Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot


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Stanislas de Guaita: Table of Correspondences and Analogical Relations

Translator’s Introduction

A previous instalment provided the outline of the Tarot according to the fin de siècle occultist Stanislas de Guaita. Further continuing this series, we here present the table of correspondences given in the schematic outline to his work Le Serpent de la Genèse. This table appears on page 5 of Le Serpent de la Genèse, book 1, Le Temple de Satan, Librairie du Merveilleux, 1891.

Stanislas de Guaita (1861-1897)

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Table of Correspondences and Analogical Relations

Stanislas de Guaita

Table of Correspondences and Analogical Relations
Number Arcana of the Tarot Analogical Relations
 1  The Juggler  Unity, the Principle, the Object.
 2  The Popess  The Binary, the Faculties, the Subject.
 3  The Empress  The Ternary, the Relation, the Word.
 4  The Emperor  The Quaternary, the Cubic Base, the Potential.
 5  The Pope  The Quinary, the Will, its Instruments.
 6  The Lover  The Senary, Opposition, Reciprocity, the Mean, the Product.
 7  The Chariot  The Septenary, Triumph, Consummation, Plenitude, Riches, Superfluity.
 8  Justice  Equilibrium, Balance, Harmony.
9  The Hermit  Isolation. Power over the Astral.
10  The Wheel of Fortune  Causality, Collective Life, Becoming.
11  Force  Energy, Means of Deployment.
12  The Hanged Man  Voluntary Sacrifice, Interference between planes.
13  Death  Disintegration, Stripping away.
14  Temperance  Mutations, Changes, Combinations, Exchanges.
15  The Devil  Fateful currents of Instinct.
16 The Tower Struck by Lightning Collapse, Fall, Despair.
17  The Star  Ideality, Redemption, Hope.
18  The Moon  Trap, Constriction (Hereb)
19  The Sun  Splendour, Riches, Expansion (Iônah)
20  The Judgment  Resurrection, Restitution, Return.
21  The Fool  Subversion, Disorder, Dissolution, the Suicide of evil vanquished by its own weapons.
22 The World  Universal Syncretism, Mathesis.

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Stanislas de Guaita: The Tarot (or Book of Thoth)

Translator’s Introduction

One of the classic works based on the Tarot, almost wholly unknown in the English language, is the series of books published by the French author Stanislas de Guaita (1861-1879). Of aristocratic origins and a poet by inclination, de Guaita became interested in occultism and related disciplines, to the point of constituting an extensive library of rare works and manuscripts on all manner of esoteric and mystical lore, and establishing the Ordre kabbalistique de la Rose-Croix [Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross] in 1888 with Joséphin Peladan.

De Guaita’s background and his relations and disputes with the other luminaries of the Belle Époque are well documented and need not be mentioned here, suffice to say that his literary influence extended beyond the confines of the occultist circles. The interested reader will profitably consult the recently published Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque by Tobias Churton for a fuller account of this picturesque scene and its colourful characters.

De Guaita’s published output consisted of three books of verse and three books of occultism, followed by a last volume, completed posthumously by his erstwhile secretary Oswald Wirth, and further embellished and published by the latter’s disciple Marius Lepage. This occultist corpus was formed of a diptych entitled: Essais de sciences maudites [Essays on the Accursed Sciences] I. Au seuil du Mystère [On the Threshold of the Mystery]; II. Le serpent de la Genèse [The Serpent of Genesis]; the latter itself formed of 3 books: Le Temple de Satan [The Temple of Satan], La Clef de la Magie Noire [The Key to Black Magic], and the third posthumous volume, Le Problème du Mal [The Problem of Evil]. The first three books of his occultist writings have been recently published in English as: At The Threshold of Mystery; The Serpent of Genesis: The Temple of Satan, and The Key to Black Magicalthough we have not read them and thus cannot vouch for the translation.

De Guaita’s occultist works, in spite of their sulphurous titles, are neither apologetics for Satanism, much less are they grimoires of black magic. They are, in fact, a reasoned and rigorously organised exposition of de Guaita’s views on the development of religion, magic and mysticism through history (I), followed by a doctrinal interpretation of many of the issues mentioned, along with a dictionary of the various applications which they give rise to (II). The last two books deal with questions of occultist philosophy, epistemology and ontology, various contemporary developments in occultism, whether sectarian or pseudo-scientific, and finally, considerations on the question of evil.

We shall here concern ourselves with the volume entitled Le serpent de la Genèse, based on the structure of the Tarot trumps. Although the entire schematic outline of the work is based on the twenty-two major arcana of the Tarot, it is not in itself an examination of the Tarot as such, much less a treatise of cartomancy. Each chapter contains allusions to the card in question, but by and large these considerations may be taken as representing de Guaita’s own synthetic view of magic and mysticism more generally.

In this respect, the remarkable rigour of de Guaita’s exposé must be noted. Indeed, in a 1950 review of the posthumously published volume, René Guénon, who had in his youth been involved with some of the circles in question, writes:

Guaita, who was intellectually superior to most of the other representatives of the occultist school at the end of the last century, had nonetheless something of their way of thinking […] but in spite of these faults which make his work “dated” in a way, and which in all likelihood would have been corrected with age, everything he wrote bears testimony to a standard of quality which brooks no comparison with the other productions of the same school, such as the popularising works by Papus.

The Belgian Symbolist and Nobel Prize-winning author Maurice Maeterlinck would express a similar view in his Great Secret, writing:

“and if Papus too often works hastily and carelessly, de Guaita is always mindful, almost to excess, of his careful, dignified, polished, and rather formal phrasing.”

Although de Guaita’s endeavours and works had a lasting influence on the occultist circles of the 19th and 20th centuries, his legacy as far as the Tarot is concerned has been largely refracted through the lens of his personal secretary, Oswald Wirth (1860-1942), whom de Guaita had commissioned to not only illustrate his books, but also to create a deck of the 22 trump cards of the Tarot deck according to his instructions. This deck, published in 1889 and entitled Les 22 Arcanes du Tarot Kabbalistique [The 22 Arcana of the Kabbalistic Tarot], would later be reworked by Wirth in 1926, and forms the indispensable complement to his own work, Le tarot des imagiers du Moyen-Âge [Eng. trans. The Tarot of the Magicians] (1927), later summarised as Introduction à l’étude du tarot [Introduction to the Study of the Tarot] in 1931. Both sets of decks are currently in print, as indeed are both books, courtesy of Aquilonia and Weiser Books. De Guaita was also the lynchpin in the transmission of the so-called tirage en croix, or ‘cross spread’ commonly used in Tarot readings in the Francophone world: having learned it from Péladan, he in turn taught Wirth, who then codified it further along Hegelian dialectic lines and published it in his work, thereby ensuring its diffusion and eventual popularity.

