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A tarocchi puzzle in a book of aphorisms

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 03:59
by mikeh
Andrea has added to his "Tarot in Literature I" more about the expression "not to be the nine of tarocchi". found in the 17th century Italian translation of a Spanish book of aphorisms. I translated the addition into English, and it is now incorporated into the English version of the essay (, find "Nine of").

In the original Spanish, the aphorism is "No ser malila", "not to be malila". For some reason the 17th century Italian translator of the aphorism decided that the corresponding expression in Italian was "not to be the nine of tarocchi". This engenders two puzzles. One is, what was this Spanish game and/or card "malilla"? And what is this game in which the 'nine of tarocchi" is equivalent? And is it an Italian game similar to Malilla, or simply the Spanish game in translation?

"Malilla" means "bad one" in Spanish, so "bad card". But bad for whom? Online I find various interpretations. The most comprehensive is probably, citing the Grand Diccionario de la langue Espanola
1. s. f. JUEGOS Carta de la baraja que, en algunos juegos, es la segunda en valor. mala
2. JUEGOS El dos de cada palo, en el juego del rentoy.
3. JUEGOS Juego de cartas en que la carta segunda en valor es el nueve de cada palo.
4. Lo que sirve para todo, como un comodín.
Gran Diccionario de la Lengua Española © 2016 Larousse Editorial, S.L.

f. Carta que es la segunda en valor en ciertos juegos de naipes.
Juego de naipes en que la carta superior es el nueve.
Diccionario Enciclopédico Vox 1. © 2009 Larousse Editorial.

1. s. f. GAMES Card of the deck that, in some games, is the second in value. bad
2. GAMES The two of each suit, in the game of rentoy.
3. GAMES Card game in which the second card in value is nine of each suit.
4. What works for everything, like a wild card.
Great Dictionary of the Spanish Language © 2016 Larousse Editorial, S.L.

F. Card that is the second in value in certain card games.
Card game in which the top card is nine.
Encyclopedic Dictionary Vox 1. © 2009 Larousse Editorial,)
It is meanings 3 and 4 in the first dictionary, and the first meaning in the second dictionary, that are relevant. What fits the explanation in Vitali's source is meaning 4, because of the verb "servir". But the nine is only mentioned in meaning 3 of the first dictionary and the second meaning of the second dictionary.

But what does any of this have to do with the game of tarocchi in Italian? Could the "malilla" perhaps be the nine of a trump suit?

Another source,, has the malilla as "the seven of a non-led suit", which cannot be played in a trick, and so is a bad card in the sense of being unlawful. Perhaps originally it was played with a 48 card deck instead of a 40 card deck as currently.; then it would be the nine. There is a trump suit in that game, that of whatever the last card dealt is. But what such a card, a nine or seven of trumps, would have to do with the aphorism is totally unclear. But there is a trump suit in that game. So perhaps it is a variant of that game to which the aphorism refers.

The Malilla then ought to be the highest card in the trump suit, which in Italian might have been called "tarrochi", perhaps an old word for "briscola", meaning "trumps". Such a card would "serve in every situation", as the book explains of the malilla,by winning, and be "bad" for the players that don't have it. Alternatively, the nine could be a wild card, which, like the Fool, could be played in any trick and not win any, bad in that sense. But I find no verification of either.

To complicate matters, one of Vitali's sources says it is the nine of coins! Could there have been a game in which Coins was the permanent trump suit, or perhaps the highest or lowest suit, in a game in which the suits are ranked?

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 08:06
by Huck
Spanish "L'hombre" is called a most influential card game. Manille is one of three high trumps.
The deck has 40 cards (8, 9, 10 are skipped), the red numbers run from low to high and the black numbers from high to low.
Rank of cards
The rank of the cards in the game depends on whether a black (long) or a red (round) suit is chosen as trumps. The basic ranking of numerals is reversed in red suits, being 7 low; and a red suit is always one card longer than a black one of the same status, whether trump or plain.

The black Aces are permanent trumps, and the top three trumps are called matadors or estuches:

1. A♠ (Spadille)
2. Black 2 or Red 7 (Manille)
3. A♣ (Basto)
When a red suit is trumps, the fourth highest trump is the A♥, or A♦, called "Punto", but it does not have the status of a matador.

If the trump suit is black: A♠ 2(black) A♣ K Q J 7 6 5 4 3 (11 cards)
In a plain black suit: K Q J 7 6 5 4 3 2 (9 cards)
If the trump suit is red: A♠ 7(red) A♣ A(red) K Q J 2 3 4 5 6 (12 cards)
In a plain red suit: K Q J A 2 3 4 5 6 7 (10 cards)
Manille is either a black 2 or a red 7, depending on the color (black or red) of the trump suit. If a red suit is trump, then there is one more trump (the Punto).
From the L'hombre rules developed much variants.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 09:27
by Huck
Interpreting "Non essere il Nove del Tarocco che serve in ogni punto del giuoco" I get the idea, that it might mean "9 Tarocco cards in each suit" ...

