Book Name: Tarot (Volume 1 of The Library of Esoterica)
Author: Jessica Hundley
Where to buy: Taschen.com
Volume 1 of The Library of Esoterica: Tarot – Book Review
Taschen is a publishing company that specializes in high quality artbooks. Their topics range from comic to fashion. One of their latest projects is a series dedicated to the esoteric called The Library of Esoterica. The first volume in this series, released earlier this year, is Tarot.
This gorgeous 520 pages in hardcover linen hardcover measures 17 x 24cm. While it provides good information about tarot, what is most exciting for tarot enthusiasts are the images of over 500 tarot cards from both mass market and independent decks created by artists all over the world.
But its wide cultural range is not limited to just the geography of the deck creators; it also spans a large time frame. This book showcases some of the oldest decks (such as the Visconti-Sforza from the 1400s) as well as modern decks. At the time of its printing, there is at least one deck that is still in a work in progress.
This book is divided into four parts. Part I, Stepping into Oblivion, provides a history of tarot. It includes a timeline as well as well as a display of some of the most significant early decks.
Part II, titled Magic & Manifestation, is the bulk of this book. This section goes through each of the 78 cards in a tarot deck. Its primary focus is the major arcana. Each card is accompanied by two pages of texts that include Hebrew letter, planet and elemental association, its name in four languages, symbols and notable qualities, a brief but eloquent summary of the card, and a quote. Another 12-14 pages are dedicated solely to displaying that major arcana card from various decks.
The minor arcana is much shorter in comparison. One page is used to describe all 14 cards in each suit. The remaining pages of each suit show samples of the entire suit from multiple decks. Just like the major arcana, each suit contains a short sentence description that beautifully sums up the essence of each suit.
Part III, Visionary Exploration, is about the influential writers and artists who helped shape tarot into the form and structure it is today. Usual suspects include Levi, Waite, Smith, Crowley and Harris. My favourite part of this section is the showcase of Pamela Colman Smith’s other work.
Part IV, Speaking in Symbols, focuses on how to read tarot. It speaks about how each person can interpret the imageries of the cards as well as providing some simple spreads.
What I love most about this book is how well curated it is. While the cards selected for display represent a wide range of creators spanning a large timeframe, the selection chosen for each card also demonstrates the incredibly diverse artwork found in tarot.
Furthermore, as a tarot collector, one of the reasons why I collect is because each deck contains its own unique interpretation. Even though most of my decks are RWS derivatives, each deck still contains its own perspective that adds to my overall understanding of the cards. Seeing such a wide range of decks displayed together is a great way to study tarot. Looking at these cards created by artists all over the world, we can see how different cultures add their own spin to this rich divination tool.