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The Tarot of Nicolas Conver

Nicolas Conver

Master Cardmaker in Marseilles in 1760

The Most Famous of the Early Tarots de Marseille

The Tarot of Nicolas Conver engraved in 1760 was considered for a long time to be the oldest Tarot de Marseille made in Marseilles. But in 2001 I demonstrated that there was another deck, the Tarot de Marseille deck manufactured by François Chosson, which was older and which went back to 1672, nearly one century before Conver. The deck of Chosson was preserved in a Swiss museum, in Soleure, and nobody knew its origin. It is thanks to the documents of my grandparents that I was able to verify that François Chosson formed part of a dynasty of Master cardmakers of Marseilles.

Nevertheless, as Thierry Depaulis emphasizes in the book Tarot and Magic, "The execution of the Tarot of Nicolas Conver reflects a sort of perfection: not only did the engraving allow a quality printing, but one will note the clarity and the beauty of the colors, in particular that so distinctive pale blue. We are to understand that Paul Marteau - who had it in his collection - referred to this deck for his own edition, the "Ancien Tarot de Marseille" in 1930. But, as one can easily notice, the Grimaud deck is not a reproduction of the Tarot of Conver. The templates of this deck having been preserved by the Camoin House, the heir of Conver that disappeared in 1970, occasionally there would be reprintings in colour."

The Tarot of Nicolas Conver was at the very beginning coloured by stencil. It contained a good deal of green and sky blue. Then, at the moment of the Industrial Revolution, my Camoin ancestor published a version coloured in a modern way using four-colour machines. The green and the sky blue disappeared. These colours from the Industrial Revolution have no esoteric meaning and were only used so as to be able to mass produce the deck in greater quanity.

On the other hand, the colours of the Tarot of Nicolas Conver before the Industrial Revolution reflected quite well the alchemical tradition.

Philippe Camoin



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