Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Hi, Marco,

I don't really have much to say about the thread except to echo Steve -- the translations are fantastic. Thank you very much.

These are exactly the kind of meanings that should be expected in association with Tarot's Deceiver, so in that sense it is not news. However, it is great to see them used in such contexts. I had previously encountered Jacopone da Todi in relation to the Fool (specifically the archetypal Wise Fool or fool-for-Christ notion) and in connection with the ordering of the virtues in Tarot de Marseille. Both were interesting but extremely weak associations with an aspect of Tarot not really requiring any elucidation. However, this contemptu mundi passage is extraordinarily revealing.

The subject matter of this early poem is precisely the theme of the Tarot trump cycle, and the Deceiver is named in a prominent fashion, and directly identified with "wicked Fortune". This character, with his now-you-see-it-now-you-don't persona, his fraudulent appearance and personification of changeableness, is the exemplar par excellence of false and fickle Fortune.

As social low-lifes, as exemplars of mundane frivolity, and as personifications of Folly and Deception, the Matto and Bagatto are perfectly understandable as the lowest of the Tarot allegories. They are appropriate subjects when viewed playfully, in the manner that one might enjoy the travesties of Carnival, and also when seen more soberly as one might view those vanities from the subsequent (triumphant) Lenten observance. They are both playful and damned for their playfulness.

To put the figure in a Christian-societal context, there are assorted devotional prints which use a tripartite division of Mankind. The images typically include 1) a pope and ranked representatives of Sacerdotum near the bottom on one side, 2) an emperor and ranked representatives of Imperium near the bottom on the other side, and 3) sinners burning in Hell, centered at the very bottom of the page. If one were to make an allegorical cycle from these images, to serve as the lowest cards in a game, one could not do better than to personify the leaders and their subjects as sponsa and sponsus, creating an empress and popess for the brides, and using a fool and deceiver to symbolize the enticing folly and deception of this world which lead to damnation.

Sponsa and Sponsus ... tcount=340

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

I saw something in Game of Tarot that caught my eye (pp. 45-46). (Here I put the interesting part in bold type; in transcribing the Persian, I can't put the bar above some of the vowels):
The type of indigenous Persian playing cards to be found in all museums is probably irrelevant to our enquiry. These are a special kind usually referred to in the literature on playing cards and card games as As Nas cards, from the name (as-nas) of the game played with them. They consist of four or five copies of each of five picture cards: as (Ace) or Shir va Khorshid (Lion and Sun); Shah or Padeshah (King); Bibi (Lady); Sharbaz (Soldier); and Lakat (a trifle - the card usually shows one or two dancing girls). The different ranks are always distinguished by background colour. The game of As Nas very closely resembles Poker; there is no flush, since there are now suits, and there is also no straight, but otherwise the scoring combinations are just like those of Poker, including the hand known in Poker as 'full house' (a three and a pair).
There is a footnote supporting this description with two references, including that of "Aquarius" Italian Games at cards and Oriental Games, London 1890, pp. 58-59. He then goes on to debunk the purported evidence that Poker originated from As Nas.

But is As Nas so irrelevant to our enquiry? We have here this card named Lakat, somewhat similar to Pagad, and meaning "trifle". Of course "Pagad" is more similar to "Bagat", short for "Bagatto" and "Bagatella". But where did "Bagatella", meaning "trifle", originate? Is it Arabic or is it Persian?

Also, instead of a conjurer there are dancing girls. But both are features of fairs, festivals, and traveling carnivals. Could the card have come before the Italian word?

A problem is that there is no evidence that As Nas cards existed before the seventeenth century. Dummett says (p. 46):
In fact, I have been unable to find any evidence that As Nas is any older in Persia than the earliest surviving As Nas cards, that is to say, then the eighteenth or possibly the seventeenth century.
But in a footnote he adds that "I have not devoted any serious study to As Nas cards".

