors of the Virtuous, and to many Cardinals. He was living in 1670. Delight of Florence and the Courts of Rome. Many of his poems are in the hands of various people, and quite a few are in the possession of a Florentine academician. Also read is one of his sonnets written to Cardinal Panciatichi while Porcellotti was ill. They remind us of Him as a civilized modern Writer: Gio. Mario Crescimbeni, in Book 4 of Volgar Poesia; Le Notizie Letterarie, e Storiche dell Accademia Fiorentina, in the first part.
In one edition of Crescimbeni's book, I only found the information that he was living in the year 1670, but in a subsequent expanded re-edition, there is other useful information.
BASTIANO Porcellotti. Florentine, engaged for some time in Arms; and obtained several noble military positions. He made the journey to Jerusalem; and then stopped in Rome; and since he was very devoted to pleasant poetry, he compiled two volumes with a style more simple than artificial, and much purified in language, whose originals are preserved
1. ... gistri.asp nos. 19-22.
2. G. Negri, Istoria degli scrittori fiorentini, Ferrara 1722, p. 495.

in the Ottoboniana. He was very welcome in the Roman Court, and Pope Alexander VII especially favored him. employing him in the Government of Frascati, as can be seen from his same Rime mentioned above. He died an old man in Rome and is talked about in the reports of the Florentine Academicians.[note 3]
In the last reference to the Florentine Academy, there is the following other short biographical note, plus a copy of a sonnet, which I neglect.
Bastiano Porcellotti. The Laws of Poetry are not so severe that they do not sometimes leave the field open to its followers, so that they can explain their ingenious jokes in verse, to relieve themselves from the hardships of this life; and at the same time sweeten those bitternesses that daily arise from worldly events in human hearts. Of this group was Capt. Bastiano Porcellotti, who not only brought relief and enjoyment to himself, but also attracted the Curious with the grateful sound of his pleasant Rhymes, which fall into the hands of various people in large numbers [of copies]: and one of our Academicians has many of them. He had no small servitude with Clement IX, Alexander VII, and other Supreme Pontiffs; as well as with various Cardinals, and particularly with the Most Eminent Panciatichi, to whom he wrote the following Sonnet, while Porcellotti himself was seriously ill.
However, on the dates of his life and activity we can find more abundant and precise information directly in his verses (starting from Ms. Ashb. 614 used later) than those found in the biographies noted. Meanwhile, in his poems he quite often addresses two popes who, fortunately for us - as we can better use them to define dates - remained on the papal throne for few years: Alexander VII from 1655 to 1667 and above all Clement IX, only from 1667 to 1669; but this was already known from the biographies cited. However, more precise ideas can be found here and in particular in two useful cases: a sonnet entitled: "To Bella Donna, who sleeps. the Author a student in Pisa in 1620," and a sonnet, among the last poems of the manuscript, which will also provide us with information on minchiate, in which he declares that he is seventy-four years old.

3. Soldier Porcellotti

The scant biographies that have come down to us speak in agreement of his dual activity as soldier and poet. One would say he was a soldier first and then a poet, because most of his compositions appear to have been written at an advanced age. We are interested in him as a poet, and I will add something about how his work has been handed down to us later, before presenting the two poems of interest for minchiate. Here I try to provide some information on his activity as a soldier. From the little information available, it seems that he was a personage who would have been better placed in military activity one or even two centuries earlier, when leaders and captains of fortune were the order of the day. Certainly for several years, he held the position of lieutenant of Frascati, and we find his poems asking various people for support in his candidacy to obtain that position, and then for it to be renewed. But this is rather the result of previous military activity.

