The Original Rider Waite Tarot Deck

This popular Edwardian deck, first printed in 1909, is an excellent set to learn with, as the pictures very clearly illustrate the meanings of the cards. The colours and images are full of complex occult symbolism.

Aesthetically, however, the colours are rather muddy, and the images are often confused and hard to make out, due to the lack of aerial perspective - the background being as dark and emphatic as the foreground. This may not be the fault of the artist, Pamela Colman Smith, as the artwork has a chequered history, involving tracing by other hands, conversion to lithographs, and the loss of the original plates and drawings. The Universal Waite deck provides an alternative version, combining Colman Smith's drawings with fresher colours and finer lines, making it far easier to see the background detail. However, it too suffers from lack of aerial perspective, in the reverse direction - having a foreground which is only lightly delineated and doesn't stand out sufficiently from the background.

See also the Pocket Rider deck, which uses a cleaner, crisper printing of the same art as the full-sized Rider-Waite.