Errors in post-1927 versions of Wirth's "Imagiers"


I've had this book for awhile and never done much with it. Your analysis has given me the incentive to look a little deeper. :)

I found Waite's translation of Levi. It's here:

Re Quote 2. from post #4, Waite translates it, "And number proves the living unity." Page 93 (PDF page 125).


Re "effrey" in Note 21, I'd chock that up to a serious typo. I don't think there is such a word in English.


On my Wirth 1927 I can clearly see the number in the death card and the colour of the trees in the hanged man is rather regular but it's true that the colouring differs according the editions :

1927 by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr


adding 1980 image of first quote

Thanks, Philippe, on the Death card. I was looking down below, where all the other numbers were. For me it just blended in with the border designs. Your cards seem a bit faded; I can barely make out the change in color on the Hanged Man's poles..

And Abrac, yes, it's high time you read the book! If you want to discuss it, well, here we are. I am not really giving an analysis, but trying to create something of a level playing field so that it doesn't matter which edition of the English you have. and so you don't need to have the original French edition, as opposed to the later French reprints (and you only need them if there is something strange in the English). But between English editions, the task is considerably easier if you have the 1985, because it follows Wirth more closely in its illustrations. It's the one with the text in two columns and an index.

I can't even imagine what "effrey" would be a typo for! Maybe it's just very archaic.

Now I will go through the cards one by one, stopping only to note the discrepancies between the images inserted into the 1927 text as opposed to those of the other editions.

For the Popess, all the post-1927 editions omit the drawing at the end of the section, which Wirth says in the Appendix (p. 220 of the 2012, p. 212 of 1985) is Isis. Clearly we are to think of this card as Isis (as he later says explicitly at the beginning of Chapter 10).


Wirth is not that bad an Egyptologist. In Egypt statues of seated Isis were frequently of black stone; and her gesture here resembles that of blessing in portrayal’s of her with the queen and Hathor (the oneon the left, from

For the Empress, there is something exceedingly odd. The text of the 1985, which faithfully follows the 1927 original, says at the bottom of its p. 72:

In case the image disappears some day, I have typed it out:
The Christian artists were inspired by Alchemy when they placed a crescent beneath the foot of the heavenly Virgin, but they often made the error of drawing the crescent with its horns upturned. Others have followed the right tradition, witness the Spanish sculptor of the eighteenth century to whom we owe the very symbolic Madonna, as drawn opposite, after the original preserved in Paris in the sacristry of the church of St. Thomas.
In fact there is nothing on the opposite page except a little text at the top and a big blank space ( It is the same in the 2014 French edition. The only way we might get an inkling of what image he means is that in the Appendix he says he is giving us a sketch "copying the Spanish Madonna kept in Paris in the sacristy of the church of St. Thomas d'Aquinas" (p. 204, corresponding to 212 of the 2012, which I give below). He must mean the image on the preceding page (of the 1985). But what he says about it is something quite different.
The crocodile receives a human head and winds itself around the terrestrial globe which bears the Immaculate Virgin.... From the esoteric point of view here it is question of the demon of selfishness which sublime womanhood must conquer.


In the image, I see no crocodile with a human head, but probably he is speaking figuratively; there is a human head with what appears to be the body of a snake coming out of it, or maybe going around it, or binding him. And if there are moon-horns, the left one has been somehow cut off by the printer.

What the 2012 does is even stranger. In its section on the Empress, we see the following (p. 68):


Notice the text that accompanies the image. Unlike the 1985 translation (which I put as an image and a quote just below the picture of Isis and Hathor), this one says the image is a 16th century German engraving (the last sentence of the paragraph is, "Others have followed the correct tradition, as shown in the sixteenth century German engraving at left>"! And I expect that is what is being shown. It does not appear elsewhere in the book. It appears to be a Madonna, perhaps holding the dead Christ against her, or perhaps it is the Christ Child. I can’t find it on Google. However she does appear to be standing on a crescent moon, horns downward.

The original text clears up the mystery. The end drawing, opposite the text in question, is indeed the same sketch of the 18th century sculpture that appears in the Appendix. However the original give us the full sketch, with both horns visible, pointing downward.