One consideration that Dummett brings forward (tentatively, to be sure) is that the word "as" comes from the Italian "aso", and thus also the Persian card is likely derivative from the European. Looking on Wikipedia, I see that "ace" was the Italian name of the dice-face with one mark, and before that the Latin name for a small coin ( It strikes me that there was much interaction between Rome and Persia (wars, in particular), while the Latin itself derives from an Indo-European root for "metal", for which the Sanskrit was "Aes" (see As Andrea shows on that last link, there is much similarity between the old Roman coins and Italian Aces. But might not the Persians have had such Aces themselves, before the Italians? Perhaps not, but I don't know.

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

In reading about something totally unrelated to Tarot- I came upon some interesting correlations to the word Bagat.
The Chinese guarded the secret of paper making well until the the Ottoman Turks defeated the tang army in 751ad, at the Talas River. The soldiers and paper makers were taken prisoner- taken to Samakand and taught the paper making. From there the first papermaking industry was in Baghdad in 793ad. It was said that at first in the west paper was called Baghdatikos (from Baghdad), but there were variations on the word- Baghatalos-Bagatikos-Bagatalas(from the river Talas)-When papermaking went to Spain in aprox. 1150 it was still called variations of 'from baghdad' , until it became redundant as a name for Paper. From there it became in Spain baga when talking about the bundles tied with rope- thought to maybe have come from arabic camp folowers- but interestingly also thought to have derived from scavengers collecting scraps (rag and Bone) for paper making-fabric bits and pieces. A bagasse is also a worthless woman which in Italian became Bagascia and a Bagat for a worthless man; sometime after 1200 the first word for paper was lost in use for the association of Paper (papyrus etc) as was the old word for a worthless man -Bagat, but frippery, trifles, bits and pieces stayed on.
How this word stayed on in card titles I have no idea when it was well out of use by the 16th Century as a title,yet in Spain, Bagasse was still in use.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Lorredan wrote:A bagasse is also a worthless woman which in Italian became Bagascia and a Bagat for a worthless man; sometime after 1200 the first word for paper was lost in use for the association of Paper (papyrus etc) as was the old word for a worthless man -Bagat, but frippery, trifles, bits and pieces stayed on.
Hello Lorredan, the word "bagascia" is still in use in Italian (but it sounds somehow archaic) and means "prostitute". According to it could derive from the celtic "bach" meaning small. The suffix "-es" produces a feminine variant of the word. So "bagascia" literally means "girl", just like the more common "puttana".

If so, "bagascia" could indeed be etymologically linked to "bagat". Thank you for pointing out this possibility, that I had never considered before.

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Hi Marco- the work I was reading was my niece's thesis on the history of recycling throughout the Christian world.
What I found interesting was that from about 1200ad throughout Europe, the derogatory terms for low life or rubbish/worthless men disappeared, but the terms remained for women and those names, not necessarily as prostitutes,seem to relate to 'from Baghdad'- not Celtic etymology etc. Today in English we still call a low-life female 'a Baggage'
This sexism seems to be a particularly Christian concept of how Arabic peoples were considered worthless, and that view was extended to low caste women- but not men. That is what surprised me over a title 'Bagat' long after it was outdated- after all you would not call card 1 'a pimp' or would you? There seems to be no male equivalent of 'a Baggage' in the english language? Is there a male equivalent of the word Bagascia used today, even if archaic?
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Thank you Marco.
The Bagascio- the male customer of the Pap-esse? Her Title indicates watered down milk or worthless nourishment.
A large difference between the hand painted cards and the rest is this sense of parody, only because of titles (it seems to me.)
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Recently Andrea Vitali has brought to my attention an article by a linguist discussing the stanza using the term bagatella cited by Muratori in his 18th century etymological examination, pasted by Ross at viewtopic.php?p=11028#p11028 and translated by Marco in the next post. Muratori dates it to Jacopone da Todi, around 1298:
Lassovi la fortuna fella
Travagliar qual bagattella
Marco has a translation of the whole poem, including the whole stanza for the lines Muratori quoted:
I leave to you wicked fortune
who acts like a bagattella:
whenever she seems most beautiful,
she slips away as an eel.
In the original:
Lassovi la fortuna fella
Travagliar qual bagattella
quanto più si mostra bella
come anguilla squizza via
The problem is that this version cannot be found anywhere earlier than 1617, in Le poesie spirituali del B. Iacopone da Todi frate minore [...] con le scolie, et annotazioni di Fra Francesco Tresatti, Venezia, Nicolò Misserini, 1617, p. 5. This information is from Alessandro Parenti, “Gherminella e Bagattella,” Lingua Nostra, Vol. LXIX, Fasc. 3-4, Sept. -Dec. 2008. Parenti observes, as I translate him:
The text is certainly apocryphal and perhaps even fifteenth-century, if we trust the rubric that we read in a 15th century Palatine codex: ‘canticum actum Padue nono Kalendas Maij anno domini 1415.’
This codex seems to be the earlier of two manuscripts containing the poem, the one in Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze, Palatino XCVIII, c. 51v. From the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century, Parenti says. The ms. says the poem is from 1415. There it reads, Parenti reports, giving only the first two lines:
Lasso la fortuna bella / Travagliar sua baccatella
There is also another manuscript, this time in Verona, also inspected by Parenti (he does not say where in Verona, but it has the number CCCCLXIV and was published in Lettera settima del Padre Sorio a Pietro Fanfani, in L'Etruria, 1, 1851, pp. 679-87, on p. 685):
Lasso ancor fortuna fella/ travagliar sua bagatella.
"Lasso" is the same as "Lassovi", "I leave" but with the "to you" part tacitly understood, as it is a repeated opening.