2 of the 4 Tarocco Aces might get a trick ... if the low numbers are high
2 of the 4 Tarocco 10s might get a trick ... if the high numbers are high
All the other number cards (9 in each suit) have more or less no value.

The 4 courts cards have their points, the trump cards have their chances to win tricks.

In the L'hombre game the Manille card (2nd highest trump) is the only card between the otherwise worthless number cards (2-7), which has a value. Perhaps these other "negative cards" got the name "Malille".
One of the common German expressions for such cards is "Lusche".

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 09:33
by mikeh
That's close But a 7 is not a 9. Could there have been a version of Hombre with a 48 card deck and 9 of trumps generally as Manilla? Or just if Coins? The other problem is whether Italians would have understood the trump cards as "tarocchi".

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 10:02
by mikeh
When I said "that's close" I meant your first post; I must have cross-posted with you. Also, I should add that "Manille" is a recognized modern variant of "Malilla". I do not understand your second post. it is a Spanish game that is being referred to, not an Italian one. What nine trumps in the Spanish game? There is no 8, 9, of 10. And the expression "like the nine of trumps" doesn't mean "worthless": it means: works in every situation. That sounds like more than worthless. Anyway, that interpretation, "nine of the trumps" would have no definite article before "nove". "Il nove" means a particular card.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 14:24
by Huck
Vocabolario italiano, e spagnolo nouamente dato in luce: nel quale con la facilità, e copia, che in altri manca, si dichiarano, e con proprietà conuertono tutte le voci toscane in castigliano, e le castigliane in toscano: c: Vocabolario español, e italiano aora nueuamente sacado à luz, y compuesto por Lorenzo Franciosini florentin. Segunda parte, Band 2
Lorenzo Franciosini
appresso Samuel Chouët, 1665 - 784 pages
That's the Italian dictionary text. The dictionary has no entry about Manille or Spadille, important words in the game of L'hombre. ... on/manille
a French dictionary of 19th century
manille [1]
nf (ma-ni-ll', ll mouillées, et non mani-ye)
Terme du jeu d'hombre, du quadrille et du tri. C'est en noir, le deux, et en rouge, le sept de la couleur dans laquelle on joue.
Autre jeu de cartes dans lequel le neuf de carreau qu'on nomme manille reçoit la valeur qui convient à celui qui le possède.
Au jeu de hoc, manille est le valet de carreau.
Carreau is usually equivalent to Denari.
This should tell, that the Italian Malille is a misunderstanding about a more common French Manille (well, there are 2 centuries between the Italian dictionary and the French dictionary and the Italian is older). has some material about the Manille or Malille game, but the version with carreau 9 ( or denari 9) seems to be not mentioned between them.

So we have twice reports about a 9 of carreau or denari, in which this card seems to be the highest trump (?), in time and space rather far from each other.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 29 Feb 2020, 15:46
by Huck
In this game of the Manille family the 9 is the highest card. The coin suit is mentioned as the first, but the trump suit is decided by a process in the game.
Botifarra is played in Catalonia, the Northeast country of Spain. It has very strict playing rules and a scoring method that makes it very interesting for deductive players and allows usually worthless cards to have an important role in the results. It is closely related to Manilla from which it takes the mechanics, but the rules enforce logical play and minimise the effects of luck.
Botifarra is played with a standard Spanish 48 card deck of four suits: coins (oros), cups (copes), swords (espases) and batons (bastons) running from 1 to 12.

In each suit the 10 sota is called Sota (Jack), the 11 cavallCavall (Horse) and the 12 reiRei (King).

Card values and scoring
The card order from highest to lowest is 9, Ace, King, Horse, Jack, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In this game the 9 is called Manilla.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 01 Mar 2020, 00:28
by mikeh
Excellent, Huck. Looking at your link to Botiferra, I see that it is a game in which one suit can be trumps, at the choice of the dealer or his partner. So the 9 of trumps would be the high card. The Italian writer has translated whatever the word for "trumps" was into Italian as "tarocchi". It would be nice to get verification that "tarocchi" could take that meaning in 17th century Italian.

In the game described in French, Coins appears to be the highest suit, probably ranked Coins high, then Cups, then Swords, then Batons. In that case the 9 of Coins would be the high card.

There is enough verification, I think, that "Manille", "Manilla" and "Malilla" are just variants of the same word in a card-playing context, with "Malilla" being the oldest.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 01 Mar 2020, 22:02
by Huck
L'hombre by
L'Hombre was developed in Spain in the early 17th century, as a variation of an earlier four player game, also called Hombre. The three player version, which in Spain was originally called Hombre Renegado spread rapidly across Europe and during the 17th and 18th centuries became the premier card game, occupying a position of prestige similar to Bridge today. It was variously known as Hombre, Ombre or L'Hombre, and over the years it acquired many variations, of increasing complexity. Its popularity was eclipsed in the late 18th century by a new four player variant Quadrille, which was in turn displaced by Whist, Boston and eventually Bridge.