The following series of Tarot-oriented excerpts from de Guaita’s work will consist of one first excerpt, the dictionary entry dealing with the Tarot; his table of analogical correspondences; and a brief article on magical herbs. This excerpt appears on pages 378-380 of Le Serpent de la Genèse, book 1, Le Temple de Satan, Librairie du Merveilleux, 1891.

Stanislas de Guaita in his final years

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The Tarot (or Book of Thoth)

Stanislas de Guaita

The Tarot (or Book of Thoth): Hieroglyphic monument of the ancient Sages, which would later become the pre-eminent instrument of divination; to finally degenerate into a mere game of cards. Court de Gébelin, in his great work (Le Monde Primitif, 1777, 9 vol. in-4), attributes the invention of the Tarot to the mages of Egypt. Others date it back to the earliest cycles of India, that early teacher of Mizraïm: a constant tradition among certain tribes of nomadic Bohemians, originating in the high plateaus of the Himalayas, and who transmitted the divinatory Art – from time immemorial and from father to son – inseparable from this prestigious instrument.

The Tarot is essentially composed of: twenty-two magical keys, figurative of the 22 Arcana of the absolute Doctrine; and of 4 x 14 cards, each marked with one of the tetragrammatic signs: of Staffs (י Iod, 🜍 male Principle,  common Club); of Cups (ה He, ☿ Feminine Faculty, common Heart); of Swords (ו Vaf, ☤ lingamic union of the two virtues combined, common Spade); and finally, of Shekels or Coins (ה‎ second He, ⧠ or 🜔 fruit of this union, common Diamond).

Each set of fourteen is constituted by the Pythagorean Denary (Θ or ϴ, or 10, ספרות Sephiroth of the Kabbalists), and a quaternary (1) of emblematic figures, representing the application of the great Name or יהוה‎  Diagram to each of the denaries (the King is י 🜍 , the Queen is ה ☿, the Knight is ו ☤, the Valet is ה 🜔).

For further details, one will consult the very rich and comprehensive volume by Papus, The Tarot of the Bohemians. (2) Of all the occultists who have concerned themselves with the Book of Thoth, Papus was the first to have had the bravery and the talent to scientifically deduce the law which governs the procedure of the Tarot. No one has gone further down this fertile avenue.

Many editions of the Tarot are known; some are necessarily altered where the figures are concerned, to the point of being unrecognisable. Examples: the German and Chinese Tarots, and the supposedly corrected deck by Etteilla. A few others present very noticeable variants. The most recommendable editions, from the point of view of magical Synthesis, are the so-called Besançon and Marseilles decks, especially the latter. From there to say that they are satisfactory…

It was expedient to rebuild at the very least the authentic edifice of the 22 Keys. Mr Oswald Wirth has courageously taken on this arduous task: by substituting correct drawings for the amorphous jumble of the old Tarots, this young initiate has performed a most meritorious deed. (3) All the amateurs of Theosophy will by now know the Tarot of Paris, in which the symbolism of the 22 keys finds itself restituted to its original purity, thanks to the care of Mr Wirth.

In the hands of the Mage, the Tarot is a philosophical machine, revealer of the absolute Synthesis. In the hands of the Bohemians and the fortune-tellers, it is a mediator of divinatory lucidity: and, as though by some dark alchemy, the perverse knowing how to spoil the best of things – optimi corruptio pessima – the Tarot all too frequently degenerates with these modern sorcerers into a very lucrative instrument of blackmail and even of crime.

By the inversion of the four letters of the hierogrammatic word Taro, we obtain the sacred words: Ator, Rota, Tora.

* * *

Notes

1. The Pythagorean Tetraktys.

2. The Tarot of the Bohemians.

3. See the 22 Keys of the Tarot by Wirth (Poirel ed., 1889).

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Paul Marteau: Editions of Le Tarot de Marseille and the Ancien Tarot de Marseille

Translator’s Introduction

Of the many works published on the Tarot in French, perhaps none has had quite the influence or fortune enjoyed by that of Paul Marteau, Le Tarot de Marseille, begun in 1928 and published in 1949, almost twenty years after the first edition of his well-known Ancien Tarot de Marseille in 1930. That this work received the reception hinted at by the book reviews we have published is due to a number of factors, not all of which are those commonly advanced by critics and amateurs, enlightened or otherwise.

First of all, the fact that the book was written by the designer-publisher of what was to become the most common, if not standard, Marseille-type Tarot deck, played no small part in this popularity. After all, who better than the creator himself – and one, moreover, descended from a family with a century of experience in the cardmaking trade – to introduce and explain his own work?

Secondly, the complete, self-contained nature of the book, clearly and methodically laid out, also presents a positive development with respect to most of the preceding works on the subject. Unlike most other works (with the notable exception of those by Eudes Picard and Joseph Maxwell), Marteau treats of the entire pack of 78 cards in turn and in detail. The self-contained – hermetic, in the common sense of the word – nature of Marteau’s work is appealing: it contains no history (and therefore, neither myth nor bad history), no references to other systems of thought, mystical, divinatory or otherwise, with the exception of brief digressions on number and colour symbolism, for, after all, there are both colours and numbers in the Tarot. In a word, it is seemingly definitive and unassailable.

Lastly, one must not neglect its aesthetic value, a point oft overlooked by uninformed critics: published by Arts et Métiers Graphiques, a prestigious graphic design firm, with full-size, full-colour reproductions of the 78 cards, impeccable typography and a pleasing layout, Le Tarot de Marseille forms an attractive tome for collectors, amateurs and the merely curious alike.

Yet the style and tone of Marteau’s writing are polarising: one either admires his dense, precise prose, or one deplores its authoritative voice and stentorian formulations. Marteau himself apologises to the reader for its “ponderous phraseology”; Jean-Michel Mathonière says it is “well written and a pleasant read”; Tchalaï Unger calls it an example of “remarkable verbiage.”