Finally, there is a printed version online of 1514, which I add to the above
Lassove la fortuna fella
travagliare sua bagatella
quanto piu se monstra bella
come anguila squiza via
We do not need to be concerned about the variant spelling "baccattella" for "bagattela". This spelling is found also in the 15th and 16th centuries, meaning precisely the same as "bagattella", either as "trivial matter" or as "trick". (Just enter that spelling into Google. Two should come up.) But what does it mean in the poem? The common feature to all the pre-17th century versions is the word "sua" before "bagatella". If that is correct, then Fortune is not being compared to a bagatella, because, to take the oldest:
I leave [to you] beautiful fortune
to travagliare (act, perform, work, suffer) its bagatella/baccatella
the more it shows itself beautiful (i.e. the more it flatters and entices)
the more it slips away like an eel.
the bagatella is the result of Fortune's action, not something to which Fortune is being compared as an agent. It is the trick or trivial matter itself, not the one who works tricks or engages in trivia.

This is me speaking, not Parenti. Parenti thinks that the meaning is something else entirely, namely, that "bagatella" here means "puppet." He gets this from a Neopolitan-Italian dictionary of the nineteenth century (it is online). One of the meanings is puppet performances, and the puppets themselves. He also cites two other articles in Lingua Nostra and a Milanese word he says is similar, although without citing any dictionary. In addition he asserts that the word "bugatt" means "puppet" as well as "doll", an assertion readily confirmed in online dictionaries. He relates it to the Provencale "bavastels" and "bagastels", meaning puppets and other equipment of that type of performer, from which also "baastels", which evolves into "bateleur" for the one who operates the "baastels".

"Theatrical performances" seems connected to another meaning of the word "bagatelle," especially in French: amusement. Circus parades are called bagatelle, so is a house dedicated to aristocratic parties: "La Bagatelle." There is also the type of musical composition called "bagatelle", i.e. an amusing little piece. Parenti cites an example where a character in Cervantes' book tells Don Quixote that "bagatella" in Italian means the same as "jugettes" in Spanish, that is. toys, playthings - of which Fortune could be said to make of people.

In that case Fortune in the pseudo-jacopine verse would be compared to a puppeteer, who makes her victim dash around nervously as her puppet. Well, it is possible, although I think "trick" fits best, as it is what the next two lines amplify. In any case we have to then ask, what about the card: did the title "bagatella" refer to the person or to what he did: sleight of hand, creation of illusions, tricks? Or maybe to the card rather than to what is depicted. For example, when the Sermo de Ludo says that "El Bagatella" is the "lowest of all", he seems to mean the card, not what is on the card, although perhaps what he says can be extended that far.

