Sola Busca Tarot

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Sola Busca - Postumio - Trump II


The Sola Busca deck is the oldest deck of 78 cards that is entirely known to us.

The Trumps and the Figures represent historical / mythical characters. The characters are identified by names printed on the cards. The names are important, because most of the images are not easily connected to the common iconography of the represented subject.

In particular, the 22 Trumps have the following structure:

  • Mato and Panfilo. The first is almost a "standard" Tarot Fool, the secondo could be a "self-portrait" of the author of the deck (what about Panfilo Sassi? [1] )
  • 18 Cards mostly (maybe all) corresponding to character of ancient Rome. In particular, at least 13 of the cards could represent people who took part in The End Of The Roman Republic.
  • Nenbroto and Nabuchodenasor are two Babylonian kings from the Bible
Sola Busca - 7 of Discs - The Alchemist adjusts his stove

As was demonstrated by Giordano Berti and Sofia Di Vincenzo in a study published in 1995 (Alchemy in Sola-Busca Tarot, Torino 1995 and Stamford 1998) this is the first truly esoteric Tarot in the history, because his images are clearly inspired by Renaissance alchemic tradition. See the page Sola-Busca Tarot & Alchemy.


In the 1960s, Ebherhard Ruhmer has attributed the deck to Marco d'Antonio di Ruggero also known as Marco Zoppo (Ferrara 1433 - Venice 1478). The author is today identified with the painter Nicola di maestro Antonio (Florence 1448 - Ancona 1511).

See also Sola_Busca_British_Museum

Publishing details

Rider-Waite deck - 3 of Swords. The design of the Sola Busca 3 of Swords is likely the inspiration for the design of the corresponding card in the Rider-Waite deck published circa 1910.
Sola Busca - 3 of Swords - left original, right Lo Scarabeo

Date of Publication

  • First publication: Northern Italy, 1491 ca.

78 engravings; only one hand painted. Number of copies: unknown.

  • Lo Scarabeo edition: Italy, 1995

78 modern designs, copied from the original, but different for colors and card dimensions. Number of copies: unlimited.

  • Wolfgang Mayer edition: Germany, 1998

78 original designs, complete faithful to the original. Number of copies: 700, numbered and signes by the printer in a special card. The card size and coloring is an exact replica of the original version, but the back is non-print. [2]

  • Il Meneghello edition: Italy, 2013

22 original designs, complete faithful to the original. In February 2013 Osvaldo Menegazzi by Il Meneghello was granted exclusive rights to reprint part of this deck (only the 22 Trumps) directly from the original cards by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Pinacoteca di Brera (where it is housed). The card size, cardstock, backs, and coloring is an exact replica of the original version, to give the Tarot historian, researcher and collector an authentic experience both tactually and visually. [3]

Deck creation and/or publication process

The Sola Busca tarot deck is the only complete 78 cards deck dating to the XV century. The deck was produced in the second half of the century. The most likely date being 1491. The cards were engraved on copper. Only one deck was hand-painted in colours, a few years after printing.

Giordano Berti and Michael Dummett (according to Artur M. Hind, Early Italian Engravings, London, 1938, vol. I, pp.241-247, vol. IV, 370-393) suggest that the deck might have been engraved in Ferrara and illuminated in Venice (or for the Venetian market).

The complete deck, which was owned by the Sola Busca family, was photographed in 1907 for the British Museum. In 2009, the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan bought the deck for 800,000 Eur.

Reproductions of the deck are currently printed by Lo Scarabeo. The fidelity to the original is not perfect, since Lo Scarabeo edition is based on redrawings executed at the end of XXth Century.



  • Titus Livius - Livy is the most important Roman historian of the Republic of Rome. He was born in in 59 BC and died in 17 AD. He was a contemporary of Emperor Augustus.
  • Plutarch "Lives" - Plutarch (45 - 125 AD) was a Greek historian of the first century. His "Parellel Lives" pairs the biography of a famous Roman with one of a Greek who was comparable in some way.
  • Orosius - Paulus Orosius was born in Spain in the Fourth Century of the current era. He was the author of the Historiarum adversus paganos libri septem (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans), the first world history by a Christian. He attempted, like Augustine later did in his Civitas Dei, to counter the view that Rome had fallen because of the adoption of the Christian faith by the Emperor and the people. Using material taken from Livy, Caesar, Tacitus, Justin, and Eutropius (all of them pagans), besides Suetonius, Florus, Justin, the Holy Scripture and the chronicle of Eusebius revised by St. Jerome. Orosius shows that this anti-Christian opinion was groundless, by giving examples of disasters that happened long before the rejection of paganism.
  • Dante Alighieri "La Divina Commedia" (The Divine Comedy), traces Dante's imaginary journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven. The poet encounters historical and mythological creatures, each symbolic of a particular fault or virtue. The Latin poet Virgil is Dante's guide through hell and purgatory. Beatrice, Dante’s great love, whom he regarded as a manifestation of the divine, is his guide through paradise.
  • Fazio Degli Uberti "Dittamondo" - The Dittamondo (from Latin "dicta mundi", "facts about the World") is an allegorical poem written in tercets in Dante's style. The poem was left unfinisched at the death of Fazio (1369 ca). The Dittamondo describes Fazio's imaginary journey through history and geography. It is a XIV century enciclopedy in verses.

About the Court Cards / Alexander

  • Giovanni Boccaccio "Illustrious Women" (De Claris Mulieribus) - Around 1362 Boccaccio wrote his De claris mulieribus, 104 brief biographies of famous women, in Latin. All the four Queens of the deck appear in Boccaccio's book.
  • Leo of Naples "Historia de Preliss Alexandri Magni" (History of the battles of Alexander the Great). This latin text is one of the many pseudo-histories based on the life of Alexander. Between the characters, many of the court cards of the Sola Busca deck are present (Alexander, Philippus, Olympias, Nectanebus, Hammon, Apollo). More information on this text in the page about the Knight of Cups.


Sola Busca Tarot: Mayer's version (Germany, 1998) - The only complete Tarot deck from the 15th century faithfully reprinted from the original by Wolfgang Mayer.

Michael J. Hurst - Each trump is described in detail. Tea's hypotesis are taken into account and discussed further. This is the most extensive Sola Busca internet resource I know of.

Tea's Tomb - This seems to be "Tea's Tomb" Sola Busca page that started the interest for this deck on the internet. If you navigate to the single cards (in particular the trumps) you will find some relevant information on each one.

Sola Busca - Good information about the Sola Busca edition by Lo Scarabeo. - Background infomation on the deck. Links to high quality images of the cards.

FMR - In 1998, the FMR Franco Maria Ricci magazine published a number featuring the Sola Busca deck on its cover. The number contains two articles on the deck:

  • p 107: Cards on the table; the Sola-Busca tarot cards. author: Franco Pratesi; photographs: Giovanna Lalatta
  • p 125: The Sola-Busca tarot cards; iconographic note. author: Marzia Faietti


Sola-Busca_gallery Images of all the Cards.


Boccacio "De claris Mulieribus" French edition 1511