Story of the Waite-Smith Tarot
by K. Frank Jensen
The Association for Tarot Studies is delighted
in being able to present K. Frank Jensen's important
book on The Story of the Waite-Smith Tarot.
Frank Jensen has long been amongst the key players
in presenting information on the development of this
important deck in the history of Tarot. During the
second half of the 20th century, sales of this deck
surpassed all others.
We now have the opportunity to read on this deck's
history during its key phases during the past 100
Whether a enthusiast for this deck or not, this
will become a classic in manuscripts that focus openly
on important developments. A welcome addition that
the Association for Tarot Studies is proud
to be able to present.
The recommended retail price is set at AU$
35 (approx €22 / US$ 35) plus postage and handling. Airmail to most parts of the world
is above our charge of AU$ 28. If within Australasia, please first contact us for postal charges. Purchasing multiple copies attracks a reduced total cost, subsidised through ATS-incurred partial postal charge.
Total cost (+ postage): AU$ 35 (approximately equal to €28 / US$35, subject to currency exchange rates). Also note that this book is also
available from Tarot
Orders made directly to the Association are sent within 5 working days following PayPal notification of your payment.
> order from our publications page
Should you have any questions, including wholesale enquiries, please don't hesitate to ask Jean-Michel David.
If you would prefer to pay by International Money Order, our postal address is:
Association for Tarot Studies
PO Box 4013
Cover size: 21cm x 21 cm (approx. 8.3" x
Number of pages: 222, of which 14 are colour plates
Waite-Smith Tarot Research
Frank Jensen has made some online corrections to the book, as well as publishing other research on this most popular of decks in the 20th century. For details, see his site at:
Book Review of Frank Jensen's The Story
of the Waite-Smith Tarot
As Mr. Jensen notes, “Tarot did not come out of
nothing and its history is important to get a full understanding
of the phenomenon it is”. The phenomenon clearly
has its shadow side, as Jensen’s book in part suggests.
Jensen’s historical overview includes a useful summary
of already available information about the originators
of the Waite-Smith tarot. The overview of Ms Colman-Smith’s
life is particularly of interest as the information is
little known and hard to access. A. E. Waite, as Jensen
describes him, was an editor of trade publications, a would-be
poet, a man with no formal education, and a prolific but
mediocre writer. Pamela Colman-Smith, in contrast, was
well educated, well-travelled, and a talented and unusual
painter, storyteller and illustrator, particularly in the
context of being an unmarried, independent female artist
in Victorian England. The contrast between the fame and
talents of the two protagonists of Mr. Jensen’s story
is ironic. The tribute this book pays in many ways to the
ignored and forgotten Colman-Smith is one of its most satisfying
A highlight of the second part of the book is its overview
of the incarnations and misadventures of the Waite-Smith
deck itself over the last century. Jensen’s meticulous
research uncovers multiple versions of the deck, not all
of them well executed copies of the Colman-Smith original.
A key riddle emerges about the fate of the original art
work for the deck.
Mr. Jensen raises some challenging questions about the
world of commercial tarot publishing, outlining the prolific
exploitation of Ms. Colman-Smith’s designs since
the 1970s and some uncertainties about copyright law as
it has been applied in the publishing world.
Finally, the many questions indirectly raised by Mr. Jensen’s
book serve us well by inviting further research and debate.
Among these questions might be included:
To what extent was Ms. Colman-Smith involved in the Golden Dawn and how far
did this influence the design of the Waite-Smith deck? How exactly did Waite
and Colman-Smith collaborate, if at all? How do the card designs, especially
for the minor cards, compare to Colman-Smith’s visionary / intuitive
painting or her work as a story teller and illustrator? How might we understand
the Waite-Smith story, for example the absence of Colman-Smith’s name
from the deck she designed, from the angle of gender politics? (Interestingly,
Colman-Smith was involved with suffragette movement, as were other women involved
with the Golden Dawn.) What did Colman-Smith get paid for
her tarot deck designs, and was she or her estate further compensated for the ‘goldmine’ that
the deck became for its publishers? What does the story of Waite and Colman-Smith
reveal of the more shadowy world of commercial tarot publishing?