Tarot de Marseille was for me love at first sight. The rough and at times awkward images of this deck, are for me extremely evocative and they trigger my imagination like no other deck. Download here your free printable tarot cards.
Of course, there is the problem of the pip cards.
They are not illustrated like in later decks and, although very beautiful, they are not easy to interpret.
You can always evade the problem by limiting the tarot reading to the Major Arcana but I find that in this case the reading may lack of subtlety.
Nevertheless the tarot de Marseille is the quintessential tarot and so basic that it deserve a place in any collection.
The most antique tarot cards were developed in northern Italy at the beginning of the fifteenth century where they were mainly used as playing cards, although there is evidence that they were also popular for fortune telling.
The tarot card games were trick-taking games, ancestors of the modern bridge.
The tarot deck consisted of five suits: four were similar to the suits found in a modern poker deck.
These four suits included numeric pip cards from one to ten plus the court cards.
The tarot cards deck though, has a fifth suit, made of a collection of symbolic images.
These images of the fifth suit are atout or trump cards and were later called Major Arcana by occultists, when the cards began to be consistently designed and used for divination.
In many antique tarot cards the trump cards were unlabeled, unnumbered and greatly varied in number.
Many of the antique decks that arrived to our times are incomplete and for this reason we will never know for sure how many cards were originally in the trump suit of the antique tarot decks.
In the Minchiate Fiorentine, a deck created in Tuscany, there are 41 trump cards!
At the beginning of the 1500 the tarot decks were mass produced in the area around Marseilles, France.
By the seventeenth century the images on the decks were standardized and each of the trump cards showed roman numbers and the French title, although there was still some variation in the order of the trumps.
The most famous design of the tarot de Marseille was produced by Grimaud in 1748 and can still be bought from the same company.
Now, the name tarot de Marseille, sometimes also called Latin tarot, refers to the style of tarot that was originally printed in that French area and still all modern tarot decks are based on its basic structure.
Playing cards are by nature perishable and it is impossible to identify an "original" tarot deck. None of the modern decks can be considered authentic but the Marseille design keeps the feeling and tone of the earliest decks.
As there is no evidence that this tarot deck was created by only one individual, the tarot images became a truly collective work of art transcending the personal.
Maybe this is the reason why these cards still appeal so much to our unconscious like myths and fairy tales do.
In the eighteenth century the tarot cards were discovered by the occultists and they consistently became a tool for divination and fortune telling.
Many designs were created adding symbols and illustrations but they all find their roots in the iconography of the tarot Marseille that still is able to fascinate us with its ageless and mysterious symbols.
Tarot de Marseille Pierre Madenié 1709
This deck is a copy of a tarot de Marseilles originally printed in Dijon, France in 1709 by cardmaker Pierre Madeniè and this is probably the most exquisite edition available on the market today.
Universal Tarot of Marseille
A rendition of the deck by Claude Burdel (1727-1799), one of the oldest available tarot decks. The images have been recolored and restored with emphasis on their symbolic meaning.
Tarots of Marseille (Lo Scarabeo Decks)
An accurate reproduction of a classic Marseilles deck, that adds details to enhance the readability.