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The 1909 Art Restoration Deck Tarot CardsClick to magnify

The 1909 Art Restoration Deck Tarot Cards




The 1909 'Roses and Lilies' deck was the first ever Rider-Waite deck created. It was the deck from which the entire lineage of Rider-Waite decks was born. It is the most historically significant and the most authoritative Rider-Waite deck of all. The 'Roses and Lilies' deck contained the original imagery—now widely recognisable as the RWS tarot cards—which all later decks reproduced from, including the 1910 Pam A version that immediately followed. It is said that only five copies of this 1909 deck are known to exist today as the original plates were destroyed in WWII.

Now, The 1909 Art Restoration Deck is a 2020 perfect replica of this legendary 1909 'Roses and Lilies' deck. The idea is to restore the 1909 deck with the same treatment of historical art, with minimal editing to preserve a maximum level of original details. A proper art restoration. This deck candidly reveals the minute printing artefacts from 1909 as historical features, showing the tonal variations in ink that reveal the travel of printing blocks, pen marks and brush marks involved. It retains the overprinting of colour blocks, minor misalignments and other charming imperfections that are characteristic of its creation and printing process unique of its time. This restoration reveals an entire spectrum of finer details previously lost and unseen.

Throughout history, Rider-Waite decks were reproduced with technological limits of their time. It was common to see oversaturate reapplied colours and sloppily traced line-work adding to an accumulative drift over the years from the original. However we now have the superior digital technologies with incredibly high definition and precision. The 1909 ARD is able to surpass the century's worth of replication errors by channelling directly from the historic source, restoring its full glory in unprecedented detail and exactness. Few modern decks have attempted this seriousness in historical accuracy and production value. It sets a new reference standard in the Rider-Waite system for those seeking the purest connection to its historical source.

A note on restoration methodology. The 1909 ARD uses high resolution scans for its initial survey and inspection prior to the actual restoration process. A meticulous manual cleaning and repairing process on each of the 78 cards was conducted to decontaminate conservatively the excess dirt that obscured the artwork. Colour restoration is carefully calibrated to ensure a consistent and accurate preservation of colours and details. This process restored the look and feel of the one-of-five 1909 specimen deck with all its glories to the fullest possible extent, only now achieved digitally with full pixel and colour perfection and printed onto brand new cards.

Restored by C in London 2020

First Edition
Created with DriveThruCards in June 2020. 78 standard Rider-Waite tarot cards + 5 bonus cards: Portrait of The Empress and Averaged Major Arcana and others

Public domain images from 1909 Rider-Waite tarot cards illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith for Arthur Edward Waite, first published by William Rider & Son in London.
© 2020 Art restoration by C in London. All rights reserved.





Q: What are the sizes of the cards?
A: Standard tarot sizes 2.75 x 4.75 in (~70 x 121 mm) with rounded corners of 1/4 in radius.

Q: What is included?
A: 78 standard Rider-Waite tarot cards + 5 bonus cards, inside a red tuck box.

Q: What kind of card stock do the cards use? How are they printed?
A: As of writing the cards uses the premium stock from DriveThruCards, which is a 11.4 pt caliper (0.0114 in or 290 micron thick), 310 gsm black-core card stock from the German paper manufacturer Koehler, which is made in Germany and is a proper card stock with very good feel and stiffness and smoothness and construction and durability. The cards are printed in Kansas City USA with an ink-based HP Indigo Press and finished with a low-gloss UV coating finish.

Q: What are the bonus cards?
A: Novelty items. You can decide what you want to do with them.

Q: Who is this deck for?
A: This deck is especially great for RWS collectors or historians who want a historical reference RWS tarot deck that is printed as accurately as possible to its first appearance in 1909. Tarot beginners can really tap into the undiluted detailed imagery as they learn about the cards. Advanced tarot practitioners can use a refreshed and updated interpretation of the Rider-Waite system that is now closer to the source than ever before. It is great for collectors, artists or historians for study and research purposes. It makes a great novelty gift for anyone interested in tarot.

