JF Ptak Science Books Post 1456
In 1540 Francesco Marcolini (or Marcolino), a typographer born in Forlì, published in Venice Le sorti intitolate giardino d’i pensieri (“The oracle called garden of thoughts”). This book is among the earliest known documents of cartomancy (divination with cards), a card-playing fortune-telling and future-telling game and belief system. (I've written about other beautiful if not proud accomplishments in this area, other products of the 16th century, here.) I find the illustrations of the combinations of cards to be rather beautiful, a suggestion of an unknown alphabet or hieroglyphic for a civilization of hope or distress or both that hangs somewhere out there in the gauzy future, the characters capable of change and interpretation depending on the needs of the viewer. Therefore the story that is told can easily become the story that could be told, the characters permeable to whimsy and insight. It seems unlikely that there is a numeral system associated with this quicksand.
The tarot encyclopedia website provides an interesting insight to the times if not so much to the gearing of this wonder machine--this mainly in the form of the fifty questions to be asked of the players of this game/amusement/hopenet, including thirteen each to be answered solely by men and women.
Questions Asked of Men
It turns out that for the men, 8 of the 13 questions deal with his wife or mistress--4 about wives, 3 about mistresses, and 1 that can go either way. The remaining few questions then are left to cover the range of All Other Things
1.Will the destiny of the man will be good or bad? [Fato - Fate] 2.Is the lover loved by his mistress? [Fama / Fame] 3.Is it better to marry a beautiful woman or an ugly one? [Beneficio - Gain] 4.Will the desire of the man be fulfilled? [Tempo - Time] 5.In which will the man be more lucky? [Fortuna - Fortune] 6.Will the man have to suffer for his beloved? [Dolore - Pain] 7.Is the man appreciated by the other people? [Virtu' - Virtue] 8.How many wives will the man have? [Punizione - Punishment] 9.Will he that goes to war gain victory? [Vittoria - Victory] 10.Will a strange wife become humble? [Pertinacia - Obstinacy] 11.Is it good to change mistress? [Peccato - Sin] 12.Is it good to take a wife? [Matrimonio - Marriage] 13.Which is the best mistress: the widow, the married woman or the unmarried woman? [Timore - Fear]
Questions to be asked by women
The questions for the women actually seem a little more balanced, or at least don't
deal with the blossoming aspects of additional/multiple lovers, though the question of
whether her husband will be faithful does come up, as does the issue of whether it
is good or not to change lovers. And the issue of how often she will be married.
And whether or not she will suffer for her lover--I'm not sure what this one means
in the antiquarian sense, but there seems to be a follow-up on whether the bad
husband will become good. But overall these seem not so extraordinarily self-indulgent
as do the questions for the men.
14.Is the woman appreciated by the man she adores? [Vanita' - Vanity] 15.Will the destiny of the woman will be good or bad? [Destino - Destiny] 16.Will the woman will give birth to a boy or a girl? [Natura - Nature] 17.In which will the woman be more lucky? [Honore - Honour] 18.How many husbands will the woman have? [Penitenza - Penitence] 19.Will the woman have children? [Sterilita' - Sterility] 20.Will the woman suffer for her lover? [Dipserazione - Desperation] 21.Will the desire of the woman be fulfilled? [Insidia - Danger] 22.Will the bad husband become good? [Sorte - Chance] 23.Is the woman loved by everyone? [Disgrazia - Disgrace] 24.Is it good for the woman to change lover? [Odio - Hate] 25.Is it good to get married? [Servitu' - Slavery] 26.Will the husband be faithful? [Occasione - Occasion]
Questions that can be asked both by men and women
Certainly the non-gender-specific questions are most interesting, some even poetically
captivating ("will two lovers make peace?"), most of which could be asked today, and
some still demanding long thought. In general though they do mostly have an
adult-version of a Ouija experience, with a few golden nuggets tossed in for higher
27.Is a certain courtesan infected with the French disease? [Difetto - Defect] 28.Is it good to take vengeance of an offense? [Virilita' - Virility] 29.Will the world find peace? [Parche - Moirae] 30.Will art or trade produce gain? [Industria - Industry] 31.Will some trouble bring happiness in the end? [Ricchezza - Richness] 32.Is the rule of a Lord appreciated by the people? [Verita' - Truth] 33.Is it good to serve Lords and priests? [Infingardo - Idler] 34.Will a promise be kept? [Fraude - Fraud] 35.Is the person that traveled far alive or dead? [Sapere - Knowledge] 36.Will the exile return? [Esilio - Exile] 37.Is it better the wife or the husband? [Poverta' - Poverty] 38.Who loves with more passion, the man or the woman? [Nobilta' - Nobility] 39.Will a dream come true? [Ignorantia - Ignorance] 40.Is it good to start a certain enterprise? [Otio - Idelness] 41.Will the person that went away be back soon? [Desiderio - Desire] 42.Will the awaited new be good or bad? [Malinconia - Melancholy] 43.Does the appearance of the person give a good impression? [Menzogna - Lie] 44.Must one trust what people say? [Discordia - Conflict] 45.Will two lovers make peace? [Pace - Peace] 46.Which will be the end of a very deep love? [Caso - Chance] 47.Will changing place bring better luck? [Consiglio - Counsel] 48.Will the person be the winner of a dispute? [Corruttella - Corruption] 49.Will someone get free of a certain vice? [Furto - Theft] 50.What will be the reward for faithfulness in serving? [Calamita' - Calamity]
In short, much of this seems modern to me, at least with a little editorial clean-up.
The big difference seems to be that people in 1540 actually interacted and answered
these questions, while in 2011 most folks would be watching other folks talk about
answering these questions on a reality t.v. show.