Having been under the impression that the only references to Tarot in Spain were late and uninformative (for example see Dummett Game of Tarot p. xxiv), I was pleased to recently find some earlier and more substantial references in a work published over 20 years ago.
Jean-Pierre Etienvre, in Figures du jeu: études Lexico-Semantiques Sur Le Jeu De Cartes En Espagne (XVIe-XVIII siècle) (Casa de Velazquez, 1987), found several references to Tarot being used in southern and central Spain in the 16th century. Here are some excerpts from pages 293-294. I can’t do a very good job at translating the Spanish, but I’ll summarize my best understanding.
1528, Diego del Castillo, Tratado muy util y provechoso en reprobacion de los juegos, mentions a shortened pack of 67 cards, and apparently the Minchiate, of 96 cards.
E donde pensé diminuyr los naypes en solo copas y espadas, mostrome vn cauallero vn juego de naypes de ytalia de sesenta i siete cartas, entre los quales esta figurado vn angel y el cielo, el sol i la luna, ciertas estrellas, el mundo i fortuna, el padre sancto con las llaues del cielo, la muerte y la vida, el infierno i demonio, y dende los emperadores, reyes i reynas y grandes señores con mas numero de puntos que jeugan con ellos.
Yo ando por quitar el juego, otros por augmentarlo ; de quarenta y ocho cartas las hizieron sesenta y siete ; mas valiera hazerlas noventa y seys y dobarlas, porque se doblara la pena a quien las hizo.
(Ross’ note – interesting to note that in the first game, of 67 cards, the moralist didn’t notice a Popess, but he does note “Emperors”. Perhaps the pack did have two Emperors and Pope. He also recognizes “Death and Life”, and “Hell and the Devil” – “Hell" may well be “Fire” or the Tower, but what is “Life”? In any case, it represents an otherwise unknown kind of Tarot pack.)
Forty years later, in July 1568, some suspicious cards were seized by the Inquisition in Cuenca (a town and region south-east of Madrid). Here is what is said about them, in the first report to the Supreme Council:
A este Sancto Offiçio se an traido unos naypes hecho en aquellas partes de marca grande en q ay figuras del papa y otra de una mujer con las mesmas ynsignias del papa y una figura de un angel con una trompeta como forma de llamar al juiçio y otras figuras. Paresçe manera de yrrision de las cosas de ntra Religion christiana. La persona q los truxo dize q los hubo en Alicante, q se los dieron unos marineros de la nao llamada Rehusera y q en valencia ha visto dellos e jugar con naypes semejantes a algs ginoveses. En esta çiudad no entendemos q se vendan ni se an visto otros.
(Here the description includes a “Pope and another figure of a woman with the same insignia as the Pope and a figure of an angel with a trumpet in the style of the call to judgment and other figures.” I think he goes on to say that this derides the entire Christian religion. He says there are reports from Alicante that some mariners play them and in Valencia they play with cards similar to “some Genovese” game (or "those of some Genovese"). I think the last line means that "In this city we have not heard who sells them nor have we seen others.”
For the Inquisition, these images were sacreligious. The power of the Inquisition in Spain may help account for the fact that Tarot never became naturalized in that country.)
One month later they report the public sale of these cards in Valencia, and they are called in Italian “Tarroqui” and in Spanish “Taroques”:
[…] annos auisado q en Valençia se venden publicamente y que en esa corte los ay entre los estrangeros y que juegan con ellos. Llamanse en ytaliano tarroqui y en español taroques
In 1588, the Inquisitor of Mallorca denounced the introduction of cards “printed in France”, in which were represented a Pope with a tiara, a Popess, the Angel of the Last Judgment, Death, Cupid, the four Evangelists, the Moon, the stars, etc.
(Ross’ note – from a purely chronological point of view, what is striking about this description is “the four Evangelists.” This must refer to the typical design of the World card in the “Tarot de Marseille”, which therefore already existed by the 1580s in France. This is not really surprising, since the Castello Sforzesco “World” probably dates to circa 1600, but a dated attestation of the style is a comforting find.)
There are other interesting things in Etienvre which deserve another post.