In the catalog of the Library we read: "war of Milan, war of Castro, surrender of Porto Lungone, war of Lombardy, etc.," but we must add his personal participation in battles in much more distant locations, such as that of Leipzig against the Swedes ("here the said Piccolomini marched at the head, accompanied by many volunteer knights, his comrades, among whom was Count Ghessilieri Bolognese, and Sargeant Major Porcellotti Florentine"),[note 4] and also in Flanders following the imperial army; the relevant dates should in any case be in the 1640s. I must admit that a Florentine who joins the imperial army as a volunteer knight reminds me a little of Don Quixote. But perhaps I am very wrong, and it would not be surprising, because we have even less information on Porcellotti's military exploits than on his poems.
3. G. M. Crescimbeni, Dell' istoria della volgar poesia. Volume quinto, Venice1730, p. 195.
4. G. Gualdo Priorato, Dell' historia del conte Galeazzo Gualdo Priorato parte terza. Nella quale si contengono tutte le cose vniuersalmente occorse dall anno 1640 fino all anno 1646, etc., Venice 1648, p. 165.

4. Manuscripts with poems

It seems that no printed editions of his poems exist, except for some taken from manuscripts by various authors and published centuries later. As a poet, he was certainly appreciated by his contemporaries, and confirmation can be found in the presence of his compositions in around ten manuscripts. As a rule, it is a couple of poems in a collection of numerous others written by various authors. However, there is a favorable circumstance in the fact that he himself preserved entire books with his own poems. The two original manuscripts in the Ottoboniana Library, mentioned in the biography cited earlier, have either been lost or are now in the Vatican Apostolic Library, where that library is preserved today without as yet appearing in the digitized catalogs. However, ancient copies of a probably different original book can be found in two important Florentine libraries, the Medicea Laurenziana (Ashb. 614), and the Nazionale (Panciatichiano 243). Both are manuscripts with the poetic compositions of a single author, our very own Porcellotti. They are not identical copies, and the two poems that interest us are present only in the Medicea Laurenziana copy.

To access these libraries and consult the manuscripts, I had to renew my expired cards, and for the bureaucracy it is a great advantage that the computer memory keeps track of previous visits, even if distant in time. On the manuscript in the Nazionale there is no study in the files; on that of the Medicea Laurenziana there are now only five visits by two readers in recent and very recent times: three times by Francesca Mazzanti, the librarian who in the years 2018 and 2019 did the most useful work compiling the detailed cataloging, and now twice a certain Franco Pratesi.

In short, about Ms. Ashb. 614 not only are there no published studies, but there were not even any scholars who bothered to take a look at the content: how can Porcellotti appear in any recent history of the poetry of the time, if no specialist has read his poems? Now it so happens that of all these poems I am essentially interested in two, which I transcribe below, and they do not interest me for their poetic value, if any, but only as testimony to the game of minchiate. (That is, they are able to exploit Porcellotti , but not to honor him.)

5. Transcription of the two poems discussed

[The footnotes for the poem begin again at 1. To distinguish them from the others, I give them a different color. The corresponding notes are at the bottom of each page, with the page breaks and numbers as in Franco's pdf.]
(f. 49r) To Signore Bandino Panciatichi
In praise of Minchiate

The multitude of fools is infinite,
    It's new to me that I hear blame
   Of the delightful Game of Tarocchi. [note 1]
I begin to examine a little,
    And I'm sure they will find out soon
    How bad they are to criticize.
Is there a more modest game in the world,
    And more pleasing to both sexes, [note 2]
    More useful, entertaining, and honest?
What do you think the wise Muses
    Do at Parnessus? [note 3] Do they laze around?
    It would really be an expressed insult.
You don't need to think about it anymore:
    They all, together in agreement with Apollo,
    Do a quarter [note 4] of Minchiate after lunch.
Indeed they wear them as a brief [note 5] around the neck.
    Dante, Petrarca, Pucci, [note 6] and Boccaccio,
    None of them is with playing sated.
So in this way I am pleased with it,
    And however difficult [note 7] it may be,
    I embrace every opportunity to learn it.
It's all proportion and symmetry,
    And the versicoles are nothing else,
    But a sweet concert and harmony. [note 8]
You have the sounds of thirds and fourths,
    Of fifths, sixths, sevenths, and octaves,
    Even tenths, if the boom is pleasing.
There is [harmony] in bold dissonances,
    Like that Uno, thirteen, and twenty-eight
    And Fool, and Trumpets, if you want deep [sound].

