Tarot de Besançon | Through the designer’s eyes

30 September 2016

Tarot de BesanconA look behind the scenes. Sneak peek through the designer’s eyes.
Evalyne Hall – J.Jerger’s Tarot de Besançon

“Why do an historical reproduction?, I was asked for The Queen’s Sword. The journey with the deck began when I began translating Du Jeu des Tarots and Recherches Sur les Tarots from Le Monde Primatif Volume 8. As I was translating the essays, I realized that two different decks were used for examples in the book. Antoine Court De Gébelin used an unidentifiable TdM and le Comte de Mellet (Louis-Raphael Lucrece de Fayolle) described a similar deck with Jupiter and Junon replacing the Pope and the Popess. I had never heard of this deck, having a limited Marseille knowledge (back then), but I knew that those images had to be included in the book.

roys-1jupiter-and-junon-1Based on Jupiter and Junon, I first found the 1JJ Swiss deck (OPP and much too new). A Google image search then led me to the British Museum and the Biblioteque National de France where I was able to locate four Besançon style decks; however, each deck had difference in some of the cards.


le-diable-1his-foot-on-a-ball-1In particular, with the Devil and the Four of Pentacles, Mellot used the phrases “He touches him with his left claw” in his description of the devil, and “His foot on his ball, being unfurled” in the description of the Four. I saw that the J. Jerger deck was the closest to being correct. Later I learned that this deck was produced about fifteen to twenty years too late to be the actual deck and that JB Benois of Strasburg was most likely the original artist/cardmaker. I originally planned to reproduce one of the original decks, but was unable to raise the funding to purchase the rights from Biblioteque National de France. Coincidentally, someone also had images on Ebay of the Jerger deck (way out of my budget).

card-samples-1sample-drawing-1As I had already “cleaned” some images, I thought that I could recreate the deck myself. Obviously, I have more time than sense. Using MS Paint and four different printings of the deck I have tried to recreate the colors on the decks as well as some (not all) of the printing errors. I am in the process of retracing every line a minimum of two times. This ensures that the colors stay between the lines and that every line appears in the picture. I also have a log of the color palates used as Paint erases the custom colors every time the program closes. At the time of this writing 72 cards are complete.”

NB. Both the Tarot de Besançon and the book De Jeu des Tarots et Recherches sur les Tarots will be available at the end of October.

Note from the editor: For a very interesting ‘history lesson’ on this pattern and the adjustments that were made in the deck after the French revolution for example you can visit the International Playing Card Association.