Incidentally, if you were wondering about what “sublime Womanhood” was in French, it is “Féminité sublimée", sublimated Femininity. That means either “Femininity made sublime” or “sublimated Femininity” in an alchemical sense, i.e. turned into a gaseous state. Perhaps they are the same thing, womanhood purified of the dross it picked up eating the Forbidden Fruit. As he says, the sign for Mercury turned upside down is the sign for Venus with a crescent moon below--thus Venus in the heavens..

For 4, the Emperor, all post-1916 editions omit the end drawing, which is of a phoenix in the alchemical symbol for sulfur: a flammable bird in a flammable substance. In the Appendix, this image occurs on p. 215 of the 2012 (very small), p. 207 of the 1985 and p. of the 2014 French (both better).

They also omit another symbol that Wirth created, I think he says it is a stylizatin of the fleur-de-lys that is on the tip of the Emperor's scepter. I cannot find this image in the Appendix.


For 5, the Pope, they all again omit the end drawing, of a five pointed star. This is what makes the five pointed star in the series at the beginning a symbol of the Pope card. But there are plenty of other five-pointed stars in that section; this one does not appear in the Appendix, so I give it below.


For 6 the Lover, the 2012 omits the drawing of a cube near the end with various alchemical symbols on it. The cube of course is six sided. It also appears in the Appendix, in all the editions (p. 215 of the 2012, p. 207 of the 1985).

For 7 the Chariot, they all omit, everywhere, the end drawing of a six-pointed star with a 7 in it.

Also, they all try to reproduce an actual alchemical engraving, both here and in the Appendix, instead of using Wirth’s drawing. Below is the 2012, followed by Wirth’s drawing in the 1927.



For 9, the Hermit, they all omit With’s end drawing, which is of his “Bootes” astronomical card, formerly called “Le Bouvier,” “The Herdsman.”


For 10, the Wheel of Fortune, the 2012 omits all three of Wirth’s drawings and instead substitute two emblems of the editor’s choosing.


The first, above, I recognize as being from the Rosarium Philosophorum; it is what the accompanying verses say is the Empress, although it in fact has both a male and a female head. But like the Wheel of Fortune it is the tenth emblem in its series. Notice that the horns of the moon point up!


The other is God the Father above the conventional way in which Ezekiel’s wheel was represented, as two interlocking wheels along with, on the left, the four figures of the tetramorph, which Ezekiel reported to be present. It looks like something Wirth would draw, but I cannot find it anywhere in the original. Ezekiel’s wheel is what the occultists associated to the tarot Wheel of Fortune, an association that has no historical basis in relation to the medieval image used by that card.

What Wirth in fact has on these pages is a different set of images, although also on the theme of the tetramorph. One, missing only from the 2012, is the tetramorph inside an ouroborus or tail-eating snake. Another image, missing in this place from all post-1927 editions, is the tetramorph surrounding a circle surrounding another circle surrounding two triangles surrounding a square. Both are in the Appendix (pp. 210-11 of the 2012, p. 202 of the 1985) but the latter is too small there .


The “man” is an upside down angel who seems to be clutching to a parrot. Perhaps I am missing something.

Another missing image in this section, only from the 2012, is a dolphin on a trident, one not seen elsewhere in the book. It is apparently an image of Mercury/Quicksilver, as it is in the same place as the 2012’s Empress.


I will take a break here, halfway through.


Now I will conclude (I hope).

For 11, they all omit an end drawing of Cybele and her tame lions that Wirth associates to this card. It can be found in the Appendix (p. 220 of the 2012, p. 212 of the 1985). The 2012 also omits another emblem that Wirth created for this card, a five pointed star inside a six-pointed star. This one does not appear elsewhere in the book.


For 12, they all omit his end-drawing of the associated alchemical symbol (upside down sulphur) surrounded by geometrical patterns. It appears in the Appendix (p. 219 of the 2012, p. 211 of the 1985), but so poorly reproduced in both that I give it here. In a good reproduction, these patterns reveal themselves to be the signs of the zodiac.


For 13, they all omit the end-drawing of a skull enclosed by a Masonic calipers that Wirth associates to this arcanum. It appears in the Appendix (p. 217 of 2012, p. 209 of the 1985).

For 14 the 2012 (only) omits Wirth's drawing of the god Indra, whom he associates to this arcanum. Nor is it in the Appendix. There is no end drawing.

For 15 the 2012 omits the end-drawing of a devil covered with eyes, which can be found in the Appendix (p. 212 of 2012, p. 204 of 1985); it also omits his symbol for all seven of the planets, as I discussed in relation to chapter five of part one.