(f. 49v) But this corrupt century of ours,
    So addicted to vice, doesn't care
    For a virtuous and learned pastime.
Is not Minchiate a reading
    Of all manner of Philosophy?
    A study of drawing and painting?
One who delights in Astrology,
    Finds there the stars, Moon, and sun,
    And will do an anatomy of their aspects. [note 9]
A Geometer will be able to do more, if he wishes,
    With the square, Scales, and Compass,
    To measure the size of the whole World.
I use it sometimes for fun
    To keep all my thoughts intent,
    And speculate on some difficult passage.
There the Elements are pure and mixed,
    There all the species of Animals,
    And the origin of the four winds.
The moral virtues are also there
    With their Hieroglyphs and Mysteries,
    And the crowd of Liberal Arts.
I'll leave it to good Arithmetic
    To quarter the zeros [note 10] if she can,
    Hoping to improve it greatly.
Rhetoric then teaches Allegory
    With decorum and Gradation,
    And the figure is still Metonymy.
Not lacking perfect imitation,
    Is that silent Poetry [note 11] that is the Tarocchi,
    Composed with judgment and invention.
And if it ever happens that someone joins me
    Who is bold in blaming,
    I immediately give him the evil eye. [note 12]
1. Only in Florence could playing Tarocchi be identified with playing Minchiate.
2. For being in the seventeenth century, the presence of women at the game table is quite a novelty; it will become more common in the following century.
3. Modification of Parnassus for rhyming purposes.
4. A game for four. Indicative of the manner of play.
5. Here the poetic flight is high: the brief was a kind of small medal-shaped sachet, with something sacred inside, kept around the neck as a blessing, to keep ailments and demons away. Nothing wrong in the fields of religion and even poetry, but difficult to imagine with literally 97 large playing cards. Maybe the Muses were giantesses?
6. Antonio Pucci (Florence, c1310 1388); in our schools no one associates him with the other three.
7. You have to admit that this is a difficult game.
8. He is able to find pleasant sounds associated even with those versicoles that appear irregular.
9. It is not clear whether it refers to a concrete custom or it simply presents a possibility. Surely, later there will be no doubts.
10. The common idiom is not about zeros but about splitting hairs. For the zero, there is the cut zero [meaning zero with no uncertainty, as though even less than zero].
11. Poetry without words: a card is like a verse, and similarly related to its neighbors, without the need for rhyme.
12. Today it would be said that he gives him "dirty looks."

(f. 50r) Doesn't that ignorant, stupid man know
    That it is a mirror of human life
    Filled with endless learning?
I always avoid him, and it seems strange to me,
    That he does not know its value and its advantages:
    To be a man one cannot be vain in the mind.
Armed in the Field four Kings go out
    With their Cavalry Guard,
    Ready for illustrious works and egregious deeds;
The queens come in, in company
    With a retinue of Ladies and Maidens
    Followed by infantry squadrons.
Such beautiful things have never been seen,
    Uniforms, clothes, customs, [note 13] golden weapons;
    How worthy they are, being compared to those.
There you learn to command armies [note 14]
    Deploy Horses and Squadron the Infantry
    Do Marches, Halts, Battles, [note 15] and retreats.
Discard all the locals
    Those who do not know the finest art,
    Take ground, and advance forward.
Think of nothing else but the harm of others,
    Shouting ruthlessly, kill, kill,
    And win with snares and deception.
Now with Swords, now with Sticks and Mace
    Use military stratagems,
    And bravely gain the Plaza.
To have the conscience of Corsairs,
    To steal, murder, and loot,
    To cleverly deprive others of Cups and Coins.
And when the enemy approaches
    Tighten your steps and go into hiding
    And cut off their roads and paths.

