Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Jan. 2, 2024: Florence 1843-1845: Foreign cards and bureaucracy

Below is my translation, assisted by Google Translate (but requiring extensive corrections!) and Franco, of the last - at least for now - of a series of reports on playing card regulations and state bureaucracy in the Grand Duchy in the period after 1750, posted in Italian at The previous one reported various control measures to "reduce fraud, searches, and trials" while at the same time bringing in tax revenue from playing cards. However, at least one of them seems to have resulted in many more, at least of fines and trials, against travelers who wanted to bring a deck or two of cards into the Grand Duchy for personal use. Officials' conscientious efforts to correct the matter, moreover, seem to have produced a bureaucratic tangle.

 I have combined Franco's one footnote and with his twelve endnotes and put them all at the bottom of the corresponding pages of his pdf (the numbers in the left margin). My translator's notes are in brackets. This translation also appears at

Florence 1843-1845. Foreign cards and bureaucracy

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction
    Years ago, I searched various collections of the State Archives of Florence, looking for documents on playing cards in Tuscany, and especially in Florence. For the Grand Ducal and post-unification periods, I then collected the main results in two books.[note 1] I recently identified other collections with useful documents. In this study, the material under examination is No. 89 of the collection Capirotti di Finanza – Finance Accounts. In particular, I studied two files concerning the control of foreign cards in the years 1843-1845.

    The interest of these documents is that they deal with difficult-to-resolve questions on alternative interpretations of the relevant law, dating back to 1816. In combating the smuggling of playing cards, the law did not differ much from those which tended to prosecute the smuggling of salt and tobacco. First, the law prescribed a penalty of 25 lire for each deck of foreign cards discovered in the luggage of a traveler within the grand duchy. This provoked considerable protests from foreigners in transit who owned their own deck of cards and used it as a pastime. Therefore, the need was emerging on the part of customs officers to distinguish cases by number of decks, and above all between new and used cards, in order to be able to adapt the punishment for smaller cases.

    The problem, as usual, is that reasonable solutions to the problems of interpretation of the law require the approval of several higher bodies, up to and including the opinion and pronouncement of the Grand Duke himself. So we are witnessing an exchange of correspondence between different offices, among which it is not even easy for us to understand the hierarchical relationships, largely clouded in the written testimony by the formulas of deference that abound both up and down.

I considered it useful to transcribe the documentation preserved in this regard in the first file, precisely to provide an overview of the environment from an internal point of view.

    But the matter does not end here, because there is a second file that completes the observation of the environment. Also in this case, there is an exchange of correspondence between the various directors of the offices interested in the same problem of control over foreign playing cards. However, in this case the approach is practically the opposite. In the first case, the Florentine central offices had to examine a proposal from an office in Livorno to lighten the sentences. In this second case, the proposal, again put into practice in Livorno, tended instead to aggravate the same penalties.

   There was in fact a substantial difference between the penalties on playing cards and those on salt and tobacco. In other cases, the offender who did not have the necessary amount of money to deposit as security (or who, despite having the money, did not intend to deposit it) was arrested and brought to trial. This procedure was not foreseen for playing cards, and in this case it was possible for the offender not to pay, and only be deprived of the playing cards, to the detriment of the treasury. Then, in a manner deemed arbitrary by other offices, the director of the Livorno office gave instructions to the customs guards and the other employees involved to deal with cards as with salt and tobacco.

    We thus witness the request for opinions from multiple offices, with the typical response that the proposal could also be accepted if, and only if, validated by a specific amendment to the law being approved by the Grand Duke. For this second case, I do not transcribe all the correspondence preserved because that of the first case is already sufficient to convey the idea of the formal system of the search for a convergence of opinions; that is, I limit myself to the selection of a few letters.
1. Card games in the Florentine republic. Ariccia 2016; Playing-Card Production in Florence. Tricase 2018.

2. Proposal for lesser penalties

    The topic has already been indicated in the Introduction. I transcribe the correspondence directly below, inserting some comments at the end.
Commendatore Administrator General of the Royal [RR = plural] Revenues
Give your opinion The 23rd [note 2] Sept. 1843. Pelli Fabbroni [note 3]

To His Excellency Signore Cavaliere Gran Croce
Francesco Cempini
Current Intimate Advisor on State, Finance, and War
Director of the Royal Finances and the Royal General Depository
    The systematic Law for the Playing Card Enterprise issued on the 25th August 1816 subjects any Violator to a fine of Twenty-five Lire for each deck, as prescribed by the same Law in relation to the prohibition on introducing Foreign Cards into Tuscany even for simple transit.
    Experience has justified that while it is important for the prosperity of the same Enterprise that the provisions of the specified Law are kept in strict observance whenever it involves a real transgression, which is aimed at causing fraud and prejudice to the Royal [R = singular] Finance, there are however cases in which the excessively rigorous application of the same Law could take on the appearance of harassment, especially in the face of foreigners who keep only one or two decks of Playing Cards, and those they introduce to use for their pastime and entertainment and to deceive, as people say, the boredom of travel. More especially, it occurs when people of some distinction, free from the suspicion of wanting to dedicate themselves to the petty trafficking of said playing cards, keep one or two decks already used without having been warned when entering Tuscany that they [note 4] cannot make any use of them. Therefore, to obviate any idea of harassment in this regard, and to moderate the penalty of the fine where there can be no doubt of malicious intent on the part of the Violator, I have taken the liberty of compiling the following detailed instructions, which I submit to the superior wisdom of Your Excellency, so that if you deem it appropriate, you may deign to invoke the eminent Sovereign approval, or be pleased to descend to me in this connection those orders which may appear most appropriate to you for this purpose. [note 5]
    And with deep respect I come to confirm myself
    Of Your Excellency
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant Tommasi [note 6]
    From the General Office of the Registry and United Enterprises
    The 22nd September 1843.

