Rothschild Canticles

le pendu

I was searching through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library today. I've gone here before to see the Cary-Yale Visconti and the Este cards, but noticed in the Encylopedia of Tarot 2 that some Jean Payen images should be there as well... only found the black and whites (still interesting).

While searching, I tried "France" as a keyword and came upon the Rothschild Canticles. WOW! Very, very strange.

Heres two of the images I thought were quite interesting.. one related to the Bagatto, one related to the Hanged Man:

(hope these links work!)
Both of these images are about a hundred years earlier than any known tarot cards.

SOURCE PLACE Northern France
NOTES"Mystical texts and drawings illustrating the Song of Songs, the glories of the Virgin, and the mystery of the Trinity, with other Biblical and moralistic texts, s. XIII|XIV"

To find the entire collection (which I suggest you look through just for the beauty/weirdness of them) , go to
and type Rothschild Canticles. Scan through the B&W to find the color scans.


le pendu

There's also some images that look a lot like the wheel of fortune. And plenty with a sun, moon, or star theme.



...and the Fool ;)

...and a host of others.

The book can be seen page by page, beginning (this refers to the last number of the url) at 1011697, and ends at 1011890.

Again - great and wonderful find :)


Having had a chance to look a couple of times through each image, the book is indeed fascinating, and one can easily see how it just may be possible that perhaps one day a similar book may emerge with images even more closely related - or directly mirroring - the Tarot.

I also note of interest one image, attached here in what needs to be a small file, of a 'Fool' - not so much for the foregrounded person, but rather for the gold-leaf background, in so many ways reminiscent of what we have come to view as one of the distinguishing features of the Visconti(-Sforza) decks.

It may be viewed, with of course greater detail, on the Yale site:

I suggest clicking on the image to observe the detail of the gold-background criss-cross work.


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Thanks Robert! just to say...

Absolutely beautiful!

I was browsing an illuminated manuscript yesterday too and came across 2 images which reminded me of the tarot, but none so similar as this. This work is stunning!

Thanks for "illuminating" my day :)

Phoenix Rising

Interesting...I have been reading "Dan Brown" Angels and Demons(a novel based on true facts)But the Rothchilds are very much a huge part of the "illuminatti". And reading the book, I can see the references to Tarot. The illuminatti very much are based on symbolism. I wouldn't be surprised if they had something to do with the creation of the tarot!


So wonderful! A lot of thanks to robert-san for his find!


What a wonderful piece of Tarot-"unconsciousness"! It seems to present evidence for an increasing manifestation or even gradual materialisation of the Tarot the nearer we come to the early 15th century...


I was able to find the site to scroll

down the images on one page: then you can also get the background information as well.

Did you know this was done by nuns?

The author wrote this book:
The Rothschild Canticles: Art and Mysticism in Flanders and the Rhineland circa 1300" (Yale University Press, 1990).

I wonder if this means the book originated in Flanders and Rhineland...and then ended up in a French collection somewhere...

Beautiful private it has me wondering if there were other art books and card decks for women that have fallen out of historical eyes!

Here's a historical note that suggests the canticles in context of Christian illumination:

And for devilish contemplation--oh no, the saint is seeing someone playing dice! Woe to the sinner--and an early gambling reference!

Thanks all, this is very fun...


Cerulean Mari