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Renaissance Tarot Book

Renaissance Tarot Book
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“The pages of a book form a road on which to travel through a symbolic landscape. Each of the seventy-eight cards is a stage of the journey: each image adds to the experience of the whole.

– From the Introduction to A Renaissance Tarot

A Renaissance Tarot explores how tarot cards are woven into the fabric of European culture while providing both the beginner and the adept with a complete guide to the cards, their meanings and uses. The book may be used to examine the imagery and symbolism of any deck of tarot cards, but it especially accompanies the Renaissance Tarot by Brian Williams. Renaissance Tarot was inspired by antique tarocchi and Renaissance art. The Major Arcana cards are associated with Greco-Roman deities or heroes, and the Minors with four myth cycles, with the numbered cards suggesting stages of a narrative. In his book, Williams discusses these connections and the interlocking design of planets, constellations, seasons, archangels, and winds for the court cards. He devotes a chapter to A World of Allegory and another to The History of Tarot.

The book includes copious illustrations of Renaissance Tarot but also includes non-tarot images of Renaissance drawings and engravings on nearly every page. Williams presents three different card spreads for reading the cards.

Also by Brian Williams: Renaissance Tarot Deck


SKU BK115 WILLIAMS
Weight 1.00 lbs
ISBN 0-88079-545-X
Size 7" x 10"
Author Brian Williams
$17.95


  • What customers are saying about A Renaissance Tarot Book

    A "companion book" + an indispensible tarot history resource

    This book was published to accompany the author's "Renaissance Tarot" deck. But whereas most companion books confine themselves to the deck they are sold with, perhaps folding in generic tarot-reading instructions, this book explores the origins and symbolism of the tarot with such depth that it is an important stand-alone tarot book.

    Moving beyond recycled speculation about gypsies, Egyptian mystery cults, and other such exotica, this book goes directly to the source: the culture of Renaissance Italy, which produced the first tarot decks. Williams does not attempt to deliver the definitive "truth" about what the original tarot designers may have had in mind, but he does collect an extraordinary array of "tarot parallels" in art, literature, philosophy, mythology, and folk culture. What emerges is a picture of the enduring archetypal nature of the each of the tarot symbols. Williams shows how deeply embedded these images are in our culture, and how ubiquitous and familiar they were to people in 15th century Europe.

    The text is supported by hundreds of attractive line drawings, made by the author to illustrate the historic works of art referenced in the text. The book thus becomes a guided tour back in time to the culture that produced the first tarot decks, imbued with the author's personal vision and yet faithful to the facts at every turn. There are few books available to give the student a trustworthy and useable account of the meaning of the tarot symbols in their original context. This is one of the best. Also included are brief descriptions of the cards in the Renaissance Tarot deck, along with divinatory meanings and some instruction on reading the cards. The book's greatest value, however, is in illustrating where the tarot comes from, and deepening and enriching the reader's understanding of the ancient symbols. Even if you don't use the Renaissance Tarot deck, this book will give you many wonderful insights about the tarot and bring you into a deeper relationship with the cards of your own deck. Highly recommended.

    —Tom Waters, Amazon customer


    The journey that is the Renaissance Tarot spanned a period of ten years - the results show the care, thought and nurturing that was taken every step of the way. Brian Williams had a life long interest in both classical and Renaissance art, which he has translated nicely into the Renaissance Tarot. After spending a year in studies at the University of Padua in Italy. Brian took the illustrations and theory that would become the Renaissance Tarot and used them as the basis for an independent thesis and project at the University of California at Berkeley.

    One of the themes that run through this book and deck is the place that Tarot held in European culture. Brian's stated purpose with the accompanying book is to provide a complete guide to the cards, their meanings and their uses. He also goes into the historical significance of each of the cards, which is not something that I have seen done elsewhere. Each card, including the minors, has a bit of myth in it that explains the archetypal qualities of the card, For example, the Ten of Swords is the myth of Paris and Achilles, while the Chariot is the myth of Aphrodite and Ares.

    Throughout the accompanying book there are a wealth of black and white illustrations from the Renaissance period. At one point we see the game of Tarot being played (as taken from a mid-fifteenth century fresco in the Sala dei Giochi in the Casa Borromeo in Milan. At another point we see a manuscript illumination of Mars (the God) from the fifteenth century. At yet another point we see an engraving of a Satyr family by Durer from 1505. The list is endless - and fascinating.

    With each of the majors we are treated to a wonderful description of the card, quite an involved background into the archetypal myth, and incredible illustrations, as well as divinatory and reversed meanings. With the court cards and the minors we see a description of the card, an abbreviated version of the myth behind it, as well as divinatory and reversed meanings. Each section contains a black and white scan of the card.

    At the end of the book Brian presents a section on Tarot spreads, including the Celtic Cross, Tetrasky (also known as the Pythagorean Tetrad) and the Twelve Houses spreads. An interesting aside on the Twelve Houses spread is that it is presented in a square format (referred to as a quadrilateral design), rather than the usual circular format.

    The cards themselves are 2 3/4" by 5", on glossy card stock. The backs have a 1/4" white border, with a bisque colored center containing intricate work using triple circles resembling Celtic Knots, upon which reside the medieval symbols for the elements in the four corners, with four corresponding animals floating within them. A male and female figure recline in the center, with their hands held. The almost blandness of the backs acts as a kind of foil for the wonderfully rich colors of the card faces. Again we see the use of a 1/4" white border, followed by a 1/4" gold inner border. The top two corners of each of the cards contain figures (some animal, some human, some symbols) that are there for ornamental purposes only. The title for each card is across the bottom, in both Italian and English.

    The overall coloring is a well-done pastel, with the figures dressed, for the most part, in Renaissance fashion. The pips make basic use of the suit symbol, with animal and human figures added to them that are not integral to the understanding of the cards. Each suit has its own color: yellow for Swords, pink for Cups, green for Pentacles and blue for Staves.

    There are two small changes in the titling of the Major Arcana: the Wheel of Fortune becomes Chance and Judgment becomes the Angel. Each time I return to this deck I find something new to intrigue me. The accompanying book has lessons of its own to give. I highly recommend this deck to all students at all levels of study.

    —Bonnie Cehovet, Aeclectic Tarot