The lack of a historical overview renders his book impervious to historical criticism, since it provides no foothold for critique, but the lack of a history of the deck he used as the basis of his work (aside from a single footnote singling out the deck printed by Nicolas Conver in 1761) makes it eminently suspect in the eyes of the historically-minded. Naturally, those interested in cartomancy or in the Tarot as a system of personal development have little concern for such things, but in the final analysis, the broad appeal exerted by Marteau’s book has also made it vulnerable to a multitude of criticisms, should one venture beyond the narrow confines of its particular scope and perspective. Writing of Marteau’s deck, the Tarot specialist Jean-Marie Lhôte correctly notes that it is “a deck whose origin is impossible to place; which is paradoxical coming from an erudite collector of his calibre.” (La Tour de feu, n° 121, p. 24)

In effect, the sole historical indication, the footnote alluded to above, reads as follows:

“This Tarot is the one published in 1761 by Nicolas Conver, master cardmaker in Marseilles, who had held onto the woodblocks and colour schemes of his distant predecessors. This Tarot is presently published by B. P. Grimaud, who have acquired the Conver estate and in this way could continue to print the traditional Tarot in its original form.” (Paul Marteau, Le Tarot de Marseille, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1949, p. 1)

As we shall see, unpacking this statement leads to a mystery that has still not been completely explained, namely the genesis and rationale of Marteau’s deck. Indeed, the early history of the Conver deck is also unexplored territory.

If we have insisted on this body of work, both deck and book, it has been in order to highlight the singular nature of Marteau’s undertaking, one which will be spelt out more fully in forthcoming articles. To reduce Marteau’s contribution to the world of Tarot to a commercial monopoly is a sign of ignorance at best, or a symptom of bad faith at worst.

These desultory notes provide some measure of context for the following series of articles which we intend to publish; the first by Paul Marteau himself, On Four Arcana of the Tarot, which provides insight into his view of the origins of the Tarot and on the genesis of his deck; and Paul Marteau, Author and Publisher of the Ancient Tarot of Marseilles (1930) by Gwenael Beuchet, which provides the only substantial overview of Marteau’s life and work; and finally, the introduction to the booklet which accompanied the 1990 Dusserre reprint of Marteau’s deck by Jean-Marie Lhôte, which provides an insightful examination of Marteau’s deck and legacy.

Before doing so, however, we have seen fit to draw up an outline and bibliography of the various editions of Marteau’s works, namely, his book, his deck and its booklet, in order to clarify some of the issues they pose. In effect, there have been a number of editions of both Marteau’s deck and book, and these editions present some subtle and interesting differences which are instructive to note.

* * *

Editions of Paul Marteau’s

Le Tarot de Marseille and the Ancien Tarot de Marseille

Box of the Ancien Tarot de Marseille, B. P. Grimaud, Paris, 1930. (Courtesy of Adam West-Watson)

Ancien Tarot de Marseille

Background

Paul Marteau, as heir to the Grimaud card company, not only inherited the technical knowledge and commercial savvy of his forebears, but also their collections of historical decks, and as such had access to a veritable treasure trove of card-related material. Grimaud, notably, had purchased the rights to a deck produced by Lequart, founded in 1872. As the Tarot historian Thierry Depaulis has noted, “Although Lequart is better known for its ‘Besançon’-like tarot, which Grimaud took over in 1891 and continued until 1930, it seems Paul Marteau has used an early edition of Lequart & Thuillier’s Italian-suited tarot with Popess and Pope.”[1] Wishing to secure commercial rights over a new deck specifically for the purpose of divination, Marteau produced a Tarot deck based on the line drawings of this Lequart deck and on the colour scheme of the 1890 Camoin reprint of the 1760 Conver deck, better suited to mechanical reproduction, and to which Grimaud had acquired the rights in the late nineteenth century.[2]

Yet it turns out that the genesis of this deck, through a tangled history of mergers and acquisitions, extends even further back in time. The 1748 date given on the ribbon of the II of Coins of both the Lequart and Grimaud editions refers to the then earliest known date for the Parisian cardmaker Arnoult, bought out by Grimaud in 1858.[3] Therefore this 1748 date may be considered arbitrary and motivated by commercial concerns, in order to claim historical precedence over the Camoin reprint of the 1760 deck.

Thierry Depaulis states that, “In fact, it is very similar to the Nicolas Conver tarot, which Camoin was still printing in the second half of the 19th century (from very worn woodblocks). […] It is very likely that Camoin’s Conver tarot formed the basis of Lequart’s own, since even the ‘royal’ coat of arms with fleurs-de-lis on the two of Cups has been copied.”[4] The Tarot specialist Wilfried Houdouin has also noted that the Lequart deck was in all likelihood carved in the workshop of the Parisian cardmaker Antoine Lefer (1752-1813) a century earlier: “This deck effectively presents all the hallmarks of a Tarot deck produced between 1750 and 1800, as its resemblance to the 1760 Tarot of Nicolas Conver and its characteristic engravings show.”[5] According to the same author, this deck “most probably dates from 1778.”[6]

Marteau’s deck, slightly modified with respect to the originals on which it was based, was first produced in 1930, subsequently reprinted with different back designs, and would later be modified again in 1948. Some of the more notable differences between these two ‘editions’ include the removal of the royal fleur-de-lis from the IIII of Coins, replaced by a more politically-neutral tulip, and the addition of a pair of dice to the Juggler’s table. (Dice are also to be found on the Juggler card of the earlier Tarot by Jean Noblet, produced ca. 1650.) Some minor changes to the colouration were also effected. This colour scheme has also given rise to some controversy, but in fact, it would appear that Marteau, having sought out the older Antoine Camoin to make enquiries on this very subject, was inspired to adopt the colours of the earlier Camoin reprint when he came across the original stencils, still bearing the traces of these colours.[7]

Although the history of this deck and its ancestors as well as the rationale for Marteau’s editorial decisions remain to be fully elucidated, it is very possible that Marteau sought to base himself on an established standard, both in terms of the line drawings and the colour scheme, and in this way, lay claim to publish the Conver deck – “the traditional Tarot in its original form” – thus establishing himself as part of a chain of Tarot cardmakers.[8] Until such a time as Marteau’s unpublished letters and diaries might be examined, the matter must remain speculative and unresolved.

There were many reprints of the Grimaud deck throughout the 20th century, and a large number of them have been catalogued here. Both editions of Marteau’s deck were accompanied by his 80-page booklet entitled “Ancien Tarot de Marseille, explication des Arcanes Majeurs et Mineurs, avec de nombreux exemples de positions respectives de lames, précédée de nouvelles méthodes de Divination par le Tarot Traditionnel.” This booklet contains some material not present in Marteau’s later book, most notably divinatory meanings, as well as so-called “encounters” (Fr. rencontres) between cards, i.e. 2-card combinations and their combined meaning. Incidentally, the 1969/1970 English edition of Marteau’s deck, published by J.M. Simon, contains an approximate translation of this booklet.

