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Reading Minchiate Cards with Brian Williams

This is turning out to be Minchiate Month! Marco Benedetti just published a restored and recolored Fiorentine Minchiate which I reviewed here last week. A few recent videos feature this deck. Links to everything are at the bottom.

What if you want to read with this expanded tarot deck? What resources will help with card interpretations, especially those unfamiliar cards like Charity, Prudence, or the Eastern Emperor? Two books by the late art historian Brian Williams are indispensable for studying the iconography of both Tarot and Minchiate.

In 1999, Williams created a Minchiate deck, faithful to the original, in his restrained classical style. The book that accompanies his deck is invaluable for understanding both the Minchiate and traditional tarot. All forty trump cards receive an in-depth discussion laced with quotes from the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, Ovid and others. Illustrations of classical and renaissance art, as well as historic tarot and minchiate cards, are rendered in Williams’ meticulous line drawings. Every illustration is accompanied by detailed notes on its symbolism. The divinatory meanings for each card are practical and useful.

Williams’ Renaissance Tarot deck is accompanied by a book with the same format as the Minchiate. The Renaissance book emphasizes classical myth as interpreted by Renaissance artists and poets which underlies much of tarot imagery. Having numerous examples of each trump card reproduced in line drawings on one page makes this an excellent general reference for cards from the 15th and 16th centuries.

I highly recommend both of these books. I refer to them constantly when I’m researching early Italian decks. Both book and deck sets are available online at a reasonable price.

Brian Williams was a specialist in Renaissance art who created four tarot decks, led tours of Italy for tarot enthusiasts, and was a shining light in the international tarot community. He produced his Tarot and Minchiate decks in the 1990s, at a time when the Waite Smith bubble had isolated most Americans from historic European tarot. His first deck was the edgy and contemporary PoMo Tarot, based on 19th and 20th century art. The Ship of Fools Tarot draws on Sebastian Brant’s woodcuts in the book of the same name from 1494.

I never met Brian Williams, but I can feel the void created by his death in 2002 at age 43. He had so much more to contribute; but his name will live on in the decks and books he left us.

See more of Marco Benedetti’s Minchiate deck on his facebook page
My review of Benedetti’s Minchiate deck
Justin Michael interviews Marco Benedetti about the Minchiate deck
Marilyn from Tarot Clarity does a past life reading with the Minchiate.

Williams, Brian. The Minchiate Tarot. Destiny Books, Vermont, 1999.
Williams, Brian. The Renaissance Tarot. U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT, 1994

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Marilyn from Tarot Clarity LLC #

    Thank you very much for this review. I’ve been on the fence about buying this set because I’m not attracted to the deck and I decided to wait to see what you had to say about it. I’ve heard a few favorable things about it and I’m glad you all agree that it’s a good source. I’ll be reading it in a few days. I’d also like to thank you for mentioning my YouTube videos using Marco’s deck. That was very generous of you. ~ Marilyn

    June 16, 2022
  2. Wyoming Wynne #

    What a lovely tribute to Brian Williams. I’ve recently received both books and decks. The books are excellent, and I know the decks are not to everyone’s taste, but they make a lovely pairing and I feel like they have his voice. I feel blessed to have found his work through the generous tutelage of people like yourself, Marilyn, Justin and the rest of the tarot community. Thank you!

    June 16, 2022
    • I’m so glad you found his books and decks. Since they were published over 20 years ago, I’m surprised at how easy they are to find. Best of luck with your tarot journey.

      June 16, 2022

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