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Interview with Jean-Claude & Roxanne Flornoy (2010)

by Bonnie Cehovet

French Tarot historian and Cartier-enluminier Jean-Claude Flornoy recently completed the re-editing of the full 78 card Marseilles-style “Jean Dodal Tarot”. I found this re-editing to be an especially interesting one, as he was able to study the cards from the two remaining original Dodal decks – one in the French National Library and the other in the British Museum.

I thought that this would also be a good time to find out more about the re-editing process in general, as well as other projects that he and his wife Roxanne are involved in. (Jean-Claude previously re-edited the “Jean Noblet Tarot”, Paris, 1650.)

The podium is now turned over to Jean-Claude and Roxanne Flornoy.

BC: How did the fact that there were two existing original “Jean Dodal Tarot” decks to study affect your re-editing of the deck?

JCF: Having two decks to study was a tremendous advantage. Since all but three cards were printed from the same woodblock, it was possible in most cases to decide if any given detail was really a deliberate “line” or just messy printing/stenciling. Also, as the two remaining decks were colored sheet by sheet, line details (mostly behind darker colors) indiscernible in one were verifiable by comparing it with the other.

BC: What were some of the differences (If any) that you noted between the two Dodal decks?

JCF: Stencil coloring, an early form of later “mass” printing techniques, is a process in which each colored sheet remains unique. Stencil cutouts may be the same, but the brush applying the colors is never charged in exactly the same way, and the nature of the colors themselves varies according to the pigments and color mixtures employed. The British Museum copy seems to have used more black in the dark blue, green and red, but sometimes certain lines are more visible in that copy, sometimes in the other. As I said, each copy is unique in the way it is colored, and visibility varies, depending.

BC: You consider the French Marseille-style Tarot that have come down to us in a relatively unaltered state to be the foundation and source of all modern Tarots. Would you expand on this a bit?

JCF: One can easily imagine that the Marseille “pattern”, whose earliest vestige for us is the 1650 Noblet, was delineated long before in decks which we will never see. It does seem that this imagery reflected a common base, and adhered to it with only minor variations – at least as far as the TdM type I is concerned. Since the Noblet is the oldest deck of this type extant, it is necessarily closest to that source imagery..

BC: There is a 48 page companion book in both French and English that accompanies the “Jean Dodal Tarot”. The preface was written by the well known Tarotist Enrique Enriquez. I have long admired his work. How did you come to choose to him to do the preface?

JCF: We appreciate his work enormously. He may be the most creative and innovative tarot thinker in the world today. He has managed to free these images from their “con-men and madmen” baggage – no mean feat. In doing so, they can exist “on their own” for today’s eyes, generating narratives from which the person concerned can access truly appropriate perspectives. Enrique is constantly refining and developing his approach to the role of iconography and storytelling in the human psyche. Thanks to Enrique, the tarot has been rescued from the intellectual/emotional/symbolic mode in which it has languished for so long. For him, the images are simply direct, and incite the observer to see and act. He has evolved a method for integrating non-illustrated pips into a reading – that, too, is a major contribution.

BC: To back up for a minute, can you tell us a little about Jean Dodal – who he was, and the type of work that he did?

JCF: Only a little can be told, as little is known. Jean Dodal was attested as an editor in Lyon from 1701 to 1715. As editor, he supervised the production and sale of this deck for export (a fact reiterated on many cards). “F. pour letrange”, which we thought meant “Fait (made)” for foreign markets, actually seems to mean “Français” for foreign markets – mostly the same thing. Dodal seems to have hired Jacques Mermé to do the engraving work, though Mermé’s initials are not to be found on the Chariot’s shield, as engravers’ usually were. There is a strange “I.P.” on the Moon card. These details are open to speculation, and someday more research may (or may not) explain them.

BC: What is the difference between engravers and cartiers?

JCF: As described above, Dodal was a cartier, or card editor – basically a merchant. Before 1701, the cartier could also have done his own engraving. After that, this was no longer allowed, and the cartier was obliged to employ a specialized engraver to create his molds.

BC: In your companion book, you talk about the imagery in a few of the cards. What struck you as most interesting?

JCF: The details which interest me most are found on The Star. Her double (face/profile –interior/exterior) regard is one which all card readers should adopt. She is pregnant, bearing the future – a timeless literal expression (as opposed to symbol) of renewal and creativity.

BC: Is there anything that you would like to tell our readers about the decks that you have re-edited, or the other work that you are doing?

JCF: Last summer we re-produced a 52-card deck (Provot) first issued in our village in 1792. It was primarily destined to commemorate the re-opening of our chateau after years of restoration. The deck has also interested historic card collectors. With respect to tarot, the logical next step would be the Viéville, a fascinating deck that will be most daunting to capture, as the line work is very dense and often rendered invisible by the colors applied. There is only one copy of the Viéville to consult. We toy with focusing on a majors-only hand-colored version, as an industrial edition of 78 cards represents an enormous investment in time and money, and we are just “emerging” from the Dodal effort. Furthermore, the Viéville seems mostly to interest historians and collectors, and remains a largely unknown “maverick” in the wider world of tarot enthusiasts. For the moment, we contemplate this project from afar.

I want to thank Jean-Claude and Roxanne for taking the time to answer my questions. More of Jean-Claude’s work can be see at www.tarot-history.com.

© January 2010

© Bonnie Cehovet

Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.

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