Collection "Welsche Karten" in Germany till 1720

Still in work ...

Here starts my research on possibly "hidden" German Tarot documents before 1720s, which passed through the attention of Depaulis.
The major hunt was for "Welsche Karten". The meaning of "Welsch" is not totally clear ... usually it means Italian. Bu it also could address French-speaking Switzerland and France or "old Roman countries" (this likely was determined by the local speaker).

Master of the Bandelore, given to 1462-1500. The master is given to have been lived in the region Zwolle/Bocholt in Northern Germany.

An early example of cards with Latin suits in Germany.



It's sure, that Bianca Maria Sforza brought playing cards to her wedding with emperor Maximilian (it's not sure, that these were Trionfi or Tarocchi cards). It's also sure, that Bianca Maria was addicted to card playing and earned later a lot of critique for it and also her for missing ability to talk German. And she had a big and expensive personal Italian court, and so persons, which with she could play Italian card games. ... too expensive, as Maximlian found after Lodovico Sforza lost his position as duke of Milan in 1500; so Maximilian send them home.


1493/94 - 1497

After the Schedel'sche Weltchronik was finished, in Nurremberg started the Danhausen book project about "Roman Triumphs". For this were collected about 400 engravings, between them also new woodcut engravings of the Mantegna Tarocchi motifs.
It seems obvious, that this had a relation to the new emperor Maximilian and his new marriage to an Italian princess. After Italy had a war 1494/95 and the financial conditions were considered as good as before, the project failed to realize. Some of the collected woodcuts survived, others were possibly used for other projects.



After 1494

Some of the motifs of the Schedel'sche Weltchronik were used for a playing card deck together with dice results. This actually might have been a sort of German Tarot, possibly connected to 21 or 22 special cards.




Sebastian Brant publishes his Ship of Fools together with more than 100 woodcuts, which partly were made by the hand of the young Dürer. Occasionally there appear slight similarities to Trionfi card motifs.




A plague in Nuremberg drives the young Dürer to Venice and to Italy. He makes some pen drawings of the Mantegna Tarocchi, possibly in connection to the Nuremberg Danhausen project.
The Mantegna Tarocchi definitely takes some influence on the development of German engraving art.




Bianca Maria Sforza's favor for playing cards possibly caused, that a deck of an unknown "Oberrheinischer Kupferstecher" was produced for the marriage of two Maximilian children to a Spanish prince and princess. As a special suit were used pomegranates, which remember the Spanish victory against the Kingdom of Granada in 1492.


It's a 4x13-deck, so it are not Trionfi cards, but each card has a special motif at high artistic level.


1496 - Trionfi cards in Lorraine

Rene II d'Anjou played the Trionfi game. The political state of Lorraine till the time of mid 18th century was, that it belonged to the German Empire, but took often influences of France.

Report at

around 1500

Master PW, after having worked outside of Cologne, returns to Cologne, and produces a deck with round cards and 5x14-structure + two additional designs, from which one honors the city of Cologne.


For the earlier time of Master PW it's clear, that he worked in Innnsbruck and at least in the year 1499 for emperor Maximilian during the war against the Swiss (proven through woodcuts about this war, which are signed with PW). Innsbruck was a major location for empress Bianca Maria Sforza ... who was from Milan and Italy, from which the 5x14-theory assumes, that there was once (around 1450) a 5x14-deck with Trionfi cards (70 cards painted by Bembo as parts of of the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi).

The deck uses "Nations" and 3 flowers and 2 animals as suits, Germany-France-Spain with 3 different flowers, and parrots for Africa and hares or rabbits for the Osmans. This deck in Cologne (the oldest, which is known from here) had followers.

1. A Telman of Wesel (not to far from Cologne) made copies, and arranged them to a 4x13-deck.

2. Anton Woensam, famous engraver in Cologne, made on the base of a 4x12 Nuremberg deck (Schäufelein) two additional card for each suit (Aces and Queens), such forming a 4x14 deck ... maybe c. 1530

3. Johann Bussemacher ... possibly c. 1590, again from Cologne ... made a deck with hares and parrots and two flowers as suits. The motifs were altered and it were added two line poems of not great interest.

Strange enough, in the Netherlands (not far from Cologne) around 1700 developed a "National card game" called Klabberjas or Claverjas. This is assumed to have spread from Netherlands to Switzerland, and there it again became "National game" called "Jass". I was astonished to find out, that there is also a Cologne game called Klammerjas. Other names are Bela and Clobiosh. Related is also the game Belote.

