The Waite-Smith Tarot Deck illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

The Magician The Waite-Smith tarot deck, conceived by poet and mystic Arthur E. Waite, and illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith, was published in 1909-1910.

The Wikipedia article on Pamela Coleman Smith states, “Today most scholars, in order to recognize the importance of Smith’s con­tri­bu­tion, refer to the deck as the Waite-Smith Tarot. Tarot writers often refer to the deck with the simple abbreviation of RWS, for Rider-Waite-Smith.

“...Waite is often cited as the designer of the Waite-Smith Tarot, but it would be more accurate to consider him as half of a design team, with responsibility for the major concept, the structure of individual cards, and the overall symbolic system. Because Waite was not an artist himself, he commissioned the talented and intuitive Smith to create the actual deck.

Five of Wands Two of Cups Two of Swords Five of Pentacles

“It appears that Waite provided detailed instructions mainly or ex­clu­sively for the Major Arcana, and simple lists of meanings for the Minor Arcana or ‘pip’ cards, and thus that the memorable scenes of the Minor Arcana owe largely to Smith’s own invention. The Minor Arcana are indeed one of the notable achievements of this deck, as most earlier tarot decks (especially those of the Marseilles type) have extremely simple pip cards. One reason for the enduring success of the Waite-Smith deck may be the richness of symbolic signification that Smith brought to the Minor Arcana.”

There have been many editions of decks either using or based on Smith’s designs.

Strength Justice The High Priestess The Empress

Note: To fit a desired astrological schema, Waite switched the traditional order of the Justice and Strength cards, among other changes. For comparisons between decks, this Web site “unswitches” the positions of Justice and Strength cards in a few decks (including the Waite-Smith deck) to match the order in older decks; it also restores an apparent numerological pattern as well as being a better order for the Lemniscate Tableau.

For more information, see the following articles.