Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition Deck

Created by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith
Illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith
Published by US Games, 2009

78 Cards: 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana
Card Size: 120 x 70mm
Tradition: Rider-Waite-Smith
Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles
Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King
Strength 8, Justice 11

Hooray, my Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set featuring the Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition deck finally arrived. Full of excitement, I took the package out of its box and couldn’t help but notice the weight in it, hardly surprising with all the treasure inside. It’s a handsome package, certainly worth the wait.

This deluxe keepsake box set, published in May by US Games, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck by London publisher Rider & Company. Noting here of course that there was never any mention of Smith in the title, up until now of course. It is a wonderful thing that she has finally received due recognition and that her name is now where it belongs.

I gently opened the double-sided fold-out box. Where to start?! I decided to first check out the book of Pixie’s artwork. It is the main reason I bought this Commemorative Set as I myself am an artist and illustrator and know only too well how much time and effort she would have contributed. I was thrilled that this set had been produced in recognition of her contribution to such a famous and ground-breaking deck. The Rider-Waite Tarot is possibly the most well-known deck and was the first to use full pictorial scenes on the Minor Arcana cards rather than suit symbols. Pamela Colman Smith (Pixie) was commissioned by Arthur Edward Waite to produce the illustrations for the deck.

From the left-hand side of the box I take out The Artwork & Times of Pamela Colman Smith. This comprehensive biography by US Games founder Stuart Kaplan is not a large book, yet it is of excellent quality and it showcases her life’s work with over 100 full-colour samples of Smith’s non-Tarot art, many of which are from the private collection of Kaplan. Kaplan collected art, books, letters and ephemera that belonged to her. Stuart Kaplan has produced a well-researched biography encompassing an intriguing array of entries and curiosities from the life and times of Pamela Colman Smith. I can’t wait to read it cover to cover.

Also in the left-hand side of the box there is an updated new format of Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot. I already own a copy and so didn’t really need another, especially as I find it rather obscure and hard to read. One day I’ll give it another go. An observation of this edition that has me intrigued is that it does not include the pictures of the cards, which is odd considering it is, after all, a ‘pictorial key’. Anyway, it doesn’t worry me as it’s not the reason I purchased the Commemorative Set anyway.

On the right side of the box there is the Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition deck, a reprint of the original deck published in 1909. Along with the biography The Artwork & Times of Pamela Colman Smith, this deck was the other reason I wanted to get my hands on this set. I was curious as to how they would look, with their aged appearance and muted colours, and to feel the matt finish… would I like them?

Yes, I love them and the way they feel. The cards are a good size at the standard 120 x 70 mm. The card stock is sturdy resulting in this deck being a little thicker than the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The matt finish suits the vintage look and the obvious dot screen takes me back to my graphic work before computers came along. The backs showcase the Rosicrucian Rose from the Death card in the centre and PCS’s distinctive signature in two corners, all set on a dusky-blue background. The shape of the rose in the centre means the cards are reversible to a degree but there is a slight difference. I have done a reading with the cards and their appearance as they sat on the black silk was pleasing to the eye.

Also included are six colour postcards featuring Smith’s artwork, three 178 x 127 mm glossy reproductions of her artwork, a black and white photo of Pamela Colman Smith of the same size, a fold-out sheet with three spreads printed on it, and an organza bag to hold the cards. It’s chock full of goodies and will undoubtedly keep me busy for some time.

I think The Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set is definately a must-have for deck collectors and will appeal to art lovers as well as Tarot enthusiasts. I will certainly treasure mine.


Stella Luna © 2009.  All rights reserved.



2 Responses to Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition Deck

  1. Pietra says:

    I just love this set! I think it is a work of art in itself!

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