Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story
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Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story
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by Stuart R. Kaplan with Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons 

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story brings together the work of four distinguished scholars who have devoted years of research to uncover the life and artistic accomplishments of Pamela Colman Smith. Known to millions as the creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot® deck, Pamela Colman Smith (1878–1951) was also a stage and costume designer, folklorist, poet, author, illustrator of ballads and folktales, suffragette, and publisher of books and broadsheets. 

This collaborative work presents: a richly illustrated biography of Pamela’s life with essays on the events and people that influenced her including Jack Yeats, Ellen Terry, Alfred Stieglitz, Bram Stoker and William Gillette. There is also a chronological survey of her folktales, art and poetry and an exploration of her lasting legacy. 

Over 400 color images of Pamela’s non-tarot art have been curated from her publications including A Broad Sheet, The Green Sheaf, Blue Beard, Annancy stories, Russian ballet, costumes, stage designs, Irish magazines, book illustrations, posters and much more. 

This 440-page volume also includes: 

• Select pages including autographs with sketches and scribblings reproduced from Pamela’s 1901–1905 Visitors book 

• Pamela’s personal documents, correspondence, portraits, and photographs 

• Rare archival material from several leading museums and libraries 

• Extensive Bibliography of 525 entries and Index with over 2,000 listings 

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story is the most comprehensive and exhaustive collection of works by and about Pamela Colman Smith published to date.

Specs
  • SKU
    BK245
  • Weight
    4.4 lb(s)
  • ISBN
    978-1-57281-912-2
  • Size
    8” x 10.5”, 440 pp., color illus., hc.
  • Language
    EN
  • Author
    Stuart R. Kaplan with Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons

What Customers Are Saying About Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

This swank illustrated biography commemorates the 140th anniversary of the birth of Pamela Colman Smith (1878–1951), a British-American artist best known as the illustrator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The book opens with an overview of Smith’s life that focuses on her creative endeavors outside of the visual arts, including her founding of the literary magazine The Green Sheaf. While studying at Pratt Institute in New York, Smith was known for performing plays in her “miniature theater” to the delight of her fellow students and teachers. Later sections pay particular attention to Smith’s creative process and the design influence of the tarot deck: the flat look and tilted stance of the figures are inspired by Japanese art, and certain poses of the tarot figures are mirror copies of Christian art. Beautiful reproductions of Smith’s work in bold saturated colors fill nearly every page of the book and are accentuated by archival material including photos of her miniature theater performances and pages from her journals and sketchbooks. Together, the text and illustrations make for a stimulating entryway into the imaginative world of a nearly forgotten illustrator. (July) 

—Publishers Weekly


Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, beautifully showcasing the work of an amazingly talented artist with flawless reproductions of her art craft, "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" is a unique and inherently fascinating read from first page to last. A welcome and long overdue introduction of a truly remarkable metaphysical artist, "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition the personal reading lists of all tarot reading enthusiasts, as well as community and academic library Metaphysical Collections in general, and the History of Tarot supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

—Helen Dumont, Midwest Book Review


Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story is the most comprehensive, devotional, and poignant tribute to Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith we’ll see this century. It’s a magnificent treatise and homage no tarot lover will want to miss. The Untold Story is the sum total of knowledge, research, data, and documents we have on the artist behind the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck and her works. Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is how it has brought Pamela Colman Smith to life. You’ll get to know her life and works, her family, her art, her interests, her personal spirituality, her quirks, and her multifaceted personality. 

The Untold Story is an investment piece you’ll want to get, especially if you’re an RWS tarot aficionado.  It’s a full-color hard cover volume of 440 pages, with over 400 color images from Stuart Kaplan’s private collection, reproductions and scans of the many papers and memorabilia from Smith’s life, letters, sketches, personal documents, and a wealth of rare archival material from museums and libraries around the world. You get all that in a beautifully bound matte cover book, with gold inlay lettering, a tome that will hold a special place in every tarot reader’s collection.

—Benebell Wen, author of Holistic Tarot


The time is finally right for Pamela Colman Smith's major contribution to the Rider-Waite tarot (and tarot history) to be recognized. Stuart Kaplan, foremost tarot historian, has created an exciting, 400-plus-page masterwork that elevates her to her rightful place in esoteric history. Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story is a must-have for feminists, art historians, and tarot enthusiasts.  

—Anna Jedrziewski, Retailing Insight


Best known for providing the illustrations for the widely used Rider-Waite tarot deck, Smith was a late-19th-century traveler and polymath who’s only now, with this book’s publication, receiving acknowledgment for her full body of work. By bringing together the work from different media and periods of her life, the authors present her as the multifaceted creator that she was, complete with discussions of her influences, ideals, aesthetics, and passions. The book displays photographs, sketches, notebook pages, paintings, prints, poems, and folktales in full color, along with lengthy essays that place the works in proper context. 

The book is a collaboration by four tarot experts who are all well-acquainted with Smith’s oeuvre: Kaplan, who curates the bulk of Smith’s art, folk tales, and poetry; O’Connor, who provides a detailed biography of Smith; Parsons, who offers insight and analysis on Smith’s work for the Rider-Waite deck, specifically; and Greer, who discusses Smith’s overall artistic legacy. The image of the artist that emerges in that of a woman at the crossroads of several of the most interesting creative communities of late 19th-century art: commercial illustration, the Celtic Revival, the spiritualist movement, and nascent children’s literature. From such time-honored source material, the authors argue, she fashioned a brand that was elegantly modern. The Rider-Waite tarot illustrations get their proper due, of course, but the book also succeeds in revealing Smith as an artist of larger significance. The artwork itself is beautifully rendered throughout, with many full-page, full-color prints for readers to explore. Tarot devotees will find much to appreciate, but so will fans of more famous illustrators, such as Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, and Maxfield Parrish. This work will hopefully help raise Smith’s profile as a true treasure of turn-of-the-century art. 

A lovingly compiled art book, full of wondrous images. 

—Kirkus Reviews

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