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A Jumbo Tarot de Marseille

I’ve been wanting an oversized Tarot de Marseille for a long time but wasn’t sure one even existed. When someone on Facebook posted a link to such a deck on Amazon, I clicked the “buy now” button sight-unseen.

When the deck arrived, I was delighted to discover it’s a facsimile of a 1760 Conver deck originally printed in Marseille and reproduced by Bounty Books.

Before Yves Reynaud, Osvaldo Menegazzi and others started producing facsimiles of rare TdMs, the gold standard for historic facsimiles was another deck printed by Conver in 1760 published in France by Heron. (The Heron box dates their deck to 1761, but 1760 is stamped on the Two of Coins).

Both the Heron and the Bounty Books decks were printed by Conver in 1760 using the same woodblocks. Let’s compare the two.

Conver KnightThe Heron cards have faint, delicate lines. I used to think this was from old, worn woodblocks; or perhaps the deck itself had faded. But it appears that’s how the blocks were inked. The delicate lines show details on the faces clearly. The colors were stenciled on more carefully than on the Bounty Books deck. The delicate lines are often completely obscured by the colored ink — see the red bowl of the Knight’s cup.

On the Bounty Books deck, the inked lines are much darker and heavier. Sometimes they run together and obscure facial details. The colors are more intense, and it appears an effort was made to juxtapose sharply contrasting colors. The stenciling is sloppier than on the Heron deck — see the horse’s hooves and the Knight’s red shoe. In this deck, the hair is left uncolored on all the court cards and many trump figures.

Conver in holderI often do three-card readings with just the suit cards then take their sum to get a trump card as the theme of the reading (see this article on reading trump and suit card combinations). With two deck sizes the trump card from this oversize deck can loom over the smaller cards like a guardian. I used my smallest deck in this illustration, a Claude Burdel TdM published by Lo Scarabeo. See this article for putting layouts in card holders.

Same year, same woodblocks, same print shop; two decks with an entirely different look.

The Bounty Books deck is 5.75 x 3.25 inches; the Heron deck is 4.25 x 2.25 inches; the Burdel is 3.0 x 1.75 inches. The Bounty Books deck comes in a sturdy box with a removable top. The LWB is useless. The few paragraphs of history are execrable, and they give no information about the original deck.

  • The Tarot Deck. Bounty Books, London, 2007.
  • Tarot de Marseille Conver 1760. Heron, Bordeaux, n/d. (@1980 according to Kaplan)
  • Tarot of Marseille, Lo Scarabeo, Torino, 2008

 

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Adam West-Watson #

    The Bounty Books edition is actully a reproduction of Camoin’s 1960 200th anniversary printing of the Conver deck, made from THE ORIGINAL WOOD BLOCKS! The blocks were basically worn out by then and that is why the black lines are thicker, with chunks missing etc. And yes the colours were not only sloppier, they were different
    and there were fewer of them. Even my 1880 Camoin Conver is really roughly printed, with a different colour pallet again.

    January 29, 2016
    • Adam, thanks so much for this information. It puts the deck in a different light. It would have been nice if the publisher had included this information in their miserable LWB. Did Bounty Books/Octopus Publishers produce this deck with Camoin’s permission, or is it pirated?

      January 29, 2016

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