What is the Mainzer Losbuch?
The Mainzer Losbuch is considered to be one of the earliest examples of cartomancy, which is the practice of using playing cards for divination purposes. Prior to the publication of the Mainzer Losbuch, playing cards were primarily used for gaming and gambling.
The Mainzer Losbuch was published in Germany in the 16th century and contains 48 images of playing cards, each with a unique fortune or meaning assigned to it. The fortunes are written in poetic form and are intended to provide insights into the lives of those seeking guidance.
The book’s title, “Mainzer Losbuch,” translates to “Mainz Lotbook” or “Mainz Book of Lots” with “lots” referring to divination through the casting of lots or the drawing of cards. The book was published in Mainz, Germany in the first half of the 16th century.
The Mainzer Losbuch is considered to be an important historical document because it represents the beginnings of cartomancy and the use of playing cards for divination purposes. Its influence can still be seen today in modern tarot card readings and other forms of divination that use playing cards.
Never Before in the English language
Until now, the Mainzer Losbuch has never been fully translated into English. This makes the translation we are offering through this campaign a valuable and important addition to the world of cartomancy and playing cards. By providing an accurate and accessible English translation of the Mainzer Losbuch, we hope to make this significant historical document more widely available to those interested in the history and practice of divination.
The availability of an English translation of the Mainzer Losbuch is not only significant for those interested in divination but also for scholars and researchers studying the history of cartomancy and early modern European culture. With this translation, scholars and researchers will have access to a primary source document in English, which may help to provide new insights and perspectives on the history of cartomancy and the role of playing cards in early modern European society.
In addition, the translation of the Mainzer Losbuch can provide a better understanding of the cultural and social context in which the practice of cartomancy emerged, as well as the religious and philosophical beliefs that shaped its development. This can shed light on a little-known aspect of early modern European culture and contribute to our understanding of the broader historical and cultural context in which it emerged.
By supporting our Kickstarter campaign, you can contribute to the preservation and dissemination of this important historical document and help make it accessible to a wider audience, including scholars and researchers.
Hand bound books
The books will be hand bound in leather using parchment paper, which is a time-honored and traditional method of bookbinding that has been used for centuries. Hand binding offers a sense of authenticity and tradition that complements the historic value of the Mainzer Losbuch. The 16th century was a time when books were painstakingly crafted by hand, and using a similar process for this project is a way to pay homage to that era.
This historic tome is laid out in the traditional tête-bêche style, meaning that it showcases both the original medieval German and the English translation in a way that is truly special. When you open the book in one direction, you will find the original text in all its medieval glory, while flipping it over will reveal the English translation, making it an easy and convenient read. This gives the book a total page count of 28 pages plus two blank pages at each end.
The binding process
Printing and Folding: The book’s pages are printed and folded into individual folios, which are then gathered into sections.
Sewing: Cotton tapes are then sewn onto the spine of each section using a traditional binding stitch, creating the backbone of the book.
Covering: Greyboard is cut to size and wrapped in high-quality leather, creating a durable and attractive cover for the book.
Gluing: The tapes that were previously sewn onto the text block are then glued onto the inside of the cover, creating a strong connection between the cover and the text block.
Endpapers: Plain parchment endpapers are then carefully glued onto the inside of the cover, covering the tapes and creating a smooth surface for the book’s interior.
Throughout this entire process, we take great care to ensure that every detail is executed with precision and care, resulting in a finished product that is as beautiful as it is functional. We believe that this level of craftsmanship is essential to creating a book that is both a joy to read and a work of art in its own right.
The original book is in a blackletter script which is very hard for the modern reader to read. I have opted to use EB Garamond as a substitute font for the English translation section of the book because it is still from the 16th Century but is very easy to read, whilst the section containing the original medieval German text has been reproduced in the original font. The Garamond typeface is widely acknowledged as the quintessential example of French Renaissance style from the 16th century and is considered one of the most important typography fonts globally. Its graceful shapes and exceptional legibility make it easily identifiable. EB Garamond is a revival of this style and draws heavily from the lettering styles discovered in an Egenolff-Berner specimen in 1592, which is why it bears that name.
The Playing Cards
Initially, I created card images using the redrawn illustrations from the book. However they didn’t speak to me as cards I could use for cartomancy. They appeared as though they were hastily carved into a woodblock as an afterthought, being faithful reproductions of the original images. In my quest for the perfect design, I scoured through surviving 15th and 16th century German decks. At one point, I considered using the 15th century Stukely playing cards from the British Museum since they were available during the time when the Mainzer Losbuch was printed. However, they were only marginally better than the images in the book and left much to be desired.
