Historical question on decks with and without pips


Hi, emily2otters --

The first deck with pictures for the minors was, I believe, the Sola Busca deck, I think from the 15th century. The majors show military personages and are not standard Tarot majors, but the minors show little scenes. In fact, several of the scenes are similar to scenes in the Rider Waite deck, which strongly suggests that the artist of the Waite deck, Pamela Colman Smith, had seen the Sola Busca and modeled some of her cards after it. The 3 of Swords, for example, shows the exact same image in both decks. This deck is now availabe from Lo Scarabeo, with coloring by a modern artist.

I believe there was no other illustrated-minors deck until the Rider Waite deck. Lo Scarabeo has just released a facsimile of a deck from around the turn of the century, a few years before the Rider Waite deck, called "Tarot of the Master," which has illustrations on the minors, but they're not scenes with people, and they're mostly decorative rather than meant to suggest divinatory meanings.

-- Lee


wow, that's an excellent question, AND an excellent answer.

~goes in search of her Tarot Encyclopedia~ will post any other findings tomorrow, but i have a feeling you pinned it ;)


Just be warned - that deck is not always pretty. Justice has a guy about to tear a baby in half, a la King Solomon. The baby's leg is all twisted over... (shudder) I'm still debating whether or not to get it. Also, Lo Scarabeo publishes it as "Illuminating Ancient Tarots," with "Sola Busca" being the subtitle, printed smaller toward the bottom of the box front.


well, I do believe Lee is right. While I couldn't find any specific mention of the first illustrated pip cards, the solo busca is one of the earliest of the surviving cards that were first printed. I couldn't find any earlier non pip images.

I'm curious where you got you information. And so precise. :D


Diana said:
...as we can't understand the present without understanding the past, who knows where this can lead to?

I agree, absolutely... Great, now I have to get it. :D