Primo visto

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Primo visto
The Card Players by Lucas van Leyden.jpg
The Card Players, by Lucas van Leyden, suggests that the game depicted is actually the game of Primero or one of its many variants.
Origin Italy
Alternative names Primavista
Family Matching
Players 2-6
Skills required Tactics & Strategy
Cards 40
Deck Spanish
Play Clockwise
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Primero, Poker

Primo visto, Primavista, Prima-vista, Primi-vist, Primiuiste, Primofistula, or even Primefisto,[1] is a 16th-century gambling card game fashionable c. 1530-1640. Very little is known about this game, but judging by the etymology of the words used to describe the many local variants of the game, it appears to be one of Italian origin.

Historical claims[edit]

Based upon references in period literature it appears to be closely related to the game of Primero, with some later authorities claiming that the two games were in fact the very same.[2] Opposing claims to this theory include the fact that the earliest known reference to the name Primo visto appears in Greene's "Notable Discovery of Coosnage" published in 1591, more than half a century after the name Primero was in common use. John Minsheu, an English linguist and lexicographer, claims that Primero and Prima vista (hence Primo visto) were two distinct card games - "That is, first and first seen, because he that can shew such an order of cardes first winnes the game", although he gives but one set of names and just one reason for their names[3] Robert Nares in his book "A Glossary" states that the circumstance of the cards being counted in the same way, with the "Six" reckoned for eighteen and the "Seven" for twenty-one, seems to determine that Primo visto was the same as Primero, or even possibly a later variation of the latter.[4]

Slightly stronger evidence exists in the form of a list of popular board and card games and diversions of the time of the English Renaissance in John Taylor's 1621 book "Taylor's Motto",[5] listing both Primero and Primefisto, and the same occurs in a list of card games in Richard Brome's "The New Academy".


A brief poem by the French Humanist Mellin de Saint-Gelais written in 1525 describes Francisco I, Pope Clement VII and Charles V (each involved in a struggle for the possession of Italy) playing a hand of "Prime" (a game similar to Primero and to the "Flux").[6] That seems to indicate that the game of Primo visto, and consequently Primero, is probably older than many historians have been able to determine and may date to the beginning of the 16th century or even further back in time.

A comparison to the terms used in the game of Primero, the mode of playing and the outcome, indicates that Primo visto was played according to the rules of Primero. It is possible, however, that it was played with only three cards dealt to each player instead of four, followed by a few rounds of bettings. Another possible difference may lie in the amount staked to the pool. The main part of the game was one of bluff and vies among the players, which also suggests that Primo visto was a simple variant, like the French game of "Prime".[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Storia e Letteratura, Racoltta di Studi e TestiRicerche anglo-italiane, pg.55 by Mario Praz, Roma 1944 ISBN 88-8498-187-5
  2. ^ "Prima vista, the game at cardes called Primero or Prima vista". Florio, p. 400.
  3. ^ a b A Glossary: or, Collection of words, phrases, names, etc. v. II pg. 687, Robert Nares, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, London 1859
  4. ^ Earle's Microcos. Char. 12
    His words are like the cards at primi-vist, where six is eighteen, and seven twenty-one; for they never signify what they sound.
  5. ^ Excerpt of Taylor's Motto: Et Habeo, Et Careo, Et Curo, printed by Edward Allde for J.T. and H. G. London - 1621, is a retort metrical satyre upon George Wither's Motto, Nee Habeo, Nee Careo, Nee Curo, which was printed in 1618. The Prodigall’s estates, like to a flux,
    The Mercer, Draper, and the Silk-man suckes;
    The Taylor, Millainer, Dogs, Drabs and Dice,
    They trip, or passage, or the Most at thrice;
    At Irish, Tick tacke, Doublets, Draughts, or Chesse
    He flings his money free with carelessnesse:
    At Novum, Munchance, mischance ( chuse ye which ),
    At One and Thirty, or at Poore and Rich,
    Ruffe, Flam, Trump, Noddy, Whisk, Hole, Sant, New Cut,
    Unto the keeping of foure knaves, he’l put;
    His whole estate at Loadum, or at Gleeke,
    At Tickle me quickly, he’s a merry Greeke,
    At Primefisto, Post and Paire, Primero,
    Maw, Whip-her-ginny, he’s a lib’rall hero:
    At My sow pigg’d; and ( Reader, never doubt ye,
    He’s skill’d in all games except ), Looke about ye,
    Bowles, Shove groate, Tennis, no games comes amiss,
    His purse a purse for anybody is;
    Caroches, coaches, and tabacconists,
    All sorts of people freely from his fists,
    His vaine expenses daily sucke and soake,
    And he himself suckes only drinke and smoake.
    And thus the Prodigall, himself alone,
    Gives sucke to thousands, and himself suckes none.
  6. ^ Oeuvres complètes de Melin de Sainct-Gelays, Paris, Bibliothèque Elzévirienne, 1873, vol. I, pp. 251–252
    PASQUIN Le Roy, le Pape et le Prince Germain
    jouent un jeu de prime assez jolie:
    Parme est leur vade, et l'envy l'Italie:
    et le Roy tient le grand poinct en sa main:
    cinquante et un a le pasteur Rommain,
    qui se tormente et se melancolie:
    Cesar attend avec face palie,
    deniers voudroit pour son jeu racoustrer.
    Tandis le Pape un accord leur propose.
    Cesar y pense et voir sa carte n'ose;
    il craint espee ou bastons rencontrer.
    Le Roy lui dit: "Deniers n'attendez point,
    car c'est mon jeu; vez en la le grand poinct,"
    Ils en sont en ce poinct.
    Or lon verra des deux le plus prospere.
    Quoy que ce soit, la perte est au sainct Pere.
    Cesar craint et espere,
    leur descouvrant ses cartes peu a peu;
    car moins peut l'art que le sort en ce jeu.

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