Variants of the games are astonishingly very far spread: France, Bulgaria, Cypern and Saudi-Arabia are named, but actually there are more places.
In matters of the 5x14-theory the interesting part are the unusual point values "14" and "20" for the two highest trumps, which are connected to the Trump-Jack (20 points) and the Trump-9 (14 points).
Both numbers appear also in the 5x14 theory as values for the highest card "judgment", which is assumed to have changed from 14 to 20.

No all games related to this game family use the 14-20 points value, but a good part of them.


1501 (or 1502)

A "Maler Knabe" ("Friedrich", or "of Friedrich the Wise") gets (from Dürer) money for a Sebastian, a Triumph and a "welsche Karten". It seems not clear, that these are playing cards (for instance it might be a map of an Italian region). The "Malerknabe" is more than once mentioned. The passage appears variously in German art history texts, but I find only snippets and the context stays mysterious (to me). Possibly it refers to a period, when Dürer worked for "Friedrich den Weisen" ... but I see only snippets, and can't say something with security. It is curious, that "Triumph" and "welsche Karten" appear in one sentence.

Image ... CDcQ6AEwAA

In this context might be mentioned Jacopo de Barbari ...
... also called Jacob Walch from Jacob der Welsche (Jacob the Italian), who in 1500-1501 had been in Nuremberg and later in other parts of Germany. He had intensive contact with Dürer. There's a lot of suspicions around this man, who is connected to a fantastic engraved map of Venice ...

Image ... 1637124416

.. which is not well recognizable at this picture. But it's said to have been the largest copperplate engraving of its time.
Jacopo de Barbari is said to have learned from Alvise Vivarini from the Vivarini family. Alvise had been a nephew of Giovanni d'Alemagna, about which my own suspicion exists, that he was identical with Ioannes d'Alemagna, son of the deceased Ioannes di Colonia, from which the son, who was a playing card producer, had a brawl in Bologna in 1427 with another person in the paper business.
It's assumed, that Dürer during his journey in 1495 to Venice and Italy already had contact to Jacopo de Barberi (it's sure, that he had contact to the Vivarini and Bellini, whom he took then as the "greatest painter").


1510 (?) - Chronicle Bern by Valerius Anshelm

Valerius Anshelm's, genannt Rüd, Berner-Chronik von Anfang der Stadt Bern bis 1526, Band 3
Valerius Anshelm, Rudolf Emanuel Stierlin, Johann Rudolf Wyss
bey L.A. Haller, 1827 ... en&f=false

Valerius Anshelm

"Nöffel" (Karnöffel) and "Keysern" (Keyzerspiel) are noted as new games in Bern in the last 10 years. Dryschlahen is another old game. "Troggen" or another old name of Tarot isn't mentioned.



Before 1543 - Welsche Karten

Sebastian Franck ... CCsQ6AEwAA



1546/47 - Welsche Karten

A German folk song describing the Schmalkaldic war of 1567/47 (Emperor Karl V. against a Protestantic League)


Image ... en&f=false ... en&f=false


1567 - Welsche Karten

A merchant was robbed by Wilhelm of Grumbach ...
... and the booty was brought to ...
... and hidden behind a closed wall. Between the booty were (if I interpret the passage correctly) 100 packs of "Welsche Karten". Well, unluckily I can't find the name of the merchant.

Image ... 22&f=false

Grumbach had a political conflict with the bishop of Würzburg, in which he tried to capture Fürstbischof Melchior Zobel von Giebelstadt ...


... to get some of his possessions back. But one of his helpers shot the bishop and the bishop died. This happened in 1558, when the bishop was on his way to the castle Marienberg ...

... which is opposite of the city Würzburg and controls an important bridge. Schloss Grumbach (Rimpar) is located in only 10 km distance.

Grumbach claimed to have nothing to do with the murder.

The situation (very complicated in their details) caused a "Reichsacht" against Grumbach, but Grumbach made an alliance with Johann Friedrich II. of Saxony ... ... Sachsen%29
... who had made his capital in Gotha (about 180 km to Würzburg). Grumbach brought himself to safety in Gotha, which caused an attack by troops of the emperor on Gotha (1566/67). The siege was successful, Grumbach was captured, tortured and executed, Johann Friedrich II spend his further life in captivity and was replaced in Saxony. The whole case is called "Grumbach'sche Händel".