In this regard a stanza by Folengo is instructive, in the Chaos di Triperuno, In the sonnet meant to incorporate the titles of the five cards Fortuna, Mondo, Temperantia, Stella, and Bagatella, he writes:
Questa Fortuna al Mondo è ‘n Bagattella, ‘
C’hor quinci altrui solleva, hor quindi abbassa.
Non è Temperantia in lei, però fracassa
La Forza di chi nacque in prava Stella.

(This Fortune is to the World a Bagatella,
who first lifts someone up, then brings him down.
There is no Temperance in her, so, she shatters
The Strength of anyone born under a bad Star.
Clearly Fortune is not being called Bagatella as an object produced, a trick or trifle, but rather a powerful agent of tricks, bringing people down just when they thought they had achieved success. Bagatella now names the actor rather than the object of the action, the one in Italian normally called the bagattelliere, as defined by the Grande Dizionario della lingua italiana of the Crusca Academy, online:
Bagattiliere. sm. Disus. Giocatore di bagattelle; prestigiatore; imbonitore; burattinaio che intratteneva il pubblico per vendere la merce.

(Bagattelliere. masc. noun. Out of use. Player of bagattelle; slight of hand artist; salesperson (or barker or swindler); puppeteer who entertained the public to sell merchandise.)
Moreover, "Bagatella" in Ferrara or Venice seems to be used precisely like "bagatello" in Florence and Milan, and "Bagattino" in Bologna, referring to the person on the card as well as to the card itself.

On the other hand, the feminine form, to describe a trickster, is extremely rare, besides referring to the figure on the card, or something taken from the card. The philologist Ghinassi says ("Un dubbio lessicale di Baldassarre Castiglione, in Paolo Bongrani (ed,), Dal Belcalzer al Castiglione: Studi sull’antico volgare di Mantova e sul Castiglione, Volume 5, Biblioteca Mantovana, L. S. Olschki, 2006, p. 277):
Bagattella, abbiamo detto, indica (almeno secondo le testimonianze in mio possesso) una 'cosa', azione o strumento, non l'uomo che agisce. Nelle mie ricerche non mi è mai capitato di imbattermi in un baga(t)tella che fosse nomen agentis. Colui che fa uno spettacolo di bagattelle o adopera. le bagattelle è un bagattelliere o un ma(e)stro di o delle bagattelle, non una bagattella.

(Bagattella, as we have said, indicates (at least according to the testimonies in my possession) a 'thing', action or instrument, not the man who acts. In my research I have never come across a baga(t)tella who was nomen agentis. He who makes a show of bagatelle or uses le bagattelle is a bagattelliere or a ma(e)stro of bagatelle, not a bagatella.)
The only exception he gives is Folengo. He uses "bagatella" metaphorically about Time, as something ephemeral and unstable in Baldus (XIV 145-153). Ghinassi says (p. 278). I suppose the same could be said about his "Fortune" metaphor in Triperuno (which Ghinassi does not mention). where there is a stronger sense of agency.

This post continued in the next post (it was too long to fit in one)

