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  • Writer's pictureTero Goldenhill

Important new work on the Sola-Busca Tarot

Scarlet Imprint has recently published a new book on the Sola-Busca Tarot by Peter Mark Adams: The Game of Saturn. This is a much-welcomed addition to the scarce body of works concerning this rather obscure artefact from the early days of Tarot. The only books available in English, so far, have been:

-Sofia Di Vincenzo (preface by Giordano Berti): Sola Busca Tarot, U.S. Games Systems, Inc. 1998

-Christina Dorsini & Morena Poltronieri (transl. by Arnell Ando): Sola Busca Tarot - History, Mysteries & Alchemy, Hermatena 2013

There's also an Italian book Il Segreto dei Segreti - I tarocchi Sola Busca e la cultura ermetico-alchemica tra Marche e Veneto alla fine del Quattrocento, curated by Laura Paola Gnaccolini, with an Introduction by Sandrina Bandera (who wrote the book Bonifacio Bembo: Tarocchi Viscontei della Pinacoteca di Brera in 1991). The book was published for the Pinacoteca di Brera exhibition, which ran from November 2012 until February 2013 in Milan. The original Sola-Busca deck was purchased in 2009 by the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities for the price of 800.000 euros, with the aim of re-launching the Brera Art Gallery. The book contains two articles; the first one (eponymous with the title) by Ms. Gnaccolini, and the second one by Andrea De Marchi, entitled "Nicola di maestro Antonio da Ancona peintre-graveur, tra vis comica e invenzioni esoteriche". I haven't yet read this one; with my poor Italian it's going to be a long journey...


During the last Tarot Art & History Tour in 2015 we had a chance to visit the Pinacoteca di Brera, and see the original Sola-Busca cards in the flesh:

The Game of Saturn is an impressive work, hardcover with 301 pages, and profusely illustrated in colour. From the Scarlet Imprint website: "Standard edition bound in black shantung cloth with imperial purple endpapers: £66 plus postage. Please note, due to the format there will be no paperback or digital edition of this title."  Contents of the book are as follows:

Preface   xiii Introduction   I

I  Decoding the Deck’s Hidden Symbolism 1. The Deck’s Structure & Major Themes 2. Hidden Meanings and Ancient Lore 3. The Esoteric Worldview of the Renaissance Elite 4. Planetary Powers 5. The Alexandrian Theme 6. The Babylonian Theme 7. The Carthaginian Thesis

II  The Rites of Ammon & the Cult of Saturn 8. The Rites of Ammon 9. The Ferrarese Cult of Saturn

III  Theurgy, Ritual Magic & Sorcery 10. The Theory and Practice of Theurgy and Magic 11. Sexual Magic and Alchemy 

IV  Art, Diplomacy & Espionage 12. The Deck’s Origins 13. Diplomacy and Espionage

V  Conclusions

Venice - Constantinople - The continuity of pagan tradition within the late empire - The preservation of Hellenic tradition - Philosopher kings and the techné of illumination - An illumined elite - Ferrara - A hidden gnostic grimoire - Endnote

Appendices i Evidence that the Sola-Busca’s design was derived from a literary, rather than an artistic, blueprint ii Hidden codes and secret ciphers iii Summary of the Doctrines of Zoroaster and Plato




I'm very much looking forward to reading this big opus. I went to the publication event held at Treadwell's Books in Bloomsbury earlier this month. I enjoyed the event very much and had a chat with the author. It makes me very happy to see that history of Tarot is still alive and well, and that "oldie goldies", such as the Sola-Busca deck, are not forgotten.


More information:

Simon Wintle's article on Sola-Busca at WoPC here

Il Meneghello's edition of the Sola-Busca trump cards here

Giordano Berti's / Wolfgang Mayer edition with all of the 78 cards here

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