I was with him forming all things:
and was delighted every day,
Playing before him at all times;
Playing in the world:
and my delights were to be with the children of men.
cum eo eram, cuncta componens.
Et delectabar per singulos dies,
ludens coram eo omni tempore ,
ludens in orbe terrarum;
et deliciæ meæ esse cum filiis hominum.
Proverbs 8:30-31; English translation Douay Bible
One particularly stubborn little nugget of misinformation gets put forth every so often when an allusion is made to the so-called Tarot of Mantegna, more properly known as the E- (and S-) Series. This is the assertion that the Mantegna series was invented during the course of the Congress (or Council) of Mantua, which took place in 1459.
It should be pointed out that the art historian Heinrich Brockhaus (1858-1941) was the first to present this theory, in 1933, in the article "Ein edles Geduldspiel: 'Die Leitung der Welt oder die Himmelsleiter' die sogenannten Taroks Mantegnas. Vom Jahre 1459-60" (Miscellanea di Storia dell'arte in onore di Igino Benvenuto Supino, (Florence) 1933,pp 397-416)
which you can read here http://trionfi.com/0/m/15/
(with English summaries by autorbis). He based his argument on the confluence of what he took to be the meaning of the Series, with the mystical interests of some members of the Congress, including Pope Pius II and the two Cardinals Bessarion and Nicholas of Cusa.
Repeating Brockhaus' assertion is misinformation because there is no reason to believe that the E-Series was a card game, no evidence that the Congress or any of those participants had anything to do with it, and no reason to think it existed yet by 1459. Among Brockhaus' claims for linking the Series and the Congress, is that Cusa was to write about a game he invented a few years later, in a little book titled "De Ludo Globi". This book describes a peculiar bowling game, in the form of a dialogue, on the symbolism - theological, mystical and philosophical - of playing it. Brockhaus is particularly impressed by the "globes" that many of the Series figures hold, and manages to draw comparisons with particular figures and the doctrines asserted by Cusa (and others whom contemporaries would have known).
Although popularized by Seznec, among others, Brockhaus' theory about the E-Series has not been accepted by scholars, and it is not my point to discuss it. My purpose is to clarify something about a quote attributed to Nicholas of Cusa:
"This game is played, not in a childish way, but as the Holy Wisdom played it for God at the beginning of the World."
This is given by both Brockhaus and Seznec as:
Luditur hic ludus: sed non pueriliter. At sic lusit ut orbe novo sancta sophia deo.
Now Seznec attributes this directly to Cusa, from De Ludo Globi; Brockhaus already indicated that it was in "the middle" of the book, but from another source (note 22 of his paper).
The trouble was that, in my desultory searches before, I had not been able to find anything like it in Jasper Hopkins' translation of De Ludo Globi, "The Bowling-Game",
and anytime I had looked at the Latin I had forgotten to search for this quote. So when a member of Aeclectic Tarot Forum last week brought it up again, in defense of both the link of the E-Series to Tarot, as well as Tarot to Egypt, I was determined to find the answer this time.
I had forgotten that Seznec quotes it in Latin, so I went to the Google armed with only the English. This brought out a few things, but the best was a Google Books quote from Ioan Culianu, "Eros and Magic in the Renaissance", who reports the verse was not by Cusa, and is "inserted" in the De Ludo Globi (Eros p. 38); in the note (number 35) Culianu says that Edgar Wind attributes the authorship of the verse to Cusa's "disciple", John Andreas of Bussi.
I don't have Wind (Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance) on my shelves, so I wondered who "John Andreas of Bussi" was, how he or anybody could know the verses weren't by Cusa, what Culianu meant when he said the De Ludo Globi - editio princeps, manuscript, what? (since my De Ludo Globi didn't have it), whether it was a late addition or a scribbled contemporary note, on what basis Wind made such a precise identification, etc.
So, armed with the Latin, I went looking again. This time around I gave a second look at the humble "Suche" out of the 34 responses Google throws up for "Luditur hic ludus". It leads to the "Cusanus-Portal" - his complete works, in Latin, according to their editio princeps in most cases.
shows the verses, indeed "in between" books I and II of the De Ludo Globi; our verses form lines 13 and 14 of a 66 line poem.
So one question is answered - the quote comes from the editio princeps.
The poem praises the game described in the book, and recommends it to a Prince of Bavaria. So another question answered - Cusa's interlocutor and probable dedicatee is Duke Albert of Bavaria, so the poem must be contemporary with the main book.
In line 61, the author calls himself Ioannes, so another question is answered - it can't be Nicholas of Cusa.
Finally, at the end of book II, there is another, shorter poem, which calls the prince directly, "Dux Alberte", so there is no question to whom the poem is addressed.
Also, Wind's reasoning must involve the close working partnership that Ioannes Andreae (of Bussi) and Nicholas of Cusa had (something that became clear reading about the former).
So all of my questions about a pretty obscure subject were answered fairly quickly on a Google search.
What about my AT friend? Well, he had asserted that the "Luditur hic ludus" quote reminded him of Thoth:
...sounds a little bit like Scribe of the Gods, Thoth, measuring and manifesting Time & Creation as he writes
I knew already that the answer to THAT assertion was that it was simply alluding to Proverbs 8, given at the head of this post - and there it's Holy Wisdom playing, not Thoth. But it was a pleasure to be able to clarify and correct another little thing that had been bugging me, and to learn a lot in the process.