Rider Waite Smith Tarot Adverts in The Occult Review.


Koretaka Eguchi

last updated in 12th June, 2018.

First I would like to express deep gratitudes and respect to
Mr K. Frank Jensen
who gave us the basic knowledge and infomation
of the early Rider Waite Smith Tarot.

As I wrote everywhere, recently I could collect 80% of all the issues of The Occult Review. And by checking them one by one I could find some important info about the early RWS Tarot decks.

First of all, the editor of the magazine Sir Rallph Shirley wrote in the " Notes of the Month" as follows:

I have the pleasure to announce to my readers the forthcoming publication of a new pack of Tarot Cards, an illustrated notice of which under the title of the Tarot; a Wheel of Fortune, by Mr A.E.Waite, appears in the current number of this magazine. the Cards will, I anticipate, be ready for sale by about December 10. These can be better judged by the illustrations which go with the article in this issue than by any description I can give them.* It will, however, be apparent that they are of a far higher quality in respect of artistic merit than any pack which has hetherto been published. The Cards in their published form will be fully coloured. the lithographing process has been undertaken by Messers. Sprague & Co., whose name is sufficient guarantee for the excellence of the work. Simultaneously with the issue of these Cards there will be published a book entitled The Key To the Tarot, to be sold in a case along with the pack for 7s. post free.

*I may mention that the artist, Miss Colman Smith, made a careful examination of numerous tarot packs from the 14th century onwards before undertaking her work.
The Occult Review 1909 December 300-301pp

So the first decks were printed lithographically by Sprague & Co. That is a well-known fact and no need to repeat it here. The Waite arcticle "Tarot : a Wheel of Fortune" can be read in recent reprinting. I believe the following advertisement found in the backcover of 1910 April issue is really important one, a sort of "missing link" in the study of early RWS editions.

Of course, the important parts are "Second Series ready April I, printed on special superior ivory cards" and "This pack has been exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition" (my emphasis). Second series were printed on ivory cards, well then the First series on what? and judging from the context, the first series were exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition.

All these taken into consideration, my understanding is that the first series of RWS was "Roses & Lilies" backpattern decks and they were a sort of special version to be sent to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition. Probably the number of the actual decks were small and quickly sold out. Then William Rider & Son Ltd. printed the second series, the ivory-pebbled ones as a standard model. I believe this is the answer.

Another reason William Rider & Son printed the second series was that the card quality of the R&L packs was not good and some cards began peeling off.

In a word, the very first RWS was the R&L packs of 1909, but they were practically cancelled decks due to the inadequate quality of cardstock and dull coloring. William Rider printed the second series in April 1910, and proposed a replacement of a pack to the customers who had purchased R&L ones. This is the reason the R&L packs are so rare now.

The above backcover adverts came back again in the December issue of OR 1910, but without the [Second...ivory cards] part.

An interesing advertisement is found in the November issue of OR 1912, as it goes :

A PACK OF 78 TAROT CARDS : Exquisitely drawn and coloured,
from new and original designs by PAMELA COLEMAN SMITH. Each card has a separate allegorical meaning. This is without question the finest and most artistic pack that has ever been produced. Price 6s. net, in neat blue box, post free.

"The most wonderful pack of cards that has ever been seen since the days when Gringonneur illuminated three packs for the amusement of King Charles VI. of France, in the year of our Lord 1392." -- Arthur Machen in T.P.'s Weekly.

THE KEY TO THE TAROT: Giving the history of the Tarot Cards,
their allegorical meaning and the methods of divination for which they are adapted. By Arthur Edward Waite. Royal 32mo, cloth, gilt, 2s. net.
Essential to the interpretation of the Tarot Cards. The Cards and Key are supplied together in neat red box for 8s. post free.

"An interesting account of the mysterious symbolism of the cards -- The Scotsman.

Admittedly it seems trivial, but these "red or blue" box things can be a help when identifying an old pack.. The same advertisement can be seen in the September and November 1915 issue, but price and color of the box are different.

1915 Sep. A Pack 6s. blue box.
--- Key to the Tarot and the Pack together, 8s. postfree, boxcolor not specified.

1915 Nov. A Pack 5s. in neat blue box, post free, 5s. 4d.
---Key to the Tarot and the Pack together, 7s. 6d., postfree, boxcolor not specified.

Price down by 1 shilling can be explained if we consider this was the timing when Pam-A was overtaken by an inferior version i.e. Pam-D. Close examination tells us that Pam-D was printed with same plates as used when Pam-A had been printed. But probably due to the war shotatge the result was not up to the standard William Rider and Son expected, and the cardstck was not good.

