Celebrating my website’s tenth anniversary: 174 blog articles and 42 website pages on tarot history, reading with non-scenic pips, and decks of historic significance. Throughout the summer, I’m going to group the most useful articles by topic and send out links in a series of blog posts.
The Piedmont region has one of the oldest tarot traditions in Italy. Its geographic location made it the crossroads where the playing card traditions of Italy and eastern France mingled. Below are articles on the Piedmont tradition and reviews of individual decks.
A collector recently discovered a trove of uncut sheets of tarot and playing cards that have been sitting in Turin’s archives of since the mid-19th century. Giordano Berti has given new life to one of these forgotten decks by transforming the black and white uncut sheets into the beautifully colored Tarocchi Orientali.
The deck was created by Claudio Foudraz, a lithographer working in Turin in the mid-19th century. As an all-purpose lithographer he printed business cards, invitations, ads and art prints. Foudraz’s tarot deck was useless for game playing because of mistakes in the numbering, which the current edition corrects, so it probably never reached the market. Read more
Giordano Berti, who brought us the historically important Vergnano and Sola Busca decks, has done it again, producing a small print run of a virtually unknown deck. The Tarocchi Perrin, originally printed in Turin, is a delightfully unique deck that’s heavily influenced by Dellarocca’s soprafino design. Read more
Piedmont-style tarot has been on my mind lately, with decks and information popping up unexpectedly. Toward the bottom I’ve listed links to the six blog posts I’ve done so far on Piemontese decks.
I recently saw one of Lo Scarabeo’s reprints of Guala’s 1860 deck for sale online. I was tempted to round out my Piedmont collection, but it was the version with card names in four languages on a wide border at the bottom of each card. This ruined it for me. Since the deck was over-priced, I think the seller was mistaking it for one of the better versions without the extra border. Read more
Etteilla, tarot super-star of mid-1700s Paris, claimed he studied tarot from 1757 to 1765 at the urging of “an aged Piedmontese”. In his memoirs, a Parisian actor who was Etteilla’s contemporary, describes visiting Italian fortune tellers in Paris. It’s not a stretch to imagine Etteilla learning card reading from one of them.
If this elderly Piemontese teacher was in his 60s in 1757, then he was born a little before 1700. He may have learned to read tarot in his youth in the 1720s from a teacher who could have learned the cards around 1680. This would make Etteilla the bridge to a very old Italian card reading tradition. Read more
I’m totally enchanted by Osvaldo Menegazzi’s latest production, a handcrafted facsimile of a Piedmont-style deck from the late 19th century. The deck was originally printed by Strambo in the town of Varallo on the Sesia River in eastern Piedmont.
The cards have a charming, folk art feel with deep, rich colors printed on smooth card stock that feels very nice to shuffle. At 2.5 x 4.5 inches (6.5 x 11.5 cm) they are a bit smaller than standard cards but not small enough to be called a mini deck.
The deck is housed in a very sturdy, handmade box covered with dark-brown marbled paper. A Fool card is pasted on the cover and finished with red sealing wax. Inside, there’s a folded paper with standard Il Meneghello divinatory meanings. In addition, there’s a very brief discussion of the Piemontese style in English and Italian, and a title card with a handwritten number. Read more