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Conclusion of previous post

However Parenti has an important addition to Ghinassi. He observes (pp. 72-73) I give the footnotes only once, since they are much the same. There is one sentence that needed translating, in note 63, which I put in brackets after the English): valore di 'inganno' discende da un significato più concreto: in questo caso si tratta di 'gioco di prestigio' o 'gioco di piazza' in generale; il significato di 'cosa da poco' deriva evidentemente da qui, attraverso il valore di `giochetto vano'. Che originariamente si trattasse in particolare del 'gioco dei bussolotti', come indicano la quinta Crusca e il GDLI, è certo plausibile, ma non si ricava direttamente dai testi: il primo documento è il glossario e libro di dialoghi venetotedeschi di «Maistro Zorzi de Nurmbergo» (1424), dove Zogar alle bagatelle è tradotto con gawcklen, cioè `fare giochi di prestigio' (62). In seguito troviamo i nessi maestro delle bagatelle, giuocatore di bagattelle e simili, che indicano semplicemente il giocoliere e il prestigiatore di piazza, come il raro bagattello (v. LEI IV 518) e il più frequente bagattelliere. Con lo stesso significato di 'giocoliere', ma in riferimento specifico alla figura dei tarocchi, per tutto il Cinquecento si trova anche bagattella di genere maschile (63); un uso metonimico dello stesso tipo è già documentato nella continuazione del Liber pontificalis di Agnello di Ravenna, a opera di Paolo Scordilla (c. 1398), che parla di un «Abbas Monasterii Sanctae Mariae in Cosmedim, cognomine vocatus el bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles et pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit bagattandi» (64). È dunque probabile che il nome bagatto, attestato nei lessici e in letteratura solo nell'Ottocento [64] ma già presente nel Cinquecento (65), sia una retroformazione a partire da bagattella maschile. Col medesimo significato, un passo del Berni ci presenta anche la forma femminile: «e ha più repostigli e più segreti I che le bisacce delle bagattelle» (66).

...the value of 'deception' derives from a more concrete meaning: in this case it is a matter of 'sleight of hand' or 'street game' in general; the meaning of 'little thing' evidently derives from here, through the value of 'little game'. That originally it was in particular the 'game of the balls', as indicated by the fifth Crusca and the GDLI, is certainly plausible, but it is not derived directly from the texts: the first document is the glossary and book of Venetian-German dialogues by «Maistro Zorzi de Nurmbergo "(1424), where Zogar alle bagatelle is translated with gawcklen, that is " to make tricks of prestigio "(62). Later we find the connections between the master of bagatelle, player of bagatelle and the like, which simply indicate the bagatella and the prestidigitator of the square, such as the rare bagatello (see LEI IV 518) and the more frequent bagattelliere. With the same meaning of 'giocoliere', but with specific reference to the figure of the tarot, for the whole of the sixteenth century there is also a masculine bagattella (63); a metonymic use of the same type is already documented in the continuation of the Liber pontificalis by Agnello di Ravenna, by Paolo Scordilla (c. 1398), which speaks of an "Abbas Monasterii Sanctae Mariae in Cosmedim, cognomine vocatus el bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles et pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit bagattandi" (64). It is therefore probable that the name bagatto, attested in lexicons and literature only in the nineteenth century [start 74] — but already present in the sixteenth century (65), is a retroformation starting from a masculine bagatella. With the same meaning, a passage from Berni also introduces us to the feminine form: "and has more stacks and more secrets than the saddlebags of the bagatelle" (66).
(62) 0. Pausch, Das alteste italienisch-deutsche Sprachbuch, Wien, Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1972, p. 139.
(63) For example, Bagatella in Garzoni, Piazza universale cit., P. 574. For other attestations (Aretino, Folengo and others) see. G. Berti, Storia dei Tarocchi, Milan, Mondadori, 2007, pp. 224-28. Ghinassi, A lexical doubt for Baldassarre Castiglione cit., does not take this use into consideration and is forced to give a different interpretation to the giocolare that is found in synonymic dictology with bagatella in the first redactions of the Cortegiano.
(64) A. Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, II, 1, Milano, Typographia Societatis Palatinae, 1723, p. 214. [Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale di Baldassarre Castiglione cit., non prende in considerazione questo impiego ed è costretto a dare una diversa interpretazione al giocolare che si trova in dittologia sinonimica con bagatella nelle prime redazioni del Cortegiano.
(65) As Bagato in the Discorso of S. Fran. Piscina da Carmagnuola sopra l'ordine delle figure de Tarocchi, Mondovì, Torrentino, 1565. Cf. Berti, Storia dei tarocchi cit., P. 228.
(66) Poeti del Cinquecento, I, ed.i G. Gorni, M. Danzi e S. Longhi, Milano-Napoli, Ricciardi, 2001, p. 697.
I do not know if Parenti is right, that the meaning of "trifle" and "trick" are secondary to the professional who is quick with his hands, to whom "bagatella" applied first. But it is worth considering. What other meanings can be documented before 1398? (Not counting the "puppet" words in Occitania, etc.)

