Card Printing Press in Ferrara 1436

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Card Printing Press in Ferrara, 1436

"At the 29th March 1436 is a short list of work done for the joiner, picture framer and engraver Guido Castellani, including a Torchiolo da carte", writes Ortalli in his "The Prince and the Playing Cards". "The small press is the first evidence of the Este court's dealings with manufactured playing cards as opposed to entirely drawn and hand-painted cards." Ortalli assumes, that already earlier cards painted by Sagromoro had been partly printed, but now he sees, that "the press for making cards was purchased directly by the Este."

In the entries appears a mysterious "Mantovano", which seems to be the printer, obviously somebody from Mantua. The Mantovano is still active in printing business 1452, when he had to print Imperadori-cards: "stanpire charte da imperaduri da zugare". In 1436 he is mentioned in the sentence "commissioned at your behest by the Mantuan" (commesse per Vostra parte lo Mantoan) (Francesschini 1993, p. 178, n. 412f.). Mantua is not ruled by the Este, but by the Gonzaga family.

To these information we found the following background interesting enough to be mentioned, considering, that for the years of the 1430ies it might have been true, that methods of playing cards production were much better developed in Germany than in Italy generally.

German-Italian Marriage
The Emperor Sigismondo gave to the Gonzaga family the title Marchesse at 22th of September 1433 during his 2 years visit in Italy. At this opportunity he was crowned to a king of Lombardy in December 1431 in Milan and crowned as Emperor in May 1433. The Emperor didn't come alone of course, he was accompanied by 100s of persons in minor function. Such Emperor visits caused strong expenses for the visited cities, but they also offered a lot of good opportunities to take up new cultural influences. Talking about smaller businesses in the background was a natural result. It seems, that Mantua earned beside the title Marchese for the reigning Gonzaga - the "printing connection" from the visit and also the hand of the 10 years old Barbara von Brandenburg, the niece of Sigismondo, for Ludovico, the expected heir of Mantua (the "theoretical" marriage took place 3 months later). The marriage decision should have established immediately an influential and promising link between the courts in Germany and Mantua (Northern Italy).

Results of this early familiar connection are observable in the following century by the marriages of the family:

  • Frederico I., the successor of Ludovico the Turk, marries in 1463 Maria of Bavaria. The marriage endures 15 years.
  • His sister Barbara marries Eberhard I, duke of Wuertemberg, 1474, the marriage endures 22 years. It spreads many influences of the Italian renaissance in Germany. Another sister marriage of Paolina also seems to have been Germany-related.
  • 2 Gonzaga generations later the Gonzaga's do unite with Montferrat (1531), a heiress is married. The Montferrat region might have had some German influences.
  • Another Gonzaga generation later two important marriages (1549 + 1563) are done with female descendants of Austria, also Germantalking. Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan, 1475-1497, p. 205-207, by Julia Mary Cartwright.

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