(f. 50v) If a King advances badly armed,
    With the eviction of his [forces] [to grasp him] strongly,
    And soon to have him imprisoned.
If the queens enter the field by lot,
    In spite of the scepter and the command,
    Without any mercy reduce them to death,
And with barbaric and execrating style
    To be cruel against the Moon and the Sun
    And to challenge [note 16] the star from time to time.
Harder words would be lacking
    To those who wallow in the waves of Parnassus,
    To praise its merits, speak, whoever wants;
Now you see, whoever tears down such a
    Virtuous and beautiful Game is wrong,
    And how crazy are people in the world.
But everyone who has brains must
    Cause with care and diligence
    That the Father and the Brother learn it. [note 17]
At the time that certain Monsù [note 18] were introduced
    To Florence [note 19] in the Conversations,
    The Women had no knowledge of it.
I want to infer that it is thirty years and more: [note 20]
    With them we only played Staffetta [note 21]
    And most of the time Pelacchi. [note 22]
Today much honored and respected, is one
    Who knows how to sminchiar par excellence,
    I swear, up to tipping the hat to him.
And know, for your intelligence,
    That no one will ever know about economy,
    If he doesn't learn it, have patience.
It is not this whim or fantasy,
    And the effect will make it clear to you:
    It is the doctrine of the Wise Ones, and not mine.
13. The customs that can be observed in a playing card are not many; perhaps the attitudes, the poses.
14. In this digression, which insists on the combative aspects of the game, one seems to read a comparison with chess, often equally praised.
15. The term for marches is certainly obsolete, but it was also used in prose; an example can be read in the previous quote about the battle of Leipzig.
16. Challenging with bravado (Treccani).
17. He incites "missionary" action in the family and, understandably, does not speak of mother and sister.
18. Arrival of foreign personages and fashions from France.
19. This term [for Monsieurs ], attests more than any other to the origin of the poem in triplets.
20. In the mid-seventeenth century, conversations as we know them from the following century were not yet widespread. But minchiate could already enter palaces and academies.
21. The GDLI [Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana] cites a passage by G. B. Andreini (early seventeenth century) in which staffetta [relay] is indicated together with banco fallito [failed bank] and separately from primiera. So it would be called a game of chance. However, the context requires simple games, even too easy.
22. It seems it was some kind of game of goose. The name derives from peeling or stripping of the money played.

(f. 51r) It then teaches you how to handle coins,
    That if you give them without thinking,
    You will surely lose them.
Not to be tight, and so stingy,
    But sometimes to let go,
    Which are singular tricks and subtleties.
Only that it is, it remains for me to show,
    Helpful, delightful, and honest,
    But in Tullio's De Ofizj [note 23] it appears clearly.
I don't want to go deeply with you into the text,
    I assume you have read it
    With the arguments and everything else.
What do you think, that the world is limited?
    Answer me in grace, if you love me;
    In what respect do you have it, in what concept?
Is it not true that, if you consider it well,
    Really nothing else than it is
    Original can be said of a pack of minchiate.
My Muse would never finish,
    Who wants to live without toil and pain,
    And lay aside every joke and bizarreness.
Suffice it to say that it is a sphere [note 24] that contains
    Popes, Kings, Monarchs, and Emperors
    With their places, as suits them.
Cattle, Rams, Geldings, Donkeys, and Bulls
    With how many kinds of brutes there are,
    Crabs, Fishes, Centaurs, Eagles, Goshawks.
There are many other natural Bodies,
    Woods, Plants, Shoots, flowers, and fruit [note 25]
    Valleys, Hills, and Seas, royal Rivers,
Death, Devil, Hell, Heaven, and all
    The Hodgepodge of people and animals,
    How much beauty and ugliness is scattered down here.

(f. 51v) If I had strength equal to my desire,
    I would consume weeks and months
    To count their immortal qualities.
Blessed be our Quaratesi, [note 26]
    Who alone in this world can boast,
    To have all his days well spent.
To tell the truth, he doesn't fish too much at the bottom,
    But if Ubertin were to be disillusioned, [note 27] by the same token,
    You would see him happy and cheerful among us.
They are all my Friends and dear Masters
    That take pleasure and great satisfaction
    In each one learning to play well.
This Lord has made a will
    And an across-the-board committal of Faith
    Of all his possessions, by what I hear,
And he disposes, that the heir be one,
    And this one alone should wear the ribbons;
    Otherwise, he will leave them [the possessions] to a hospital.
But he explained more, that the inheritance touches
    Those, who with goal and judgment
    Will enjoy always playing Tarocchi [and no other game]
Tell the booksellers that as a public service
    To bind them [the cards] with the Codices and Digests;
    They will certainly give a hint of prudence.
And you, Signore Panciatichi, [note 28] should
    Parade your study of Minchiate :
    Oh, what great credit you would acquire!
All the brigades would run there,
    You would give great pleasure to the Courts,
    Maybe you could improve the revenue.
You would enjoy universal applause:
    I have no doubt at all that you would have it,
    Like the other leading Lawyers.