Here is Muratori's version of the Scordilla quote, which Marco translated:
Cuius zizaniae siminator fuit Servideus, primo Cantor huius Ecclesiae, & c. cognomine vocatus el Bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles & pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit Bagattandi

(Of which was the sower of discord Servideus, first chorister of this Church, called by the last name Bagatella because of his shady and childish quibbles, or because he knew well that art of Bagattandi.)
But it seems to me that here "Bagattandi" would more likely be what is done than the doer, the tricks and "quibbles", the latter meaning "things of no importance." That would seem to be the reverse direction of metonymy, to use the technical term, applying to one thing what is first applied to something associated with it. In any case, it is the prestidigitator and his prestidigitations.

We can ask: was the metonymy, if it goes from the done to the doer, a product of the tarocchi itself? And would the same apply to "baga(t)tello"? Pieter Breugel, who wasn't Italian, used the word to mean "thing of little account," applied to a drawing he made, and Andrea cites a famous stage magician referred to as a "Bagatello"; occasionally it is the same today. But that's in reference to the figure of the tarocchi.

There is also the term "bagactello", a spelling of the masculine form of the word, which Ghinassi mentions as occurring in a diary of 1459-1565, that of one Antonio Lotieri de Pisano, a notary in Nepi. Ghinassi does not give the relevant quote, or say what it meant, and only refers us to an article by another philologist, to me inaccessible. Fortunately the reference comes up easily enough on Google. The diary entry is in 1465, on p. 147 at ... t_djvu.txt
— die X. Fuit Nepe unum bagactello, che giocava più politamente che io mai vedessi.
I assume that this means "There was at Nepi a bagactello who did his game more politely than I have ever seen." It sounds to me like the author is referring to an entertainer, or someone who takes bets on the ball and cups game, or a seller of dubious merchandise. If so, he is much like the personage on the card.

Nepi is not far from Viterbo, summer residence of the pope, so a place that would have known tarocchi or germini by then. Or else the author is from Pisa, where it surely would have been known. But it might also have no relationship at all to the game, i.e. the word might have gotten this meaning independently, to describe a worker in bagatelle.

Google also yields one more use of the word with that spelling, at ... le/434037/ (The site won't let me copy and paste. For a Google translation you can simply search for "bagactello" and click on the translation option.)
Here I would think the word refers to a smuggler, in other words a person of no account. Manfredonia, where this account is from, is a long way from anywhere, in Puglia. That, 1525, and a slightly different meaning, not describing a figure such as the one on the card, suggests that the term with the -o ending had an existence independently of the card.

In any event, both "bagactello" and "bagatella" as a person like the one on the card are only documented by the second half of the 15th century.

Now for the question that really interests me: which came first, "bagat(t)ello" in Florence and Lombardy (Renier's spelling of "bagatella" in the Pavia list having been shown an error), "bagat(t)ino" in Bologna, or "bagat[t]ella" in Ferrara?

It seems to me that if one of the masculine forms (ending in o) was first, to accompany a card invented there, nobody in Ferrara would have changed it to the feminine form "bagatella", since the card obviously depicts a masculine character. The direction of change is to "-o" from "-a" and not the reverse. The Sermo de Ludo's "El Bagatella" as a deliberate transformation of "Il Bagatello" would be just perverse. A change the other way, however, makes perfect sense.

This argument seems to me valid even if someone had already spontaneously made the change from "bagatella" to one of the "-o" forms in Florence, before the invention of the card.

Re: origin of the word "Bagat"

Extremely interesting. Thanks for posting all of these attestations of bagatella etc., along with your thoughts.

Does it seem to you that the card originally depicted a bagatella - a trick, or specifically the cup and balls trick, and that it came to be attached to the figure doing the trick, because of the name of the card?

So, a hypothetical bagatella in Florence, then turned masculine in Bologna at some point - Bagattino (Pedini ms circa 1600), Bagat..
In Ferrara it kept its original name, which goes back to the first generation.