Tuesday, November 27, 2007

pre-Gébelin Tarot Online

Ross Caldwell noted that, “Real tarot history... starts from the facts, and works outward towards other facts. What's in between -- trying to connect the facts in a dark puzzle -- is argumentation. That's how history this old is done.” There are a great many Tarot sites online, (Google returned 56,500 results for the phrase, "Tarot history"), but, in terms of factual history, most of them are worse than worthless. There are relatively few exceptions. This list has about four dozen recommended Tarot-related pages and sites. (Note that these links were all working as of today, but many had changed since the last compilation, and some good pages are now gone entirely. If you find a page you value, download it -- the Web is ephemeral.) For other online sources, here's a rule of thumb: If an esoteric claim is made about pre-1700s Tarot and no source or verifiable evidence is cited to substantiate it, then the probability is nearly 100% that the claim is either false or, at best, a misleading distortion of the facts.

Andrea Pollett

This appears to be the best playing-card history site on the Web, and has very broad and reliable information on Tarot history. It is also richly illustrated with many playing cards, revealing maps, etc.

Tom Tadfor Little

John McLeod

Justin du Coeur (Mark Waks)

Simon Wintle

University of Manchester (John Berry)

Hans-Joachim Alscher

This site has a great collection of primary documents, including the earliest extant rules of the game, historical texts by Cardano, Lollio, Garzoni, Bertoni, Susio, the Steel article, and so on. It is, however, a resource for the literate—each document is in its original language.

Huck (“Tarocchi7”)

Miscellaneous Tarot Pages

Michael J. Hurst

And, of course, a few pages of my own.


Finally, one other site must be mentioned: the trionfi.com site, including its affiliated pages with work from various authors, is a complex network of Tarot history pages, scanned images, links to sites like the WWPCM, and other material. The historical information is in some cases both valuable and otherwise unavailable. However, some caveats are in order. First, it is often difficult to find what you might be looking for on the site. The organization and use of frames is complex, to say the least; there is a great deal of material only vaguely or tangentially related to playing-card history; and there are many speculative digressions. Therefore, (unless you are just browsing), the key page will be the sitemap, or even Google's "Search Site" feature. Second, visitors are confronted at every turn with the site owner’s extremely speculative pet theory. The 5x14 Theory concerns Tarot’s hypothetical original design and its hypothetical evolution over a period of decades from that design, through other hypothetical stages, until finally reaching something historically documented. Although the 5x14 Theory has been heavily promoted both in online Tarot forums and via personal lobbying to playing-card historians for nearly two decades, it has yet to gain support from any prominent scholars. It tends to distort virtually everything about fifteenth-century Tarot history, all of which must be reinterpreted to conform to the theory’s requirements, and it explains nothing which is not better explained without its many needless assumptions. Combined, these two problems make it seem that the site was designed as a labyrinth which leads the visitor to the 5x14 beast time and again.