Signore Cavaliere Commendatore
Administrator General of the Royal Revenues
Illustrious Signore Pro. [?] Most Respected Signore
    I have gone through the attached Draft Instructions concerning the execution of the Law of the 25th August 1816 on foreign playing cards, which I received with the precious letter of your Excellency from day last.
    In my opinion, honest Passengers can only appreciate the questioning by Employees of the Health and Customs Office as to whether or not they keep foreign playing cards and to be informed by them that their use, retention, and free transport are prohibited in Tuscany.
    It is well understood that the benefit of transit is preserved with the precautions established by the Orders for those who want to take advantage of it and that the denunciation for those who have refused only subjects them to the abandonment which I would believe could convert into demotion.
It also seems to me to be wise advice to promise a different treatment to passengers who, when questioned, do not report their playing cards to Customs, and who are found by the Guards to retain one or two used decks (probably to divert the boredom of the journey), from those who would have more abundance, and much more if the decks were new.
    Having left it to your superior determinations, I have the honor of signing myself with the greatest respect
    Of Your Most Illustrious Lordship
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant
    Giuseppe Casanuova Director
    Livorno, from the Directorate of Customs
    The 25 September 1843

concerning the execution of the Law of 25 August 1816 on Playing Cards.
    Article 1. The Ministers of Health at the Office of the Mouth for the Port of Livorno, and the Customs Agents and Ministers at each State Border, upon the arrival of any Vessel, and respectively of any
2. The period after the numbers was usually inserted at the time and I respect it in the transcription. [Trans. note: for the translation, the periods have been replaced with “th,” “st,” “nd,” or “rd.”]
3. This is a note added, on the fly, on the upper margin of the letter, without particular attention to spelling. The office is perhaps the Finance Secretariat, but the higher hierarchical level is evident.
4. In various subsequent comments and proposals it will be asked that travelers always be warned about this law, directly upon first entry into the Grand Duchy.
5. The proposer does not intend to commit an abuse: either his proposal is approved from above and made legally valid, or he is given instructions in this regard. In the second case, it is understood that a response of respecting the old law to the letter would be inconvenient.
6. I moved this line here. However, in all these official letters, the final formula with the signature is inserted in the lower right margin of the page, detached from the rest.

Vehicle, Coach, and Carriage that serves for the transport of Passengers or Goods, will question the Owners or Captains of the Vessel, and in the case of Vehicles, the Drivers or Owners thereof, whether or not they, as well as the travelers, Crewmen, or Foreign Passengers, have Playing Cards, warning them of their introduction into Tuscany being prohibited even for simple transit. If the answer is affirmative, they will be asked either to carry out the exact declaration in Art. VIII of the aforementioned Law of the 25 August 1816, if they wish to pass the aforementioned Playing Cards through the Tuscan Territory, or to deliver and release the same Playing Cards which, as above, are found among them.
    2nd. In case they choose to make the aforementioned declaration, in consequence the Games or Decks of Cards will be directed, with the precautions and systems indicated by the Law, to that Border Customs by which they will have to exit from the Territory of the State.[note 7]
    3rd. If the Foreign Playing Cards are then delivered and released, after having been wrapped and after said bundle has been well sealed and provided with the Stamp of the Office, the aforementioned Cards will be returned, if in Livorno to the Extraordinary Stamp Office existing there, if elsewhere, to the nearest Registry Office, accompanied in any case with a relevant report that makes known their origin and anything else that affects their delivery and release. The aforementioned offices to which the parcels mentioned have been sent, together with the related reports, will have to send both to the General Directorate of the Registry and Joint Enterprises in Florence through the respective Departmental Registry Directorates on which the offices themselves immediately depend.
    4th. Verifying that despite the diligence to be carried out as above at the Office of the Mouth of the Port of Livorno and at the Customs Offices of the Borders, there were found by the Royal Guards of Finance or by Customs Agents and Ministers at the City Gates or elsewhere within the State, Decks or Games of Foreign Cards, provided that it involves no more than one or two Decks or Games of said Cards, and especially if they are used ones, so that there is reason to believe that they are transported by the Carriers or Passengers solely to make use of them during the journey rather than with the idea of becoming an object of smuggling and trafficking, in this case subject to the arrest and confiscation of said Cards which with a similar report will be submitted to the Head of the nearby Customs Office, and from this to the General Directorate of the Registry and United Enterprises, it will be up to the Director General of the Administration of the Registry and United Enterprises to propose, according to the character and nature of the circumstances that have accompanied the Transgressions, regarding the fines incurred for the same Transgressions to His Excellency the Counselor Director of the Imperial and Royal Secretariat of Finance, or the plenary condonation of the same fines, or those reductions which according to the circumstances of the cases appear appropriate, always considering that for the aforementioned cases [note 8] the Customs Agents or Ministers are very discreetly mollified, and also considering that to ensure the payment of what may be due for these securities by the aforementioned Violators, they must deposit at the Customs Office to which the Agents and Ministers are assigned, or the Royal Finance Guards who carried out the procurement in question, Ten Lire if there is only one Deck or Game, and Twenty Lire if two are the Games or Decks of Foreign Cards that have been found. [note 9] According to what has been approved by His Excellency the Counselor Director of the Imperial and Royal Secretariat of Finance in relation to the proposed condonations, or the aforementioned reductions, the relevant pending matters will remain settled and adjusted long before said transgressions have been brought to the knowledge of the competent Courts, as well as after the relevant Judgment has been entered on the same; and by said Courts, once the approval of the aforementioned Excellency has occurred, and the conditions prescribed by the defendant have been fulfilled, the case will not be further proceeded with, thus giving rise to the restitution of the Ten or Twenty Lire as deposited above, deducting what is necessary to satisfy the conditions on which the aforementioned Superior Resolution is based; and without prejudice to the provisions of the Supervisory Laws regarding the allocation of how much with the Resolution itself was ordered to be collected as a Fine.
    5th. When the Foreign Games or Decks of Cards found at the City Gates or elsewhere within the State are such in quantity and quality as to lead one to believe that those in the same State were intended to be trafficked in fraud of the now valid Law, and generally whenever said Games or Decks of Foreign Cards are found within the State in quantities greater than two Decks or Games, especially if they are Games that do not appear obviously used, in this case it will be the responsibility of the Royal Finance Guards and Customs Agents and Ministers to proceed in this regard with all rigor against Violators, in the usual ways and by the Supervisory Laws prescribed.

