Sola-Busca Tarot Reviews

The Sola Busca Tarot is a redrawing of the oldest existing tarot deck, printed in the late fifteenth century in Italy. The deck shows biblical, Roman and mythological imagery, and it was the first deck to show full scenes on the minor arcana cards.

Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - Lo Scarabeo 2000
See card images from the Sola-Busca Tarot

Review by Clare McHale

As of the 2nd of August 2002 I am the befuddled owner of the interesting, if somewhat obscure, (to me at least!) I Tarocchi Illuminati tarot deck, also known as Illuminating Ancient Tarot, Enlightened Ancient Tarot, Ancient Enlightened Tarot (at, Ancient Warriors Tarot (so called in the preface of the book 'Sola Busca Tarot' by Sofia Di Vincenzo) and of course Sola-Busca Tarot in honour of the Sola-Busca family, who were the last ones to own the original deck.

Published in 1995, this deck is a replica of a 1900s reproduction of the original, which was created in Italy in the 1500s. The Encyclopaedia of Tarot Volume 1 by Stuart R. Kaplan tells us about the original pack:

"Sola Busca. The heavily colored Sola Busca tarocchi pack - the only complete extant pack of seventy-eight tarocchi cards engraved on metal during the late fifteenth century, possibly of Ferrarese or Venetian origin - contains trump cards featuring warriors of antiquity and Latin inscriptions. The twenty-two trumps are single figures based upon ancient history and, except for The Fool, have no counterparts in modern trumps. The name of a classical person, often barely recognizable due to misspellings by the scribe or engraver, appears on each of the trumps except for Mato (The Fool), and on each of the court cards of king, queen and knight except the page."

The Court cards are King, Queen, Knight, Knave. The suits, Chalices [Cups], Pentacles, Wands/Batons, Swords. Justice is 8, Strength 11. The Major Arcana have the names of people, Roman warriors, poets and the like on them instead of Moon, Sun, Hermit etc... but are clearly numbered. The backs of the cards are reversible; they show a mirror image of a man's head from the 4 of Wands/Batons, in a rather nice dark reddish brown. The cards are bordered in black and the Minors show the number and name in white text on the border. The card stock is strong and the deck easy to shuffle as the cards are not much bigger than your standard playing deck, a little longer and narrower at 66mm x 120 mm.

Lo Scarabeo have included several cards with instructions/information instead of the standard LWB (which is why I'm on the look out for the DiVincenzo tome about the deck even though I read in an article at Tea's Tomb that it doesn't give much, if any information on the Romans/warriors in the deck). The instruction cards are in 4 languages, English, French, German and Italian, I think, and give basic meanings to the cards. They start with a simple spread, 'Simplified Cartomancy Method' and go on to include brief notes on the 'Meaning of Major Arcana' and 'Meaning of Minor Arcana. Here is an example from the instruction cards: "0: strangeness, infantilism, holiday, detachment from worries, madness." And for the King of Swords, "magistrate, power, authority, legal actions, difficulties, bad intention, perversion." - my kind of guy!

Publishers, Lo Scarabeo, say that the "Enlightened Ancient Tarot" is a: "Venetian master, nineteenth-century reproduction of the original... Winged knights, giants, tritons, angels, and vestal virgins of fire are mixed with warriors and magicians from biblical and Roman history. This 500-year-old deck inspired the Rider-Waite Minor Arcana and is tied to the secrets of the alchemists and medieval masters of natural philosophy."

This being the case, the very least they could have done is to write a book about them! But never fear, the afore mentioned Tea's Tomb is the place to visit to find out more about the deck, especially the Major Arcana. There is a commentary 'On the 1995 Lo Scarabeo Sola Busca Tarot Deck Reproduction' by Tom Tadfor Little, with a brief overview on the DiVincenzo book about the deck. I would suggest you read this first and then move onto Tea's Sola Busca information section, which includes a full set of card graphics along with some details/speculation on the characters included in the Major Arcana, and an article mentioning that there "was also the rumor that the Minors in the Sola Busca influenced A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman-Smith when designing and illustrating the Rider-Waite Tarot deck."

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