Book: The Continental Tarots by Christine Payne TowlerIn the essay titled "The Major Arcana" I emphasize that "Something happened" to the Tarot in the late 1600s, when a new trend emerged in the images of the Major Arcana. I point to the Marseilles family of decks and the Etteilla Tarots to illustrate my point.
The images shown by Antoine Court de Gebelin in his book Le Monde Primitif further validates this idea.The remainder of this essay is about exploring "what happened." Let's review the situation of Tarot in the first half of the 1600s. Since the early 1400s, both handmade and woodblock Tarots showed a remarkable constancy of internal structure even though some packs were either edited or expanded to meet the needs of the various games for which they were created.
Tarot appeared in 72-card form in Italy around 1450, although this model may represents "splice" between preexisting symbol sets: the twenty-two Hebrew alphabet-keyed set called the Major Arcana, and the Turkish Mamluk cards of unknown provenance, a 15th century version of which can be seen in Volume 2 of Stuart Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot (see essay on the Minor Arcana).
Kaplan also explains that the numerical order the Arcana appear in now is carried over from the French pack by Catelin Geofroy, published in 1557 (Vol. 1, p. 65). Some earlier fragmentary Tarots show Roman numerals on some of their Major Arcana, but not all of them, and not in the order we are now familiar with. Those very old woodblock decks tend instead to follow the list enumerated in a sermon written by an Italian friar in the late 15th century (see illustration opposite page 1 in Volume 1 of Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot). There is also another order derived from the Charles VI pack that keeps Temperence, Fortitude and Justice together in a group. A very small minority of Tarots follow this order, including Etteilla’s Tarots.
Books in PDF format to read:Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii - The Symbolism Of The Tarot
Robert Wang - The Qabalistic Tarot
Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers - The Tarot
Aleister Crowley - The Zodiac And The Tarot
Christine Payne Towler - The Continental Tarots