Signore Cavaliere Commendatore
Giovanni Baldasseroni
Administrator General of the Royal Revenues
Most Illustrious Signore Pro. [?] Most Respected Signore
    The aim that motivated the General Directorate of the Registry certainly deserves applause in having formed the Draft Instructions forwarded to me by your Most Illustrious Lordship with your Revered Letter of the 26th of this month and which, together with the other papers, I have the honor of returning to You.
    Reading that Draft would have called me to make the following observations.
To Art. 1. The task that you want to give to the Ministers of the Livorno Health Office alone. Could it not perhaps be extended with advantage to those of the other Offices on the coast?
7. A single deck of cards, brought back to today, would suggest a nuclear warhead.
8. Agents risk making mistakes, however they behave, if they are not reassured from above.
9. A new and more useful progression is introduced. However, the jump from 20 lire for two decks to 75 for three remains high, but in other cases the possession of three decks is already considered an indication of fraud.

I would believe that the Owners of the Playing Cards could not be denied the right to release them on board the Ship, or to send them back in the foreign State. [note 10]
    Art. 2. If the playing cards are wished to be destined for transit, the Ministers of the Border Customs through which they would be introduced must not accompany them with a Manifesto to another similar one from which it is preferred to export them, but rather to a Principal Customs, in which alone the Expediting Pass can be created.
    Art. 3. It would seem just as simple, equally as regular, that the documents delivered to the Border Customs Employees be sent by them to the respective Directorates on which they depend and from these to the General Directorate of the Registry.
    Art. 4 and 5. The Ministers of Customs attend the inspections but do not inspect or make complaints. Therefore the name of Customs Ministers should be eliminated from the proposed Articles.
    Art. 4. I would doubt that the Resolution of His Excellency the Counselor Director of the Royal Finances to withhold the procedure once the complaint was filed was valid, unless a similar Sovereign Disposition was published, or with Special Motu Proprio [Latin for “own initiative”], as was practiced in the year 1768. when the Administrators General of the Royal Revenues were created, or in similarity to what was ordered by the Royal Council with the Circular of 8 April 1839.
    Your Most Illustrious Lordship will give to these observations the weight of which in his wisdom he deems them worthy.
    I have the honor to declare myself with the most distinguished respect
    Of Your Illustrious Lordship
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant
    G. O. Forni
    From the Customs Directorate of Florence
    The 28 September 1843

His Excellency Signore Cavaliere Gran Croce
Counselor of State & &
Director of the Imperial and Royal Department of Finance
    I have the honor of returning to Your Excellency the Draft Instructions concerning the execution of the Law on Playing Cards, dated the 25th August 1816, drawn up by Sig. Cav. Director General of the Administrative Office of the Registry, regarding which I have been ordered to express what my feelings may be.
    The aforementioned Law, by prohibiting the introduction of Foreign Cards into Tuscany, even for simple transit, imposed a fine of L. 25 for each deck on the Violator.
    This precise and exhaustive provision excludes in its application any exemption: [note 11] at once, even the introduction of a single deck is, by express will of the law, subject to a fine. I do not deny that the prescription is rather severe, as indeed are all the laws that protect royal property rights, [note 12] but I only highlight it to deduce that in the state and terms resulting from the Law of 1816, arrests, from even a single Deck of Cards, were sometimes carried out by Customs Agents, a regular and not vexatious activity.
    The Draft Instructions compiled by Sig. Cav. Tommasi essentially modifies that rigor, nor would I be able to make any objection to it, as it deals with something extraneous to this Administrative Office, but which only concerns the one which is deservedly presided over by the aforecommended Director.
    No less for the relationships that in their practical execution the same Instructions could have with the Customs Service, I took it upon myself to have them examined by the Signori Directors of the Customs of Florence and Livorno.
    The latter has fully agreed upon them, while Cav. Forni, also agreeing with them in principle, has suggested in the Letter attached, here in the Copy, some few interesting warnings regarding the ways and forms of the [Instructional] Draft imagined. These warnings seeming to me to have made all the wise and appropriate connections, I would be of the reverent opinion that the few additions that result from them be inserted into the Draft in question, which I also would consider in need of Sovereign Rectification, so that in its practical application it does not encounter difficulties in the Courts.
    I have the honor of recalling with respectful consideration
    Of Your Excellency
    Most Humble Most Devoted Servant
    G. Baldasseroni
    From the General Department of the Royal Revenues
    The 2nd October 1843
3. Proposal for greater penalties
    The file under review contains a dozen letters, often copies, under the common title of Transgressions of the Playing Cards Law. 7 December 1844 - 29 May 1845. This is a selection in which we can follow, with some exceptions, the chronological order, but where we find neither the initial nor the final documents in the case in question. I therefore allow myself to make a further selection
10. This suggestion seems logical, but is only encountered here.
11. Outside the office, epicheia would be called exemption.
12. This appears to be the most solid argument. The severity is directly justifiable: long and expensive life for the Grand Duke.

of the letters by copying some of them here, in a sufficient number to make the exchange of correspondence between the various offices involved clear. The functioning of the administration presents an unexpected contrast between very rapid exchanges of official correspondence, right from one day to the next, alongside delays of months.
Signore Cavaliere Royal Prosecutor-General
Most Illustrious Signore Po. [?] Most Respected Signore
    The Law of the 25 August 1816 on Playing Cards does not order the deposit against unknown offenders, and in the absence of which their arrest, as it is prescribed with regard to offenders of Salt and Tobacco. Now I am informed that the Director General of the Registry has circulated an instructional letter of 8 August, 1843, which contains the following paragraph.
    “That whenever it is impossible to obtain from the aforementioned Violators (of Playing Cards) the aforementioned deposit, either due to the alleged lack of means, or because they do not want to lend themselves to carrying it out, in this case the Royal Guard of Finance will be ordered to translate said Violators before the competent local Authority, which will be responsible for issuing the appropriate orders and measures to be adopted in order to guarantee as much as possible the interest of the Royal Finance, and of those who are justified in relation to the fines incurred."
    This order aggravates the condition of the Violators beyond what is prescribed by the Law and compromises the responsibility of the Royal Guards of Finance, who by carrying it out would be exposed either to having to answer for abuse of power, or to compromising the dignity of the Law and of the Authority by alleging their own exemption from their Superior's command.
    It is therefore of the utmost interest that this inconvenience and danger be remedied.
    And to this effect, I believed it was my duty to engage your authority so that the order is either revoked or converted into law.
    And with the most distinct respect I have the honor of recalling myself
    Of Your Most Illustrious Lordship
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant
    Livorno, from the Office of the Prosecutor
    The 7th October 1844

