Friday, 7 June 2013

Page of Swords | Sola-Busca Tarot | Giordano Berti

The Page of Swords - Sola-Busca Tarot
If you have a passion for classical Tarot decks, you will know that the Wolfgang Mayer version of the 15th century Sola-Busca Tarot is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  

Giordano Berti, Tarot author and scholar, is the man behind this work and he has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about the deck, and, more specifically, the Court Cards.

First of all, Giordano, tell me how you came to reprint the Sola-Busca Tarot?

The version of the Sola-Busca Tarot I'm promoting is not my work. As you know I’m writer, not Tarot producer. This is the deck realised by Wolfgang Mayer in 1998 in Germany, faithfully reprinted from the original deck of 1491.

Mayer made an edition limited to 700 copies.  Each of these decks has a Warranty card numbered and hand-signed by Mayer.

In 2012 the Mayer family decided to sell the warehouse stocks, the printer having died, and I have bought about 300 decks.

What is your involvement with the artwork - has it been edited or recoloured?

Mayer's version is really extraordinary because it respects both the measurements and the original colours of the fifteenth century deck.

Since the decks that I bought from the family Mayer had no packaging, I asked an Italian craftsman to manufacture two types of box. A book-shaped box, with marbled paper in Florentine style (DeLuxe box), and a box with sturdy golden cardstock (Golden box).

Then, I added the deck's 8-page booklet where I summarise the story of this deck.  I also give the meanings of  the 78 cards taken from the book 'Sola-Busca Tarot' by Sofia Di Vincenzo (US Games Systems, Stamford, 1998) and a simple method to use these cards.

Is is quite a large format deck?

Each cards measure exactly 150 x 82 mm, i.e. 5.9 x 3.2 inches.  Wolfgang Mayer used a cardstock slightly larger so you can see exactly the boundaries of the paper in its original size.

The Sola Busca is the first Tarot to show fully illustrated Minor Arcana cards, is that correct?
We must remember that the Sola-Busca is the only Tarot deck that came up to our day complete with all 78 cards. But this deck is very important historically because is the first fully-illustrated deck. It was necessary to wait for the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, printed in 1909, to find a new deck illustrated in the Minor Arcana. In fact, some of the Sola-Busca served as inspiration for the Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith.

This is, of course, not your first Tarot deck - which other decks have you been involved with, Giordano?

I started to study the Tarot around 1974 and afterwards I studied at the University the relationship between art and esotericism ... but the Tarot are my first love and I have devoted a lot of effort both in the historical study and the design of new decks.

I have created many historical exhibits about Tarot in important places such as the Castello Estense in Ferrara (1987), the Archaeological Museum of Bologna (1983) and the Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (1985).

On Tarot I also wrote several books and exhibition catalogues, but one of my biggest satisfaction has been the design of new Tarot decks.

Since 1994 I have created eleven new decks, all illustrated by great artists. The complete list can be found on the website Tarotpedia, at the page dedicated to Giordano Berti.

I couldn't say which of these is most important, because each deck requires a great effort and each one almost becomes a child to you.
  • Celtic Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 1994), 78 illustrations by Giacinto Gaudenzi and Saverio Tenuta.
  • Tarot of Druids (Lo Scarabeo, 1994), with Bepi Vigna, 78 illustrations by Antonio Lupatelli and Severino Baraldi.
  • Enchanted Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 1995), 78 illustrations by Giacinto Gaudenzi.
  • Dante's Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2001), 78 illustrations by Andrea Serio Dante_Tarot.
  • Ramses. Tarot of Eternity (Lo Scarabeo, 2003), 78 illustrations by Severino Baraldi.
  • Golden Tarot of Renaissance - Estensi Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2003), 78 illustrations by Jo Dworkin.
  • Bacchus Tarot (Dal Negro, 2005), 78 illustrations by Luigi Scapini.
  • Venice Tarot (Dal Negro, 2007), 78 illustrations by Davide Tonato ([8]).
  • Angels Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2007), 78 illustrations by Arturo Picca.
  • Universal Wirth Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2007), 78 illustrations by Stefano Palumbo.
  • Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn (Lo Scarabeo, 2008), 78 illustrations by Patrizio Evangelisti.
I think that the artwork is beautiful and I have been looking at the Court Card images. Why are the Pages the only rank who do not have names?

I suppose the inventor of these cards have not given a name to the Pages because there are few references to famous servants in ancient literature.

What significance are the names of the remaining Court members? Are they characters from classical literature?

Some famous Knights, Queens and Kings are included in the Sola-Busca Tarot with the clear intent to put them in relation with the life of the Alexander the Great, represented in the King of Swords.

Tell me about the Major Arcana of this Tarot, how is it different to other Tarots?

The Major Arcana of the Sola-Busca Tarot portray characters from Greek and Roman history, except for Nenbroto (Trump XX) and Nabuchodenasor (Trump XXI), who are Biblical characters, and the Fool (Trump 0), which has no name.

I suppose the intent of the inventor was not to create a gallery of ancient celebrities, because many of the names of the Major Arcana are not famous for anything. Probably there is a profound mystery in choosing these characters: they could refer to friends of the author of the deck, who shared philosophical interests with him.

In any case, the iconography of the Major Arcana in the Sola-Busca Tarot is very different from the traditional one. In many figures there are torches and altars with fires: a detail that, according to Sofia Di Vincenzo, alludes to the practice of Alchemy.

Apparently the supposed inventor of the Sola-BuscaT, the painter Nicola di Maestro Antonio, was a friend of alchemists.

The Page of Swords is a wonderful image - he seems to be strumming a tune on his lute to the sword in front of him! Tell me about his character and how he is interpreted in the Sola Busca Tarot.

This image, in my opinion, show in allegorical way the ambiguity of feelings that animate the immature people, not just those who are young. The contrast is given by the lute, an instrument of peace and poetry, near the sword, instrument of war and death.

The proximity of the sword means that at any moment the Page could take it in his hand with menacing intent, both defensively and offensively.

How is your Sola Busca edition different to other issues of the deck?

I am convinced, along with Sofia Di Vincenzo, that the Sola-Busca Tarot is the first deck to be designed with non-gaming purposes, but this is purely speculative.  It is evident in many cards references to Alchemic tradition, which must be interpreted not as a way to make gold but as practice for improving the individual.

I hope to publish, before the end of 2013, a book I'm working on, entitled Sola-Busca Tarot. Secret Code of Alchemy.

If you would like to buy the Sola-Busca Tarot,  write to:

Many thanks to Giordano Berti for taking the time to answer my questions about the Sola-Busca Tarot.  You can explore the deck here.

Giordano provided his answers in English, which I edited in one or two places to read more smoothly.  Any translated errors are, therefore, entirely of my own making :)

'like' the Sola-Busca Facebook page!

Visit Giordano's website to explore the deck in greater depth.  Read other articles about the Sola Busca Tarot here 


  1. Thank your for this interview, I guess you asked all the things we wanted to know but were afraid to ask. It is such a beautiful deck, I wish I had it.

    1. It's beautiful, isn't it? Maybe you can spend your birthday money on a copy :-D

      Ali x

  2. Ali - Incredible interview! Kudos!

    1. Thanks Bonnie - your kind words are very much appreciated :)

  3. Surprisingly delicate and subtle artwork for a deck like this; I like it :)

    1. I am getting more into the older style decks these days. Although still constantly seduced by lovely new things too!

      Ali x


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