23. De Officiis, Cicero's last philosophical work, much appreciated by the Fathers of the Church and throughout the Middle Ages. Numerous manuscript copies are preserved, and it was the second most printed work, after the Bible.
24. The Sphere was understood as the Earth if not also the cosmos.
25. It would read fruits. I corrected it to respect the rhyme.
26. The friends' surnames seem Florentine, confirming Florence. Not only that. The whole environment speaks to jurists and lawyers, not unusual for challenging games.
27. would disillusion, would lead to reason.
28. It would seem that "Signore" Bandino Panciatichi was not yet a cardinal.

[no indentations of lines in the original at this point]

(f. 52r) If you do not understand it, speculate:
Is this World born and maintained
With anything other than minchiate?
To tell you more is not suitable;
But if there were any Sicilian,
He would [crush] you thoroughly.
It's time to finish, little by little,
Because otherwise you would get annoyed,
And I would appear too inhuman,
By removing and taking away many pretexts,
Give everyone report of this Game,
So that it is clear to everyone.
Although I talk of it a lot, I say little about it,
And never stop remembering [note 29]
To Friends, Relatives, in time and place,
Monk, Friar, Priest, or Secular,
Day and night, at all hours,
Let them cheerfully engage with sminchiare:
Do it with grace, and do it from the heart.

(f. 172r) Having lost at Minchiate.

Please hear, Lord, my misfortunes;
    After ten years I play [note 30] Minchiate
    And lose quickly, quickly in two turns, [note 31]
    With great disappointment, twenty-seven Crazie.[note 32]
Wherefore I, who have been through the Alsaces, [note 33]
    And have many provinces walked,
    Am left as the laughing-stock of the Comrades:
    I know that the Stars are not satisfied.
Fortune, do your worst to me; you know,
    Already seventy-four have sounded,[note 34]
    I have little left for escaping trouble.
The literati say that you are blind,
    When you beat me, you never make mistakes,
    And you see more than a hundred enlightened
       Comforts [pieces of advice?] of senseless [people, i.e. fools];
Tell me, while you are a Woman, do you not despair,
    That you will never be the same to me as yesterday?
       But I hope it comes true
He plows through the waves and sows in the sand,
    One who founds his hopes in the heart of a woman.
6. Comment and conclusion

I have already included some information on the author and his activity previously. Now I just have to conclude by adding something about the two poems relating to game of minchiate. For us, the greatest value of the poem in triplets, In praise of Minchiate, is its date. We are in fact towards the middle of the seventeenth century, when the fashion for minchiate in the courts and "conversations" [private clubs] of half of Europe had not yet developed from Florence and Rome. If you are looking for something more specific about the rules of the game, such as a manuscript or printed book exclusively dedicated to the topic, you need to wait until the next century. In the seventeenth century, the main sources were Minucci's Notes to Lorenzo Lippi's Malmantile Racquistato and literary quotations such as Malatesti's Quadernari delle Minchiate. [note 5]

Unfortunately, this poem in triplets does not add anything important about the technique of the game, at least explicitly. However, something interesting can be read between the lines. Then the hint that women had liked the game for some time becomes important. For women to be able to appreciate the game, it cannot be assumed that in Florence it was still practiced habitually in public baths or barber shops. [note 6] Playing in pairs is better, both for the decorum of the environment and for the greater ease of finding help from more experienced companions for learning. An even more explicit confirmation is obtained from the second poem, as indicated in the notes.

