Golden Tarot: The Visconti-Sforza Deck (Anglais) Broché – 21 mars 2013
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The cards in this set come in their own black box, stamped with The Moon card on front and the back of the cards on the back. The label "The Visconti-Sforza Deck"is written in a matte golden color on the lid.
The cards are 6.5 " x 3.25", and together these make a deck 1.25" tick. The back of these card is almost reversible, but the repetitive golden leaf motif on red background is oriented towards the top of the card. The front of the cards are bordered golden, with a red or brown frame around the image. The cards feel slick on the back and maybe a bit more textured on the front.
I take that the matte golden border is what the description refers to as "gold metallic ink". There are no golden metallic effects on the actual edge of the cards as seen on some luxurious Tarot decks. To be honest, I wasn't expecting one for the price, but I was hoping that the cards were at least 6" long judging from the size of the external box.
Since this is my first Visconti-Sforza deck, I could only compare the images on these cards to others over the internet, and these look good. If I look closely, it seems that the images were reproduced from photos of original artwork as I can perceive a canvas like pattern on them. Also, the edge of some images are not well defined at times, similar as having a painting on a cloth.
In addition, many of the cards have their images off centered, some more pronounced than others. I could only count 20 that were centered. In close inspection, I noticed that many of the off centered images were in fact not quite as rectangular as the card itself.
One final thing to note is the quality of the card-stock. They seem not quite as good as cards from main tarot makers, but they are sturdy and may hold their own with light to normal use.
The included book is a 6.5" x 5.25" hard cover; black with glossy black vine-like designs. Written by Mary Packard, this book is only 144 pages long, but is fully illustrated with color pictures. The book is organized as follows:
Chapter 1: History
Chapter 2: The Divine Tarot
Chapter 3: The Road to Wisdom
Chapter 4: The Trumps
Chapter 5: The Four Suits
Chapter 6: The Tarot Journey
The forward is written by Robert M. Place.
Chapters 1 to 3 are used to present a very brief history of the Visconti-Sforza deck, and the Tarot cards from card game to divination tool and most modern use as tool for enlightenment.
In Chapter 4, the trumps are presented one each two pages, one page for the picture of the trump and another, for another for card name in English and Italian, description, upright phrase and key words and reversed key words.
In Chapter 5, the pips are presented two or three per page, with card picture, name, brief description, upright and reversed phrases and keywords. However, the court cards are presented one per page with card picture, name, brief description, upright and reversed phrases and keywords.
In Chapter 6, a few spreads are presented with an example, including: The Three-Card Spread, The Five-Card Spread and The Celtic Cross.
I found the book entertaining, but nothing spectacular. Similar to what I would expect of a Little White Book. However, it may serve as a starting point for research for some.
This set also include a purple satin cloth for laying the cards. This cloth is 18" by 18", but otherwise plain. Nice, but nothing special to talk about.
The cards, book and cloth are stored in a black box, decorated with a glossy black vine-like patterns as seen on the book. As such, this box is as elegant as advertised. The top is held in place with magnetic closure and snap into place when you close it. The box holds side-by-side the deck and book. The satin cloth is placed behind the book, folded inside an insert box.
Overall, I found good value in this set, but keep in mind that:
1) I didn't own any previous Visconti-Sforza decks
2) I wanted this deck for contemplation of the imagery and
3) I wanted to add a Visconti-Sforza deck to my Tarot collection.
Race Point Publishing is a new company with a very specific mission. They publish the sort of books that just don't work on your Kindle. Children's books, art books, craft books and cookbooks - books you must touch, see and feel are their specialty. Tarot is obviously a good fit for them. I believe the Golden Tarot is their only tarot offering so far.
The look and feel of the Golden Tarot makes me hope they will publish more decks soon. The deck and book set comes in a large display box. Inside the box is the tarot deck in its own box, a lovely hardcover book and a purple layout cloth in a cardboard sleeve. The set retails for $30.00. This is an amazingly low price given the high quality of the set.
The cards themselves are lovely. Most tarotists know that the Visconti-Sforza is one of the oldest and most complete tarot decks in existence. Given its importance in tarot history it makes sense that there should be a variety of Visconti-Sforza Decks available to us.