One noteworthy non-Grimaud reprint is the one published by Dusserre in 1990, who printed a facsimile of the original 1930 deck, accompanied by a booklet by Jean-Marie Lhôte, who himself had been in contact with Marteau shortly before his death in 1966.

* * *

Le Tarot de Marseille

The editorial genesis of Marteau’s magnum opus, Le Tarot de Marseille, has also given rise to some speculation due to the differences between the 1930 and 1948 decks and the descriptions in the book, but also due to some differences between the various editions, which are noted below. All editions were published by Arts et Métiers Graphiques, Paris.

  • 1949: The first edition, limited to 2,900 copies numbered on the colophon page, was printed as a softcover In-8 volume. The cards of Marteau’s 1948 deck are pasted directly onto the pages of the book.
  • 1970: This second edition is identical to the first, with the notable exception of the cards, also pasted into the book, which are those of the 1960 Camoin ‘bicentennial’ reprint of the Conver deck. Although the colour scheme more or less matches the descriptions in the book, since Marteau mostly followed the precursor of this deck for his own, the line drawings are a little different. It is very possible that this deck was used instead of the original 1930 Grimaud deck due to copyright issues following the takeover of Grimaud by J.M. Simon in 1962, and Marteau’s death in 1966.
  • 1977, 1981: Identical in format to the foregoing editions, with the exception of the cards, printed directly into the book this time, reproducing the 1948 edition of Marteau’s deck.
  • 1984: Same as the foregoing, except it is presented in hardback format, with a black dust-jacket over a yellow clothbound volume, with the Juggler on the front cover, and the Ace of Cups on the back.
  • 1983: Marteau’s book was also translated into Spanish and published as El Tarot de Marsella by EDAF from 1983, with a number of reprints.

* * *

The literary reception of Marteau’s book, hinted at by the various book reviews we have published, fails to give a complete picture of the influence his work has had, an influence disproportionate to the limited print run of its first edition. Yet many of the notions laid out in Le Tarot de Marseille are now part and parcel of what may be called French Tarology, at least, that of the 20th century; reading the Tarot as an analogical, optical language; interpreting the floral ornaments; and paying close attention to the incidental details. The systems of more recent authors, such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Tchalaï Unger, Marie-Thérèse des Longchamps or Claude de Milleville, are all, to a certain extent, inspired by this approach.

Paul Marteau’s article, book and booklet, taken as a whole, and respectively referring to the origin, theory and application of the Tarot, must be considered as representing the totality of his tarological system, and it is to be hoped that a complete and comprehensive edition and English translation of these texts be published at some point in the future.

Notes

[1] Thierry Depaulis, ‘The Tarot de Marseille – Facts and Fallacies, Part I,’ The Playing-Card, volume 42 (2013-2014), Number 1, pp. 23-25.

[2] See Gwenael Beuchet, ‘Paul Marteau, auteur et éditeur de l’Ancien Tarot de Marseille (1930),’ in Thierry Depaulis (ed.), Actes du Colloque ‘Papiers, Images, Collections,’ 28, 29, 30 avril 2000, Le Vieux Papier n° 358 (October 2000), pp. 31-40.

[3] Thierry Depaulis, Tarot, Jeu et Magie, Bibliothèque nationale, 1984, p. 121. See also the detailed pages on the history of the Grimaud firm here.

[4] Thierry Depaulis, ‘The Tarot de Marseille – Facts and Fallacies, Part I,’ The Playing-Card, volume 42 (2013-2014), Number 1, pp. 23-25.

[5] Wilfried Houdouin, Le code sacré du Tarot, Éditions Trajectoire, 2011, Chapter III, note 1.

[6] Wilfried Houdouin, The Tarot of Marseilles – The Fundamentals, Books on Demand, 2021, p. 222.

[7] Gwenael Beuchet, op. cit., p. 36.

[8] Paul Marteau, Le Tarot de Marseille, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1949, p. 1.

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Basilide: The Metaphysical Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

The basic ideas of Patrice Genty concerning the four suits of the Minor Arcana of the Tarot deck have already been presented in his appendix to the book on cartomancy by P.-C. Jagot, signed ‘Mercuranus.’ Under the hieronym of the Gnostic patriarch Basilide, Genty further explored his curious view on the nature and composition of the Tarot in two books, Le Profond Mystère du Tarot Métaphysique (1929) and Le Symbolisme du Tarot (1942).

Le Profond Mystère du Tarot Métaphysique ; Le Symbolisme du Tarot

In effect, Basilide details the three worlds according to the Gnostic view as follows:

“The first world is ruled by the Unity and the Ternary; the second by the Binary and the Senary; and the third by the Quaternary and the Duodenary. Each world reflects the two others. […] The major Arcana of the Tarot figure the 22 principles of the Third World. […]”

There is a great deal of digression and inconsistency in Basilide’s two books, which are very much a curious blend of ideas culled from Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, as well as the theories of Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, but we shall here simply provide his comments on the structure of the pack, and more specifically, on the Minor Arcana, as a continuation of his postface for the book by Thylbus, and of this series in general.

 

* * *

The Metaphysical Tarot

Basilide (Patrice Genty)

(Excerpts)

The complete pack of Tarot cards is the synthesis of the universe and includes the three worlds.

  • Major Arcana: First world.
  • Minor Arcana: Second world.
  • Ordinary Cards: Third world.

The complete study of the Tarot must therefore include these three series of cards.

The relations between the major arcana are multiple, for, even though chiefly representing the first world, we also find the two others therein. These arcana may therefore be studied according to the unity and the ternary (1st world); according to the binary and the senary (2nd world); or according to the quaternary and the duodenary (3rd world). Among the authors who have studied the Tarot, Wirth preferentially uses the binary key, and Papus the quaternary key, following the divine name YHWH. […]

The major arcana indicate the principles; the minor arcana, the transformations to which they are subject; and the ordinary playing cards, their realisation in the material world, symbolised by the cube. The number of these last cards must therefore be 4 x 4 x 4, or 64 cards (two packs of 32 cards).

To each of the 8 angles of the cube, we place three figures (king, queen, valet; father, mother, child), each following one of the half-edges. The 8 aces are placed following the 8 half-diagonals, and serve as a transition.

The rest, 8 groups of 4 cards, are placed in the centre of the cube and indicate the definitive mode of realisation. It would be necessary to restore the symbolism of ordinary playing cards and to do for them what Eudes Picard has done for the minor arcana.

