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


Appreciate the info. Sounds like it might make a good companion to Imagiers.


Yes, well put.

Now I have the original French for comparison. Actually, there were a few places in the translation that sounded odd at first reading; the original text confirms that the problem is the translation.

The first oddity is in Wirth's summary of the 22 arcana as steps in an initiatory journey. For the first five arcana, the translation has (p. 46):
Taking advantage of the fact that he possesses all capabilities, the Juggler[/i ](1) enters in turn the schools of the Popess (2), the Empress, the Emperor, and the Pope (5), learning successively to distrust the unknowable (Arc. 2), to conceive clear ideas (Arc. 3), to exercise his will (Arc. 4), and to rely on his own actions (Arc. 5).

The French is:
Profitant de ce qu'il possède toutes les capacités, le Bateleur (1), se met successivement à l'école de la Papesse (2), de l"impératrice (3), de l'Empereur (4) et du Pape. Il apprend ainsi tout à tour à soupconner l'inconnaisable (Arc. 2 ), à concevoir des idées nettes (Arc. 3), à déployer son vouloir (Arc. 4) et à s'assurer de ses actes (Arc. 5).
Actually, "soupconner" means "suspect" rather than "distrust" in this context, and "s'assurer de ses actes" means "be assured in one's actions". The Popess teaches us to suspect that there is a realm of being that is unknowable; the Pope gives us a framework in which to evaluate our actions and be assured of their value. Incidentally, the Bateleur is not a juggler in the current meaning of the term, in which a juggler is someone who keeps objects in motion; but "performer of tricks" is an archaic meaning of "juggler", pre-19th century.

In that Chapter the only other mistranslations have to do with numbers 16 and 17. The "Falling Tower" (Wirth's "Maison-Dieu," as is usual in the French tradition) is not the result of "the presumptuous building of equivocal certitudes", but "the presumptuous building of dubious certitudes." The French is "équivoque", but "equivocal" does not quite fit. The initiate, the translation goes on to say, "does not fear to live without shelter under the Star(17), the sparkling lights of our dreams and of the mystical revelation." For Wirth, however, 17 is consistently "Les Etoiles," in the plural. The word for "dreams" here is "rêve," for which "reverie" is more appropriate in this context, i.e. waking dream or work of imagination.

In the next chapter, on divination, there are a couple of places where it might help to know the French original and a literal translation of that original. Here is one passage, in the translation (p. 50):
Symbolism is inherent in it [our world], and significant images presented to us by the theatre of life. However, we are not claiming that everybody has sufficient insight to read them properly.

Yet they are generally accessible to active imaginations capable of musing [rêver] without going to extremes. But of course, to use the Tarot as it should be used, it is necessary to master the instrument of divination. Until our minds have entered into rapport with the images that are expected to speak to them, there is a barrier to understanding them. Study, such as we would undertake if we had to converse with the speaker of a foreign language, is imperative. We ned to familiarize ourselves with the mode of expression of the symbols, as in the exercises recommended in the last two chapters.
The French is (pp. 34-35):
Le symbolisme y a sa part et les images que nous présente le spectacle de la vie sont significatives. Il est permis de le contester, car la sagacité n'est pas obligatoire et la divination n'est pas à la portée du premier venu.

Cependant, elle est très largement accessible aux imaginations actives, qui veulent s'appliquer à rêver sans extravagance. Il va d'ailleurs de soi, que, pour se servir utilement du Tarot, il faut commencer par prendre possession de cet instrument divinatoire. Tant que notre esprit n'est pas entré en rapport avec les images qui doivent lui parler, il ne peut avoir la prétention de comprendre leur langage. Une étude s'impose, comme s'il s'agissait d'entrer en conversaton avec un interlocuteur usant d'un idiome inconnu. Il faut nous familiariser avec le mode expressif des symboles. C'est là l'objet des exercises que nous préconisons dans nos deux précédents chapitres.

I read that as:
Symbolism has its share there [in our world], and images that present to us the spectacle of life are significant. It is permissible to challenge that, because wisdom is not mandatory and divination is not within the reach of everybody.

Yet it [divination] is largely accessible to active imaginations wanting to apply themselves to dreaming [rêver] without extravagance. Of course, to be served effectively by the Tarot, we must first take ownership of this divination tool. As long as our mind has not entered into connection with the images so that they speak to him, he cannot pretend to understand their language. Study is needed, as if one entered into conversation with an interlocutor using an unknown language. We must familiarize ourselves with the mode of expression of symbols. This is the purpose of the exercises that we recommend in our two previous chapters.
I am not entirely sure what Wirth is saying, but I think he means that some people will find divination by means of the cards' stimulation of their imaginations impossible, such that their experience justifies a disbelief in divination. Others will have limited access at first, which can b significantly improved by study,

However all this is contingent upon knowing what Wirth means by divination. It is not a matter of predicting the future! Here again the translation is not as precise as it should be in capturing Wirth's meaning.

The published translation has (p. 51):
First and foremost, it is necessary to be sincere and hold in horror any kind of deception. Lying is odious in a fortune-teller. Genuine divination is a service performed in the temple of Truth.

Probity and reliability demand that we do not claim the ability to pick up every vibration.

Here is the French (p. 36):
Avant tout, il doit être sincère et avoir horreur de toute temperie. Un esprit menteur se révélera, détestable devin. La divination est un sacerdoce relevant du culte de la Verité.