For 16 they all omit the end-drawing of geometrical patterns; its relevance escapes me, but it does not appear elsewhere in the book.


For 17 they all omit the end-drawing of the goddess Ishtar, whom he associates to this arcanum. The 2012 omits another drawing of the same goddess, as a warrior; the other was as a cup-bearer. Both appear in the Appendix, the latter below the former (p. 220 of the 2012, p. 212 of the 1985).

For 18 they all omit a “winged globe” end drawing. It appears in the Appendix (p. 216 of 2012, p. 220 of 1985). The 2012 adds 17th century illustrations of the constellations of Canus Major and Canus Minor, which Wirth does discuss but does not illustrate.

For 19 they all omit his end-drawing of a bearded man on horseback, flying a banner. This might be meant as his improvement on Vieville and Waite, who have boy riders. Perhaps he wants the rider to be the Christ of Rev. 19:11, whom he feels should be obearded. It is not found elsewhere in the book.


For 0, the Fool, they all omit Wirth’s drawing of the Fool as a contortionist.


In Part III of the book some of the chapters of the original have end drawings, missing in all post-1927 edition. The chapter on “The Program of Initiation” has a drawing of a dragon or crocodile holding a tripartite globe surmounted by a cross. It can be found in the Appendix (p. 211 of 2012, p. 203 of 1985). The chapter on “Hermetic Philosophy” has a well known alchemical emblem on the theme of “V.I.T.R.I.O.L,” which are the first letters of an alchemical saying. It is in the Appendix, very small (p. 213 of 2012, p. 205 of 1985). The chapter on “Masonic Correspondences” has a drawing of what in the Appendix he calls “a master craftsman,” a man in a robe holding calipers and a drawing board (p. 209 of the 1985, omitted entirely from the 2012).

The Appendix itself has before and after it a rather nice emblem on the “TARO(T)/ROTA(R)” theme, with the Ankh of life in the middle.

All in all, the 2012 English cersion is good enough for the casual reader, but not for someone who really wants to get into the text. (However you have these posts to compensate with.) The 1985 version is better in this regard as it has more of Wirth’s illustrations in the places he put them, following the later the French editions. They, too, omit the end drawings. Mary Greer’s worthy 2012 introduction can be read in Amazon's online portion of the book, and all the cards are online. The translation, the same in the two English editions (except for restoring Wirth’s “pantacle”, although in fact the English equivalent by now really is “pentacle”), is good but not always reliable, especially on alchemical matters; to be sure of a reading (hopefully), it is necessary to consult one of the French editions.

And remember, I have not been giving a synopsis of Wirth's book, but rather of what the 2012 omits, changes, or gets wrong in transmitting Wirth's book (although in the course of doing so I have had to present some of his ideas and images as well). The publication nonetheless remains a fine undertaking, given how little attention Wirth gets these days, and Mary Greer is to be commended for lending her name to it. Now I can start seriously studying him.


Agree no such word as 'effrey'* - a serious typo for 'fiery' ?? It shares at least 4 letters :)

* Well there is a very Old English word meaning afraid, remnants of which may be found for example in some Scottish dialects.

Scho is so brycht of hyd and hew,
I lufe bot hir allone, I wene;
Is non hir luf that may eschew
that blenkis of that dulce amene,
So cumly cleir ar hir twa ene,
That scho ma luvaris dois effrey
Than evir of Grice did fair Helene:
Whom I luve, I dar nocht assay.
anon, c.1500



These two images seem to have some similarity. They're both triangular. The one on the bottom also seems to be a face with eyes, nose and mouth, although stylized pretty heavily.



Here's a picture of the crocodile with a human head. I've pointed out the neck and feet which makes it a little easier to see.



Here's a picture of the crocodile with a human head. I've pointed out the neck and feet which makes it a little easier to see.


Yes, I saw the feet and thought it was similar to the crocodile version of the ring rather than the 'serpent with tail in mouth'.


I hadn't noticed the feet. I mistook it for a serpent. And yes, a stylized face. Good job, Abrac. And thanks for explaining the two possible meanings of "effrey", Kwaw. I can't see how either of them fit the context (I mean, why would red indicate fearfulness, and why would a crab be fiery? but then I haven't studied Wirth in detail. .