Where to See Historic Decks Online
Short reviews with scans of several cards for each deck. Mostly contemporary but numerous historic decks as well.
Adam McLean is creating a searchable database of his 2500 card collection, with scans of a few cards from each deck. Mostly limited edition contemporary decks, but there must be some historic facsimiles in the mix. He also publishes very limited edition decks and has a series of 25 PDFs that discuss tarot as art.
Huge collection of traditional tarot decks organized by region and type. Background on playing card history and regional development.
See all 22 trumps of several rare TdMs from the early 1700s. Yves Reynaud has created limited edition facsimiles of four decks.
Guido Gillabel’s collection of over 2500 decks. Samples of many of his decks can be seen on the website.
The Historical Tarot Decks section of this page has links to tarot collections in museums around the world: British Museum, Yale U., France’s National Library, Budapest Museum, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and others.
Simon Wintle’s encyclopedic website that covers historic playing cards, tarot and divination decks.
Where to Read about Tarot History Online
A good place to ask questions about tarot history.
Forum for sharing research and asking questions about tarot history. Bianca’s Garden Room has a thread for discussing the iconography of each trump card. The Research Room has a huge number of topics on early tarot history.
Website of Jean-Michel David, author of Reading the Tarot de Marseille. The Association of Tarot Studies has folded, but all the newsletter articles have been archived. A wide range of topics including tarot history.
Links to at least 150 articles by playing card researcher Franco Pratesi. Many articles on the earliest playing cards and tarot.
French website focused on the Tarot de Marseille. The author has controversial ideas linking tarot with the Medici’s Florentine Academy. List of links to the French artisans who are creating facsimiles of historic decks.
Ross Caldwell’s articles on early tarot history and iconography.
Andrea Vitali is the president of L’Associazione Culturale Le Tarot and an expert in medieval popular culture and its relationship to tarot. The website has a huge number of essays on tarot and literature, tarot’s cultural context, history, magic, and essays on each trump card. The site is in both English and Italian.
The Tarot History and Research category focuses mostly on cartomancy, Lenormand and P.C. Smith. Earlier posts focus more on early tarot history. Here are links to specific articles of interest:
How Tarot Decks are Made links to a video showing how woodblock decks were made in the 15th century.
The Visconti Tarots takes a close look at these decks and asserts that the Zavattari Brothers, not Bembo painted the Visconti’s decks.
John McLeod’s encyclopedic website devoted to card games. Search for games by country, type of suit, number of players, purpose of the game. The link provided here seems to be the main tarot site which has links to further resources.
Michael J. Hurst, miscellaneous articles on tarot history and iconography.
A massive forum with many special-interest message boards. Tarot History & Development section has discussion threads on many historic topics. Marseille and Other Early Decks deals with iconography, how to read, discussions of books and decks. If you are a paid subscriber, you can participate in a reading exchange using the TdM.
A well-illustrated history of early tarot with links to online museum collections.
Many articles on fifteenth-century tarot. Promotes the theory that the deck originally had 14 trump cards.
Italian site for traditional card games. The Accademia del Tre section has articles on playing card history and links to old texts referencing card games and Tarot from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many of the articles are by Andrea Vitali.
Designed as a supplement to the book: A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack by Michael Dummett and John McLeod
Illustrated history of Tarot with links to specific decks. History section has articles on the oldest playing cards.
Where to Buy Historic Decks
See a list on the Cartomancy Resources page.
Decker, Ronald, Thierry DePaulis and Michael Dummett. A Wicked Pack of Cards: The Origins of the Occult Tarot. St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
Tarot meets the French occultists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Indispensable for understanding how Tarot became a metaphysical tool.
Decker, Paul, and Michael Dummett. A History of Occult Tarot 1870-1970. Duckworth, 2002.
Sequel to the above book. Takes Tarot to the English speaking world. Much on the Golden Dawn, Mathers, and A.E. Waite.
Dummett, Michael. The Game of Tarot: From Ferrara to Salt Lake City. Duckworth, 1980.
Detailed study of Tarot as a game and a deck of cards. Out of print and rare.
Dummett, Michael and John McLeod. A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack. Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.
A two-volume update and expansion of Dummett’s book listed above.
Giles, Cynthia. The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore. Paragon House, 1994.
The history chapter is probably the best in any Tarot book written for a general audience.
Huson, Paul. Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Destiny Books 2004.
Very important and accessible history. Puts Tarot’s origins where they belong in the popular culture and street theater of the middle ages. Compendium of divinatory meanings from a range of historic sources.
Kaplan, Stuart R. Encyclopedia of Tarot Volumes I and II, US Games Systems. Stamford CT., 1978 and 1986.
The first two volumes of this four volume set contain black & white photos of possibly every historic deck, and fragments of decks, in existence. Extensive discussions of the Visconti and Sforza families and their tarot decks. An indispensable resource.
Parlatt, David. Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford U Press, 1990.