For over four centuries, every Italian playing card was handcrafted with rivoltini borders. These are created by gluing backing paper onto the card, folding the four sides over to the front, then gluing the borders down. Now, for the first time in over a century, we can obtain a tarot deck made with this labor-intensive, traditional method.
For this production, Marco Benedetti has reprinted his Dalla Torre Tarocco Bolognese, which was published in 2020. He added hand-crafted rivoltini borders, and packaged the deck in his signature custom-made wooden box. This deck is a partially restored facsimile of a nearly complete 17th-century Tarocchini in the Bibliothèque Nationale Française.
Announcing a Fiorentine Minchiate deck produced by Marco Cesare Benedetti of Rome, Italy. The strong lines, rich colors and expressive faces make this limited edition deck very readable. Before I get into specifics of Benedetti’s deck, let’s get clear on what a Minchiate deck is and how it differs from tarot.
The Visconti-Sforza deck is a hybrid mash-up of sixty-eight original cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo about 1450, six cards that were created by a different artist around 1475, and four cards that are still missing and have to be recreated by a contemporary artist whenever the deck is republished. Marco Benedetti has never been happy with the ten replacement cards, and dreamt for years of creating his own version of these cards that would enhance the deck rather than detract from it. This deck brings his personal vision into fruition. By drawing on other works by Bembo for most of the replacement cards, he has revived the deck’s original spirit.
Marco Benedetti and myself in a conversation moderated by Justin Michael. We talk about tarot’s Italian origins and show off lots of decks from our collections. Here’s a chance to see historic deck facsimiles, as well as Marco’s recreations of rare Italian decks.
This is a kick-off video to Justin’s Tarot Through the Ages series. He’s got some interesting things coming up that will introduce a new audience to tarot’s roots. Be sure to check out Justin’s Titans of Tarot series where he interviews luminaries like Robert Place, Vincent Pitisci, and Rachel Pollack.
I’ve always been intrigued by the few remnants of fifteenth-century block-printed decks that still exist. They hold tantalizing clues to the early days of tarot, so I’m thrilled that there are three versions of the block-printed Budapest deck on the market. Shown here from left to right are the Fool and Judgment cards by Robert Place, Sullivan Hismans and Marco Benedetti.
Twenty-five years ago, Marco Benedetti painted a heavenly homage to the Visconti-Sforza deck in tempera on gold leaf. A few years ago, he offered his deck to the public on Gamecrafter, and as a custom printed gold-leaf deck. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his original deck, he is offering both the original deck and an updated 25th anniversary edition on Gamecrafter and as a custom printed gold deck. Both Gamecraafter decks come with additional cards, so you really get two decks in one. There are several options for customizing the gold deck., which I discuss toward the bottom. First, let’s compare the two Gamecrafter versions.
In fifteenth-century Italy, wealthy aristocrats indulged themselves with luxurious, hand painted, gold-embossed Trionfi decks. The decks came in two distinct families: those commissioned by the Visconti and Sforza Dukes of Milan in the International Gothic style; and Renaissance-style decks created most likely in either Ferrara or Florence. The so-called Charles VI deck, with 16 trump cards, is the most complete deck of the Florentine pattern. Other decks of this type have only a handful of trump cards. Benedetti compiled a complete 78-card deck by cobbling together all the existing cards in the Florentine style. A few absent cards had to be recreated, while several cards exist as duplicates. Benedetti includes the duplicate trump cards with his recreated deck, for a total of 90 cards.
Here’s a deck that not only looks like the fifteenth century, but feels like the fifteenth century: I Tarocchi Rosenwald restored by Marco Benedetti, with hand-folded paper borders (Bordi Rivoltinati). Benedetti glues backing paper to each card, clips the corners then folds the borders to the front using traditional checkered paper. Every Italian playing card was made with this labor-intensive technique from the fifteenth century to the 1930s.
The Al Mondo Tarocchino is one of very few Bolognese-style decks to survive from earlier centuries with all cards intact. This deck comes to us from a narrow slice of time—after 1725 when Bolognese decks were required to have four Moors, and before the 1760s when double-headed figures became standard. The British Museum has the only copy of the Al Mondo deck in existence. Marco Cesare Benedetti has obtained the rights to reproduce twenty facsimiles. See deck details and purchasing information at the end.
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. Read more
Click History for an illustrated story of Tarot's invention and development. The Cartomancy section teaches you how to read with historic decks. For an in-depth exploration of each trump card look in the Iconography section. The Blog has short articles on tarot books and decks, tips on card reading, and tarot in art and fiction.