Trying to Put a Date to a Deck

Hello All,

I am new to the forum. I have been digging around in it off and on for a few days, and I have been very impressed with what I've found. My own study of the tarot and its history has just started.

I'm going to take a very 'new world' perspective on what constitutes a historical tarot deck, so please forgive me. :D

I have recently acquired a deck of 'De Laurence's Tarot Cards' (pirated RWS) with its companion 'The Key to the Tarot.' I have been trying in vain to put a date to this deck and book. It seems there are at least four variants of the deck: monotone yellow with square corners and plain back, monotone yellow with rounded corners and orange-dot back, monotone orange, monotone red with blue instead of black ink, and possibly a full-color version. The pirated book has that many variations or more--most of which list only the date 1918 inside. The copy I have is one of the yellow/rounded corner variants and the book is blue fabric bound with no color in the illustrations.

You can see three of these variations here: There is also a c1938 advertisement for the cards here: ... rt1938.jpg (advertising a five-color variant that I've never seen).

I have seen various online sources listing the dates of these as ranging from 1916 all the way to 1960 and 1980. I find it hard to believe that De Laurence, Scott & Co. was still operating more than 40 years after the death of L.W. de Laurence. Certainly, I have seen no De Laurence books dated after the 1930s. So when were these cheap, pirated copies of the RWS deck produced and marketed in the US?

Any light you can shed would be most helpful.

Re: Trying to Put a Date to a Deck

Thanks for the suggestion, Ross! I did try emailing Holly Voley and also did some targeted searching within Frank's site, but I haven't tried emailing him yet.

I have finally managed to get registered on the AT forum, so I have included a post there asking the same question but with some more details (including looking into the De Laurence book data, which your comment prompted). I figured I'd share it here as well (please excuse the cross-posting):

I have recently acquired a copy of the yellow (rounded corner/printed back) De Laurence deck. I have been trying in vain to put a date to this deck. The font style and deterioration of the box would certainly favor the 1920s, but the information I have found on-line is very confusing.

Almost all of the dates listed on-line for the four versions of the De Laurence decks seem to be taken from Holly Voley's Rider-Waite Site ( Holly lists them as 1916-1918 for the yellow (square corner/plain back), 1960 for the orange, and 1980 for the red/blue. While Holly's site is very informative, she does not cite her source for these dates.

After some research, I believe that these dates are incorrect, and I would like to know what you think.

The decks were produced by the De Laurence Co. (or De Laurence, Scott & Co.) of Chicago. The company was a publishing house and mail-order supplier operated by the mustachioed book pirate, Lauron William de Laurence. LW de Laurance died in 1936, and the production of new books seems to have dropped sharply after that time. Holly has helpfully provided us with a scan of a c1938 de Laurence catalog, which shows that the company was going strong after his death. However, I am skeptical that the company persisted much past 1950.

Looking at WorldCat, I found 115 books in library holdings published by the De Laurence Co. The most recent bore the dates 1950 and 1948: late printings of the Goetia, of Abramelin, and several catalogs.

The idea that there was still a de Laurence Co. producing a tarot deck in Chicago in 1980, a decade after US Games began claiming their 'copyright' and 30 years after the last instance of a De Laurence book, seems very far-fetched to me. Even 1960 seems a stretch--among other things, that would mean that this company had been printing decks for more than forty years with the same "No. 20 D" catalog number.

I think that Holly discovered the answer on her own when looking at the c1938 advertisement. The advert states that the cards are "Double-Headed" and "printed in Five Oriental Colors." I do not think that this advert referred to the decks that we now know of as De Laurence decks (conjecture). I am of the opinion that all four variants were produced between 1916 and c1938-1940. The latest I can imagine one of these decks being produced is 1950.

If anyone has copies of the boxes that the orange and red/blue editions came in, I would love to see pictures of them. Also, if anyone has copies of books with the de Laurence, Chicago imprint that are published after 1950, I'd love to know about it. Thanks!

NOTE: There are several modern reprints of the books that De Laurence claimed authorship of that still bear his name, but these are not the same as books published by the De Laurence Co. of Chicago.

NOTE 2: The Encyclopedia of Tarot lists the deck in vol. 1, page 99, but does not provide a date.

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