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The Marseilles Tarots

Few early decks have survived to this day. Many dozens must have existed in Marseilles before 1672. If one refers to books from the era, decks of cards are mentioned in 1337 in the statutes of the Abbey of St. Victor in Marseilles. The Master Cardmakers in Marseilles existed well before their authorisation by the king in 1631. The very ancient Tarots de Marseille have disappeared like other games of cards because of the unfortunate custom of recycling used cards into business or calling cards.

The fact that we cannot find Marseilles Tarots made in Marseilles before 1672 does not absolutely prove that the Tarot appeared in Italy where a deck of Tarot dating to 1471 has been found. The two schools have strictly nothing to do with each other, and the Italian school only carries an extremely simplified message. Whereas the Marseilles school incorporates nearly all the occult knowledge of the West and sometimes even of the East. Nor does this prove that there did not exist in Italy much more complex Tarots than those which have survived to this day. The only observation we can plausibly make is that the two schools are very distinct as for their contents. There ought to therefore have existed a Tradition well prior to the two schools upon which they were inspired.

My point of view is that this prior school already existed in the south of France and throughout the Marseillan region, which was the doorway to the Orient. Marseilles was founded 2600 years ago and received contributions from all the cultures of the Mediterranean by virtue of its privileged geographic location.

Philippe CAMOIN

Articles of this Section

The Suzanne Bernardin Tarot

A simplistic deck, much resembling Conver. As its name indicates, the Master Cartier was a woman, something original in a world where almost all the names appearing on decks of cards are the names of men.

The François Tourcaty Tarot

The deck of François Tourcaty is a very interesting deck. But the great majority of the Secret Codes that Philippe Camoin discovered in the Tarot are missing here. One still senses nevertheless the work of an enlightened master cartier as was Nicolas Conver.

The Jean-Pierre Payen Tarot

The Tarot of Jean-Pierre Payen distinguishes itself from the traditional Marseilles Tarots. A freedom of style distances him from the usual standard and thus the usual geometrical structure.

The Nicolas Conver Tarot

Le Tarot de Marseille de Nicolas Conver est le plus célèbre et le plus respecté des jeux anciens de Tarot de Marseille. Il date de 1760. A cette époque, Nicolas Conver fonde la fabrique Conver qui devient plus tard la Maison Camoin par le mariage de Jean-Baptiste Camoin avec une des héritières de la Maison Conver.

The François Chosson Tarot

Tarot of François Chosson: Philippe Camoin revealed the name and the date of the oldest Tarot de Marseille deck known to have been made in Marseilles. It dates back to 1672….

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