Let us stay a few words on the latter. They are divided into four series: Staffs, Cups, Swords, Coins (corresponding to diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs respectively).

Each series is composed of 14 cards, 4 figures and 10 cards numbered from 1 to 10, giving 16 figures and 40 numbered cards in total; 40 being the number of transformation (let us note in passing that 40 x 12 x 9 = 4320).

Each series is composed of: 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10: 55 points, or, for the 4 series or 40 cards: 220 points.

There exist other systems of minor arcana; one of them, used by certain Gypsies, is composed of 13×13 cards. The 4 figures of each series are named: King, Queen, Knight, Valet. The King and Queen are complementary; the Knight is the bond that connects them; and the Valet is the fruit of this union.

We could also arrange them according to two pairs forming a cross. The King and the Queen, binary by complementarism, are placed on the horizontal line; the Knight and the Valet, binary by subordination, on the vertical line.

The diagram of the Staff is the vertical line; the Coin is the circle.

The Cup and the Sword are formed from the foregoing pair.

The Staff is the action in potential; the Cup, the first intention of the act; the Sword, the struggle to realise it; the Coin, the realised act.

The 4 series of 4 figures are the guardians of the cardinal points and form the connection with the preceding world (in the same way as the ordinary playing cards).

As to the 40 numbered cards, the synthesis of the stellar world. Papus has shown the role of the 10, synthesis of the 9 others and intermediary with the following world. There thus remain 4 times 9 or 36 cards, corresponding to the constellations (18 in each hemisphere).

The Staffs correspond to Fire, the Cups to Air, the Swords to Water and the Coins to Earth.

The celestial sphere is mobile; it must therefore also be the case for the minor arcana, which represent the world of the heavens, cycles, and transformations. The ordinary playing cards represent the sub-lunar world, cubic and stable. It is the world of realisation.

To read the Tarot with an entire deck, one would therefore have to place the major arcana on a circle, the minor arcana on a moveable sphere surrounding the circle, and the ordinary playing cards on a cube enveloping the sphere.

* * *

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Mercuranus: The Minor Arcana of the Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

Previously, we published the preface to the book Les Cartes et les Tarots : méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, by the author who signed as Thylbus, first published in 1912. That little book contained an intriguing appendix, the only theoretical part of the work, by the pseudonymous author Mercuranus, none other than Patrice Genty, alias Basilide.

Patrice Genty (1883-1964), an inspector for the national gas company of France, was a 20th century author interested in esoteric matters; a member and later leader of the Gnostic Church founded by Jules Doinel, he wrote works on Gnosticism, the Templars, the Celtic tradition, and two books on the Tarot, as well as a number of articles on alchemy and other topics for the occultist periodicals of the time. Some of his works have been republished in French, and a biography may be found here (in French).

This brief appendix is worth considering, treating as it does of the much-neglected Minor Arcana, as well as elemental, seasonal and astrological attributions. We have already published excerpts from the works of Gérard Van Rijnberk and Jean Chaboseau in this respect, so it is not without interest to pursue this examination with the following text. Readers will note that the division of the four suits into either active or passive categories according to their design – a straight line or a curve – is attributable to none other than Eudes Picard.

Patrice Genty would later continue his investigations into the Tarot in two short but dense books, Le Profond Mystère du Tarot Métaphysique (1929) and Le Symbolisme du Tarot (1942), both published under the hieronym Basilide, but the burgeoning ideas he had on the Minor Arcana are already present, in nuce, in this appendix. The later edition of this book, which we have consulted for this translation, is available online here.

Various editions of Les Cartes et les Tarots

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The Minor Arcana of the Tarot

Mercuranus

(Patrice Genty)

The Tarot that is most often used is composed of 78 cards, divided as follows:

  • 22 major arcana;
  • 4 x 10 or 40 cards in 4 series numbered from 1 to 10;
  • 4 x 4 or 16 figures.

The Tarot therefore enables the study of transformations (40) of 22 principles and of their realisation in the material world (42). (*)

The minor arcana are subdivided into 4 groups:

Staffs, Cups, Swords, Coins.

The Staff is the active principle: schematised by a vertical line; the Cup, the passive principle, schematised by a horizontal line; the Sword, their union, schematised by a cross; the Coin, the product of this union, is schematised by a circle.

The set is therefore schematised by a cross inscribed within a circle.

In other words, the Staff symbolises action; the Cup, the motive for the action (passion); the Sword the struggle to execute the action, and the Coin, the product, the result of the action.

We could indicate other schemas. The Staff is a straight line; the Coin a closed curve; the Sword and the Cup are mixed, and are composed of straight lines and curves.

Many correspondences have been established between the minor arcana and the elements. All these may be justified, according to the point of view concerned. From the divinatory point of view, the Staff corresponds to fire; the Sword to water; the Cup to air; and the Coin to earth.

 

Note

  • This figure of 42 may be a typo since Genty states elsewhere that it is the deck of ordinary playing cards that represents realisation in the material world, in which case the correct figure ought to be 52, for a standard deck of playing cards, or 32, for a stripped deck of piquet cards. However, the number 42 occupies a special place in the Egyptian, Kabbalistic and Pythagorean traditions, and it is possible that this is what Genty had in mind instead, without specifying the matter further. – Trans.

 
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Paul-Clément Jagot: Preface to Thylbus: Cards and Tarots: Methods of the Masters of Cartomancy

Translator’s Introduction

The little work this excerpt has been taken from has had an influence that extends beyond its length. In effect, the book Les Cartes et les Tarots : méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, by the author who signed Thylbus, first published in 1912, was reprinted quite a few times through the 20th century, and was the chief source of the cartomantic tradition dating back to Etteilla in that century.

Its brief preface by Paul-Clément Jagot, dealing mainly with the form of intuitive inspiration involved in reading cards, was also influential and is mentioned in some of the most unexpected quarters. The pseudonymous author Thylbus is none other than Jagot himself. Paul-Clément Jagot (1889-1962) was one of those French precursors who created a bridge between the occultism of the late 19th century and the nascent self-development movement of the early 20th century, typified by “Positive Thinking”, the Coué method of autosuggestion, and active imagination or guided dreaming; similar to the New Thought movement in the United States.

The work itself consists quite simply of divinatory meanings for the cards of an pack of ordinary playing cards, along with those of the Tarot, understood as the Tarot deck designed by Etteilla, followed by the ways in which the cards may be arranged and questioned. In other words, it is a practical, not theoretical, work, one destined to the cartomancers and the curious. (The appendix, to which we shall return, presents an exception to this characterisation.)

