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Original Rider Waite Tarot - tarot decks

Playing Cards
Playing Cards -> Tarot decks

Price: US $16.62

ProductID: alt0512

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About this item
  • Also known as The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack

Name Original Rider Waite Tarot
Alternate Names The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack
Creators A. E. Waite, Pamela Colman-Smith
Publisher US Games 1999
Deck Type Tarot Deck
Cards 78
Major Arcana 22
Minor Arcana 56
Deck Tradition Rider-Waite-Smith
Minor Arcana Style RWS-Based Scenes
Suits Cups, Swords, Wands, Pentacles
Court Cards Page, Knight, Queen, King
The Fool is 0
Strength is 8
Justice is 11
Card Size 2.75 x 3.75 in. = 6.99cm x 9.53cm
Card Language English
Card Back Reversible
Back Design Alternating blue and white rose and lily grid pattern


Most people would be very surprised to learn that the US Games edition is also a ‘clone’ and not the original. The print plates for the Rider Waite were destroyed during the London Blitz. Rider and Co did not put out another edition until the seventies when they re-packaged what was in effect the US Games edition, manufactured by AGM Muller. When Stuart Kaplan re-published the deck, he took the black and white line drawings and had them recoloured, closely following Waite’s personal copy as reference. Waite’s daughter Sybil gave her permission, hence this deck’s ‘authorised’ status.

Although the US Games Rider Waite deck is itself a ‘clone’ it remains the most accurate reproduction available of this deck in what would have been its original colour livery. More recently Rider and Co, in conjunction with U.S. Games have published a full photo facsimile entitled ‘The Original Rider Waite’ and I would encourage anyone to add it to their collection. I found this edition disconcerting when I first viewed it The colour are not as you remember them from the US Games edition and there seem to be differences in the drawings themselves. Look at the face on the Sun -- clearly different from the established version. The text on the Page of Cups appears central, whereas on the original US Games edition (not the later ones with typeface fonts) the calligraphy was famously off centre. As to the colours they seem richer yet duller. Everything grey on the US Games deck is here rich beige. All pale blues have a turquoise green cast. Lemon yellow has become deep gold and vivid reds become a more muted crimson.

Having examined the little white book closely I began to realise that the publisher’s use of the word ‘original’ was rather ambiguous. In most cases any facsimile edition will usually give detailed information regarding the source material. This one does not. What I subsequently discovered is that this is not a reproduction of the first edition. Unlike with modern print techniques, as the plates wore out, the line drawings would have to be re-prepared.

There are further permutations concerning colour. At some stage, presumably during the post First World War depression, Rider seem to have switched to cheaper ink pigments and a less refined printing technique. Remember that this is not full colour printing, as we know it. They used a system called amber paste ups, often prepared by the artist. They are rather like tracing paper overlays and were used to determine the distribution of colours on a black and white line drawings.

So what of the deck then if this is not strictly the original? It remains an indispensable addition to the catalogue and many may even prefer it to its more familiar counterpart. It may not have quite the refinement of the familiar 1971 edition, but it’s very easy to forget that these are early 20th century examples of Arts and Crafts style illustration. With this edition you have that wonderful feeling of seeing the cards in their historical context. The colour is duller but a lot richer. The images are less refined and grainier but the imperfections don’t seem to matter. Many lovers of the Marseille tradition will affirm that a warts and all reproduction of the worn down woodcut is just as rewarding as a pristine modern rendition. Lovers of the Rider will find a similar connection here.

Most importantly, this publication restores the beautiful original back design of Tudor roses and lilies in pale blue, replaced by a non-descript tartan on the U.S. Games edition. Recent U.S. Games editions have also replaced Smith's characterful calligraphy with standard typeface, to bring them in line with the various foreign language editions published. Although this latter innovation looks perfectly smart, many purists (myself included) find this innovation somewhat insensitive to the originals and I certainly prefer the Original Rider Waite for its authenticity in this respect.

To sum up, this edition may not be strictly original in the sense of it being a first edition. It is however a reproduction of a genuine Rider and Co published deck. The US Games version is accurate enough to the first edition (reservations about modern editions excepted) to serve a purpose. By contrast, this new facsimile shows us something of this famous deck’s later print history. Despite its imperfections it is wholly welcome and with regards to my own personal preferences I use this as my standard Rider Waite deck whilst employing the US Games edition in its wonderful ‘giant’ format. In England, this facsimile version is the most widely available and I hope it becomes better known in other territories as well.

Combine shipping is possible.

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