Page of Swords | Sola-Busca Tarot | Giordano Berti

Published by Alison Cross on

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
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
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
istorical 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.
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
    Scarabeo, 1994), 78 illustrations by Giacinto Gaudenzi and Saverio
  • Tarot
    of Druids
    Scarabeo, 1994), with Bepi Vigna, 78 illustrations by Antonio
    Lupatelli and Severino Baraldi.
  • Enchanted
    Scarabeo, 1995), 78 illustrations by Giacinto Gaudenzi.
  • Dante’s
    Scarabeo, 2001), 78 illustrations by Andrea Serio
  • Ramses.
    Tarot of Eternity
    Scarabeo, 2003), 78 illustrations by Severino Baraldi.
  • Golden
    Tarot of Renaissance – Estensi Tarot
    Scarabeo, 2003), 78 illustrations by Jo Dworkin.
  • Bacchus
    Negro, 2005), 78 illustrations by Luigi Scapini.
  • Venice
    Negro, 2007), 78 illustrations by
  • Angels
    Scarabeo, 2007), 78 illustrations by Arturo Picca.
  • Universal
    Wirth Tarot
    Scarabeo, 2007), 78 illustrations by Stefano Palumbo.
  • Initiatory
    Tarot of the Golden Dawn
    Scarabeo, 2008), 78 illustrations by Patrizio Evangelisti.
I think that the
artwork is beautiful and I have been looking at the Court Card
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
What significance
are the names of the remaining Court members?
they characters from classical literature?

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
(Trump XX) and
(Trump XXI), who are Biblical characters, and the
(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
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
, before the end of 2013, a
book I’m working on, entitled
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 πŸ™‚

‘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 

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Vivianne · 9th June 2013 at 10:43 pm

Surprisingly delicate and subtle artwork for a deck like this; I like it πŸ™‚

    Alison Cross · 11th June 2013 at 7:21 am

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

    Ali x

Bonnie Cehovet · 8th June 2013 at 1:58 pm

Ali – Incredible interview! Kudos!

    Alison Cross · 11th June 2013 at 7:21 am

    Thanks Bonnie – your kind words are very much appreciated πŸ™‚

Roskis · 8th June 2013 at 12:41 pm

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.

    Alison Cross · 11th June 2013 at 7:20 am

    It's beautiful, isn't it? Maybe you can spend your birthday money on a copy πŸ˜€

    Ali x

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