The original Visconti-Sforza is missing four cards; the Tower, the Devil, the Three of Swords and Knight of Coins. In order to be usable, a reproduction of Visconti-Sforza needs to include replacements for these cards. The replacement cards in the Golden Tarot fit in beautifully with the rest of the deck. In fact, the Golden Tarot seems much more usable to me than my other Visconti-Sforza reproduction deck. The cards feel good in my hands. The images are clear and easy to understand. For those who prefer to read with a deck that has non-illustrated pips the Golden Tarot will be a worthy choice.
Even more than the lovely and workable deck, the real jewel in this set is the book by Mary Packard. It turns out having a professional writer research and report the story of the Visconti-Sforza tarot was a brilliant move. Every tarotist has their own opinion of tarot history and interpretation. Mary Packard is able to tell the story in a fresh way that honors current historical understanding. Packard is a clear, smart writer who shows respect for her subject matter.
The hardcover 144-page book is lovely, nicely illustrated and well-made. Tarotists will be pleased to see that it carries a forward from our own Robert M. Place. There are six chapters in the book that cover everything from the history of the deck to traditional interpretations for each card and tarot spreads with believable sample readings.
Of particular interest to me are discussions of the characters and symbols depicted in the cards. It pleases me to know that the characters on the Lovers card are thought to be Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, for instance.
I started my journey into the Golden Tarot wondering why such a deck was needed, and what value it would bring to tarot. After spending some time with the Golden Tarot I see it as a laudable contribution to the world of tarot. Whether your interest is history, art or divination the Golden Tarot will be an appreciated addition to your tarot collection.
The book that accompanies the deck is decent too, though it would be better if Packard cited her sources more rigorously. The section on Tarot's origins in the triumphal parades of Renaissance Italy doesn't even mention Gertrude Moakley, the first to spot that connection, and Packard's oblique note that "there is some evidence that Tarot cards had been used for divination during the Renaissance" practically *screams* for a footnote. (The question of when tarot cards were first used for divination is a divisive one: the best evidence that I know of for early use was presented by Glenn Wright, under the pen name "Jess Karlin," and if Packard had his work in mind then she ought to have credited him by name. On the other side of the argument are scholars like Michael Dummett, who claim categorically that tarot had no occult association until the latter eighteenth century. This kind of question might seem unnecessarily detailed or fussy for an introductory text, but if the issue is brought up then readers should at least be given a pointer to books or websites where they can get the full explanation.) The bibliography is very short and only lists a bunch of modern stuff, no info at all on the important historical texts.
However, all that said, Packard does a good job of hitting the important points about early tarot -- the fact that it was created as a game, but that the symbolism is much older, with brief glosses on Hermetic mysticism, alchemy, and neoplatonism. A lot of this info is necessarily oversimplified, and again, footnotes and a decent bibliography would have made a big difference.
Five stars for the deck itself.
Regarding "authenticity" people should be aware though that these are NOT the cards from the Pierpoint Morgan Visconti Tarot that were taken from actual photographs of the original items, the cards in this set are redesigned digital approximations of Morgan cards. The re-imaging and repainting of the Morgan images that come with this package is open for debate and personal taste, some will love them and some will hate them and while some of the fine details have been clarified others have either been changed or removed completely with all the faces having been changed to look more "Jolly" than the sometimes dour expressions on the Pierpoint Morgan cards.
Being lucky enough to own a set first edition of Pierpoint Morgan cards I would say that in some respects the embellishment on this version enhances them but also takes away a great deal in regards to the "Emotional Feel" of the cards while the four "Missing" cards in this set are completely different to the ones that were commissioned for the Morgan set so please be aware of this before purchase to avoid being disappointed. Personally I like this version of the Visconte cards and I am glad that this publisher hasn't coated them in an inch of glossy resin so no sunglasses are necessary when reading with these and they don't shoot out of your hand in Fifty different directions never to be seen again..
The book itself is also a High quality product giving a brief outline of the Visconte family and the circumstances that brought the cards into being. However that being said this book is not for people with delicate sensibilities because it also exposes a lot of the late Eighteenth Century fraud claiming that Tarot cards were from Egypt so be discerning whom this is given to (I'v seen people having to be scraped off the ceiling because of the uncomfortable truth about the Egyips origins fraud).
My only disappointment is in the quality of the cards. The card stock is not of the same quality as that of US Games, for example. They may bend/crease more easily and may be difficult to clean. This may be more of an inspirational keepsake set than a set designed for daily use.
I would recommend these cards for the following reasons. These are a historically accurate representation of how Tarot cards began. The hardcover book is a nice reference book one could use during readings if needed. It is small and discrete. Finally, for the thought that went into the creation of this attractive set at an affordable price.