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First Printing, Second Issue.

The Pamela-A Deck, with crackle backs.
A complete deck of 78 cards.

Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942), a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, had
long desired to create a thoroughly modern Tarot card deck. The secrets of the Tarot were
taught within the Golden Dawn, but the only available cards were continental mostly from
France. Another member of the Golden Dawn, William Butler Yeats, introduced the artist
Pamela Colman Smith to the Order in 1901. Waite arranged for publication of a new, rectified
tarot deck through his publisher William Rider & Son, and commissioned Pamela Colman Smith
to do the illustrations. The resulting deck is now well known as the Rider-Waite deck, or, more
recently, the Waite-Smith deck.
Early publication of the cards was fraught with problems. They were first issued in 1909 with a
Rose and Lillies pattern on the backs of the cards. William Rider & Son soon found that the
quality of Roses & Lilies decks was not good; the paper stock was too thin and the fronts peeled
off as soon as the cards were used. They planned a reprint "Second Series" with superior ivory
cardstock and offered to replace the decks for the customers who had bought the R&L decks.
Most of these original decks that were sold were presumably returned and destroyed. This is the
main reason the extant R&L decks are now very rare, with only 3 decks known to exist.
By April 1st, 1910, the Second series with a cracked back pattern was ready. The card images
were a bit trimmed horizontally compared to the First series. This was for making ample margin
in cutting the cards separate. An advertisement on the back cover of the 1910 April issue of The
Occult Review states clearly: An Exquisitely Drawn and Fully Coloured Deck of 78 Tarot
Cards [Second Series ready April I, printed on special superior ivory cards].
Much analysis has been done on the early printings of this Tarot Deck. There were at least 6
separate printings of this deck from 1909-1940, and they have been designated as:
Pam-A. 1909. First print run, roses & lilies back. Inferior card stock.
Pam-A. 1910. Second print run. Thick card stock, ivory crackle back. NB: * Our Set*
Pam-B. circa 1920. Thin card stock, ivory crackle back, inferior reproduction quality.
Pam-C. circa 1931. Thin card stock, ivory crackle back, inferior reproduction quality.
Pam-D. Circa 1940. Thin card stock, ivory crackle back, inferior reproduction quality. This is
some sort of photographic reproduction of the Pam-A deck.
To read some excellent in-depth reference material on the early printings of this deck, see these


We can offer:
A set of the Pamela A1 crackle backs, dating from 1910; the first edition, second issue. Copies of
this deck were sold along with the book The Key to the Tarot, boxed, at 8 shillings, or on their
own at 6 shillings. Our set has no box or book. It is complete and in exemplary condition, with
only a few cards showing any defects. The bottom edge of The Hermit [IX] card has a
moderately large chip on the bottom edge of the face and has some minor staining, and there is a
similar, smaller chip to the face of Judgement [XX] at the top right corner. The Strength card
[VIII] and the Justice card [XI] each have the reciprocal number in pencil at the head of each
card, respectively [Waite switched their order]. There is a slight crease to the upper corner of the
IX of Pentacles, a short edge-tear to the Page of Pentacles, some staining on the rear of some of
the cards mostly confined to the Major Arcana - and a few tiny nicks & scratches. All cards are
bright & beautifully coloured, and all in all this is a beautiful deck in very good condition with
very little wear.
The set weighs in at 261.5 grams, and is 40 mm thick. Each card is 120 x 70 mm. This is a
variant from what is listed in the references which I have found, but this is certainly the Pam-A
deck, as it has the following issue points
Atu VI, The Lovers: The angel has red highlights on his face and is clearly looking down on
the figures. The figures are crisply etched, and Eves hair is clearly in separate strands. The skin
tones are made by a mechanical screen rather than dots.
Atu XIX, The Sun: The extra squiggly line is evident beside the number at the head of the card.
The calligraphy at the base of the card is off-center. The skin tones of the child are made by a
mechanical screen rather than dots.
There are other issue points but these are the most recognizable ones. The whereabouts of the
original artwork is unknown, and the printing plates were destroyed when the Rider warehouse
in Plymouth was bombed during World War II. These cards were printed by lithography from
Pamela Coleman Smiths drawings, and are of the highest quality. The printing of the entire deck
shows clarity & precision, as contrasted with the blurred lines & imprecise colouring of all later

Major Arcana - Front & Back

Major Arcana - Front & Back

Suit of Cups - Front and Back

Suit of Cups Court Cards Front & Back

Suit of Swords - Front and Back

Suit of Swords Court Cards - Front and Back

Suit of Pentacles - Front and Back

Suit of Pentacles Court Cards - Front and Back

Suit of Wands - Front and Back

Suit of Wands Court Cards - Front and Back

Thompson Rare Books

5275 Jerow Road
Hornby Island, British Columbia
Canada V0R 1Z0
Ph: 250-335-1182
Fax: 250-335-2241
Email: mjt@mjtbooks.com

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