Pour se montrer probe et loyal, il ne faut pas prétendre avoir réponse à tout.
which means:
Above all, one should be sincere and have a horror of all deceit. A lying spirit will prove a detestable diviner. Divination is a priesthood under the cult of Truth.

To show oneself honest and loyal, do not claim to have all the answers.
"Pick up every vibration" catches the spirit, but suggests that Wirth is more in tune with the '60s than is actually in the text.

After that the translation is good, except at one point, which I put in bold, together with a literal translation that seems to me slightly better (p. 51:
Quack promises are unworthy of the serious diviner, who should keep bis statements within reasonable bounds. In principle, foretelling the future lies outside the province of divination.; we do not say it is impossible - nor is hitting the bull's-eye with a bullet from a loosely held gun - but a diviner will prefer not to make pronouncements in this respect if he has any scruples. What is said is best confined to the present [Mieux vaut se baser sur des données existantes: Better to base oneself on existing information.] The client may have a immediate decision to take or may be on the point of making some mistake; the Tarot can then help him to sort out his impressions and find the road to a satisfactory solution. The one who reads the cards must not make his oracle too precise or narrow; in doing so he might easily go astray, because there is so much elasticity in the interpretation of the symbols. Often this elasticity will prove to be beneficial, since the sensible client will accept what is said with caution and wait until the import of the reading suddenly becomes clear to him.

For those who know French, here is the original (p. 36):
...Les promesses charlatanesques sont indignes du devin sérieux, qui se renferme dans les limites de possibilités raisonables. En principe: la prédiction de l'avenir ne rentre pas dans les attributions de la divination apollinienne. Elle n'est pas impossible, pas plus que le tir sans appui en plain centre d'une dible, mais un devin scrupuleux préfère ne rien promettre à cette égard. Mieux vaut se baser sur des données existantes. Le consultant peut avoir une décision immédiate à prendre, être sur le point de commettre une erreur: le Tarot peut alors l'aider à débrouiller ses impressions at le mettre sur la voie d'une solution favorable. Le devin ne doit pas s'attacher à rendre son oracle avec trop de précision, afin de ne pas risquer d'y mettre du sien plus qu'il ne convient. L'interprétation des symboles est élastique, et, dans cette élasticité,il se peut que le devin patauge. C'est parfois utile, car, d'instinct, le bon consultant retient ce qui lui met "la puce à l'oreille", et, quand les circonstances le voudront, il sera subitement illuminé sur le sens de l'énigme oraculaire.


One more thing about Introduction to the Study of the Tarot. Weiser, as usual, decided not to use Wirth's elegant engravings of the cards; what they did instead was even worse than what they did with the 1927 book: rather than using the 1966 engravings by someone else, they instead used poor-quality black and white photos of the 1966 colored cards (which at the time Kaplan had just started selling as a pack). The result is not very attractive. Also, they placed four such photos to a page on successive pages. Wirth had arranged it so that small engravings of the cards would be placed right at the point where he is talking about those particular cards in relation to one another. It makes for a great introduction to the cards. Putting them on separate pages, often 2 or 3 pages distant from the text describing them, makes it impossible visually to read the text and see the images at the same time.

I mentioned earlier that Wirth had at the beginning of each section on a card in the 1927 book, his engraving of the card, which Weiser removed, to put in the 1966 versions instead. I said these were the same as the 1889 drawings in Papus's Tarot of the Bohemians. In fact they are not. They are the 1927 versions, minus the geometric shapes around the edges (except in the case of the Popess). Also, I didn't bother to post reproductions of those drawings/engravings. Now I want to post both sets, the 1927 and the 1931. This is just in case anyone feels like doing their own coloring, but also since as far as I know they are not online anywhere yet. Any good image processing program will make the lines more or less thick.

The problem, as far as using these drawings as the basis for cards, is that there are unwanted lines in many of the images, in both sets. They are probably the remains of a rectangle that for some reason the image was superimposed onto. Some engravings are better than others in this regard, so I give both. For each set of four, the 1927 versions, two per scan, are on top and bottom, and a scan of the 1931 four in the middle. They are in the order they appear in chapter 2 of the 1931; that corresponds to the section "Comparing Tetrads" in Chapter 2 of Imagiers. pp. 20-23 of the 2012, pp. 32-35 of the 1985.




Notice here that the alternating dark and light parts of the Hanged Man's costume, present in 1927, has been omitted from the 1931. Also, the frog of the 1931 (and the 1927 colored cards) is in the in the 1927 black and white version a crocodile, as it was in 1889.

Here are the rest. I could not find a 1927 version of the Empress:















The last set, Lovers and Stars, has two rather than four in the 1931 book. Above, the 1927 is on top, the 1931 on the bottom.


Thanks Mike for the meticulous research. Wirth's Tarot has been undergoing something of a rediscovery in France in recent years, with a number of prominent Tarotists making liberal use of his cards and ideas.


That's good to hear. Do you have any recommendations, as far as books to read (in French, I presume).


That's good to hear. Do you have any recommendations, as far as books to read (in French, I presume).

Mike: Sorry for the late reply, I don't know how I missed this.

Offhand, I can only think of a few books, which I can’t really recommend as such, but that is because I am not so interested in the ‘mainstream’ Tarot scene, generic works on Tarot divination or psychology, or the Wirth deck either, for that matter.

As to more concrete recommendations of French materials, I am sending you a PM.