From old bookshops to new cards. Making The Victorian Romantic Tarot.

In the olden days, long long before you could find old engravings on the web, they had to be sourced from secondhand bookshops.
The Moon card, The Victorian Romantic Tarot by BabaBarock

From old bookshops to new cards. Making The Victorian Romantic Tarot.

One of our most loved tarot decks had its birth in the old "antikvariat" bookshops of Prague

In the olden days, long long before you could find a plethora of old engravings on the web, these things had to be sourced by visiting secondhand bookshops. Well, okay, it was actually in 2008, when we were making The Victorian Romantic Tarot, but things have changed so much since then that it does seem like a bygone era.

We were fortunate because at that time, the studio was based in Mala Strana, an old quarter of Prague, and the city was rich in secondhand, or “antikvariat” bookshops. Sadly, many have since been replaced with coffee shops and fast food places, but some still survive, even in the city centre. They are wonderful places to browse and find nostalgic books, prints and postcards.

You can see some of Prague’s antikvariat shops in the photos here – they are the kind of places where you can lose yourself for an entire afternoon.

An old bookshop in Prague.
Antikvariat bookshop in Prague

Finding the right images, a laborious but fascinating process.

As anyone who has designed and created a tarot deck based on old imagery will tell you, you need hundreds of images, some of which will need to be considerably changed or combined, in order to end up with 78 images that fit with the meanings of the cards. So we actually spent 18 months, off and on, looking for suitable images to use for the planned Victorian Romantic Tarot.

We soon realised that the richest source of high quality engravings was portfolio books. These, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, were usually  bought on subscription for well-to-do people who wanted to keep up with the latest in art, architecture and style.

Unfortunately, because the engravings are so good, in recent times these books are often broken up so that the engravings can be sold off individually. So it was quite a task to find intact copies of the right period. We often ended up crawling along lower shelves (portfolio books are huge) and getting covered in ancient dust.

Easier to find, though with engravings that tended to be produced with a lower quality of printing, were periodicals such as Zlata Praha (Golden Prague) and Světozor.  We  tended to use these mostly for smaller elements of the final images.

A selection of the cards (from a recent edition) with their original engravings.

The Fool, The Victorian Romantic Tarot by BabaBarock
The Moon card, The Victorian Romantic Tarot by BabaBarock
The Four of Cups, The Victorian Romantic Tarot by BabaBarock
The Queen of Pentacles. The Victorian Romantic Tarot
The Eight of Swords, from The Victorian Romantic Tarot by BabaBarock
The Eight of Cups from The Victorian Romantic Tarot, a tarot deck by BabaBarock
The Two of Swords from The Victorian Romantic Tarot

So how do I get this deck?

At the time of writing (January 2024), The Victorian Romantic Tarot is out of print. However, as we had some cardstock left over from the printing of The Bohemian Gothic Tarot in 2023, we are doing a small, and probably final print run. The pre-orders will be open with a discount at the end of January – sign up to our newsletter to get the first notification. Then the remaining decks will be available at our normal price. Please go over to our World shop or EU shop for more details and to order.

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