Although L'Hombre died out in other parts of Europe, it remained popular in Denmark right up to the 21st century. It is played mostly in Jutland and on the island of Funen, and is organised by the L'Hombre union. Versions of the game have also survived in Spain itself, where it is known as El Tresillo, in the Faroes and in Iceland, and in Peru and Bolivia, where it is known as Rocambor.

L'Hombre was one of the first games to introduce bidding, through which one player becomes the declarer, trying to make a contract, with the other players cooperating to prevent him. The declarer was originally called Hombre (i.e. the man). It was from L'Hombre that the idea of bidding was adopted into other card games such as Tarot, Skat and Boston.
Early L'hombre should have transported the word Manille, so the conclusion "Malilla" being the oldest" is probably wrong.

The general talk is about the time, when L'hombre left Spain. Discussed is the wedding between Louis XIV and Marie Therese of Spain, which happened in June 1660. In the course of time card playing was a major occupation at the court. Louis used card playing festivities to keep the nobility close to his reignment. Parlett notes ...
a political tract of 1660 metaphorically entitled The Royal Game of Ombre presupposes that it must have been well enough known by then for its allusions to be recognised. And in 1662 an account of "The Noble Spanish Games of l'Ombre" appears in the second edition of John Cotgrave's Wits Interprter, later plagiarised in Cotton's Compleat Gamester of 1674.

From the diaries of the cardinal Harrach I've the info, that he played L'hombre at 5 opportunities in 1662-1665. So the game has reached also Italy. The Spanish-Italian dictionary with the Malisse-Tarocchi note was produced 1665.

Variously I've read the note, that Hombre was invented in 14th century in Spain. I've found nothing, which confirms this.

The Kaisern tradition inclusive Parlett claim, that Karnöffel was a 5-trick-game. L'hombre, at least in the international beginnings (1660) , was also a 5-trick-game (I still have to control this).
I don't know, if this means something. At least Karnöffel is indeed close to 14th century.
At the council of Constance with some security were also some persons from Spain. Likely not enough. German king Sigismondo at 19th July 1415 made a journey to Perpignan to speak with the 3rd pope, who had refused to come to Constance. He arrived September 19 and was welcomed by prince Alfonso of Aragon, then 20 years old (later the famous Alfonso V of the kingdom of Naples, who played cards with Filippo Maria Visconti in 1435, when he was prisoner). Sigismondo talked to the 3rd pope and the sick Ferdinand of Aragon (father of Alfonso, he died the next year in 1416). Other Spanish diplomats used the opportunity to visit him. At October 21 the news arrived about the battle of Azincourt and the big loss on the French side. Sigismund decided to search contact to the French and English court. After November 2 he left Perpignan and arrived at a new place November 7.
About 45 days time to learn in Perpignan the Spanish ways to play with cards.

Re: Le Tarot cultural association News 2017

Posted: 02 Mar 2020, 02:34
by mikeh
Huck wrote,
Early L'hombre should have transported the word Manille, so the conclusion "Malilla" being the oldest" is probably wrong.
I do not see why it might equally have transmitted the word "Malilla", later changed to "Manille". Your statement needs documentation.

Here is
The known description - "Le Jeu de Malille" - was published in France in 1776, but is a translation of a Spanish text, and the game is said to have long been popular in Spain.

Manille was well known in France in the 19th and early 20th centuries but gradually declined as Belote gained popularity. Manille is still popular in parts of Belgium. The Spanish game Manilla is popular in Catalonia in the variation known as Botifarra, and was exported to Mexico, where it is known as Malilla.
So we have the word "Malille" in the 17th century. Also, it survives as "Malilla" in Mexico, which was less affected by linguistic shifts in Spain. Also, why would the high card get called "Manille"? There are other derivations, fitting other contexts, such as bracelets and other ornaments, but these do not apply to the situation of a high card.

There is also Wikipeida, first line
Manille (French pronunciation: ​[manij]; derived from the Spanish and Catalan Malilla) ...
And ... g/malilla/:
Malilla is a point-trick game for four players in fixed partnerships. It is popular in Mexico, and comes from Spain, where it is nowadays often known as Manilla.
And Parlett,
The following description (1906) is based almost entirely on Lord Aldenham's Treatise, though I do not follow his practice of employing Spanish terminology (spadillo, malillo, codillo, etc) rather than the equivalent French (spadille, manille, codille, etc), as French was more usual in English play.
Wiktionary, etymology of the French "manilla" as applied to card games (
Alteration of earlier malille, from Spanish malilla, diminutive of mala.