Great new historical tarot repro’s in Anima Antiqua | Interview

27 June 2017

Traditional Tarot is ‘on the rise’*. Decks made in between the 15th and 19th century are being reproduced more and more by publishers and independent studios. If you have a thing for Ancient Italians and other old decks, you’re in for a real treat. Lo Scarabeo is soon to launch a new line of Tarocchi repro’s, upholding tradition. An interview about Anima Antiqua and ‘how it’s made’…

Andrea Chiarvesio
-The Queen’s Sword


The first two titles in the Anima Antiqua line. An unknown tarocchino from Bologna, called Mitelli, and the deck that is perhaps one of the most famous of the 'oldies': the Sola Busca. The oldest surviving *complete* tarot deck.

What does Anima Antiqua mean and how come you chose this title for the series?

Anima Antiqua is latin for Ancient Soul and we feel the title embodies the mission behind this new line perfectly: bringing back decks from the past. Some of them well known, but some others almost unknown to parts of the tarot community.

Does Lo Scarabeo (LS) feel responsible for keeping these traditional, Italian decks alive as the only mass market publisher with roots in the same country?

We at LS have a great love, passion and respect for tarot. This includes, on the one hand, bringing innovation to tarot so that its very long life is vital and projected in the future, and on the other hand preserving the past wisdom. That is very important, too.

We would feel the same way even if the company was located in another country. But of course,  being here, close to where tarot was born or at least where they were printed for the first time, gives us that little extra motivation and responsibility.

Why did you choose Sola Busca and Mitelli specifically for the series? Most tarot readers know the historical significance of the Sola Busca, but not of the other title. Also: you already published a Sola Busca once before, right?

Mitelli deck is a little known ‘tarocchino’ from the seventeenth century, from a very talented Italian engraver. We felt it needed to be (re)discovered by the general public. We had several requests to reprint a Sola Busca deck, so it was the perfect way to start the Anima Antiqua series.

Will other titles be reproduced in the future and if so, which ones?

We will make a decision in a few months, also based on community response and sales results. We would love to extend this line, since there are so many decks that could be a worthy part of Anima Antiqua. For example, we would then consider a tarot deck that was burned in 1725 in Bologna, and a deck printed in 1906, Wien (Vienna) called ‘secession deck’, etc… (Editor’s note: I say… YES!)

Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword
Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword

Are the decks limited editions and/or special in any other kind of way?

Yes, the Anima Antiqua decks are all (and very likely always will be) limited editions: numbered one by one, with special protective packaging, including a certificate of historical faithfulness to the original deck, et cetera. The printing technique will also be a part of that. We will try to emulate the feeling of holding an ancient card in your hands as closely as possible.

In what way are they the same or different in comparison to other historical reproductions LS has done in the past?

We tried to preserve the look, layout, coloring, even the feeling of the paper, to be as close as possible to ‘the real thing’, the original deck.  It’s the best possible reproduction of the original deck with modern printing techniques.

In the past we were adding elements like multiple languages. Or we changed the layout of the original to make the decks more accessible to modern tarot readers (and we will still do that in our ‘regular’ tarot line). But the philosophy of Anima Antiqua is to be as philologically correct as possible.

Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword
Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword

For the 30th birthday LS chose to reproduce an Etteilla. Why not an Italian traditional deck and why is the Etteilla not part of the series? (TQS: The deck became part of the Tarot Compendium campaign. See interview on Tarot Compendium)

The choice of the Etteilla deck is because of Lo Scarabeo’s call to be an international publisher. Our world is definitely not limited to Italy. We wanted to emphasize that, and the Etteilla deck seemed the perfect deck to deliver the message. Even Anima Antiqua won’t feature only Italian decks in the future. We love all tarot decks, not just the ones originally printed in Italy. (We admit these might have a sweet spot in our hearts, however!).

Are these decks facsimiles or reproductions?

It’s almost impossible, and it would be incredibly expensive, to make facsimile copies of ancient decks. Mainly since the unique surface texture of the original colors would be really hard to simulate with modern printing machines. Ours are reproductions, as close to the original as possible, but using modern printing techniques. So there is no way to mistake these with the original decks.

Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword
Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword


Can you tell us how a tarot deck reproduction is made?

I am not a technician so I’ll try to explain the way I understood it from our graphic department. Of course the first step is to acquire an original deck and check that is in good condition. Then deck images are scanned at high resolutions. In case some cards have suffered color alterations due to the time, weather or simply having been shuffled in the past, the cards in the best conditions are used as reference to get a uniform color style as closest as possible to the originals.

So, yes, sometimes we have to adjust the colors on a few cards, another reason why these repro’s are not facsimiles. Then everything is digitally transferred to the printing facility and it goes to print (of course after many proofs and tests to ensure we’re getting as close as possible to the original colors and feeling of the cards).

In addition to creating a new packaging for the deck, we also print and add a small booklet with a short essay about the deck’s history, written by an expert in cards and tarot history (TQS: Some people have the awesomest jobs, right?).

AA02 - Mitelli - Limited Edition - 03
Anima Antiqua The Queen's Sword

What is altered in comparison to the original deck or what we know of the original?

The most drastic change is the paper the deck is printed on, since that kind of paper is not available for modern printing techniques. As I mentioned, there might be minimal color correction on some cards, but we are aiming to ‘restore’ the deck to its original colors. When in doubt, we leave everything as is. Also the packaging is totally new and designed and developed internally by LS.

Have you brought in special designers for these decks?

No, it’s all done by our internal staff. Only the writer is an external expert.

I understand you’re currently waiting for the first batch of Sola Busca to arrive in your warehouse…when can we expect to find them in stores and order them, and when are the other titles available?

I would definitely expect the deck to be available by the end of June all around the world. We will try to get it around a bit earlier, if possible. (TQS: shortly after this interview the release date of the Sola Busca was postponed till after summer. Keep an eye on the LS website to be sure).

Anything else you’d like to share?

I believe we covered all we had to say about Anima Antiqua and even more! 😉

NB* You can expect some of that in September again, on The Queen’s Sword. If you want to rehash last year’s themed month, check out “TdM” or “Tarot de Marseille” in the brown search bar on top, or simply go to the archives in the footer for September 2016.