Detail of the Fool of The Occult Review 1909 Dec. issue.
Look at the dog's expression.

Arts & Crafts Exhibition Catalogue 1910.

Three packs of Tarot Cards were on sale in the Catalogue.

postscript : My RWS Theory.

An issue of The Occult Review consists of three different kinds of papers. They are --

1) the thick red paper for front and backcover,
2) the rough paper for letter-only pages,
3) the glossy smooth paper for pages containing photographs.

The article "Tarot : A Wheel of Fortune" by A.E. Waite was printed on the glossy smooth papers. And the lines of B&W drawings are really crisp and well defined, which is the obvious proof that they were photographically processed and printed from the original PCS drawings before coloring (the cloth of the Fool showing blank circles and no fruits). I believe it is safely assumed that the large 4 trumps are 1/1 size reproductions of the original drawings. Waite himself said "I have selected four specimens taken direct from the drawings and naturally much larger than they will appear in the colour-printed set."(OR 1909 Dec. p.310).

Anyway it was natural for William Rider & Son Ltd. to make a set of photographical plates or films from PCS's original drawings at early stage. They could reduce the images down to the actural card size easily and faithfully and print paper copies and provide them to the Sprague & Co.. PCS might have used such set of copies for coloring. Furthermore, William Rider & Son Ltd. could reduce the images smaller and use them for adverts, which they did twice in 1910. That William Rider & Son had and used photocopies of RWS is well proven by the RWS diagram in Minetta's Card-Reading (London: William Rider & Son, 1913). For this please see the bottom of this page.

One of the strange features of RWS Trumps is the PCS monogram on the Magician. A third of the lower half was gone. My hypothesis about this is that PCS forgot to make a space for the title when she drew the Trump. When she discovered her mistake, she put a piece of paper on the part, drew the lines carefully but could not save her monogram entirely. Such emergency aid was possible because the drawing was meant to be processed photographically. As a supporting material for the hypothesis I would like to point out the difference of the widths of frame lines of outer rectangle and title space. And the line brake of S is another proof.

The another, and often pointed out mystery about the Trumps is the absence of PCS mongram on the Fool card. There have been suggestions that the monogram is hidden among the lines of the cliff, or the absence shows her dissatisfaction toward A.E. Waite. My present hypothesis is that the title space was put on later and it covered the bottom area of the drawing where the monogram stayed.

The Eight of Pentacles of OR 1909 provides another key to the mystery of RWS. The caption says it is the actual card size, but there was a casual mistake by the editorial side : they took the actual card size for the image size and forgot about the margin. So Eight of Pentacle of OR.1909 is slightly bigger than the actual image size. It gave not so serious trouble when printed in magazines or book that Rider Co. used it in their book, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.

So many features of RWS shows the existence of photographic plates and processes. My temporal conclusion is that the 13 drawings of The Occult Review 1909 Dec. issue are the most faithful reproductions of original PCS pen and ink drawings because they are, as a matter of fact, photos. And what is called "oops"line of the Sun and its wrong XVIII number existed on the original drawing, presumably a mistake made by the artist herself, or by the editorial staff. There had been other mistakes such as the saving of spaces for titles in the drawings; these errors were rescued by putting another pieces of paper, but by doing so certain parts of the drawings were hidden and resulted in the part-missing of PCS mongram in the Magician, and complete absence in the Fool.

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Time Table (hypothetical)

1) Pamela Colman Smith drew 80 cards with pen & ink. (presumably 78 cards, Roses & Lilies backpattern, and the snake biting its tail). The size of the original drawings is 100mm by 174mm.
2) William Rider & Son Ltd. made photograhic plates or films from PCS's original line drawings. Several sets of cardsize-reduced photocopies were made : one was for Colman Smith to color. The others for the Sprague & Co. for lithographical processing. And there was a set for The Occult Review 1909 December issue.

the article "Tarot: A Wheel of Fortune" for The Occult Review 1909 December issue. 13 B&W drawings of RWS Tarot were reproduced from the photographic plates (three sizes. Large, middle, small. The size of PCS's original drawings were large type).

The Sun XVIII mistake was corrected. The line-drawings of cards were printed on the large sheet of paper using a photographically processed metal-plate. Then colors were put on by lithographic procedure. The first series of decks with Roses & Lilies back was produced. A part of the stock was going to be exhibited and sold at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition 1909-1910. The exhibition of the deck at A & C Exhibition was neccesary for William Rider & Son Ltd. to make it known to the public and the Internal Revenue Office that the pack is a piece of art and not a gambling device. I believe this was the main reason they chose Spraig & Co. for the printer of the pack, not a playing card manufacturing speciallist company. By affirming itself to be an artistic product the RWS tarot pack could be exempt from the taxation for gambling device.)
10th December 1909 was the official birthday of RWS.