The book was republished at least half a dozen times,but was first published as Traité de cartomancie, ou l’Avenir par les cartes, Eichler, 1912, and later republished as Les Cartes et les tarots, méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, Drouin, 1924, and continuously reprinted thereafter by Dangles until recently. One of the later editions, which we have consulted for this translation, is available online here. Here we present the preface to this interesting little work.

Cover of an early edition

* * *

Cards and Tarots: Methods of the Masters of Cartomancy

Paul-Clément Jagot

Intuition, clairvoyance, lucidity, these mysterious faculties have barely been touched upon by modern psychology, and yet were widely in use during Antiquity where, in order to provoke manifestations, various so-called divinatory practices were used.

Cartomancy is the simplest and most effective of these methods. It enables everyone to obtain, to a degree relative to their receptivity, the perception of matters situated beyond sensorial perception in time and space.

It develops a certain degree of prescience in everyone.

In the Tarot, the Initiate possesses an admirable symbolism in which his meditations will discover an entire philosophy; a mathematical oracle in which the answers to the most formidable questions are enclosed.

The most humble cartomancer, unconscious handler of the arcana, thanks to the second state in which the traditional ritual places her, realises the necessary psychic conditions in order to grasp the imminent virtualities.

If it is easy for anyone to give themselves a cheap certificate of superiority by criticising the cartomancers and their clientele, it is no less true that the latter is by no means limited to mere mortals alone, but that it also includes fervent devotees ranking among the most enlightened spheres. That is because, in spite of all the mockery and all the short-sighted reasoning, experience shows that by applying the rules of cartomancy, we may truly recover the past, know the present and foresee the future.

The practical manual of divination by cards that I present to the public today and in particular to the readers of my books, was composed according to the most qualified sources. The collaboration of Mr Thylbus – an erudite seeker – and Madame de Karnac – an expert practitioner of fortune-telling, is supplemented by Mercuranus, well-known for his articles in the Voile d’Isis and his alchemical research.

I have read more or less everything that has been published on the subject, and I can say, with the certainty of seeing the reader’s opinion corroborate my own, that no other treatise is at the same time as clear, as complete and as strictly in conformity with the Tradition of the Masters of the Art.

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Patrice Boussel: The Great Game

Translator’s Introduction

A further entry in Patrice Boussel’s Manuel de la Superstition deals with cartomancy proper, and more specifically, with the card ‘spread’ entitled Le Grand Jeu, which may be translated literally as The Great Game, as we have done here, and which also exists as an expression, appropriately derived from gambling, and which means “to go for broke,” “to go all in,” or to make a “supreme attempt,” as noted by René-Louis Doyon. This expression also lent its name to the eponymous literary and artistic movement, loosely led by René Daumal, and which evolved on the margins of Surrealism. Finally, the term also served as title for a famous 1934 film by Jacques Feyder, in which a card reading plays a pivotal role in the plot. The genesis of the term is examined in depth by Malcolm Yapp in his lecture, ‘The Legend of the Great Game’, in the British Academy 2000 Lectures and Memoirs, pp. 179-198. The perceptive reader will note the intriguing literary indications in the last paragraph, an allusion, it would appear, to the writing technique of the French Symbolist author Paul Adam.

This little outline of cartomancy using a piquet deck is largely culled from the classic work on the subject by Boiteau d’Ambly, Les cartes à jouer: et la cartomancie, published in 1854 and itself largely based on the works of Etteilla as far as the section on divination is concerned.

* * *

The Great Game

Patrice Boussel

The art of reading the cards, that is, to predict the future by means of cards, bears the learned name of cartomancy. Cartomancy is practiced with the thirty-two cards of a deck of ordinary piquet playing cards, or with the seventy-eight cards of a tarot pack. What we ordinarily understand by the Great Game, is the use of the set of cards of one of these decks with a view towards knowing events in the near or distant future. The meaning of each of them is giving by correcting its traditional value by its neighbouring cards and by its position within the set of the spread. The complexity of the Tarot deck and the difficulty of certain symbolic interpretations means that amateurs who wish to know their future or that of their friends generally content themselves with the thirty-two cards with which they play belote.

We may also use the Great Game to find out if a marriage will be successful, if we may count on an inheritance, if a lawsuit will be favourable, of a voyage will be a happy one, etc. In each case, it will be necessary to pay particular attention to certain cards corresponding to the subject: the dark or fair-haired gentleman will be the king of clubs or of hearts, a profitable death will be the ace of spades upside-down, the ace of hearts may bring some news, etc.

The most classic method of distributing the cards is as follows: after having shuffled the deck thoroughly, have the querent cut the deck using the left hand. Count the cards from the pack and take out the seventh, the fourteenth, etc. … by always placing the intermediate six cards at the bottom of the deck. Continue this operation until twelve cards have been taken out and spread in a circular arc from left to right, in the order they were picked. Check if the consultant is represented within these twelve cards (a king, a jack, or a queen, according to whether it is a man, a young man, or a woman; spades or hearts according to whether the person is dark or fair-haired).

If the card representing the interested party is not among the twelve cards, find it in the remaining pack and place it after the twelfth card. Otherwise, have the querent pick a thirteenth card from among the twenty remaining cards. The interpretation may then begin.

First of all, give a summary interpretation of the entire spread, then, going from the card which depicts the querent, analyse the cards encountered by counting off five by five until one reaches the starting point. Finally, in order to obtain further supplementary interpretations, have the querent draw a card, face down, from the remaining pack, for each of the thirteen cards whose meaning is still obscure. It will be possible to continue in this way until the pack has been completely used up.

In the exceptional case where all has not been made clear, we may yet again take the first thirteen cards, shuffle them, have the querent cut them once again with the left hand, then arrange them face down in six piles (for the person, for the home, for one’s expectations, for what does not wish for, for the surprise, for one’s consolation), by proceeding in this way: spread the first six cards from left to right; on the second round, place a card over the first five; on the third, place the two last cards on the first and second pile. Each pile is then turned over and explained.

Another method consists of having the querent shuffle and cut the deck with the left hand, then pick twelve cards, face down, in turn, and place them one after the other from top to bottom, from left to right. There are turned over in the same order in such a way as to obtain a sort of square. If the querent’s card is not present in the draw, look for his card in the pile and place it in a row more or less corresponding to its position in the pile, turning from right to left, starting from the highest card, called the card of destiny. After having given the greater outline of the future such as it is symbolised by the spread, shuffle the remaining pile, have it cut (using the left hand) and four new cards are drawn by the querent. The first will be placed on the card of destiny; the second on the card of the home (below); the third on the card of consolation (to the left); and the fourth on that of surprise (to the right). Supplementary information is given by the rest of the spread.

