Artist: Giovanni Vacchetta
Publisher: Llewellyn (Lo Scarabeo)
Publication date: April 2002
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The Tarot of the Master is an Italian deck distributed in the US by Llewellyn. First created by Giovanni Vacchetta and published under another name in 1893 in Turin, this deck was originally black and white drawings. When Lo Scarabeo decided to reprint the deck, they hired Michela Gaudenzi to color it. Gaudenzi deserves a lot of credit as his soft color scheme does not hide any of the fine detail of Vacchetta's line art.
The deck itself is a fairly standard tarot deck. It is, however, an important deck in the history of tarot decks as it is one of the first tarot decks to introduce symbolism into the minor arcana. While this symbolism is not present to the extent that would become common after Smith and Waite designed the well-known "Rider-Waite" deck in 1910, this deck is a major departure from "pips" style of minor arcana design.
Unless you are a tarot historian, you probably are not excited -- and rightfully so. Most people buy tarot decks for their art or their ease of divinatory reading, not for their significance to the development of the Tarot. Vacchetta was "Master of Design" at Albertina Academy and his decorative design and embellishment skills are obvious in this deck. However, while a lot of technical skill went into this deck, it often seems to be lacking emotion. As it is a standard Tarot deck, it is very easy to read in divination. Those who prefer decks with a large amount of symbolism on each card will have problems with this deck. It may have been one of the first to include symbols in the minor arcana, but there probably are not enough of them for symbol lovers.
Like every Lo Scarabeo deck I've seen, this one only comes with a small foldout flyer. The flyer for this describes the history of the deck, gives very brief descriptions of the major cards and their meanings, discusses each suit briefly and provides a single divinatory layout. As this is a standard tarot deck, this is more than enough information for those who are already familiar with the tarot. Unfortunately, it is not at all helpful for a complete beginner. A beginner will require a separate book on tarot divination just to get started.
The Tarot of the Master is a fairly average tarot deck. While it has an interesting history and design style, nothing about it screams "buy me." Nothing screams "avoid me" either. If you are in the market for a new tarot deck and would like something a bit different in feel from many decks on the market, the Tarot of the Master is worthy of your consideration.
Reviewed by Randall