Size of the cards?


The cards as we know them are 12 cms by 6 cms.

Which makes two perfect squares. 6cm by 6cm.

Were these the size of the original cards? Does anyone know what is the size of the cards that are found the museums?

When did people start measuring with centimeters? If they were using them when Tarot cards started getting printed, then surely they didn't use this size just by accident?

Does it have something to do with sacred geometry? (A Google Search talks about 6 by 6 being the Magic Square of the Sun.... but then why would there be two of them?)


history on length standard the meter.
centimeters came into being when the meter was divided in 100 equal pieces, have a look at page 3 of this pdf file.

i havent got a clue to your questions about the why of these sizes.


edited for info that is not relevant anymore.


A little searching indicates e.g. the Visconti-Sforza of US games (Pierpont-Morgan) claims to be dimension of the original i.e. 9.0 x 17.6 cm. But perhaps this is at cross purposes to the question? ;)

I suppose most cards are about 12 cm high? The ratio of dimensions of most decks seems to be a shade under 2:1 - usually something like 1.95 : 1 - and indeed as V-S above! The cards could then be cut from a square? A deck with specific geometry is the Barrett AE, which is "fatter" at 2:3 - A bit like the Thoth! But then Barrett does use e.g. the Golden number (1.618) elsewhere in his design...

Despite that, I still prefer tall slim, cards - Something I too once aspired? :p



Kaz: I meant 12 by 6!!! I edited my post!


Major Tom: Llewellyn are not historically oriented. I would like to know the size of the original cards.... because I have a strong hunch that this was extremely significant. In those days, people lived with the magic of numbers more than we do today.

Major Tom


I did a Google search using 'historical tarot size' and found this link:

It mentions the following sizes:

"The cards of the Pierpont-Morgan deck measure about 85 x 175 mm. (3¼ x 7 in.), the Brera-Brambilla deck is about the same size, 80 x 178 mm., while the Cary-Yale tarot is even larger, 90 x 190 mm. (3½ x 7½ in.)."

These are the Visconti type decks. There doesn't appear to have been a standard size at the outset.

And of course, we have to remember that metres didn't come into use until much later.

Hope this helps.


Thanks Major Tom...

I haven't had a chance to further check on this, but suspect that it was not so much any specific measurement which was hinted at, but the proportions.

Interestingly, and depending on how one considers the size of the cards (given the borders), the double-square suggested seems to certainly have been possible. I realise that Camoin also mentions this, and no doubt some decks may have consciously been guided by such geometry. Similarly, however, other decks were unlikely to.

Personally, and though I have long preferred Golden Rectangle proportions over the double-square in sacred geometrical considerations, I think that the double square/double cube proportions allows for a certain sacred geometry with more hidden proportions (5^(1/2) & 6^(1/2), for example). It is also worth noting that in some very early Masonic rituals, the Lodge room (or Temple) is described as a doublecube. The double cube seems to also have been used in the construction of Mediaeval Cathedrals.

The measurements given by Tom each approximate the double square, and it would be interesting to relook at the measurements with not so much the cards, but their contained images being measured.


Trigono has card dimensions

and a short history of Visconti style decks.

If you are looking about 1440-1450, there's a mix of High Gothic designs in the cathedrals and the building of beautiful domes. I think you are feeling something in the proportions and symmetry of cathedrals and other art forms also influenced the painting of minatures and secular arts.

Here's a start:

But what I think what you are after might be this:

Best wishes in your searches. My guess is the blends of many recovered knowledge areas and Milanese card patterns did come after 1494 in France--all the French periodic invasions of Italy after that time showed quite a bit of cross-cultural mix in card patterns. (I'm generalizing--I may have misread Dummett's Visconti Sforza card book).

I think by 1760, one or two of the Italian cruder woodcut card patterns had French titles (Liguria Piedmont? Ancient Tarots of Bologna?). By then, French cardmakers probably had many of the interesting variations, until my favorite Di Gumppenberg line started in 1806...

Sorry if I wandered. Hope the links help.

Mari H.