In general, hearts and clubs are good and happy signs; diamonds and spades bad and signs of misfortune. The court cards of hearts and diamonds announce blonde or fair-haired people; the court cards of clubs or spades dark-haired people.

The meaning of the eight cards in the four series is as follows:

  • The king of hearts is an honourable man who seeks to help you; reversed, his loyal intentions will be stopped.
  • The queen of hearts is an honest and generous woman from whom you may expect help; reversed, it means delays in your hopes.
  • The jack of hearts is a decent young man, often a soldier, who will join your family and who hopes to help you; reversed, he will be prevented from doing so.
  • The ace of hearts heralds pleasant news; it represents a meal between friends if it is surrounded by court cards.
  • The ten of hearts is a surprise that will bring great joy.
  • The nine of hearts promises reconciliation or tightens the bonds of friendship.
  • The eight promises satisfaction from one’s children.
  • The seven of hearts announces a good marriage.
  • The king of diamonds is a rather important man who is thinking of causing you trouble, and who will cause you trouble if he is reversed.
  • The queen of diamonds is a wicked woman who speaks ill of you, and who will cause you harm if she is reversed.
  • The jack of diamonds is a soldier or the mailman bringing bad news. Reversed, there will be no mail.
  • The ace of diamonds announces a letter.
  • The ten, an important and unexpected voyage.
  • The nine, delays where money or good deeds are concerned.
  • The eight, bad news or business propositions.
  • The seven, arguments or a surprise if it is accompanied by hearts.
  • The king of spades is a doctor or a lawyer; he may announce a serious illness or an unsuccessful trial.
  • The queen of spades is a widow or divorcee. Reversed, she will cheat you.
  • The jack is a young man, a spy or a traitor. Reversed, he will not be able to harm you.
  • The ace heralds a victory or great sadness; reversed, it announces a bereavement.
  • The ten, night time.
  • The nine, delays in business, or death.
  • The eight, bad news or tears.
  • The seven heralds arguments, troubles, losses.
  • The king of clubs is a powerful, fair, man, who may become a protector. Reversed, his good intentions will undergo a delay.
  • The queen is a dark-haired woman who loves you. Reversed, she will be jealous.
  • The jack of clubs promises a marriage, which will only take place after numerous difficulties if he is reversed.
  • The ace heralds gains, incoming money, and reversed, theft.
  • The ten of clubs is a sign of fortune, of inheritance.
  • The nine, of success.
  • The eight, of founded hopes.
  • The seven, of weakness or of thinking of someone else.

The individual significance of each card remains necessarily vague, it only gives but a general theme, and it is indispensable to know the card or cards which precede it in order to give an interpretation of the spread. Always according to tradition, the following sequences number among the more important:

  • Four kings in a row: honour; three: success in business and protection; two: good advice or rivalry between men.
  • Four queens: Lots of gossip, anger and backbiting; three: cheating and jealousy; two: friendship.
  • Four jacks: success or laziness; three: complications; two: arguments or forthcoming marriage.
  • Four aces: success or a death; three: libertinage or sentimental success; two: enmity or hesitation.
  • Four tens: success; three: change of state; two: loss.
  • Four nines: good deeds; three: troubles and hardships; two: troubles.
  • Four eights: success; three: marriage or abandonment; two: troubles.
  • Four sevens: intriguers; three: entertainment; two: small news or pregnancy.

Etteilla, who had great success in cartomancy a little under two centuries ago, has given many examples of interpretation. Thus, “for some undertaking or other, one needs the four aces and the nine of hearts for success. If the nine of spades comes out, it will not succeed.”

“If one wishes to know whether a child will do well, and if he will keep his inheritance: the four aces form a guarantee of property, and a marriage proportional to his sentiments, and if it is a young lady, she needs the four eights and the king of hearts, which will herald peace and harmony in her marriage.”

“To know how much delay a couple will have for their wedding, either by year, by month, or by week: the queen of spades will find herself with the queen of hearts. Every other eight will be so many years of delay; every nine will be so many months; every seven will be so many weeks.”

“To know whether a man will find success in the military: the four kings must find themselves with the four tens, and if by chance the four aces are also in there, then he will reach the highest grades, according to his capacity.”

“For a change of place, or of any state whatsoever: the person, master, mistress, or servant: if it is a master or mistress, one needs the four jacks, the ten and the eight of diamonds, and the ten of clubs for success. If a nine of diamonds is in there, it signifies delays. If it is a servant, he needs the ten and the seven of diamonds, the eight of spades, and the four queens for success.”

Divination by means of cards thus finds itself helped by solid and detailed traditions. If the querent shows good faith and if the person reading the Great Game has some talent, or if it is accepted that they possess some sort of second sight, very often it can happen that some astonishing predictions can be made.

It can also happen that this great means of raising the veil which hides the future may be in the wrong, but there is one case in which it can prove to be most useful, and in which the cartomancer will never be wrong, it is the that of the novelist struggling to continue the story of his characters’ adventures. When an author of serialised novels finds himself in a difficult situation, when he does not know what will become of his heroine, or how his hero will resolve the problem in question, what new devilment his opponent will come up with, the most elegant solution, the one that will be assuredly place him in tune with his readers, will be to draw the cards for each of the children of his imagination. He will thus discover the real next instalment of his story, and without any fatigue, without any possible error, he will know the future.

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Patrice Boussel: The Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

The extensive and insightful review by Patrice Boussel of Paul Marteau’s Le Tarot de Marseille has already been published here, and we now turn to one of Boussel’s own works, his Manuel de la Superstition, published in 1963 by La Palatine. This slim and eclectic work compiles some of the erudite librarian’s musings on a wide variety of subjects, whether well-known or obscure, whether learned or deriving from folk traditions, and which are typically labelled as “superstitious.”

Boussel, after passing in review a number of definitions of ‘superstition,’ ranging from those provided by theology, Voltaire, Littré and de Maistre, among other authors, states that, “To be superstitious, is to believe not only in the truth of the outside world, but also to accept that we may present a certain importance in that world, that it may exert an influence on us as we may exert an influence upon it, and that, in brief, it is accessible and comprehensible to us, which obviously appears absurd to a reasonable philosopher.” (op. cit. p. 7)

This first excerpt deals with the Tarot, and quite succinctly. In passing, one will note the allusions to concepts expressed by other authors published in these pages. Boussel’s closing remark, rather than being a mere ironic dismissal of the process of Tarot study – in cauda venenum – instead highlights the necessarily personal and self-reflexive nature of the undertaking.

