Oldest Tarot Design


This may be a silly question, but something i have wondered about for some time.

I'm currently using the RW deck, which i love. But i was wondering which is the oldest of the deck designs, and if possible can someone show me a site or a source of sample images.

Thanks in advance.


Hi, Yodes --

The Rider-Waite was created in 1909, and is thus a relatively recent development in Tarot history, which goes back to the early 1400s.

Here's a page from Tom Tadfor Little's website which has lots of great information on Tarot history and the oldest decks.

-- Lee



As far as I recall, the deck which most closely reproduces the original Italian gaming deck of the Tarot is the Ancient Tarot of Liguria-Piedmont, which is available from Lo Scarabeo. This deck comes from the 17th Century (about 200 years after the birth of Tarot), but it is from the geographical area where Tarot originated, so it is believed that it follows closely the original drawings, with some blending done from the French decks of that time.

I believe there are some limited pictures of this deck on the Lo Scarabeo website (www.loscarabeo.com)

There may be some additional pictues on some of the review websites.


I was under the impression that the visconti-szforza was the oldest form known. I understand that the cards differ some from the 'standard' Tarot of today and resemble more of a hunting sort of card game don't they?

I /must/ go get my encyclopedia... damn, i'm at work, lol. Will look it up when i get home. :)

Wonderful question, but understand that the origins of Tarot are murky at best and you will come away with many answeres from this. :D


I tohught the one hidden in the Sphynx were the oldest :D


PS Just a Joke


From what I've read (someone here correct me if I'm wrong please) the Visconti deck is the oldest closely followed by the Grimaud and Marseilles.


I thought te VS was oldest too, although from what I've read, ir seems scholars sll aren't fully sure, and there is sill some saying that another deck is first... Ithink its the Cary-Yale maybe... I'll have to go home at some point and find that book.... *Sigh*

Lili: he he... Gave me a laugh! :D

Sorceress_Jade: Lots of peope say that the origias of Traot are murky, but actually, they are quite well-documented, thanks to Mr Kaplan. Of course, it didn't help whe good ole Court De Gebellin decided to pronounce the Tarot an Egyptian invention... That really made things difficult for those wanting to find out the true history of Tarot!



Kiama: isn't the Cary Yale one of the Visconti decks anyway?? :)


i had thought it was the visconti sforza also. i'll be eager to hear what your book has to say kiama. by the way i just noticed that you're almost a sage and a half. lol!


Right, the Visconti-Sforza is the oldest nearly complete one. It's also the earliest one we know of that assumes that familiar 78-card configuration all of us know and love. Only four cards are missing: the Devil, the Tower, Three Swords, and Page of Coins. Lo Scarabeo's 1997 gold edition (available: US Games or on this site) was done by A.A. Atanassov, who copied the Devil and Tower cards he used for replacements from another 15th-century deck. So this would certainly be your earliest and most genuine "golden oldie."

The Cary-Yale pack is also a Visconti deck, and both Kaplan and Michael Dummett have expressed the opinion that it's probably older than the Visconti-Sforza. 1441 And 1450 have been offered as hypothetical respective dates. However, there are problems with the Cary Yale; it appears to have been an 86-card deck (six court cards in each suit including a female page and a female knight), but we can't tell for sure because some of the extant trumps are unfamiliar (Faith, Hope, and Charity). Also, only 67 cards remain, so at least 19 are missing. There is a commercial version available (also through U.S. Games, I think) for which Luigi Scapini did the 19 replacement cards. However, anyone using this deck should be aware that it is at least in part an artist's reconstruction, and not the original article. Some experts think this one was an experimental prototype, and that the Visconti-Sforza is the first pack we can look at and say for sure, "Yeah, that's a real tarot."

C. Boxer

P.S. Liliana: Very funny. People who are serious when they say that sort of thing give me shingles.