Grumbach was a very bizarre figure. Florian Geyer, a leader in the German peasants revolt of 14, is called "a brother-in-law" ... although, I saw the opinion, that this was fabricated and not true ... It's said, that two men of Grumbach killed Florian Geyer (1525) ... but these things are strange, it seems, that in the juristic dispute persons, which opposed Grumbach (and others near to him) were willing to accuse him with very fabulous stories. Then there are very fanciful about strange methods, how Grumbach shall have influenced the poor Johann Friedrich II ... there were political interests to give the latter a cleaner appearance.

Well, that's not my story.
I find it curious, that just the Zobel family of Giebelstadt - to which Fürstbischof Melchior Zobel von Giebelstadt should have belonged - owned a family picture, in which Tarock cards appeared (from my list i the first post to this thread):
A family painting with Tarock scene, treated in "D. Strehl: Spielerische Bemerkungen zur Tarockrunde auf dem Ahnenbild der Familie von Zobel aus 1735 bis 1750." [This is probably the family "von Zobel in Giebelstadt"]
From Heft 6, (1992) on this list:
The same painting is mentioned by Depaulis, but he doesn't repeat the dating.

1575 - Welsch Karten

Affentheurliche, naupengeheurliche geschichtklitterung:
von thaten vnd rahten der vor kurtzen, langen vnd jeweilen vollenwolbeschreyten helden vnd herzn
François Rabelais (translation by Fischart c. 1575)
B. Jobin, 1631, 541 pages ... en&f=false


That's the German Rabelais translation of the first book by Johann Fischart.
It's from Fischart chapter No. 25, which for Rabelais's text is chapter 22 ... the chapter, in which Rabelais uses the Tarau in a long list of games. Depaulis noted in his article, that Fischart hadn't a word for Tarau. But it seems, that Fischart knew about Tarot.

A report is at



"Welsche Karten" means in this case only Italian paper, I would assume ...

Image ... en&f=false


1581 - Welsche Karten

Examen Chartaceae Lutheranorum Concordiae, Das ist die Außmusterung unnd Widerlegung deß Nagelnewgeschmidten ConcordiBuchs der nachbenandten Lutherischen Predigkanten KartenSchwarms mit solchem Titul: Concordia, hoc est, Contra Omnes Nationes Cudit Odiosam Reconciliationem Doctor Iacob Andre
by F. Johannes Nas
Weissenhorn, 1581 - 421 pages



A very strange text of a man, who just had become bishop of Brixen (1580).,_Johannes
He notes, that he often had seen "Welsche Karten" (no wonder, he had been in Italy) and these had been bound by a peace of Paper, on which was written "Concordia". The whole text (426 pages) is addressed as "Karten-Cordi" and likely one has to read the full book to understand this, and likely one still isn't sure in the end, what he's talking about and why he addressed it in this way. Actually I saw one passage, where he stated, that he would explain this (or something else ?) somewhere else, likely in another book, which I don't see.
He attempts to imitate Fischart language, I think. He attacks a lot of protestants. He speaks about the Karnöffel game. I don't want to read the full book.


1594 till c. 1618 - German Silver decks (Luxury decks - by this similar to the early very expensive Trionfi cards - mainly made in Augsburg )

I wrote a longer text about different findings.

Such decks were mainly produced in Augsburg, the city of he Fuggers, who had made their many money often with silver-mining. None of these decks had Tarocchi motifs or Tarot structures, though there are decks with Italian suits.



1599 - Tarot in Lorraine
The political state of Lorraine till the time of mid 18th century was, that it belonged to the German Empire, but took often influences of France.

Notes around Catelin Geoffroy in Lorraine
... viewtopic.php?f=11&t=754&start=0

Mémoires de la Société des sciences, lettres et arts de Nancy
By Société des sciences, lettres et arts de Nancy (1851)
... after the selected texts are others, which also relate to playing card history
Histoire des villes vieille et neuve de Nancy
By Jean Jacques Bouvier, also called Abbé Lionnais
This also reports about the Catelin Geoffroy notes from Lorraine, but the interesting part is, that this author takes it as necessary to explain his readers, what Tarot is. These cards, so the author, come from Allemands and Suisse. The book is from 1811, but it might have written earlier. A first publication of the author I found for 1767 (so the author might have been dead in 1811. He may have been contemporary to Gebelin, perhaps somebody finds better data. ... cy&f=false


1610 - Welsch Karten

A Lexicon of French Borrowings in the German Vocabulary (1575-1648)
William Jervis Jones
Walter de Gruyter, 1976 - 699 pages ... en&f=false


The passage is quoted from Guarinonius 1610 and is likely Hippolyt Guarinoni ...
... with "Grewel der Verwüstung menschlichen Geschlechts" (1610).