* * *

The Tarot

Patrice Boussel

The Tarot pack consists of seventy-eight cards or arcana. Among them, we distinguish twenty-two figures, the Major Arcana, and four series of Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are: the Juggler, the Popess, the Empress, the Emperor, the Pope, the Lover, the Chariot, Justice, the Hermit, the Wheel of Fortune, Force, the Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, the Devil, the God-House, the Star, the Moon, the Sun, the Judgment, the World, the Mate.

The four series of the Minor Arcana are the arcana of Sword, of Cup, of Coin and of Staff, each series comprising four figures (King, Queen, Valet and Knight) and ten cards (from the ace to ten).

There are many ways of drawing the cards, in general fairly comparable to those used for reading playing cards. The essential, in both cases, resides in the interpretation of the connections between certain cards brought about by the spread.

It is said that the Tarot is “the most ancient book in the world.” Some call it “the Bible of the Bohemians,” and some consider it to be an authentic “thinking machine.” Each card having a symbolic value, and for each operator, the combinations of the seventy-eight arcana may be considered as being infinite, the result is that the Tarot represents a concentration of human wisdom and an inexhaustible source of predictions.

The main thing is to know how to use it.

This knowledge will not be transmitted here. Very weighty tomes have been devoted to the Tarot, and they give but a glimpse of it. After having read and reread them, it will be necessary to go and consult the occultists and Gypsies in order to study the practical way in which the cards are handled, then one will need to struggle alone with the seventy-eight cards for a long time, and, after many years, perhaps one will notice that that the best of what one may find in the Tarot is what one has put in there oneself.

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Jean-Pierre Seguin: Obituary: Paul Marteau (1885-1966)

Translator’s Introduction

The figure of Paul Marteau presents something of a paradox: although the name is known to almost every amateur of the Marseilles Tarot, the man himself remains completely unknown. To date, there has been but one comprehensive study of the man, his life, and his work, that by Gwenael Beuchet, ‘Paul Marteau, auteur et éditeur de l’Ancien Tarot de Marseille (1930),’ in Thierry Depaulis (ed.), Actes du Colloque ‘Papiers, Images, Collections,’ 28, 29, 30 avril 2000, Le Vieux Papier n° 358 (October 2000), pp. 31-40. Even the otherwise thorough book by Decker and Dummett, A History of the Occult Tarot, (Duckworth, 2002, pages 302-303) glosses over this important figure and his major contribution to the Tarot. The present series of book reviews and texts seeks to redress this oversight, and in that perspective, we present here Marteau’s obituary by Jean-Pierre Seguin, the only one we are aware of. The “great writer in distress” alluded to below is none other than Louis-Ferdinand Céline, whose odd relationship with Marteau – and indeed, with the Tarot itself – remains to be elucidated more thoroughly.

Marteau’s donation to the Bibliothèque nationale, mentioned below, followed that of his uncle, thereby providing the library with a significant collection of playing cards, prints, books, woodblocks and other memorabilia. Yet a number of items were later sold after his death, including his manuscripts and letters from Céline, by the Parisian auction house Drouot in 1979, which had earlier sold part of Marteau’s collection of books in 1934. The elder Marteau’s 1909 donation consisted of “856 feuillets [i.e. cards] belonging to 382 antique or modern decks; 132 types of tarot papers; 30 reproductions of antique cards; 95 prints related to the game of cards; 69 decrees, laws, edicts…; 115 books related to the game of cards.” Later, Henry-René D’Allemagne would also donate close to 7,000 cards, while the younger Marteau’s collection would comprise of 458 decks of cards, 25 woodblocks and 165 books. For further details, one may consult the exhibition catalogue drawn up by Jean-Pierre Seguin, as well as a detailed article by Jude Talbot.

To put paid to one particularly tenacious rumour, relayed by the Bibliothèque nationale itself, Paul Marteau was not an Officer of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest order of merit. This mistaken attribution stems from a homonym and close contemporary, yet simple verification on the database of the Grand Chancellory of the Order reveals the source of the confusion: his namesake, one Paul Edouard Marteau (1895-1960), a veterinarian surgeon and captain of the reserve, was decorated in 1949. Likewise, we have found no evidence that Marteau ever studied philosophy in Leipzig.

This obituary appeared in the Bulletin de la Société archéologique, historique & artistique le Vieux papier, tome 25, 1967, and the original may be read here. Marteau passed away in early December of 1966. The author, Jean-Pierre Seguin, was an art historian and senior librarian, curator of the Prints and Photography department of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

 

* * *

Paul Marteau (1885-1966)

Jean-Pierre Seguin

Reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.

Paul Marteau died too soon to have been able to attend the inauguration, at the Bibliothèque nationale, of the exhibition of the most beautiful or most curious pieces of the collection of playing cards he donated in May 1966. He would have loved so much to have seen all the interest that, for six weeks, a host of friends, collectors, and strangers had for this unique set, which had been one of the passions of his life.

Paul Marteau, the last traditional master-cardmaker – such was the title he proudly gave himself – was the grand-nephew of Baptiste-Paul Grimaud, who in 1858 founded a House that remains famous, the son of Léo Marteau (1848-1920), master-cardmaker in Paris, and nephew of Georges Marteau (1851-1916), he too master-cardmaker and a great collector, who donated important collections of Far Eastern art objects to the Museum of Decorative Arts and of playing cards to the Bibliothèque nationale.

Paul Marteau was passionate about his work. He had the ambition – and he managed to achieve it – to maintain the high quality of the French playing card which had guaranteed it the first place in the international market. He was also fascinated by the esoteric aspect of the cards.

On his estate at Fleurière, in Cannes, planted with millennial trees and decorated with the flowers he loved, overlooking a magnificent view, he lived out his last years in the perfect communion of ideas and of sentiments with Madame Marteau. Without any illusions as to his health, peacefully and with a smile, he did not eschew any of the joys that were still allowed him.

He was a cultured man, of an exquisite politeness, of a smiling indulgence for those trifling flaws of character, but who did not tolerate mediocrity or nastiness. He was generous, without ulterior motives, and with the most perfect discretion. One day, we will know of the support he gave to one of our great writers in distress. His gesture in favour of the Cabinet des Estampes shows how much he knew how to let go, without regrets, of what he had loved so much for the benefit of others.

— Jean-Pierre SEGUIN

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