Nicolas Rolichon Tarot Recreated by Marco Benedetti
This phantom of the tarot world is possibly the earliest Tarot de Marseille we know of. The only traces of the Rolichon tarot’s existence are a brief listing in an 1851 French auction catalog, and reproductions of thirty-five cards in the July 1919 edition of the Larousse Mensuel magazine. The deck itself has disappeared, so Benedetti’s careful recreation is a wonderful opportunity to experience this important piece of tarot history.
Dating the Deck
A close examination of the cards reproduced in the magazine shows the Rolichon is nearly identical to both the Jean Dodal tarot printed in Lyon before 1715, and the Payen tarot printed in Avignon in 1713. Rolichon contains details from both decks, and may represent an early tarot tradition focused in eastern France.
The Two of Coins reproduced in the magazine identifies the printer and his city, but unfortunately, not the date. A Rolichon family of card makers was registered in Lyon from 1570 to 1670. If this deck was printed no later than 1670, then it’s by far the earliest standard TdM we know of.
The Rolichon tarot follows the TdM I pattern closely, and may show us what the TdM looked like before it diverged into the standard TdM II pattern in the early 18th century. (If you need a reminder of the difference between the TdM I and II patterns, click the link at the end of this article).
The Restoration by Marco Benedetti
Fortunately, the 1919 illustrations show all the trumps and a careful selection of suit cards: each court rank, an example of each suit symbol, and all four aces.
Benedetti worked from the original 1919 magazine and drew on both the Dodal and Payen decks to recreate ten court and thirty-one pip cards. The color scheme in both decks is identical, so Benedetti re-created the historic colors in a rich palette inspired by Jean-Claude Flornoy’s hand painted decks.
Here are some of my favorite cards. I really appreciate the subdued deep red and antique gold of the pips. On the Ace of Swords, it looks like the tips of two gold fountain pens are emerging from the palm leaf on the right. Dodal has this same feature. The Moon’s face looks like a plump lunar goddess. The dolphins in many decks are fierce and dragon-like. These happy creatures remind me of dolphins playing in the surf in the Santa Barbara Channel. The variety of facial expressions are one of the best features of this deck. You can see a sample at the bottom of this article.
Obtaining a deck
Gamecrafter has an inexpensive standard deck, 2.75 x 4.75 inches, on bright white paper in a tuck box. Unlike other historic decks, Rolichon’s unique width to height ratio allows it to be printed without distortion on Gamecrafter’s standard card stock.
Ordering a deck directly from Benedetti gives a unique opportunity to customize your deck with a choice of two sizes: Standard 60 x 105 mm, or Mini 50 x 90 mm (2 x 3.5 inches). He offers a range of paper selections: 300 gpm cotton paper either textured or smooth, in natural (light cream) or bright (soft white). Or, you can choose standard playing card stock, coated or uncoated, at 250 or 300 gpm. The cards that illustrate this article are mini size in textured natural cotton. The weight of the textured cotton is substantial, but the cards are flexible, and have a pleasant, smooth feel. The texture is subtle and does not blur the lines or soften the rich colors.
As with all Benedetti’s decks, it’s housed in his trademark handmade wooden box (optional) that’s personalized on the inside cover.
Email email@example.com to order a customized deck.
See the entire deck and read more background history.
Benedetti’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarcoBenedettiTarot/
See the Larousse magazine illustrations, a size comparison of the cards, plus all his other decks.
My reviews of Benedetti’s decks:
Illustrated guide to the difference between the TdM I and TdM II
The Rolichon Queens