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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Minchiate Fiorentine

The Florentine game of Minchiate is played with a pack of 97 cards. The subjects and arrangements of the trumps are slightly varied and their number increased to 41 by the addition of the three theological virtues, one of the cardinal virtues (Prudence), the 4 elements and the 12 signs of the zodiac.

Minchiate Fiorentine (Florence), 1850

Florentine Minchiate is played with a pack of 97 cards. The subjects and arrangements of the trumps are slightly varied and their number increased to 41 by the addition of the three theological virtues, one of the cardinal virtues (Prudence), the 4 elements and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The subjects of the last 8 trumps are relieved on a red background.

In the numeral cards the Cavalli are monsters with human heads and of the four Fanti two are warriors and two servants. Also the Spade and Bastoni suit symbols differ in form from those of the Tarocchi pack, the former being weapons of the conventional military pattern, crossed diagonally; and the latter short batons. These beautiful cards have an old world look and feel to them and are made of sturdy card stock (matte). The original etchings were painted by hand.

Old cards manufactured in Italy usually had a fanciful decoration on the backs, the paper folded over to the front to form a border. Many modern decks still imitate this effect.

Minchiate cards originally published in Italy in 1850 and published as a facsimile by Il Meneghello, 1986

Above: Minchiate cards originally published in Italy in 1850 and published as a facsimile by Il Meneghello in 1986. Minchiate is an expansion of Tarot that most likely dates back to the sixteenth century. Minchiate differs from the typical Tarot deck by having 41 Major Arcana cards rather than 22. Like the Tarot, there are 56 Minor Arcana (16 Court cards, and 40 Pips), making a total of 97 cards in the deck. Card size: 3 3/4'' x 2 1/4 inches, 9.53 x 5.72 cm.

See also: Etruria Minchiate

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Minchiate Fiorentine, 17th C.

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17th century Minchiate cards reprinted from the original woodblocks.

Etruria Minchiate

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The Cavaliers are man/beast creatures. The Valets (or Pages) are male for clubs and swords, and female for cups and coins.

Minchiate Fiorentine

Minchiate Fiorentine

The Florentine game of Minchiate is played with a pack of 97 cards. The subjects and arrangements of the trumps are slightly varied and their number increased to 41 by the addition of the three theological virtues, one of the cardinal virtues (Prudence), the 4 elements and the 12 signs of the zodiac.