English book illustrator Arthur Rackhan is one of the leading artists during the Golden Age of British book illustration. His work is noted for its robust pen and ink drawings, which were combined with the use of watercolour. Some of his best-known works include the illustrations for Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Having his works translated to a tarot deck is a worthy undertaking.
The Rackham Tarot consists of 78 cards in a tuck-top box. The two extras are a title card (with art from the box cover) and an ad for Lo Scarabeo’s Tarosophy association. The suits are Cups, Pentacles, Wands, and Swords. Only icons and numerals appear on the cards (no words). The Major Arcana have the standard titles and numbering (Strength is 8, Justice is 11). The cards are borderless with a parchment-colored header and footer for each card’s number and/or symbol.
The art is amazing: the densely inked compositions are highlighted with tints of sepia, navy, celadon green, and ochre. Populated with elves and goblins, golden-haired princesses and sly old crones, on the whole, the images have a foreboding, twilight feeling.
Some of the illustrations are familiar from childhood books, posters, and greeting cards; some images are recognizable from mythology. But the most the images will leave you scratching your head unless you happen to be an art historian. Worse, the little white book (LWB) is not very useful, at times downright wrong. For example, the Empress image is described as, " " but it's clearly Mary with baby Jesus being visited by the Three Wise Men. Moreover, there is a terrible sense of sameness to this deck. Rackham’s art is lovely, but not particularly deep, and when shrunk to the size of a typical tarot deck, the image become dark and eerie. The Sun does not shine, there is little joy in the 10 of Cups.
It's not great for actual tarot reading., but as a vehicle to enjoy Rackham's art, this deck succeeds.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Creator: Arthur Rackham/ Lo Scarabeo
Lo Scarabeo, 2019
A nice biography and some of his images can be found here: https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/arthur-rackham