The Lost Tarot (Majors Only) by Hans Bauer

The Lost Tarot is a self-published Majors only tarot deck brought to us from the brilliant mind of Hans Bauer. The deck art is premised on a fictionalized back story of an English merchant, William Bradford, who purchased from Leonardo da Vinci an optical device (i.e., the very first camera, prior to the invention of the camera as we know it today) that da Vinci had invented, essentially a camera obscura device. The back story of the deck continues: Bradford took a series of photographs with the device and, in 1994, a stack of Bradford’s medieval photographs were found in Nottingham, England. Restoration efforts commenced and now we’ve got an incredible tarot deck for the 21st century based on those medieval photographs taken with Leonarda da Vinci’s optical device.

Weaving the back story for The Lost Tarot. Click on image for link to image source. Deck descriptions and marketing copy put forth the narrative: the “Circa 1517” image seen above is purportedly the original photograph as taken by Bradford with the camera device he purchased from Leonardo da Vinci. To the right, “2017 Recreation,” is the digitally corrected version used for the modern tarot deck. I love it.

The premise is charming, innovative, well thought out, with brilliant world-building as you’d expect from a renowned screenwriter like Hans Bauer of Anaconda (1997) fame (which starred Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, and Owen Wilson, among others) and Titan A.E. (2000).

To execute that premise, Bauer took photographs at various Renaissance faires in Texas and also staged some at his studio, mimicking a photography style as best as he could conceive of it that might have been taken by a prototype camera from 1517, centuries before the actual invention of the camera in 1839. Thus, the photographic art is expressed with a distressed and antique tone. The purpose, the painstaking attention to every detail in the execution of this Majors only tarot deck, and then finally, the cards themselves as a working tarot deck excite me.

Let’s talk about the packaging. You can’t get this standard of quality from mass market tarot decks from commercial publishers. The Lost Tarot is produced with a caliber that’s a deck collector’s dream. The cards are hand-wrapped and sealed with tissue paper. They come with a little white booklet, or Companion Guide, written by Carly Fischer. a professional tarot reader and proprietor of Sound Sight Tarot.

And again, the scope of thought that went into the world-building– because you also get a color scanned photocopy of the mythic Testamentum written by our protagonist, William Bradford.

The card backs are simple, painted an antique gold with rendered distress to indicate aging. It works with the premise of the deck, so I like it. I also like how Bauer has issued a limited edition of 500 copies that are hand-signed by him.

Even the neatness and crisp way each deck is wrapped and placed in the box reveals to you how much thought has gone in to the creation of The Lost Tarot. I know nothing about Hans Bauer, but just from handling this deck, I can tell you his brain works in impressive, wondrous ways. There is an astuteness to his creativity, and an exacting method to his stream of imagination.

Okay now let’s talk about the cards. I think the stark white borders take away from the aesthetics of this deck. It’s too severe a contrast from the antiqued imagery of the cards.

Also wow, look at that High Priestess card! Breathtaking. Love the blood moon in the back. Featuring a child with the mother figure in The Empress is intriguing and in its own way, novel. In more common renderings of Key III, you get the implication of a pregnant soon-to-be mother. I like the mother and child imagery here, however, placed in a field of gold. I also really love The Lovers card here.

That being said (going back to me whining about the white borders), recall the back story for this deck: a 21st century digitally rendered update of the “original” 16th century photographs from the English countryside. The digital re-mastering of these old photographs resulted in this modern-produced tarot. So given that back story, the white borders make sense. It’s just that as a tarot reader, I still don’t love the white borders. Thick white borders like these only work on a tarot deck in very specific instances (this not being one of them), and for me, almost always call to mind the 1990s.

I also love The Lost Tarot‘s Death card, especially how the deck’s story arc flows into Temperance, suggesting to us to imagine that the dove in Death has transformed into the angel in Temperance.

There’s a bit of a stylistic inconsistency as we get to The Sun, Judgment, and The World card, where we see a photo-collage for each card. There was a bit of that earlier, sure, but not as noticeable as it is here. At least in The World card, I speculate that the photo-collage decision was to design the card to look more like its TdM and RWS predecessors.

I’ve always intuited a strong connection and direct relationship between Key II: The High Priestess and Key 18: The Moon. I love that the deck creator has emphasized that here with the recurring imagery of the blood moon. At about The Moon card, the smooth flow of the cards’ storyline stops for me and becomes disjointed. Something about The Sun,  Judgment, and The World cards as depicted here give off a more Victorian vibe and lean much more into a romanticized style than the earlier card photography.

In the limited edition, you also get the four Aces, which I’m so glad was included. When using the tarot for spirit contacts, spell-crafting, or underworld journeying, I often separate out the Majors plus the four Aces, and just work with the Majors + Aces. So I love that those are exactly the sets of cards included in this edition.

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FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received The Lost Tarot from the author for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.

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