Imperial and Royal Highness
    As Your Imperial and Royal Highness may deign to observe from the attached official communication from the Cavaliere Royal Prosecutor General, the Cavaliere Director General of the Registry has circulated to his Employees an instructional letter, which, with a view to guaranteeing the Royal Finance, and depending on the transgressions of the Laws on Playing Cards, would lead to the liability of Violators who are not indeed unknown, as the Royal Prosecutor of Livorno has perhaps not exactly expressed, but rather of unknown solvency, for those rigorous and serious precautions that Art. 46 of the Law of 2 Sept. 1819 on transgressions in matters of salt prescribes, and which are not commanded by the Law of the 25th August 1816 on Playing Cards.
    With this the same Cavaliere Director General of the Registry having certainly transcended the limits of his mission, in order to avoid the possible inconveniences feared by the same Royal Prosecutor of Livorno, we would implore that the previously praised public Functionary be invited to withdraw the Instructional Letter of which he is the author.
    With profound veneration we have the glory of being
    Of Your Imperial and Royal Highness
    Most humble Servants and Subjects
    Giovanni Battista Burchi
    Vincenzio Giacomini
    Cosimo Buonarruoti
    Primo Magini
    From the Royal Council
    The 23rd December 1844
With this opinion of the members of the Royal Council, it would seem that the bureaucratic process had come to an end. Instead, the practice restarted the year, because evidently the right solution to the problem had not been found.
Report of the Brigade Chief of the Royal Finance Guards
For the Most Illustrious
Sig. Cav. Director of the Royal Customs of Livorno
Most Illustrious Signore

    The Law on Playing Cards does not authorize the arrest of the foreign Violator, and much less the collection of the deposit for the amount of the penalty incurred, as has been pointed out on another occasion. It follows that since it is not possible to prosecute said Foreign Violators who have not wanted to leave the aforementioned deposit, the Procedures remain fruitless, and the related Expenses are borne by the Tax Fund. So the undersigned would propose to avoid said Procedures in this case, and to deliver the apprehended cards to the Registry Office, especially when it concerns a Transgression of one or two decks of them, and when it does not please to provide for the aforementioned void in said Law.
    This is all
    Livorno, the 27th May 1845

Signore Cavaliere Commendatore
Administrator General
of the Royal Revenues
Most Illustrious Signore
    On 10 December last year following a first report from the Brigade Chief Signore Botti, I had to point out to Your Most Illustrious Lordship the need to fill the gap in the Law of the 25 August 1816 on foreign cards not prescribing the 'Arrest of the holder of the same, when he is without the means to pay, or guarantee the fine incurred, or even refuses to pay it, even if he wanted to ensure the fulfillment of the requirements of the General Directorate of the Registry articulated in the Revered [Communication] of Your Most Illustrious Lordship of the 9 August 1843.
    Now with a 2nd specific Report attached here, the same aforementioned Brigade Chief returns to demonstrate that either it is better to fill the void in the Law, or to abstain from initiating useless Procedures, the results of which can only be borne by the Tax Fund, if one is limited to delivery of the apprehended cards to the Registry Office.
    And while waiting for the Superior Determinations, I pass to the honor of recalling myself with the most distinct respect
    Of Your Most Illustrious Lordship
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant
    Giuseppe Casanuova
    Livorno Customs Directorate
    The 27th May 1845.

Signore Cavaliere Director
of the Administration of the Registry and United Enterprises
Most Illustrious Signore Pro. [?] Most Respected Signore
   The attached documents, sent to me by the Customs Directorate of Livorno, tend to highlight the need to fill the void found in the Law of the 25th August 1816 on foreign playing cards, since it does not prescribe the arrest of their Holder in the event that he is without the means to guarantee satisfaction of the penalties that may be owed by him,
    I take them to the revered hands of Your Excellency, but since the knowledge of the relevant Affair is within the competence of the Department over which you deservedly preside, only permitting me to ask you to favor me to provide me with any response that can appear appropriate to you [note 13] according to my rule, in the Instructions to be given to the Financial Force for the contingencies spoken of in the documents themselves.
    I have the honor to sign myself with the most distinguished esteem and respect.
    Of your Most Illustrious Lordship
    G. Baldasseroni
    From the General Department of the Royal Revenues, the 28 May 1845

His Excellency Signore Gran Croce
Francesco Cempini
Counselor of State, Finance, and War
Director of the Imperial and Royal Secretariat
of Finance, and of the Royal General Depository
    With my respectful participation on the 12th December 1844, I took the liberty of pointing out to Your Excellency the need to bring about a Sovereign Resolution regarding the arrest of transgressors of the current Law on Playing Cards, which by the Chancellor of the Court of Livorno and by that Royal Prosecutor was considered to be arbitrary, when the same violators did not want or were unable to deposit the relevant fines imposed by the aforementioned law.
13. The sequence of six verbs in the sentence is a record for polite formulas.

   And since the Commendatore Administrator General of the Royal Revenues forwards me the attached documents with which the Royal Finance Guard and the Director of the Royal Customs of Livorno are once again making every effort to take the appropriate measures in this regard, I cannot help but urgently pray to Your Excellency to deign to solicit, as far as it can depend on you, that Sovereign Resolution which will be considered the most suitable to repress the transgressions of this type and to protect the interests of the Royal Finance.

