Revised New Art Tarot Cards
I recently collaborated with the Philosophical Research Society to revise and reissue John Augustus Knapp and Manly P. Hall's Revised New Art Tarot deck, which was originally published in 1929. The new deck is truly a magical object and is available for pre-sale on the Philosophical Research Society's website.
Regarding the Deck and the Current Revision
John Augustus Knapp (1853-1938) was in his twilight years when he began his collaborations with Manly P. Hall. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised across the river in Northern Kentucky, Knapp spent the majority of his adult life in Cincinnati, where he supported his family with a successful career in illustration. It was here that Knapp became a mystic and a scholar of ancient wisdom traditions. Knapp was a 32nd degree Mason and a Scottish Rite Member, and sat on the Executive Committee of the Cincinnati branch of the Theosophical Society. He delivered lectures to the TS on topics such as “Brotherhood” and “The Septenary in Man,” and was friendly with the branch’s President, Dr. Jirah Dewey Buck, who was himself an esoteric author (Symbolism: or Mystic Masonry), and a personal friend of the TS’s founder, Helena Petrova Blavatsky.
In Cincinnati, Knapp also befriended and collaborated with other esoteric scholars, such as the author Dr. Thomas M. Stewart (The Symbolism of the Gods of the Egyptians and the Light They Throw on Freemasonry). Knapp’s most notable Cincinnati-based project was the series of illustrations he drew for the great esoteric novel Etidorhpa (1895), written by mystical alchemist and influential doctor of eclectic medicine John Uri Lloyd, one of Knapp’s closest friends and neighbor. Etidorpha would later become a subject of Manly P. Hall’s writings and lectures.
In 1919, Hall invited Knapp’s second wife, Dr. Laura C. Brickley, a doctor of eclectic medicine, to give lectures in Los Angeles, CA on the topic of occult anatomy. The Knapps found California to their liking, and John took a job as head artist of the publicity department at Thomas Ince Studios, Hollywood’s first movie studio. It did not take long for Knapp and Hall to begin their collaborations. In addition to the most famous of their collaborative work, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928), they worked together on several other books, including The Initiates of the Flame; The Ways of the Lonely Ones: A Collection of Mystical Allegories; The Lost Keys of Freemasonry or The Secret Of Hiram Abiff; Shadow Forms: A Collection of Occult Stories; and The Phoenix. While in Los Angeles, Knapp also illustrated The Adorers of Dionysus, written by James Morgan Pryse, founder of the Los Angeles Gnostic Society.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of J. A. Knapp’s work. I offer this as a background to demonstrate why Manly P. Hall, one of the greatest scholars of the mystery traditions in the 20th century, prized Knapp not only as an artist for his projects, but also as a fellow esotericist and mystic. To gain a cursory knowledge of the background of these two great men is to understand that you are not holding an ordinary pack of tarot cards.
The Revised New Art Tarot was the name of the original 1929 publication of this pack of cards. The title is more appropriate than ever, as we bring this deck to you––with a few revisions. The original deck was produced on small uncoated cards, as was typical of their time. We have updated them by enlarging the size while retaining the original proportions. The cards are now coated, to ensure their longevity. Due to the original printing technology, the illustrations on many of the original cards were not properly centered. This is now corrected. We paid strict attention to the color symbolism in order to create the most color-accurate reproduction of the deck possible. We also tried to preserve some of the charm of the 1929 printing by retaining the slight misregistration of the colors.
Finally, because many readers today interpret the cards in reversed position, we created a new back for the cards. The mandala we chose is in conformity with the cabalistic symbolism of the deck, and its symmetry allows the querent to be surprised by the orientation of each card when turned over in divination.
It was not our intention to be critical of the original back of the cards, taken from a detail of the iconic Bembine Tablet. Our intent has been to update the Knapp-Hall Tarot deck and bring forth a revised version that honors its original cabalistic and mystical qualities, while making concessions to a new generation of tarot enthusiasts.
As a Cincinnati-based artist who teaches at the same college that J. A. Knapp taught at, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, I feel a strong spiritual kinship with Knapp. Though he died many years before my birth, we are fellow esoteric artists. I have studied Knapp and his circle for years, feeling immersed in the constellation of their ideas and activities. As I write this, I am currently a Curtis G. Lloyd Fellow at the Lloyd Library and Museum, where I am reading selections from John Uri Lloyd’s extensive library of alchemy and magic books to write and illustrate my own alchemical treatise. Here at the Lloyd, I have spent endless hours investigating Knapp’s original illustrations for Etidorhpa. I do all this research in the spirit of continuing the work of Knapp, Lloyd, Buck, Hall, and the many hundreds of esoteric mystics who precede us.
I would like to express my warmest gratitude to Ms. Edie Shapiro, archivist at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, whose scholarship and knowledge of Manly Hall, added to the invaluable archive at the Society, have contributed so much to this project. Her knowledge has been pivotal to our efforts of unearthing and assembling information about J. A. Knapp and Manly P. Hall. I would also like to thank Dr. Yolanda Robinson, who spearheaded this project, and who is presently a professor of Tarot and Transformational Psychology at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. The three of us have worked closely as a team to bring you this reissue of the very magical Revised New Art Tarot. I sincerely hope that you enjoy unlocking this deck as much as we have. Finally, I want to express my special thanks to Tarot scholar and mystic Ron Decker, who mentored me during this project.