classicalfool3.jpg (23042 bytes)Classical Tarots Review by Diane Wilkes

If you are interested in purchasing Classical Tarots, click here.

Lo Scarabeo has recently published "Classical Tarots," a modern reproduction of the deck printed by Carlo DellaRocca in 1835. I have two other reproductions of this deck, the Tarocco Soprafino (Superfine--sounds like a description of that cat, Shaft), which is a colorized version of the deck published in 1992 by Il Meneghello, and a 1998 non-colorized version of the same deck, published in 1998, also by Il Meneghello.

The most immediate difference between these decks is that Lo Scarabeo has added keywords to each card. Keywords are a relatively new tarot innovation, beginning with Eteilla in the 1700’s. I find keywords limiting on principle, but the ones chosen for this deck are, at times, perplexing and outmoded. Some examples of the perplexing: "strangeness" for the Fool, "inspiration" for the Pope, "maturity" for the Eight of Cups, and "acknowledgment" for the 10 of Cups. Some others: King of Cups: intellectual; 6 of Pentacles: unscrupulousness; outmoded examples include "alternation" for the Wheel, "exile" for the Tower, and "duel" for the Two of Swords.

There are other, more minor, differences. The backs are reversible, monochromatic images taken from the Star card. In my non-colorized version, the backs are blank; in the Soprafino, there is a simple design of dots in rows. The size of the Classical Tarots are that of the standard U.S. Games pack, whereas the other versions of the deck are shorter and thinner. I prefer the new backs of the Lo Scarabeo version--they are an elegant invitation to return to a different time, setting the appropriate mood for a reading with an older deck.

These older cards have lines and stains from age, but Lo Scarabeo has done a fine job of removing most of them, leaving a few cracks for the sake of authenticity, but not so many that it interferes with card appreciation. Particularly beautiful in this deck (all versions) are the Star and Temperance, and I think the Lo Scarabeo coloring shows them off in resplendent glory.

For those who are interested in reading historical details about these cards, I recommend Tom Tadfor Little’s website: I am neither a historical purist nor a maven, and can only say that, while I don’t mind the neoterism of combining keywords to an ancient deck like the Della Rocca, I would prefer ones that correspond to today--not an unreasonable expectation for an innovation, n’est-ce pas?

Other than the keywords, Lo Scarabeo has done a commendable job in elucidating a beautiful and historically important Tarot deck. The newly-laundered images offer a clarity and poetic grandeur that had been somewhat diminished by time.

Now ask me which of the three versions of the deck I prefer...and I’d have to admit that I prefer my black and cream-colored Il Meneghello edition. But I’d never use it for a reading, nor would I use the Soprafino, so Lo Scarabeo’s Classical Tarots also gets marks for employability.

If you are interested in purchasing Classical Tarots, click here.

Classical Tarot by Lo Scarabeo                                         Distributed by Llewellyn Publishing

Review Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes

Images Copyright 2000 Lo Scarabeo

This page is Copyright 2000 by Michele Jackson