Rough Notes of French Occult Tarots


Though still immature and imperfect, I dare to post my ideas on the relationships between the past French occultists and actual Tarot packs. Any comments are welcome--

Court de Gébelin - ? (maybe Tourcaty, Noblet, Vieville, etc.)

Etteilla says (in "Leçons théoriques et pratiques du livre de Thot", 1787) Court de Gébelin knew no Tarot packs but one by Tourcaty.
But it seems to me some different packs influenced his descriptions about Tarot. I suspect he may have referred to the collection of the Royal Library, as Éliphas Lévi and Oswald Wirth did later.

Etteilla - "Tarot de Besançon" produced in Strasbourg (probably by Benois)

" ville de Strasbourg, où on fabrique encore moins mal qu'ailleurs ce Jeu des Tarots" (in the 2nd cahier of "Maniere de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots", 1785). He mentions the cardmaker of Strasbourg "Benoît" at the footnote of the same page.
Some of Etteilla cards clearly reflect the designs of TdB, which seem to have been what le Comte de Mellet also referred to.

Éliphas Lévi - TdM by Bernardin Suzanne (Marseille)

Musée français de la Carte à jouer (in Issy-les-Moulineaux) owns a Suzanne pack which once belonged to Levi, with inscriptions by his own hand.
And the pack which he sent to Baron Spedalieri in 1861 was probably a Suzanne TdM, too.

By the way, it seems Edmond Billaudot's tarot (aka "Grand Tarot Belline", circa 1860s) was also based on Suzanne (in accordance with Paul Christian's book), judging from the designs.

Oswald Wirth (1889)- TdM by Rochias (Neuchatel) and TdB by Blanche (or Kirchner)

In 1887 Stanislas de Guaita gave Wirth two tarot packs for reference.
As to these packs, in "Stanislas de Guaita - Souvenirs de son Secretaire" (1935) Wirth says they were "l'un provenant d'Italie et l'autre de Besançon". Judging from the designs I am pretty sure that they were TdM by Rochias (Neuchatel) and TdB by Blanche (or maybe Kirchner).

(This topic is what I am being working on for my Tarot blog.)

Papus (1889) - TdM by Nicolas Conver, made in Marseilles

I own a 1st edition (1889) of "Le Tarot des Bohémiens".
It has some picture plates -- in one of them VALET DE DENIERS clearly has the inscription "CONVER FRANCE", which cannot be seen in later editions or English translations.

In this work Papus uses the term "Tarot de Marseille" (Lévi never used this expression), which he probably adopted it from Romain Merlin's book on the history of playing cards.
(Thanks for the confirmation on this matter, Ross!:) )
Papus also declares that TdM is "the most correct in its symbolism", and "fairly reproduces the Primitive symbolical Tarot". I suppose he thought so because the designs of Conver (literally "Tarot de Marseille") matched Lévi's comments to a large extent.

And his words seems to have great impact on later occultists...

In addition, I presume "Conver-Worship" also began here.
---then tarot of Conver (= Camoin) was the only extant TdM, literally made in Marseilles.

In 1896 R. Falconnier says --
"Le Tarot édité à Marseille par Conver est celui qui se rapproche le plus du type traditionnel" (in "LES XXII LAMES HERMÉTIQUES DU TAROT DIVINATOIRE").
Most probably he said so according to "Le Tarot des Bohémiens" .

In 1909 Eudes Picard ("Manuel Synthétique et Pratique du Tarot") says as follows about his "lames majeures"--
"Chaque lame est copiée sur le tarot de Marseille, le meilleur selon nous".
This too should be another example of "Papus effect", for Picard's book is obviously under the influence of Papus to some degree.
And the images of LE BATELEUR & LE MONDE on the cover are undoubtedly copied from Conver.
(Note: Picard's own drawings of 22 major arcana seem based rather on tarot of Schaffhouse than Conver.)

Now there should be no need to dwell on J. Maxwell and Paul Marteau...


Where did it all begin?

This reminds me of the "Red" Dragon referred to by Eden Gray
when she was writing about Pamela Colman Smith's 7 of Cups.

The Dragon is clearly "Blue" but subsequent artists and authors
have created an actual red dragon, à la Marteau and Marseille.


Great list and cross-reference.

IF the Comte de Mellet was based in the Moissac area, then it is also likely that he may have come across, or referred to, a Conver equivalent.