Soon William Rider & Son found that the quality of Roses & Lilies decks was not good; the colours were murky and cards were peeling off. They planned to reprint "Second Series" with superior ivory cards and proposed the replacement of decks to the customers who had bought R&L decks. This is the reason the extant R&L decks are so few.
By April 1st the Second series with cracked backpattern was ready. The card images were a bit trimmed horizontally compared to the First series. This was for making ample margin in cutting the cards separate. These were what is called "Pam-A" now.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot was published using the Pam-A trimmed images except the Eight of Pentacles. They used the metal plate for the card which had been cast for The Occult Review 1909 Dec. issue.

The Pam-A was sold out. William Rider & Son tried to produce Pam-A from the old plates again, but the result was unsatisfactory: the colors were dislocated, dim and uneven, and the cardstock was cheap. These packs are now called Pam-D. William Rider & Son had to price down the deck, from 6s to 5s.

Pam-D was sold out. Rider & Co. abondoned the old plates and adopted lithographic hand-drawing for the new production. Turning to the older but stable method, Rider could reduce the price by 6d. Thus Pam-C was born. The price was up to 6s 6d.

Pam-C was sold out. Rider & Co. now produced Pam-B, which was a another version of Pam-C with some corrections on The Sun.

WWII started. The Rider & Co. evacuated its property to a warehouse situated in Plymouth. Unfortunately however, their property including the printing plates of "Pam-B" were destroyed during Plymouth Blitz (the exact date is unknown because the port town was bombarded more than 50 times between 1940-44).

WWWII ended. The interests in Tarot was increasing in U.S., but the real packs from England or France were hard to get because of the War and its aftereffects. So Macoy Publishing of New York, the U.S. agent of Rider & Co., printed their own photocopy Rider pack. *

* This part is still hypothetical. I surmise this from the statement made by Paul Foster Case in his Tarot (New York, Macoy Publishing: 1947) saying "Because of the war, the French exoteric Tarot, which is perfectly good for divination, is hard to get, and so is the Rider pack. There is, however, an American version of the Rider designs, which may be had from the publishers of this book".(p.204). The "American version" might have been the de Laurence decks, but was it possible for the official agent of Rider & Co. to sell those goods of dubious nature?

Where are the original drawings now?

PCS gave us a clue as to the whereabout of the original drawings of 1909 Tarot project in the famous "Stieglitz letter".

"I have just finished a big job for very little cash! A set of designs for a pack of Tarot cards 80 designs. I shall send some over - of the original drawings as some people may like them! I will send you a pack (printed in color by lithography) ? (possibly very badly!) as soon as they are ready ? by Dec 1 - I think."

So we can safely assume that some of them were sent to New York and consequently listed for sale. At least we found six Tarot drawings in the PCS 1912 exhibition held by Berlin Photographic Company in New York.

Were those six drawings "unsold ones" of the original 80? Or did PCS keep most of them for future sale or for her personal collection? We are not sure. Anyway the original drawings are missing and an extensive research are nessesary, especially around New York area.

post post script : the Official Variations of the Early RWS Images

The Book of Ceremonial Magic by A.E. Waite (1911).

I believe we can regard the drawing of The Magician on the frontcover of The Book of Ceremonial Magic by A.E. Waite (published by William Rider, 1911) as an official variation of RWS pictures. Recently I got it and found many interesting points. First of all, the picture is different from that of Pam-A or Pictoriak Key to the Tarot or The Occult Review.

click for larger view

click for larger view

The main diferences are

1) Roman number. BCM Magician has no Roman number.
2) the plants and flowers. BCM Magician's lines are better than OR's.
3) the size. BCM Magician is the biggest (106*168mm) compared to OR Magician (100*160mm, excluding title space).

I suppose the BCM picutre is an enlarged one done by a copyist. If it was done by Pixie Colman Smith herself, she could have corrected the half-missing- PCS monogram. The copyist did a good job and the leaves and flowers are in fact better than Pixie's shown in the OR. But the total size of the hanging flowers are out of proportion compared to the OR ones. (It's my firm belief that the OR drawings are the most faithful reproductions of the originals).