    In the meantime, it would appear to my tenuity useful and appropriate that the aforementioned Commendatore Administrator General of the Royal Revenues be exhorted to send down the appropriate orders to the Royal Finance Guard so that they refrain from proceeding with any arrest or coercive action against the holders of Playing Cards of foreign manufacture until the aforementioned Sovereign Resolution is issued, limiting themselves only to the relevant reports, even when it is not possible to persuade the Violators to deposit the Fines they have incurred. Since it is in the expectation of those Orders that it could please the Imperial and Royal Government in this regard to issue on this report I have made it lawful to exhort the aforementioned Signore Commendatore Administrator General to communicate to the Royal Finance Guard that they wish to abstain from carrying out the abovementioned arrests to avoid any related inconvenience.
    And with the highest consideration and respect, I have the honor to confirm myself
    Of Your Excellency
    Most Devoted Most Obedient Servant
    From the General Registry Office and United Enterprises
    The 29th May 1845
After two years of exchanges of correspondence between the offices concerned, the necessary provisions have still not arrived. For now, an official change to the law is missing, and even the exhortation from the higher offices not to follow up on the Instructions to the Livorno customs employees is missing.

4. Conclusion
    On the control of foreign cards within the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, two bureaucratic problems to be resolved have been encountered, which appear not only different but with opposite deviations from the norm: in one case the penalties are lightened, in the other they are aggravated. Both cases encounter similar bureaucratic delays, even if forms of courtesy and respect, if not downright veneration, are used to the highest degree in correspondence between offices. Sooner or later a solution will have been found, but it seems clear that the Tuscan bureaucracy had not reached a level of agile functioning in those years, despite the Leopoldian reforms first and those introduced by the French afterwards.

Florence, 02.01.2024

Jan. 2, 2024: Florence 1814: Restoration, also for playing cards

The present essay, in Italian at and here in my English translation, is a kind of successor to Franco's essay on the reform of the Stamp Duty on playing cards in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the year 1781.  In the present essay it is 1814, and a lot has happened in the interim. 

The reform had been part of the modernization plans of Grand Duke Leopold I, its ruler since 1765. In 1790 he was elected Holy Roman Emperor and turned the duchy over to his second son Ferdinand. Both were part of the new ruling dynasty of Habsburg-Lorraine, so-called because Leopold's father, Francis Stephen, had been Duke of Lorraine previously, while his mother was the Empress Maria-Theresa, and the duchy as a whole part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Then came the French invasion of the 1790s, Ferdinand's exile, and the establishment of a French administration over all manner of civic life, including playing cards. That all came to a crashing end in 1814, of course, and Ferdinand returned to pick up the pieces. It is mainly a return to the old system, but with a few improvements "to prevent fraud, searches, and trials." In the internal correspondence from the time, we learn more about the process that system, which included considerable control over playing card production.

Franco's pdf in Italian makes extensive use of endnotes commenting on the transcripts, as well as two regular footnotes near the beginning. I have moved all the endnotes so that they and the other two appear at the bottom of the corresponding page of Franco's pdf (indicated in the left margin). the former endnotes ae thus two numbers higher than Pratesi's numbers for them.

As usual, Franco's help has been essential, to decipher the archaic language, sentence structure, and abbreviations, regarding which Google Translate is quite clueless, as well as catching little errors of mine that would otherwise be there. No doubt there are others; please let me know. This translation first appeared at

Florence 1814: Restoration, also for playing cards

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction
    Here the point of view is limited, because we are only witnessing changes within the offices responsible for controlling the production and use of playing cards in Tuscany; but the historical moment is of European importance: the fall of Napoleon and his empire, with the repercussions that reach down to the smallest administrations, as is precisely the one of interest to us.

    We can reconstruct some aspects of the change mentioned on the basis of a bundle of documents preserved in the State Archives of Florence.(Note 1) In the Inventory of the collection in question (Note 2), there is only one item of interest to us: Playing cards and stamped paper: edicts and deliveries 1814. No. 18. The two administrations of playing cards and stamped paper were closely linked, and these documents also referred to both cases. In the following, I will leave out everything relating to stamped paper to concentrate on playing cards.

2. The plan for renewal of the procedures

    Of particular interest is the plan concerning the new system to manage the administration of playing cards and stamped paper. It is a complete plan that continually refers to the procedures in use before those of the French government, largely contemplating a return to the prior ones, eliminating the changes recently introduced.

    In reality, the changes introduced by the French administration mainly concerned stamped paper, to a lesser extent "normal" playing cards, while the system adopted for Minchiate had remained practically unchanged because it was a game, with its related cards, unknown to the new administration.

    The documentation is made even more interesting by the fact that it presents the project, preceded by the relevant covering letter, in draft form, with additions and corrections. I transcribe them both below. In any case, I indicate in square brackets the parts added to the text later by a different hand; however, I do not report sentences or individual words deleted. (Translator's comments and indications of footnotes will be in parentheses.)

    Intent always to reactivate and make prosperous those Branches of Finance entrusted to me by the I. and R. (Imperial and Royal) Government with the view that the Royal Interest should not suffer any detriment by this part, [and with further consideration due to the public,] I have tirelessly dealt with the examination of the progress of the two Royal Stamped Paper and Playing Cards Enterprises, with the aim of proposing to Your Excellency that system which I believed to be the most advantageous [and the most adapted to the circumstances of the time].
    First of all, I must let Your Excellency know that these two enterprises have always been united with each other and were equally so at the time of the auspicious Government of S.A.I. and R. (Sua Altezza Imperiale e Reale = His Imperial and Royal Highness) Ferdinand III Our August Sovereign. (Note 3)
    Speaking first of all [about the reorganization] of the Royal Playing Card Enterprise, I am pleased to point out to Your Excellency that this Enterprise, in no way removed from [the essential principles of that] system which has been practiced since the time of the aforementioned Government, only needs to be reactivated with new regulations, in order to prevent the fraud which could occur and which is the cause of a large number of trials and searches, with disaster for the public.
    To this end, I have formed the Plan for the setup of said Enterprise, as I put it together for Your Excellency, imploring your wise determination.
Combined with said Plan, Your Excellency will find the System [in detail] that was practiced at the time of the above-mentioned A.S.I and R. (same as S.A.I. and R. above) and that adopted by the past French Government.
    In relation to the penalties for violators, I would believe that the Notification of 30 December 1780, as the one in force at the time of our beloved Sovereign, should be maintained.
    It is necessary for me to point out to Your Excellency that there is in the warehouse a quantity of white watermarked paper in the number of sheets of approximately 130 thousand left by the past French Government, which was used for the manufacture
1. ASFi, General Administration of Royal Revenues, 18.
2. https://archiviodistatofirenze.cultura. ... endite.pdf
3. Ferdinand III of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1790 to 1801 and from 1814 to 1824.

of playing cards, as well as other watermarked paper of approximately 46 thousand sheets where the figures necessary to form said cards are (already) printed.
    I would therefore be of the opinion that it would be profitable for the Royal Interest to use the aforementioned watermarked white paper to continue the manufacture of cards in their current size, because of this alone it is capable, and once this is completed, the Royal Enterprise will be able to use other paper manufactured on its behalf by a paper mill in the Grand Duchy to form Playing Cards of even larger dimensions; and I would believe it is even more appropriate to use said paper [which could be given greater body, or thickening, since the public is very dissatisfied with the thinness of the cards] to make use of that paper where the figures are already printed, because some of them represent Sacred Objects and venerable principles of good morals. (Note 4)
    I commissioned Carlo Caolieri, the skilled and only wood engraver employed in the R. Gallery [and in the works] to engrave a printing block for the aforementioned figures similar to those [very decent ones as] customary at the time of the previously praised Government of R. and I.A.S. (same as A.I.S. and R.).
    If my Plan is fortunate enough to meet with the approval of Your Excellency, it would be appropriate to issue a Notification to remove the Article relating to the permission of Cards without stamps outside the State, and to reinstate the penalties for violators under the terms of the aforementioned Law of 30 December 1780.
    Now moving on to talk about the reorganization of the other Royal Enterprise, that of stamped paper, . . . In these two systems there is an enormous difference in the stamp duties; while at the time of R. and I.A.S. previously mentioned, such a duty was rather mild, at the time of the French Government, it was taken beyond the just and honest . . . .
For stamped paper, the writer therefore proposes to return to the old procedures and describes the operation in detail; he continues with the list of staff roles (19 ministers, assistants, and custodians already active and re-proposed for the two Enterprises), and concludes as follows.
[Should these very humble propositions of mine dictated by the zeal and attachment that I have always nurtured since my earliest years for the Royal Service be found worthy of your approval which I implore with this respectful representation, there would then be nothing left other than to refer it to this Imperial Secretariat the draft of the notification in compliance, to be published appropriately. In the meantime, I dare to propose the following formula for regulating the Role enunciated.] This present provisional Role of the Royal Revenues Stamped Paper and Playing Card Enterprises of Florence is approved, and the Counselor General Administrator of the Royal Revenues remains in charge of enforcement.
And with the deepest respect I pass to the honor of reputing myself
The 4th July 1814

Plan (note 5)
    For the setup of the Royal Enterprise of Playing Cards [similar to the system practiced since the auspicious Government of S.A.I. and R. Ferdinand III with the addition only of what leads to ensuring the Royal Interest, and to preventing the contraventions that a longer experience has made known, which Project] can largely serve as instruction to the Ministers for the management of the same Enterprise.
    This Enterprise will be reunited with the other of Stamped Paper, as it always was in the past, and the Ministers assigned to the mentioned Stamped Card Enterprise must equally serve for this of Playing Cards.
    The cards that must be manufactured will be the following; like those that were customary in the past, and will pay as in the past [at the time of the auspicious Government of the aforementioned S.A.I. and R.
    Minchiate cards, large Picchetti of 52 cards per deck and large Low Cards: one Paolo per deck. Said small ones and small Picchetti, one-half Paolo per deck. (note 6)
    The manufacture of these cards must take place only in Florence, as has always been usual, and the General Administration of the Royal Revenues must grant the Patents to those subjects who will be deserving of them, as has been practiced in the past [i.e. since the time of the Government of the aforementioned Sovereign].
    Said manufacturing must be carried out with the following method.
    Each manufacturer will receive from the Warehouse of the Royal Enterprise [watermarked] paper which will be manufactured on behalf of the same by a paper mill, and this will be used to print the Suits of the decks to be formed [i.e. Diamonds, Clubs, Spades, and Hearts] together with the component Figures of the same, and he will pay the value that will be determined.
    One can print the Suits (probably just the numeral cards) in his own factory. The Figures must be printed (note 7) in the Office in the presence of one of the Ministers, who will be designated by the Principal Minister.
    To this end there will be only one printing block in the Office for the Figures for Picchetti and Low Cards, which will be used by all the manufacturers. (Note 8)
    Each [of said manufacturers] will have to present themselves to print those quantities of Figures that they believe form said decks, but always on the paper designated by the Office, which they will request in the document. [The Minister responsible for this object will retain many small labels (Note 9) where the name and surname of each Manufacturer will be engraved, as will be printed on the Queen of Clubs when printing.]

4. They are obviously minchiate, and the respect for those images is curious, almost to be venerated like holy cards, sheets of paper similar in shape but with sacred images. In the following paragraph, he clarifies that he also proposed a more customary version.
5. The Plan is written on one sheet of paper divided into two columns, leaving the left one blank to accommodate numerous additions.
6. One paolo corresponded to 8 crazie. The lira (without entering into other units of account or coinage such as the various types of florins, or in more recent times the scudo) was divided into 20 soldi of 12 denari or piccioli [little ones]. Once we are able to easily read account books with this system, here is another one: in practice, the same lira was also divided into 12 crazie of 20 of the same denari. There were coins scattered between the two systems, usually with the copper quattrino of 4 denari at the base (so three quattrini made a soldo and five quattrini made a crazia). In the end, we thus find that 1 paolo corresponds to 13 soldi and 1 quattrino (L-S13d4), and half a paolo to 6 soldi and 2 quattrini (L-S6d8).
7. The method of "printing" the numeral cards is not precisely indicated, as they were probably not yet printed but only hand-painted, possibly with the help of perforated sheets.
8. This is important information, because in other times each card maker had their own woodblocks.
9. Rather than tags, they appear to be small plaques engraved in a personalized manner to be inserted in a special space in the single woodblock of all paper makers.



   Once said Figures have been printed, he [each manufacturer] can take them to his own factory to be colored according to the model (Note 10) that will be given to him by the Office, but before this, the number of printed Figures, and precisely the number of decks so formed, must be verified by the Minister in charge, by having the usual mark showing a lily affixed above the Queen of Diamonds.
    Said Minister will then have the manufacturer produce a Receipt for the number of decks of cards, which he will have printed and will pass this on to the Accountant.
    The Accountant will keep a Register in which he will open a Debit and Credit Account of each Manufacturer depending on the watermarked paper delivered, both to print the Suits and the Figures, in two different columns.
    In Debit will be noted the watermarked paper for said Suits and the number of decks which will be printed as above. [The Manufacturer must use the paper marked with black dots externally, as was customary in the past, which was always used for minchiate cards under the happy Austrian Government.] (Note 11)
    When said Manufacturer has decks such as Picchetti and Quadriglie formed in his factory, he will wrap these up as in former times, in plain white paper and present himself to the Accountant's Office, from whom he will receive an Entry Mandate to pay the Cash for the Stamp Duty on that quantity of decks which he wants to stamp.
    [Said Accountant, in addition to recording the Entry for the Cash in the Copy of Orders, will immediately note in the above-mentioned Register of Manufacturers' Accounts and credit to the respective account the number of decks for which the stamp duty has been paid.]
    Having paid such a fee, he [said Manufacturer] will present himself to the relevant Minister, show the Receipt for the payment, and upon this, the stamper will be ordered to affix the stamp to the quantity of decks for which he will have [as above] paid the fee.
This stamp will be affixed to the Jack of Hearts, as was practiced [as above at the time of S.A.I. and R.]
    A single press will also be held in the Office to print the decks for Minchiate [, on which the extinct French Government, which did not know this Game at all, made no changes]. (Note 12)
    Each manufacturer will go to the aforementioned Office, and on common paper at his pleasure, as has always been practiced by all the Governments, he will be able to print the decks, but in the presence of a Minister assigned to it.
    The system mentioned above for the formation of decks of Picchetti and Quadriglie must also be extended [in terms of formalities] to that of Minchiate, with the exception of not making use of watermarked paper, but common paper, as has been said above.
    The Mark showing the Lily must appear on the Libra (Bilancia) Card, and the stamp on the card showing No. 27, as was practiced in the past. [None of the manufacturers will be able to give the decks for resale, except to those persons who will be provided with the Resale License by the General Administration pro tempore of the Royal Revenues.]
    They [Ministers] will have to carry out extraordinary Visits to the factories of each Patentee every time, as ordered by the same General Administrator of the Royal Revenues, in order to detect, with the results of the Register intended for the same, whether there are any frauds, i.e. if they have supplied unstamped decks [having found] a lack in the Figures already printed.
Such visits, however, must indispensably take place at the end [of each year], at which time the remainder of both the white watermarked paper and the paper on which both the Suits and the Figures will have been printed must be verified.
    Such a balance must correspond to that which will result from the Debit and Credit Account of each manufacturer, entered in the Register as proposed above.
    The manufacturers will be granted only a 10 percent allowance (on the amount) of this type of watermarked paper, which he (the manufacturer) will show as incapable of being used to make the decks (in order not to be accused of fraud, presumably). This paper will have to be withdrawn by the Enterprise, to be burned or torn up, but the manufacturer will not receive reimbursement of any amount on the value paid for it.
    Once a lack of paper is found, where the figures forming said decks have been printed, the manufacturer will be obliged to pay the fee for all missing items, as he would have paid if he had presented himself to have the stamp affixed to them.
   Such a failure will be considered as fraud, because it indicates a sale of decks without stamp duty, and therefore it will remain in the power of the General Administrative Officer of the Royal Revenues, in similar cases, to deprive the criminal manufacturer of the License [as was customary with happy success before the French].
    There must be no agreement, as in the past, for the export of unstamped cards abroad, as the cause of an immensity of frauds to the detriment of the Royal Interest, and of a mass of trials and searches, with disaster for the public].

3. The handover of the superintendency of the offices

    A brief correspondence between the offices, of which the one preserved is only a part, prepares and accompanies the transfer of responsibilities from one director to another.
10. Not only a single woodblock for all card makers, but also the freedom of how to paint the cards was evidently very limited.
11. Florence's relations with Lorraine were quite varied. The Lorraine from whose court Cristina, the wife of Ferdinand I of the Medici (with whom Galileo maintained an epistolary correspondence of a scientific nature) could not be considered Austrian; it so happens that this Grand Duchess had as her maternal grandmother the Queen of France, namely Catherine de Medici. However, when the new rulers of the grand duchy arrived from Lorraine, they were members of the Habsburg family, and Francis Stephen moved from the grand ducal court of Florence to the imperial court of Vienna. Since 1766, Lorraine has been a French region.
12.The tone is one of relief because, thanks to ignorance of the game, the French had not been able to introduce any of their obviously unwelcome changes. In the meantime, however, some changes to the card figures had been introduced.

1815 18th February
Stamped Paper and Playing Cards
    Note from the Royal Secretariat of Finance, with which the General Administrator of the Royal Revenues participates in the reunion of those Enterprises at the Department of Contracts Revenue in the form of the Sovereign Law of said 11th February, that it is therefore necessary to accomplish the consignment of the Superintendency of the aforementioned office of Stamp Duty to the Director of the provisional Deputation of the Administration of Ecclesiastical Goods and United Enterprises.

Lord Counselor Administrator
Of the Royal Revenues
    The Sovereign Law of February 11th current on Stamped Paper and Playing Cards, having reunited these Administrations with that of Contract Revenues, or Registry, and having equally ordered that they cease all dependence on the General Administration of the Royal Revenues, the provisional Deputation for the Administration of Ecclesiastical Goods and United Enterprises, to which was also temporarily entrusted the management of the aforementioned Contracts Revenue, remains in charge of the provisions to be made for the activation of same Law, at the time prescribed therein of 15th March next.
Consequently, it is necessary for Your Excellency to immediately hand over the Superintendence of the aforementioned Office of Stamp Duty and Playing Cards to the Director of the aforementioned Deputation, so that those measures are not found to be stranded by the subordinate Ministers, which it is necessary to take with the utmost promptness, and which the regularity and best performance of the service require that they be given by those who must also subsequently supervise its execution.
    I have the honor to indicate this to Your Excellency as a rule, to the effect that you can comply with the provisions of the Royal Government, while with perfect esteem I am honored to be
    Of Your Excellency
    Most Devoted Most Obliged Servant
    A. Pontenani
    From the I. and R. Secretariat of State
    The 18th February 1815