Another knot to resolve, partly connected to the previous one, concerns the distinction between the developments of the game that occurred in Florence, the cradle of minchiate, and those occurring in Rome, a city with many more centers within it (in addition to the numerous noble families, one must consider the fact that not only the pope but practically every cardinal had his own court) and more external relations. The many foreigners who traveled through Italy usually stayed in
30. More than the distance in time, we would need to read the distance in place, perhaps from Florence to Rome, or rather from Florence to Florence.
31. This is a technical term that clearly indicates a four-player pair game. A round ends when everyone has played a paired game with everyone else, in rotation.
32. The crazia was a coin of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (and not of the Papal State) with an initial value, in the late sixteenth century, of five quattrini. The value of a crazia changed over time but still remained quite low; even 27 crazie shouldn't have been a huge figure.
33. Presumably when he participated in the Flanders War.
34. This is not enough for us to infer the date; in fact, we do not know the year of his birth. But we can think of him as a student in Pisa in 1620 and as a soldier in foreign countries almost halfway through the century.

5. M. Dummett, J. McLeod, A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack. Lewiston 2004, p. 324.

Rome longer than in Florence. It is generally assumed that it was from Rome and not from Florence that minchiate conquered the European capitals.

On this question, Porcellotti lends himself, if desired, to the defense of both hypotheses. From his poems, he appears as a frequent visitor to several cardinals in Rome and even two popes: that is his main environment, and even when he spends entire years in Frascati as a lieutenant, the city he contrasts with the countryside is usually Rome. On the other hand, in the chapter he explicitly talks about Florence, and not only about the present situation of the game of minchiate, but also about what had happened in the last thirty years. The same friends with whom he plays minchiate appear to be Florentines and would seem to be legal professionals including "Signore" Panciatichi, who we find in the reports, it would later be said, as a cardinal. His poems are preserved in Florence today because the people to whom he addressed the copies of his manuscript book were Florentines, and it cannot surprise us that in the Nazionale's Panciatichiano Collection, in addition to the aforementioned manuscript, there are others with some of his poems.

A contribution on the question can also be found in the second poem under examination. From the information collected, we know that Porcellotti spent the last years of his life in Rome until his death. This sonnet is one of the last compositions of the manuscript and we read that the poet was seventy-four years old. We therefore immediately think of the Roman environment, where, however, minchiate had a notable flowering... later. Thanks to the ten-year interval and his loss of good fortune, it would instead end, applying a little imagination, with a Florentine repatriation among his old friends: one would understand how finding himself playing minchiate could represent a logical and spontaneous commemoration. One would understand even better the fact that a gambling loss, even if of a relatively modest amount, could put the repatriate in serious embarrassment.

In conclusion, it seems that the Florentine Porcellotti, living as an old man in Rome, informs us about the game of minchiate in Florence. If, however, someone else imagined differently, and considered Rome the venue of the game, at least in the second case, the locality would change, but not the time, which still remains significant. The dates are uncertain; especially the first, which could date back to the mid-seventeenth century, while the second could already be close to the last quarter, so much so as to resolve the question of the four-player game in the seventeenth century, left open (on p. 344) in the authoritative reference text cited above in note 5. The discussion is based on the fact that, in the history of the game of minchiate, one of the points not yet precisely defined is the transition from a game with three or four players, each player for oneself, to the form that then became prevalent, of a game between two opposing pairs. Approximately, the first way is considered valid until the seventeenth century, and the second starting from the eighteenth century, when "conversations" became widespread.

Minchiate had been played in Florence for a couple of centuries, and this testimony by Porcellotti confirms the game of four in pairs already towards the middle of the seventeenth century; this result comes as a significant development for that discussion. However, Nazario Renzoni reminds me of an old testimony [note 7] according to which this was precisely the way of playing common in Florence, indeed also in Prato, already in the mid-sixteenth century, and it is that variant in four with opposing pairs which then spread to Rome and from there to many European capitals.

Florence, 09.24.2023
7. The Playing-Card, 16 No. 3 (1988) 78-83;

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