Back in 2018 I had the great privilege of reviewing the Majors Only version of Hans Bauer’s The Lost Tarot. The deck is premised on a fictionalized back story of an English merchant, William Bradford, who purchases from Leonardo da Vinci an optical device and early prototype of the modern camera.
This certain Mr. Bradford takes a series of photographs with da Vinci’s device, which was then lost in time, and only rediscovered in 1994. After some restoration efforts of those medieval photographs, The Lost Tarot is born.
Finally in 2022, the full deck is realized, accompanied by a fantastic full-color guidebook written by Carly Fischer. The guidebook is absolutely amazing. Not only does it make for a great primer on the tarot, following popular RWS card meanings, but it supports Bauer’s deck beautifully.
I do love the parchment design for the card backs. It works well with the premise of the deck. Love that Ace of Cups!
Here’s a close-up of some cards:
The Ace of Wands , which shows a red wand emerging from the clouds, crowned with a leaf emblazoned with a bird in flight, symbolic of the creative spirit allowed to soar. When this card shows up in a reading, ask yourself: Where do my passions lead me right now?
The Two of Wands features a woman by a castle battlement looking ahead to see the world. This card, per the guidebook entry, is about embracing the many paths that can lead to the destination you desire and to not limit your options. Ask yourself: What other paths could help me achieve what I desire?
Comparing the Two of Wands to the Three (often tarot readers talk about how the two are confusing in the RWS), this one features a merchant and is about teamwork in the professional setting–commerce through exchange and the sharing of resources.
With the guidebook and now a complete 78-card deck, The Lost Tarot makes for a great beginner’s pack.
I love how the guidebook annotates the anatomy of each card, covering three key symbols. For example, in Death, the three key symbols specifically important to The Lost Tarot are the dove, the plague, and the green shroud. In this deck’s Temperance, it’s the sun, water, and the angel.
Also, sorry for the slight glare you see in some of these photos.
There’s an intricate weaving of diverse representations throughout this deck that’s beautifully done and feels organic to the project. If you love Renaissance Fair vibes, you’re going to love the aesthetics of this deck.
It’s also got a bit of that Somnia Tarot vibe to it, doesn’t it? Both are decks of fine art photography with a dream-like visionary quality.
Here in Bauer’s deck, I love the historical research that went into constructing a fantastical fictional narrative and presenting that as the premise of the deck. It’s world-building at its finest. Look at the detailing in the Page of Coins, that overlay of a medieval painting behind the photographic art.
Those who aren’t a fan of the RWS swords-piercing-a-heart motif in the Three of Swords will really appreciate this deck, and how the creators depicted the Three of Swords (left most card up top). And that’s a stunning composition for the Four of Swords.
Funnier yet is the reference to “the epidemic,” whereas Bauer started this deck way before the 2020 pandemic. In the fictional Testamentum written by 16th century William Bradford, who finds da Vinci’s mysterious photographic device, but isn’t able to do anything with it for years due to “the great epidemic of the sweating sickness in 1528,” thus forcing him to hide the opus, which remained hidden until his deathbed.
This might be a deck worth modifying, i.e., cutting out the archway shapes. I’d leave the bottom white caption so you can identify what card is what, but how cool would this deck be in that arched shape!
The stark white right now takes away from the art. Buffering that stark white with some off-white, cream, or beige texture would probably give the layout design better balance.
Now let’s talk about the guidebook some more, because I love its layout and structure.
You get a breakdown of key symbols, a description of the card image, key themes, key archetypes, and so much more.
The Majors each correspond with several archetypes.
For example, archetypes associated with Key 0 – The Fool: The Eternal Youth, The Child, or The Traveler. Archetypes associated with Key 1 – The Magus: The Inventor, The Builder, or The Catalyst. Key 2 – The High Priestess: The Goddess, The Divine Feminine, or The Wise Leader. And in the photo above, you see that The Hermit corresponds with the archetypes of The Elder, The Introvert, and The Philosopher.
I love that aspect and see this as knowledge you can transfer to other decks as well.
The court cards break down the attributions between Benefits and Caution. Court cards, per the guidebook, are also described as aspects of the self. The Queen of Swords, for example, is good at compartmentalizing emotional realities in order to accomplish what needs to be done. That’s one of her Benefits. But for a Caution, she can appear dissociative, and the directness of her speaking style may appear to others as being downright rude.
And I love the ingenuity of not having to “people” the court cards. The right-most card above is the Page of Cups, which is represented by a fish leaping from a fountain. This, by the way, is a beautiful card. All four cards in the above spread are some of my favorites. Among the Benefits for the Page of Cups: He makes life feel like play. He’s adaptable. He finds irony, humor, and absurdity in every situation. Caution: This imaginative page may seem disconnected from reality. Grounded observations will bring a healthier balance to your experience.
How does the deck read? They shuffle better than most decks you get on the market these days and are larger in size. (By the way, I love the nods of references to the Templars throughout the deck.)
RWS readers will take to the cards easily and the newly released companion guidebook turns The Lost Tarot into a complete beginner’s or novice’s set.
If you love fine art photography and photographic prints, you’re going to love The Lost Tarot by Hans Bauer. His collaboration with Carly Fischer for the companion guidebook added so much value to the deck as a set. The tagline at the bottom of the guidebook cover sums it up: “A treasury of mysterious providence in the pursuit of arcane knowledge.”
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 deck creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck and book.