His Excellency Lord Counselor Alessandro Pontenani
General Administrator of the Royal Revenues
    Consistent with the highly esteemed note of Your Excellency dated 20 current (month), I have instructed Secretary Alessandro Fabbroni to go to this Department, of which You deservedly preside, to receive the delivery of the two united enterprises of stamped paper and playing cards, having, by disposition of the Most Venerable Edict of the 11th current, both to be combined in the Office of Contracts Revenue.
    Your Excellency will therefore please communicate to the aforementioned Minister everything that has to do with the two enterprises mentioned, convinced that you will give him everything to ensure that the Sovereign Orders are perfectly fulfilled. (Note 13)
    And with the greatest respect I confirm myself
    Of Your Excellency
    Most Devoted Most Obedient Servant
    Alessandro Galilei
    From I. and R. Deputation of Ecclesiastical Goods etc.
    The 21st February 1815

4. The transfer from Siena
    One of the notifications introduced by the reform is the restoration of Florence as the sole production site for playing cards. Thus, Pasquale Falugi, who had recently managed to open a factory in Siena, was forced to move it to Florence, with control over the equipment used. From what little we find in the file, we would conclude that the official exchanges of news between Siena and Florence, and also between different offices in Siena, were not sufficiently timely and complete. (Here, in order for the items each to fit on one line, as in the original I had to use small print.)
Royal Office of Stamp Duty and Playing Cards
Inventory of the woodblocks for Playing Cards of the Siena Factory of Pasquale Falugi placed in this Stamp Office by the Director of the Royal Customs of Siena on 1 February 1815 and existing at the consignment of the undersigned Minister of the Office of Stamp Duty and Playing Cards.
One woodblock of twelve Figures for Low Cards---------------------------------------------------No. 1 (Note 14)
Eight woodblocks for cards of Rovescino as follows, i.e. (Note 15)
12.The tone is one of relief because, thanks to ignorance of the game, the French had not been able to introduce any of their obviously unwelcome changes. In the meantime, however, some changes to the card figures had been introduced.
13. If the form remains obsequious, as usual, in substance it seems that he is abruptly responding to orders. Instead of going in person to receive the delivery, he sends the secretary. The way he requests assistance also seems like a higher-level official, in contrast to the tone of the previous correspondence.
14. The twelve figures are obviously three for each of the four suits; therefore a single woodblock is both necessary and enough. Only the way to "print" the numeral cards at the card factories remains a little uncertain.
15. The transition from one woodblock for Low Cards to eight for Rovescino cards is unexpected. Furthermore, these eight woodblocks would seem to be mostly used for the card backs, in different versions. We do not notice a woodblock for the figures different from that present for the Low Cards. Conversely, it can be assumed that at least one of these eight woodblocks was also used for the Low Cards, as an alternative to leaving the back blank. Indirectly, from here we have the news that the production of minchiate had not started in Siena.


1. One representing a medallion with a half-bust and inscription at the bottom Pelican---No. 1
2. As above, a Pelican feeding its children, with Sun and Moon in the corners--------------No. 1
3. As above Grand Ducal Arms, and inscription as above-----------------------------------------No. 1
4. As above a Fox holding a Snake as above---------------------------------------------------------No. 1
5. As above a Medallion as above and more Trophies as above---------------------------------No. 1
6. As above Arms Imperiale Austriaca and as above------------------------------------------------No. 1
7. As above, an armed Justice that Punishes Crime, and Pelican inscription-----------------No. 1
8. As above an Array of Points with Roses and outline of Festoons and Inscription as above-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------No. 1
    Plus one hundred and ten glued cartoons containing prints of twelve Low Card figures without coloring, from an old model.
    On the 9th March 1815
    Undersigned Minister of the Stamp and Playing Cards Office, I declare that the aforementioned woodblocks and sheets, or glued cards, are delivered and that these are deposited in the Archives of this Stamp and Playing Cards Office of Florence.
    G. Giusti

Siena Sig. Director
Of Contracts Revenues
The 13th March 1815
Most Illustrious
    From Your Excellency's request day last, I note the reasons why you were unable to send me the General Account of the Income and Expenses from Stamp Duty and Playing Cards from January 1st to 24th March inclusive. In the meantime, I ask you to have these Auditors speed up the settlement of their accounts and to send me the result as soon as possible, so that I may be able to submit to the Royal Government the Final Demonstration of the products and expenses of that Enterprise for the time that was incorporated into the General Administration of the Royal Revenues.

Siena (Note 16)
Lord Francesco Chigi
Director of the Registry and United Enterprises
10 April
    The woodblocks owned by card manufacturer Pasquale Falugi, of which Your Excellency speaks to me in your letter of day last were delivered to the Minister of the Stamp Office, Sig. Giuseppe Giusti, in accordance with his receipt of the 9th March past.
    Finding from your aforementioned statement that this pending matter has not been completed either [two words not deciphered] with the aforementioned Minister in order to remove it.
   And with the most distinguished respect I confirm myself

5. Conclusions
    After a quarter of a century, Grand Duke Ferdinand III returns to govern Tuscany after the interval of French rule, understandably restoring many of the old administrative procedures. Control over playing cards is also involved in the changes; now that the grand ducal government returns, the offices are rushing to restore the old procedures, except to take into account the innovations introduced in the few cases in which they could prove useful for the Treasury.

    Some of the relevant documentation, coming from the offices in charge, has been reported in detail. This is official correspondence, incomplete and sometimes present only in the preparatory draft version. However, these characteristics help us penetrate the offices and closely witness the events, intentions, and proposals on the measures to be taken. We thus obtain some information that we could not have known from the official laws and regulations which then represented the final result of these preparations.

    These are documents of great interest, because they somehow photograph the confusion of the offices at the moment in which the French government had recently ended and that of the Habsburg-Lorraine Grand Duchy was being reorganized anew. The French came from the revolution and had actually revolutionized in every detail even the administrations of the subject states. The grand ducal offices had to adapt to the notable and sudden changes, and throughout the world and at all times this is something that is not appreciated by the bureaucracy.

Florence, 02.01.2024
16. The letter from the previous day is missing.