Tarot History Search started September 2004       

Claude-Francois Pere Menestrier (1631 - 1705)

The "Father" of Playing Card research, Claude François Menestrier, also "Pére Menestrier", started these activities short before the end of his life with a rather short article, given as a part of his Bibliotheque curieuse et instructive De divers Ouvrages Anciens & Modernes de Litterature & des Arts (Ouverte pour les Personnes qui aiment les Lettres in 1704, in vol. 2, p. 168 with the subtitle Des Principes des Sciences & des Arts disposez en forme de jeux. I don't know it for sure, but it might have been the last of his creative output, which found to publication after a long life filled with writing.

New Advent, 1914 offers this information: "Antiquarian, b. at Lyons, 9 March, 1631; d. at Paris, 21 Jan., 1705. He inherited a taste for antiquities, his great-uncle Claude Menestrier having been employed by Cardinal Barberini (Urban VIII) as librarian to collect art objects and medals. A pupil of the College of the Trinity, Lyons, which was in charge of the Jesuits, he entered the Society there, and at the age of fifteen was professor of rhetoric; in this capacity he composed the ballets "Destinées de Lyon" and "L'autel de Lyon" and arranged the plays which were performed before Louis XIV when he visited Lyons in 1658. He also directed the festivities which took place at the time of the marriage of Françoise d'Orléans and Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, as also of the solemnities wherewith the Visitandines of Chambéry celebrated the canonization of St. Francis de Sales. But he was more than an organizer of spectacles; he issued important publications on heraldry which led him into violent disputes with Claude le Laboureur, provost of L'ile Barbe; he also made a study of emblems and mottoes. Stationed at Paris from 1670, he preached successfully for twenty-five years in the principal towns, during which time he also composed Latin inscriptions for LeBrun's prints, for the battle pictures of Van der Meulen, as well as supervising the decorations for Turenne's obsequies and writing, among other important books, "Histoire de Louis le Grand par les medailles, devises, inscriptions et armoiries" (1689) and "Histoire civile ou consulaire de la ville de Lyon" (1696). He had planned a vast synthesis of knowledge, the "Philosophie des images", in which were to be included his numerous and strangely varied volumes. In 1682 he had discovered in the Cistercian abbey at Villiers the tomb of Queen Anne or Agnes of Russia, second wife of Henry I. In 1770, in the second edition of the "Gallia christiana", he was accused of falsehood in this connection, but the discovery by Prince Labanoff in 1825 of a diploma bearing the seal of this queen vindicated Menestrier's memory. The bibliography of Menestrier's works is so considerable that it disconcerts bibliophiles."

The deciding turning point in Menestriers' life seems to have been his chance to arrange the festivities for Louis XIV. in 1658, when the young king visited Lyon. A moment of triumph, as we at know it from other opportunities and with some logic Menestrier ended finally after a long interesting and very active life at the object of the Trionfi cards, which he declared to be the work of Gringonneur in 1392. As he himself had close relationships to the city of Lyon and Lyon was really ca. 1490 - 1510 the center of European playing card production he also found, that playing cards generally originated in France, a statement, which reigned public opinion till 1780 by the work of Abbé Rive (declared, that cards are from Spain), in short time (1781) followed by Court de Gebelin (Tarot is from Egyptia) and by Breithaupt (1784), who explained his work modestly as a "Versuch" to explain something.

His topics varied (83 publications totally) and his note to playing cards is in relation to his complete work only of minor importance. For instance he's called the most influential heraldic writer in the 17th century. In a dispute about the Prophecies of Malachy Menestrier took a strong position: "In the seventeenth century Father Menestrier, a famous Jesuit, put forward his hypothesis that these prophecies had originated in 1590 during the conclave which resulted in Gregory XIV becoming the elected pontiff. Fr. Menestrier goes as far as naming the forger; a member of Cardinal Simoncelli's party is supposed to have forged these prophecies in order to influence the electors in favour of his Cardinal who was the doyen of the Sacred College and, by virtue of his office and other qualities, surely a favourite for the pontificate. Cardinal Simoncelli was Bishop of Orvieto, his birthplace, and the motto given to him in the prophecies, Ex , is simply an allusion to Orvieto (). Perhaps it is fair to add that Fr. Menestrier does not furnish us with evidence to substantiate his accusation." It seems, that Menestrier was later corrected in this point. In the question of Ballett he took a very modern viewing-point: "Claude Menestrier's treatise in 1682, Des Ballets Ancient et Modernes, provides an early example of critical reasoning that currently accepted theories (in this case, regarding the ballet de cour) were inadequate. He argued that the human body itself is the only appropriate vehicle for the expression of certain inner emotions, while such props as masks and costumes are inferior substitutes. In insisting upon human movement as the central expressive vehicle of dance, Menestrier anticipated the rationale of twentieth-century arguments regarding normative standards."

The deciding passage in 1704:
"En l'Ordonnance que fit en 1391 le Roy Charles VI. pour defendre les jeux, qui empêchoient les Sujets de s'exercer aux armes pour la defenfe du Roiaume il est parlé des Dez, des Tables, ou Dames, du Pallet, des Quilles, des Boules, du Billard & autres semblables, sans aucune mention des Cartes. Deciorum, Tabularum, Paleti, Quilliarum, Boularum , billarumque Ludos, & bis similes quibus subditi nostri ad usum armorum fro defensione nostri Regni nullàtenus exercentur, vel habi- litantur sub poena x. solidorum nobis applicandorum.
Cette année 1392 fut l'année malheureufe, en la quelle le Roy Charles VI. tomba en frenesie, & ce fut pour le divertir durant cette maladie que l'on inventa le jeu des Cartes.
Le plus ancien memoire que l'on ait pu decouvrir, où il fut fait mention du jeu de Cartes, est de l'année 1392 dans un compte de Charles Poupart, Argentier pour le Roy pour an an, à commencer le 1. Fevrier 1392 où il est dit.
A Jaquemin Gringonneur Peintre, pour trois jeux des Cartes à or & à diverses couleur, de plusieurs devises, pour porter devers ledit Seigneur, pour son ébatement LVL sols Parisis. Registre de la Chambre des Comptes.

The text is complete in the web, (click below) - as it contains 2 volumes and each starts with its own numbering it has 2 pages "168":
XII Des Principes des Sciences & des Ans difpofez en forme de feux
Bibliotheque curieuse et instructive de divers ouvrages anciens & modernes ... By Claude-François Menestrier

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Other Publications
83 titles are known

  • La méthode royale du blason. Trevoux, 1675.
  • Traité de l'origine des quartiers et de leurs usages pour les preuve de la noblesse. Paris, 1681.
  • Lettre d'un gentilhomme de province à une dame de qualité, au sujet de la comète. Paris, 1681.
  • De la chevalerie ancienne et moderne avec la manière d'en faire les preuves. Paris, 1683.
  • Devises des princes, cavaliers, dames... Paris, 1683.
  • L'art des emblèmes. Paris, 1683.
  • Histoire du règne de Louis-Le-Grand par les médailles, emblèmes, devises, jetons... Paris, 1693.
  • L'art du blason justifié. Trevoux, 1704.
  • La nouvelle méthode raisonnée du blason, disposée par demandes et réponses. Lyon, 1754.

Père Menestrier

Gringonneur on a Playing Card - Carta Mundi (Belgium), deck 'Louis Atthalin', 1996 reprint of deck 1815

Jaquemine Gringonneur
on a playing card (1815)       Content of       Google       Yahoo
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