Cards from Cary-Yale Collection


Can't answer your question but a first impression is that they have much similarity with the Oswald Wirth pictures.


Rather than saying these are an O. Wirth, it may perhaps be more accurate to say that they are based on the Wirth deck.


Yes, sure, I agree

le pendu

Well.. What does this mean?

Are these just somebodies copies of a Wirth deck that ended up in the Cary Collection because they were interesting?

The cards look very hand drawn, especially where you see the guidelines for the titles and such.

What are the chances these were actually drawn by Wirth himself? Is it possible these were cards drawn for the Tarot of the Bohemians?

Sorry, I know so little about this.



I have been corresponding about this with Robert, and I'm also eager to solve this mystery, so I contacted Yale to ask for more information. This is the reply I received:

The catalogue to the collection states that they date to c. 1880, in pen and ink, hand coloration. The catalogue entry reads further: 'Back plain. Square borders, square corners. Single figure trumps; copies of the standard trumps of the Marseille tarot.'
Personally, I'm a bit confused - the cards are obviously influenced by Wirth, but if they date back to 1880, then that would mean they actually PREDATE Wirth's deck, which was first published in 1889... right?

It would surprise me if they would turn out to be Wirth's original drawings, because the divinatory meanings written on the cards don't seem to be in line with what Wirth wrote about them in his Imagiers du Moyen-Age. (If anyone is interested in the translation of the divinatory meanings, let me know.)

Basically, I think it's very odd.

Any thoughts? Please correct me if I made a mistake, because I don't know nearly as much about Oswald Wirth as I'd like to.


Ross G Caldwell


They look like Wirth's art, so they are possibly a hand-drawn set by himself. Someone may have added the divinatory meanings later.

Spoon was ambitious to go to Yale for information. The catalogue entry reads only "c(irca). 1880", which to me leaves open the possibility that they are closer to 1889 than 1880. Clearly he designed them before he published them - the question is "how long before?" This information should be on the internet.

Apparently Wirth published a set of 350 in 1889, to go with his book. Since these are drawn rather than printed, they seem to me to stand a good chance of being by Wirth himself. Maybe - just maybe - they are the first he drew.

I guess we need to compare Wirth's known drawings with these, side by side, to make an accurate judgement.

Ross G Caldwell

According to "A Wicked Pack of Cards" pp. 238ff., Stanislas de Guaita met Wirth in "the spring" of 1887, and at some unspecified time, but apparently soon after, suggested designing the trumps. So if this deck is Wirth and if it is original, it may be as early as 1887.

The cards really do look like Wirth to me.


Perhaps you are correct, Ross...

to my eyes, the faces seemed to have been drawn by a different hand to Wirth's - but that is to my untrained eye when it comes to recognition of artistic style. Someone carefully copying Wirth's images would also have achieved the depictions... or, perhaps even at the extreme, they may be images made by de Guaita that Wirth was then commisioned to design 'properly' - ie, render them fully finished (I doubt this latter, just adding another possibility).

It could also be that they are based on a pre-publication deck used in the OKRC (Ordre Kabbalistic de la Rose Croix), which would date it also to the second half of the 1880s.

If this was the case, whether or not it was by the hand of Wirth remains open.