He notes, that noble people prefer Welsche oder French Karten cause their higher elegance against simpler German playing cards. He lived in Tyrol and had studied in Padova and so likely knew Tarocchi cards.


1630 / 1662 (2nd edition) - Welsche Karten

Proverb Collection
Florilegium Politicum auctum. Das ist: Ernewerter Politischer Blumen-Garten:
Darinn außerlesene Politische Sententz, Lehren, Reguln und Sprichwörter auß Theologis, Jurisconsultis, Politicis, Historicis, Philosophis, Poëten ... zusammen getragen
Christoph Lehmann
Schönwetter, 1662 - 954 pages ... en&f=false





"15. Es kann nicht jeder mit welschen Karten spielen"
Translated: "Not everybody could play with Welsche Karten" ... the meaning is not clear: either the cards are too expensive, or the games are too difficult, or the cards are too strange for normal use or the "play with Welsche Karten" is a negative address for a specific politic (papal) direction.
Possibly the proverb developed from the poem in 1547 (see above), which described a battle and "welsche Karten" was used in the manner, that "a welsche alliance" might be not reliable.

Author: Christoph Lehmann,_Christoph


1638 Schlesien (Silesia) - Welsche Karten, not identical to Trappola cards

Sammlung Der wichtigsten und nöthigsten, bisher aber noch nicht herausgegebenen Käyser- und Königlichen auch Hertzoglichen Privilegien, Statuten, Rescripten und Pragmatischen Sanctionen Des Landes Schlesien:
Aus den nach und nach publicirten Königlichen Ober-Amts-Patenten, wie auch aus den wichtigsten Landes-Cantzeleyen und Archiven mit vieler Mühe und grossen Kosten zusammen getragen, Volume 1 (Google eBook)
Hebold, 1736 - 712 pages ... en&f=false


The book is of 1736, but the noted passage (import from foreign playing cards) is from a larger work in 1638, which is given totally in the book. It starts at p. 53


Ferdinand III should be Emperor Ferdinand III., who became emperor in 1637. ... an_Emperor

The edict differs between French, "Trapplier" and "Welschen Karten" and other foreign and "Inländischen" (German) cards. It's not clear from this document, if Trapplier-Karten (from the Venice game "Trappola") naturally means "cards with Italian suits". But later it's clear ... Trappola had Italian suits, and it had 36 cards. The taxes on Tppola cards were similar low as the taxes on German 32 card decks in Prussia.
Sylvia Mann (noted in "All cards on the table, p. 67/68) as oldest Trappola-deck north of the Alps a version of 1648 in the Kümpel collection. The above note might be one of the earliest for Trappola in Northern countries.

Clear is, that the edict makes a difference between Trapplier and Welschen Karten (Tarocchi cards or a collection of different cards with Italian origin).


1670 - Nuremberg: Welsche Karten in Custom Register fragment

Journal von und für Deutschland, Volumes 1-6
Philipp Anton Sigmund von Bibra, Leopold Friedrich Günther von Goeckingk
Hermann, 1785 ... en&f=false


The text refers to the year 1670. Welsche Karten are noted between other trading goods.


1709 (perhaps before 1679) - Welsche Karten

Herrn von Hoffmannswaldau und andrer Deutschen auserlesene und bißher ungedruckte Gedichte:
nebenst einer Vorrede wider die Schmeichler und Tadler der Poesie, Volume 6
Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau
Fritsch, 1709 - Poetry - 360 pages


A 2-line poem. The sentences lay emphasis on the last trick (das letzte Blatt), which seems to have a deciding role in games with "welsche Karten" ... possibly referring to the Pagat, which in the last trick can make a lot of points.

The author: Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau (1616-1679), lived in Breslau, Silesia ... annswaldau


Possibly 1710 and later - Tarot games in Strassburg with favor for the Besancon type

(in discussion at:
mainly Post 4)

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