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Reading the Marseille Tarot by Jean-Michel David

Reading the Marseille Tarot by Jean-Michel David

If you want to learn how to read with the Tarot de Marseille while immersing yourself in tarot’s early history, this is the book for you. The heart of the book is an in-depth examination of each trump card accompanied by a web of historic associations illustrated with numerous examples of medieval and renaissance art. The book features the 1650 Noblet deck restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy, but each chapter offers illustrations of numerous decks for comparison; so the book works easily with any TdM.

I especially appreciate how the author enlarges card details to discuss their symbolism. There’s a grid showing the crowns of every aristocratic rank in many European countries, so you can see if the Kings and Queens in your deck are wearing them. Another plate extracts the profiles of various court and trump figures, giving unique insights into their character when viewed out of context.

Chapters on court cards, the number cards, reading tips and spreads are interspersed throughout the book. David encourages us to examine each card’s image closely and let the card itself reveal its message before applying meanings from external systems such as alchemy or numerology. But the author doesn’t completely discount other systems. In separate chapters, he discusses the four elements, alchemy, numerology, and astrology as illustrated by the Children of the Planets.

Instead of overlaying the court cards with modern personality types, the author shows us how to encourage the court cards to talk about themselves, their family and community. This is accompanied by a fascinating storytelling exercise with prompts on working with the story to illuminate your own family and childhood issues.

David lays out his Dynamic Hexagram Spread which he presented several years ago on It’s now a favorite on the Tarot de Marseilles reading exchange there. He also provides a six-card cross spread that shows what happens when the drive to do something encounters the realities of your life, and his own approach to the Celtic Cross, showing lines of influence running between the cards.

Working through this book slowly, with your own Tarot de Marseilles deck at hand, could easily transform how you read with historic decks.

The book can be purchased at as a PDF to download, or as an oversized paperback (11.5 x 8.5 inches, 535 pages).


8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Argenta #

    I bought this one from Lulu, but it got stuck in my ex’s computer, because I used it for download and now I can’t have it 😦 What to do?

    May 4, 2014
  2. Hi Sherryl,

    I bought this book in the digital copy as well as the large in-the-flesh tome. You are right, it will transform the way we read historic tarot’s. I just love it. I also appreciate that I don’t require “readers” when reading it. Some of the fonts in books are so smalll that they can be difficult to read and this can really rob you of enjoying a book. Everything about this book was well done. Your article inspired me to buy it and I am glad I did.


    August 18, 2018
    • Victoria, I’m so happy this article inspired you to get the book. It’s one of the classics.

      August 19, 2018
  3. I have this book – it really is BIG! Also one of my go-to Marseille books – thank you for the review!

    July 22, 2021
    • Yes, the book is a monster. The Game of Tarot by Michael Dummett is the same size and might be heavier.

      July 22, 2021
  4. Dave Garcia #

    Hi! Are the photos inside the book color or black and white?

    April 27, 2022
    • Black and white. I’ve been told the digital version has good quality color photos.

      April 27, 2022

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