Q: What drove the creation of this deck? How is it different from other decks?
A: There is a sizeable undercurrent among the tarot community that is constantly searching for the best Rider-Waite (or RWS) deck, or the most true-to-original deck, or the most standard deck, or the most canonical deck, or any other similar descriptions pointing to the same ideologically perfect RWS deck. I think this is a natural result of the RWS being a fragmented product over a long time resulting in a million variations (similar to Tarot de Marseille). This perhaps created its commercial success and popularity in general, but as an artwork (more specifically the illustrations themselves) this meant the artwork was essentially altered every time. This problem of RWS reproduction is linked to various factors such as copyright issues, reproduction method or technology, or sometimes actually having a good source to copy from. But nowadays all these limiting factors are more or less gone (as RWS enters public domain because of its age), so there is no more technical reasons that prevents a perfect replica from being created. I also think it is overdue for RWS to 'graduate' from a commercial product to start to elevate to the higher status of an historic art, not simply because the technical limits are gone, but also because of the RWS has gained such a significant cultural status it deserves to be recognised as such, and it deserves a new attitude to, and better methods of, its reproduction.

Hence this deck, to go the full length to conduct a serious historical restoration, and produce a replica of the Roses and Lilies deck, with no compromise on historical accuracy and quality, created on a level of seriousness an art conservationist would restore an historic artwork; with the same attention in details and the extreme care to bring back a piece of historical art, to create a reproduction truly representative of its original, with nothing taken and nothing added, a replica that approaches museum quality more than any other. No other contemporary RWS decks have quite aimed explicitly in the direction of art conservation, not to mention set out to achieve the highest standards in this pursuit. This may be self-indulgent, but this deck at least aims to set a new height of excellence in any RWS deck. Aiming for anything less at this point in RWS history seems inappropriate.

Q: How did you restore the cards?
A: During the restoration process a balance must be made between conservation (keeping an element) and restoration (changing or removing or repairing an element). This deck positions itself on the conservation side on this scale as far as possible, therefore tries to change the original as little as possible. The deck being a piece of history acquires a part of its appearance from its own life time of handling and weathering; although these acquired features are not part of the original art intended by its authors, they are part of this particular deck's history and is respected as such. As long as these acquired features do not obscure or distract from the art itself, they are left alone to take on its own residence—but some damages confuse with or obscure the art itself, these are removed on a necessary and case-by-case basis. Fun facts: the restoration was conducted in 1200 DPI (before having to scale down for printing) to preserve its great deal of details.

Q: Why does it look yellowish? Did you use a yellow filter to make it look aged?
A: No, it is the other way around. The deck started very brown-yellow (naturally because of the age of the specimen as you can see in the comparison images) and it was de-yellowed conservatively so that the colours are true again. Any aging on the images is only the natural results of an art restoration process which revealed a cleaned condition of the specimen. The yellow is the tone of the original paper (the same tone is found in other specimens of similar age) so this is as close as it can possibly get. Moreover, all the different colours are balanced altogether as a whole so historical accuracy is ensured. So the aging is not any artificial filter or effect. If anything it is made to look less aged. For example, the old grimy border is reconstructed with a cleaner one to minimise distraction, but the colour and even the paper grain (by the way, is unique on each card) is reconstructed from its original condition, hence retaining the yellowing. Historical accuracy is treated with absolute priority and is the whole point of this deck, so any sort of visual effects has no purpose in this one. Not to say visual effects are bad or invalid in general, they just do not belong to the philosophy in this particular deck.

Q: How on earth did you get your hands on a 1909 ultra-rare Roses and Lilies?
A: This is a version known as Saskia Jansen's copy previously posted on a popular tarot forum before it was shut down. It is important to note these images are public domain, I mention the source here purely for academic interest.

Q: Are these cards available in shops?
A: Currently they are only available from DriveThruCards (

Q: Do you ship outside of the US?
A: Yes, DriveThruCards ships throughout the world. Be aware of VAT or customs, etc.

Q: How do I contact you?
A: Please send your comments, suggestions, questions, requests or business enquires to at the usual gmail address, do not delete the dots.

June 2020














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BB B January 27, 2024 1:27 am UTC
Does anyone know how to contact the creator? C, do you read these? I'm wondering about the source of the lineart bonus cards (which are lovely btw) — where did they come from? I'd like to create my own deck and having good scans of that would be very helpful. So far all I have come across is that the Pictorial Key to the Tarot has the lineart, but the quality, at least the scans I can find, is lacking.
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This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2020.
C in London
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