The Tarot’s Oldest Ancestor, The Marziano Tarot

100dpi Cover Front Marziano book

 The Marziano Tarot decks have arrived

and you can order them now

The deck is $30 plus shipping – $7 in the US, $25 for Canada, and $35 for other countries. Shipping is the same for one to four decks.



US customers may use this button to order:

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or because you just want to,

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The oldest known Tarot, or the oldest ancestor of the Tarot, depending on your definition, was described in a 1449 letter by Jacopo Antonio Marcello to Queen Isabelle of Lorraine, in hopes of gaining her favor. Paul Durrieu first discovered this letter in 1895. Franco Pratesi brought an accurate account of this letter to the attention of playing card historians in 1989, and in 2003 Ross Caldwell made a new translation, which brought it further attention.

72dpi 9 Marcurio72dpi 4 Venus













In the letter, Marcello described two decks that he was acquiring for the queen. Of the two decks, the older one was created between 1412 and 1425 for Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447), Duke of Milan from 1412 to 1447. This deck had trumps that consisted of sixteen classical gods, and did not follow the allegory that we now consider standard for a Tarot. The deck was designed by artist Michelino da Besozzo, working with a plan created by Marziano da Tortona, the Duke’s secretary, tutor, and astrologer. This is the oldest known deck to have trumps and, therefore, by my definition, is the oldest known Tarot.

The deck consisted of four suits, each with ten pips and a king and queen in the suit. The suit symbols were four different birds: eagles, phoenixes, turtledoves, and doves. According to Marziano, who wrote in great detail about the symbolism of the deck, each suit was intended to represent a life goal or desire, grouped in two contrasting pairs. As previously stated, the deck also contained 16 trumps composed of classical gods, which was not an unusual subject in Renaissance art. Besides forming a separate trump suit, four gods were assigned to each suit, with the gods representing appropriate qualities for each goal:

Eagles, representing the life goal virtue, were assigned Jove, Apollo, Mercury, and Hercules.

Phoenixes, representing the desire for riches, were assigned Juno, Neptune, Mars, and Aeolus.

  Turtledoves, representing the goal of chastity, were assigned Pallas, Diana, Vesta, and Daphne.

Doves, representing the desire for sensuality, were assigned Venus, Bacchus, Ceres, and Cupid.

The question of profundity in a game was also addressed in Marcello’s letter. The letter recounted the rhetorical question put to the Duke by the deck’s intellectual designer, Marziano, who asked if it is fitting for a serious and virtuous man such as the Duke to spend time playing a card game. Marziano answered that it is fitting if the game is equally serious and virtuous in the philosophy that it presents. He felt that his game met that standard.

As stated above, Marziano wrote a great deal about the symbolism of the deck, but less on how the game was played. There is evidence to suggest that even at this early date, playing cards were used for divination, and Marziano’s concern with symbolism and his use of birds, which are connected with ancient augury, suggests that besides a trick-taking game he may have intended a divinatory use for the deck.

No cards exist from this deck and the originals were most likely hand painted and gilded like other Milanese 15th century decks created for royalty. I have redesigned the deck as if it became a standard deck that was later reproduced in woodcuts and hand colored. My images for the cards are based on Marziano’s descriptions as translated by Caldwell and on the woodcuts found in the 15th century Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, early printed cards, as well as other Renaissance sources. In the future, Caldwell will author a book to accompany the deck, which will be sold separately. The deck measures 4.75″ by 2.75″ and it is now being printed.  You can preorder the deck through my campaign on Indiegogo or by contacting me in an email.

You can also order an archival art edition of the 16 divine trumps. I will print it on cotton paper, hand cut each card, and create a portfolio case for the deck.  These are $200 plus shipping – $7 in the US, $25 for Canada, and $35 international.

US customers may use this button to order:

Buy my product

For combing shipping on larger orders, or for international orders,

or because you just want to,

contact me at



A review by E Sylvia Simpson

from the Temple of the Goddess Fortuna

I have had Robert Place‘s Marziano Tarot for quite awhile, and just this morning I realized how powerful it is for one-card guidance.

The deck is styled as an Augur’s deck, with four types of birds as card suits. The deck also includes depictions of some of the major Roman deities. I had tried using it for divination, and it’s as enjoyable as any other divination deck. Very similar, in fact.