And the most interesting feature for me is the absence of the Roman Number "I" and the presence of leaves in the place. Are these leaves the creation of the copyist? Or, Pixie's original drawing had leaves there and the "I" was the later addition by her or the editorial staff? Now I come to think it's possible that originally, all the RWS drawing had no Roman number and they were later put in there, by the artist herself, or by a staff. If it were that case, then we can make a really reasonable explanation for the "oops line" of The Sun. It must be a "forgot to erase" mistake by a staff, not a "oops!" by Pixie.

The Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus (1910).

I could find and get a beautiful copy of Papus's The Tarot of Bohemians (London: William Rider & Son, 1910).

general look of the book

click for larger view.

front cover

click for larger view.

The Wheel of Fortune on the frontcover(115mm*180mm), gold line on the indigo, is wonderful indeed. And the line is better than that of the WoF of PKT. More horizontal width, no Roman numeral. PCS monogram is a strange one, C and S being jointed to form a single stroke.

Though the book is dated 1910, it was on the market in November 1909. There is an advert in the book as follows:

"The Tarot pack of 78 cards (together with The
Key to the Tarot) may be obtained on applica-
tion to the Publisher -- William Rider & Son,
LIMITED, 164 Aldersgate Street, London, E.C."

I believe this WoF is one of the earliest official RWS pictures and tells us lots of things.

The RWS Diagram from Card-Reading (1913) by Minetta.

Minetta was a popular fortune teller at that time and she published several book on cartomancy, tea-leaf reading etc. In Card-Reading (London: William Rider and Son, 1913) she wrote "The pack I shall refer the reader, and which I shall use in the following exposition, is that containing the new designs executed by Miss Pamela Colman Smith. They vary somewhat in detail from the oldest forms, but are true to the traditional description in all essential points" (p.86).

Most interesting feature of the diagram is that the images used are not from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1911). They have same features of those found in The Occut Review 1909 Dec. issue, and we can safely assert this diagram is a sort of collage work using paper-copies of PCS's drawings.

My conjecture is that they first drew triangles and a circle on the sheet and arranged paper-copies according to the plan, then put a transparent glass-plate and took a photo. It was an easy procedure for a diagram of a small book. But by magnifying the image we can still see the slight white margin of each card, inevitable shadows etc.

The authorship of the RWS calligraphy

It seems some people have a doubt about the authorship of RWS calligraphy ; those letters of card titles were perhaps not done by Pamela Colman Smith. I don't know what kind of proof make them think so. By comparing PCS's calligraphy shown in other works, we can sufficeintly convince ourselves that it was her work. The below (1) is taken from RWS The Queen of Sword. (2) is from the front cover of Blue Beard (1913), and the (3) is from Ace of Swords. Compare RD of (1) and (2), and "A" and "E" of (2) and (3).

Blue Beard (1913)

And I would like to show a bookplate designed by PCS as a subsidiary proof. Each word has a period (full stop) at the end, as the most of RWS trumps and court cards do.

List of RWS Advertisements in The Occult Review 1909-1948.

The following list is not complete because my collection of The Occult Review is incomplete. I have yet to collect many issues published before 1920. And the bound volumes of 1921-1948 are often lack of front and end advertisement pages.

Example of Cover Ads.

Example of Line Ads.

Example of Square Ads.

A. .. the Article "The Tarot; A Wheel of Fortune" by Arthur Edward Waite, with 13 drawings of Pamela Colman Smith.
C ... Cover Advertisement.
L ... Line Advertisement.
S ... Square Advertisement.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
1909 A
1910 C L C C
1912 L L
1913 L
1915 L L C
1916 C
1917 L
1920 L
1921 L
1928 L
1932 L S
1933 S S S
1934 S S S S S S S S S S S S
1935 S S S S S S S S
1939 L

Address of Rider & Co.

The following is the list of addresses of Rider & Co. found in The Occult Review 1905-1948. After that, the addresses are those found in several books published by Rider & Co. I believe the informaiton might be valuable in some cases of date ID of packs or books.

William Rider & Son, Ltd.

164 Aldersgate Street, London, E.C.

1912 October
Cathedral House, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.

Rider & Co.

1925 July.
33-36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.

1925 September
Paternoster House, London, E.C.

1941 April,
47 Princess Gate, London, S.W.7.

1944 July
37 Bedford Square, London, W.C.1.

1945. January.
68 Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.

1948 Winter.
Bouverie House, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.

1948 Spring.
47 Princess Gate, London, S.W.7.

1953 from Frank Lind My Occult Case Book.
Hutchinson House, Stratford Place, London, W.1.

1974 from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (second edition, second impression).
3 Fitzroy Square, London, W.1.

1986 from the LWB of Royal Blue Rider Tarot (ISBN0-09-109340-6)
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA,