Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vive La Tarot de Marseille

For those who might be interested, there is a French cardmaker, Jean-Claude Flornoy, who still knows how to make tarot and playing cards the old-fashioned way, printing the blackline sheets off woodblocks and coloring the cards by hand using stencils.

An entire deck made this way would be prohibitively expensive, but he has made a couple of trumps-only decks (22 trump cards plus the two signature spot cards) that are hand colored and affordable.

This page on his website shows the coloring process. The woodblocks for these two old Marseille decks -- the Noblet and the Dodal -- are long gone, but he has copied the blackline designs faithfully with the aid of a computer. So these decks are produced with an impressive combination of cutting-edge and primitive technologies.

First two large sheets, each containing twelve cards, is printed. Then each is colored with a series of six stencils, one for each color. The lighter colors go on first -- light blue, then pink, then yellow, then green, red, and dark blue last. After that the sheets are cut into cards.

The result is an absolutely gorgeous set of hand-colored trumps plus the maker's signature cards, the deuce of cups and the deuce of coins. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see them.

The slightly smaller (and historically very early, hence more interesting) Noblet trumps deck sells for a very reasonable 38 Euros, or about $50, as near as I can work out the exchange, and I plan to buy them come payday, since I heard Flornoy is going to discontinue them this year.

I don't know of anything like this available anywhere else.

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