I feel like I’ve pulled off something of a coup here. I managed to snag a much sought after deck of Tarot cards, published by Baba Studios (Magic Realist Press) in Prague: The Victorian Romantic – Russian!
The deck was so loved in English that it was being pirated in other countries, with bootleg editions being printed and sold by certain Russian dealers. To stem this tide, Magic Realist Press licensed an authorized version to be published in Russia, with all card titles and the accompanying little white book (LWB) in Russian as well. They were actually printed in Finland, and took a very circuitous route to Prague, through Russia (back and forth a couple of times… it got to be comical after awhile as Karen posted updates on its whereabouts). Most copies of the deck went to Russian authorized resellers, but MRP got approximately 250 copies to sell themselves, knowing we, their rabid fans, could not live without one. Karen Mahoney initially released them in a few small, timed batches on their Web site back in December, and again in January, and try as I might I was never quick enough to actually score one.
I happened to be online a couple of weeks ago and refreshing my Twitter stream one morning at work when a tweet from Baba Studios went out announcing 20 more decks up for sale on their site. I didn’t think, didn’t hesitate, didn’t breathe, just popped over and logged in to my account there and just like in a fairytale, managed to buy one! I actually did it, I actually managed to get one in my cart and hit the “pay now” in some kind of record time. Seriously, in FOUR MINUTES they were all gone. For the people who got the announcement in the newsletter Karen sends out, it was already too late. There are copies now going for upwards of $300 on EBay, not including the three Karen is auctioning off to raise money for a new camera for her partner Alex to use in their business. So go Karen! Better you guys get the money for the decks (last I checked one of the auctions was at $152 with several days yet to go). Many of us had despaired of ever getting our hands on one of these decks. The resellers descend like vultures, scooping them up by the handfuls for face value then posting them on EBay almost instantly for something like a 500% mark-up. The retail price is €26, or $35US. So you can imagine how frantic some of us were to get our hands on one of these beauties at the retail price, rather than wait and have to mortgage our homes or sell our children for one later.
So, on to the cards. Oh sigh, so pretty. Since the titles are in Cyrillic, I had to go to Baba’s Web site to look up some of the cards. Some I was able divine (heh) by the illustrations, some I know from having seen the English versions, but a few were a mystery to me. One I did know, and one of the main reasons I wanted this Russian version, is this extra Emperor card. Karen was asked by the Russian publisher to create a more ‘traditional’ Emperor, as they felt the original Emperor in the VR deck would not resonate with the Russian audience. (in case there’s any question, the Emperor is the one on the right below, on the left is the Knight of Swords)
The borders aren’t actually pink, in case your monitor make it look like they are (which mine does, although they seemed to scan in ok, maybe it’s this program). I did try to adjust the color of the images a tad, the Emperor’s robe is a really rich red on the actual card.
Luckily, all the cards can be seen at the Victorian Romantic Web site, with the titles in English. I managed to figure out most of them, but a couple were surprises. It does follow the Waite-Smith conventions for the most part, although not slavishly. Karen’s humor and ingenuity have some interesting and lovely surprises.
Here’s the Knight of Pentacles. None of the suits are simple variants of Waite’s deck, they don’t simply depict the number emblems on the pip cards.
The Nine of Pentacles gives us the lady in her garden, but nary an actual pentacle in sight.
The Six of Swords shows us the boat on the water, but that’s as close as you get to the standard imagery.
My only regret with this deck is not being able to read the LWB, or have a book that explains what the source artwork is, unlike Kat Black’s Touchstone Tarot that lists all the artwork used in the deck. Karen did mention that maybe, just maybe, they will reprint the deck in English, as early as next year, but that’s NOT definite. There does seem to be still a great demand for this deck so I am still hopeful of a copy in English (although I think I’ve already got them all figured out after looking at the Web site to fill in the ones I couldn’t make out on my own). It was voted 2006 Deck of the Year on the Aeclectic Tarot site, but for whatever reason there were still a lot of us who missed out on it, and so many new people discovering it just now that I think they could easily do another healthy print run. I know I’ll be in line for a deck/book kit if they get around to it. (hint-hint, Karen!)
I will say the cardstock is much thinner than I had anticipated. It’s not the thick sturdy stock used in the Bohemian Gothic, so I am a little afraid of damaging the cards. Gentle shuffling seems to be called for here. They would certainly look lovely framed, if I decide not to use it to read with, but I have to be touching my decks all the time. The lamination seems good, but they bend so easily I would recommend extra care when using them.
So stand by if it gets reprinted in English, these babies will go like hotcakes!