My search for a better alternative led me to other lotbooks, where I stumbled upon card images that spoke to me. The moment I saw them, I knew that they would be perfect for this project. Unfortunately this deck lacked banner cards (the 10s) and was numbered 2-9 then Under (Page), Over (Jack), Queen, King, whereas the Mainzer Losbuch is numbered 2-9 then Under, Over, King.
By combining a banner card from the Mainzer Losbuch with the suit images from the later lotbook I created the missing banner card along with aces to enable the cards to be used for modern games. This has also had the effect of making the deck equivalent to the minor arcana of the tarot, which does mean you will need to remove 4 cards from the deck to use it, but also means it could be used for a modern tarot reading by converting the German suits to Italian in your head when working with them. As a result, I feel we now have a set of cards that beautifully captures the essence of 16th century German card decks, whilst also being pleasing to the modern eye and can be used for a variety of purposes. We hope that this unique and authentic design will delight and inspire you as much as it has inspired us.
Indices or no indices? That is the question!
While the 16th century playing cards didn’t have indices in the corners, we understand that modern players often prefer this feature, which is why we’re offering both versions of the deck to cater to everyone’s needs. For those who appreciate the historical authenticity of the 16th century playing cards, we have the option to have the cards without indices. On the other hand, for those who prefer the convenience of modern playing cards, we have the option to add indices to the corners. This way, we’re able to give our backers the flexibility to choose the version that suits their playing style.
Playing Cards Technical Information
We’ve taken great care in selecting the best materials for our Mainzer Losbuch playing cards, and are thrilled to be working with Ivory Graphics in the UK to produce them. The decks will be printed on Sure Slip Air 310gsm playing card stock. Sure Slip 310 Is a layered card which is produced by putting two of sheets of card together and laminating them into one sheet. The laminate makes the playing card much stronger and more durable than normal paper and card. Sure Slip 310 is opaque which means it has black glue in the middle of the two white sheets to make sure there is no possibility of any show through. This playing card material has a unique textured finish. This helps the playing cards move more evenly so the user can control the playing cards with ease and make slight of hand tricks a breeze.
We have chosen to use Ivory Graphics because we are confident in their fast turnaround and the great experience we had with them in the past when printing playing cards, as well as their environmental commitment. Ivory Graphics is registered with the Forest Stewardship Council® and operates under ISO 14001 Environmental Awareness, ensuring responsible and sustainable practices. We’re proud to work with a company that shares our values and prioritizes environmental stewardship. You can learn more about Ivory Graphics by visiting their website at ivory.co.uk/about-us.
Alas, I cannot back thine project, for I require a more historically accurate deck!
For people requiring more strict standards of historical accuracy (UK medieval reenactors for instance), we are offering up the digital files for the deck, along with instructions to make reasonably historically accurate playing cards minus the toxic pigments. These will be included for anyone buying one or more decks of cards, or if you just want the digital files they are available separately. These files are for personal use only, if you need them for commercial purposes please get in contact before backing the project.
Making historically accurate cards is time consuming, but it is by no means difficult and the instructions provided will give you a number of options depending on just how historically accurate you need your cards to be. If you need further help beyond the included instructions I’m always willing to have a chat about making medieval things, so I’ll ensure that you can make a set if you want to, no matter your skill level.
To enable further study of the Mainzer Losbuch by the academic community I plan to put the text of my translation into the public domain one year after rewards ship. This will include both a literal translation and the version being printed in the books available as Kickstarter rewards which keeps the rhyming structure of the original (both versions of the text will be sent to backers digitally). I feel that this is fair to backers, since they get a year of being the first people ever to read an english copy of the book, but it also enables future scholars of history to read the book without having to learn a new language in order to do so. If this campaign is successful I also plan to translate some more medieval german texts, primarily similar lotbooks initially, which will either be offered for sale first to backers of this kickstarter campaign or they will receive their own Kickstarter campaign with an update posted on this campaign to notify backers. For these reasons if you appreciate the work I have done but do not require any form of physical reward, please consider backing the £5 digital files reward to show your support for the project.
Current Students of History
Ensuring access to knowledge and education is of utmost importance, which is why I am committed to making the Mainzer Losbuch translation available to students of history who may not be able to afford it. If you are a current student at a recognised college or university and require access to the PDF, please feel free to reach out to me. I will require verification of your student status through your university or college email address, but I am more than happy to provide you with the translation for free. In the first instance please contact me via Kickstarter or social media, as I am quicker to respond to messages on these platforms. Let’s work together to make history more accessible to all.