Today, I thought to ask a question of guidance, a “what should I do” in a particular situation. I decided to select only one card. If the card was a deity, I would consider appealing to that deity for guidance. If an Augury card came up, then I would look to see what the meaning might be in the “little white book” (a.k.a. “lwb”) that comes with the deck.

To my surprise, I did receive an Augury card. After considering the meaning of the card, the direction was very clear. Crystal clear, in fact, for an issue that had been concerning me for quite some time. I felt, oddly, like a participant in an actual Augury divination…despite using card depictions of birds and not “real life” birds.

I do know that Mr. Place does a lot of research for his decks, and I had been seeking a “humane” method of Augury for the purpose of exploring Roman Reconstructionism in an Animal-Friendly, contemporary sort of way. Although some might argue with the Auguric interpretations in the “lwb”, Mr. Place will probably have very accurate explanations for each card.

As for “humane” Augury, this is second nature to my Wiccan followers, yet somehow an elusive concept for some organizations in the Reconstructionist path. However; ancient practices evolved over time; this is particularly evident in ancient Rome, which went through numerous phases over the course of its reign.

I would like to recommend that my followers who are of the Reconstructionist path consider working with this deck, for Augury practice, and relay back with comments how well it may or may not work. To work with a deck, rather than with antiquated Auguric techniques, might correspond very well with evolution from the bronze/iron ages into the age of self-publishing and printing for the masses.

Keep in mind, I’ve been using cards for divination and guidance for more than 10 years, and I have a few credentials as well as a professional practice in cartomancy. It might take numerous times, over a period of months, to begin to reach the results you seek, and patience would certainly be a virtue.

However; appears to be a great deck, in my opinion, for simple, one-card guidance, with the theme of ancient deities and Augury. Highly recommended for reconstructionists who want to learn & practice Augury with the convenience of contemporary tools of divination/guidance.


Here are the designs for the 16 gods, the four aces; four pips, five royals, and the card back; the titles are in Italian:

72dpi 1 Giove72dpi 2 Giunone72dpi 3 Pallas72dpi 4 Venus72dpi 5 Apollo72dpi 6 Nettuno72dpi 7 Diana72dpi 8 Bacco
72dpi 9 Marcurio72dpi 10 Marte72dpi 11 Vesta72dpi 12 Ceres

72dpi 13 Ercole72dpi 14 Eolo

72dpi 16 Cupido
72dpi 15 Daphne72dpi Eagles 1 Ace

72dpi Phoenixes 1 Ace

72dpi Turtledoves 1 Ace72dpi Doves 1 Ace72dpi Eagles 7








72dpi Phoenixes 572dpi Turtledoves 7

72dpi Doves 3

72dpi Eagles 11 Queen72dpi Phoenixes 12 King

72dpi Turtledoves 11 Queen72dpi Doves 12 King72dpi Doves 11 Queen72dpi 0 Back

17 Responses to The Tarot’s Oldest Ancestor, The Marziano Tarot

  1. Jose Ventura says:

    This is one project I’m anxiously waiting for to be brought to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating history… thanks for this!


  3. Quando será publicado? Belíssimo trabalho.


  4. pnagy1231 says:

    Wonderful helping me keep abreast of tarot’s history.


  5. Rachel says:

    Wonderful. I’m looking forward to this. Do you see any connection with the so-called Tarot de Mantega?


  6. leducdor says:

    As usual, I await your deck with suspended breath. I AM SO excited about your recreation deck, and cannot wait for the campaign to begin. –


  7. Renna Shesso says:

    Gorgeous. And birds in ancient augury (and messengers in general), of course. Thank you!


  8. Mr. Robert good Night.
    I just received my copy today. Thanks so Much.
    I Want to know if there is a PDF or Word copy of the Little White Book ?
    Again, thanks so much.


  9. Pingback: The Tarot’s Oldest Ancestor, The Marziano Tarot | The Halau

  10. Maria Duarte says:

    Good evening. I’ve got The Raziel Tarot, The alchemical tarot and the burning serpent oracle. Love them all. Please tell me how can I buy the Sevenfold Mystery and The Marciano Tarot. I live in Portugal.
    Thank you so much.
    I love your work, knologe and art.


  11. Stylianos says:

    I want to buy Marziano tarot.
    I am in iceland.


  12. Pingback: que es el tarot | Radio Enktopamos

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