The Smith-Waite Tarot Deck
Conceived by Arthur Edward Waite
Designed by Pamela Colman Smith
Published by William Rider in 1910
The world's most popular tarot deck has long been a favorite of beginners as well as tarot enthusiasts. In 1909, Pamela Colman Smith created an innovative 78-card deck, and set the standard for nearly every tarot deck published thereafter.
Pamela Colman Smith
Born February 16, 1878, in Middlesex, England to American parents, Smith's childhood years were spent between London, New York, and Kingston, Jamaica. During her teens, she traveled throughout England with the theatre company of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. Thereafter, she began formal art training at Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, graduating in 1897.
Smith returned to England, where she became a theatrical designer for miniature theatre, and an illustrator -- mainly of books, pamphlets and posters. Around 1903, she joined the Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1909, under the guidance of Arthur Edward Waite, she undertook a series of seventy-eight allegorical paintings described by Waite as a rectified tarot pack. The designs, published in the same year by William Rider and Son, exemplify the mysticism, ritual, imagination, fantasy, and deep emotions of the artist.
Arthur Edward Waite
Born in America in 1857, Waite was raised and educated as a Catholic in England. Beginning at the age of 21, Waite pursued research and writing on psychical and esoteric matters. Soon after joining the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he became the Grand Master, and redirected the focus of the order from magic to mysticism. The Golden Order, whose structural hierarchy was based on the Kabbalah, is considered the single greatest 20th century influence on the occult. Waite was a prolific author of occult texts, works on the Holy Grail, and the body of mystical knowledge, which comprises the basis of modern Tarot. He is best known as the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck and author of its companion volume The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, first published in 1910.