Most tarot and oracle readers have an almost insatiable appetite for images. Tarot images that is (although yours truly can enjoy every type of art). While we have our ‘go-to’ decks, whether we are diviners or readers with a focus on personal growth, we can still enjoy that wonderful art and symbology in different decks. And most of us turn in to deck-buying-addicts because of it. Lo Scarabeo understood that and created a wonderful coffee table art book called Tarot Gallery or Galleria dei Tarocchi (edition 2010).
To be honest, I have always been a little jealous of those people with wonderfully decorated houses and a nice coffee table, stacked with a small ‘tower’ of beautiful hardcover design|architecture|history books. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have three bookcases and an attic full of books and recently gave three bags of books to charity. So, it is not like I am without (history) books. But nothing worth ‘adorning’ your table with, so that people’ll pick it up when you’re in the kitchen making coffee. Until I recently unwrapped the 256-page Tarot Gallery. A design showcase, full of images from dozens of Lo Scarabeo’s decks.
Gallery of the tarot world
It is – true to Lo Scarabeo – a multilingual edition, with a dark hardcover, spelling the word Tarot in colorful letters. Every card inside is printed full-color on thick, white, glossy paper. Tarot gallery is divided into 5 themes: historical, esoteric, artistic, cultural and metaphysical. In between color- and symbol coded tabs you’ll discover the same 11 cards of several decks: 2 of Cups, 7 of Pentacles, Knight of Wands, Queen of Swords, The Magician, The Emperor, Strength, Justice, Temperance, The Star and The World. Seeing the name of my website I am pleased to be able browse through so many different Queen’s of Swords, but I am a little surprised that Death and the High Priestess are not shown, since these cards are amongst the most popular ‘checks’ in the tarot community.
Every card is printed true to size, with one card showing the back and the eleven cards giving an idea of what the complete deck looks like.
The foreword of Tarot Gallery states:“Those who love tarot cards and wish to understand them better, embark on a fascinating voyage into a world full of mystery and evolution reflecting more than five centuries of history , magic, art, and spirituality. This volume embraces the entire world of Tarot-not with words, but rather with images alone. Beyond being a mere album, it is a gallery that brings you the unique powers of hundreds of cards, meanings, and perspectives, offering the reader a better understanding of which decks are better suited to his or her needs.”
Actual cards glued
It is true that while browsing through the book you will fly through ages of history, starting with the Sola-Busca and then from the Ancient Tarot of Lombardy to Tarot de Marseille and the Golden tarot of The Renaissance. Later on in the cultural, artistic or metaphysical parts you’ll find more modern decks with inspiration coming from Golden Dawn or specific themes. Not only that, but while the ‘regular’ decks are shown in their true size, the golden decks have a little surprise attached. For each speckled deck there’s an actual card glued to the page allowing the reader to touch, feel and admire as if they already have the deck at home. A very nice gesture and most likely also the reason why the price of the Gallery book is -like most art books – is a little higher than a regular ‘reading’ book.
I do have to remark though, that stating that this volume embraces the entire world of Tarot is untrue. Yes, it definitely gives any reader a glimpse of a large part of this world and I would recommend it to anyone who loves to compare symbology and art. However, the fact remains that it is a production by Lo Scarabeo. So, the entire world of tarot: nope. That would include Thoth for example and since that’s not a LS-production you won’t find it in Tarot Gallery.
Having said that, this volume definitely does give you an interesting range of perspectives and it is especially entertaining to see how art could differ from Renaissance to modern days. Nefertari’s tarot is still on my wish list and Lo Scarabeo was kind enough to again rub that in my face with this book, but I was still surprised by the amount of ‘Egyptian’ decks in the esoteric chapter. They have plenty interesting esoteric decks, but as an editor I think I would have skipped one of the Egyptian packs, and used that space to give a paragraph about each and every deck.
Especially with the historical ones I would have liked to see a sentence or two about the year of production, the artist and its historical worth maybe. Every deck takes its own two pages but the title of the deck is printed twice, large and in 6 languages. I think that on one of those pages you could have given this information. I missed it, something like a caption in smaller font would have been a nice and useful addition without hurting the Gallery approach.
I do applaud the fact that Lo Scarabeo is not only progressive enough to publish tarot decks that divert from mainstream art (see my review of Tarot of the Imagination for example), but they also didn’t shy away from printing the more erotic decks in the book. Some tarotists might argue this is ‘not tarot’, or ‘too much ’but you could easily say the same about the themed ones with cute kittens or my little ponies on it (being a bit black & white here, to make a point).
Sexuality is just as much a part of our lives as all the other 78 cards in any deck try to portray, so in my opinion it was a good choice to show these ones. And I actually added one to my wish list that I could imagine enjoying in a more private setting, but also admire for its art (Pssst. It is the Tarot of Casanova). Whatever you think of those pages, it is an overview of what the Italians have to offer anyway.
Is this book a must-have? Not necessarily. However, I do think it would make an excellent showcase if you’re a collector or if you want to have a nice hardcover wish list. That seems like a joke, but let’s be real here: after flipping through the pages I added at least another ten or so to my ‘want, want, want’ document, despite having several LS decks in my collection already. (So if the nice people from Lo Scarabeo are reading along: ship me a few and I’ll review. Looks like a win-win to me). In that way it is definitely a nice book and also the most excellent marketing brochure I’ve ever seen.
It is visually appealing, good quality and a great way of browsing through tarot history without having to read hundreds of pages. Besides, with so many decks on paper, I can be inspired – and do research – when working on my own deck. And if you would like to compare artists or the difference between esoteric and cultural decks you’ll find plenty of material too. If you’re more than just a tarot reader who needs only a deck or two, then you might try to pick up a copy when you have some cash to spare. At least it will look excellent on your coffee-table…