The Game of Tarot
By Michael Dummett
Duckworth 1980 ISBN 0 7156 10147
This book only saw one printing and is now much in demand, sometimes fetching high prices. However, keep your eyes open and you can find a bargain - if you are lucky, around £80 should be possible, though expect to spend closer to £100. It is the most comprehensive book published about tarot, tracing the history of the games, the cards themselves, their designs, and even occult use. While now a little out of date on some points, it remains the standard place to start any serious study on these cards’ history.
A History of Games played with the Tarot Pack (Volumes 1 & 2)
by Michael Dummett and John McLeod
Edwin Mellen Press 2004
Volume One ISBN 0 7734 6447 6
Volume Two ISBN 0 7734 6447 2
Supplement from Maproom Publications 2009 ISBN 978 0 9562370 0 2
These volumes serve to update and expand the work on the card games and their development given in The Game of Tarot. Although the work is limited to just this part of tarot’s history, there is no more substantial source of tarot games in the English Language – or possibly any other. Sadly, while they were always costly volumes, the publisher’s price has risen sharply of late, having doubled since my own purchase several years ago and as I write this, a set will now cost you £300.
A Wicked Pack of Cards
By Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis, & Michael Dummett
St Martin’s Press 1996 ISBN 0 312 16294 4
This is the first of two books to take up the task of expanding on the history of the occult tarot, which had a fairly detailed but still limited chapter in The Game of Tarot. This book limits itself to the first hundred years of occult tarot, beginning with Antoine Court de Gebelin at the end of the 18th Century. This is essential reading if you want to understand where these beliefs came from and how they developed, not to mention just why they were so very wrong. It seems to be a little harder to obtain in the US than in the UK but you shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting a copy at a reasonable price (£20 seems to be the lower end at the time of writing this).
A History of the Occult Tarot 1870-1970
By Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett
Duckworth 2002 ISBN 0 7156 3122 5
This book picks up the story where the last one left off, showing how the occult tarot spread beyond France and throughout the English speaking world until all English speakers know by tarot was the occult and fortune telling. Once again, history is essential for understanding why we are where we are and just what went wrong. Together with the previous volume, this book pulls the rug from beneath accounts of the occult tarot leaving us with a pack of playing cards. More easily available than the previous book and you can often get if for a cheap price. This has recently been reprinted, available as both a paperback and an ebook.
Explaining the Tarot
By Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Dupaulis, & Marco Ponzi
Maproom Publications 2010 ISBN 978-0-9562370-1-9
A small book containing translations of and commentaries on two 16th Century Italian texts that discuss the symbolism of the tarot trumps
A boxed set published by Piatnik containing a 54 card Tarock (a French suited tarot pack), trays for stakes, and a book of rules in English for five Austrian games published in 1975.
Piatnik No 2890
The Penguin book of Card Games
By David Parlett
Penguin 2008 ISBN-10: 0141037873 ISBN-13 978-0141037875
Previously published in 2000 as the Penguin Encyclopedia of Card Games, this is an essential book and the only mainstream title that I know of to include the rules for tarot games. Without doubt, David Parlett is the best of all writers on card games, providing the rules with clarity, detail, authority, and an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. Every family should have a book of card games and as this is the best of all of them, please make this one yours – it will be a friend for life.
The Oxford Guide to Card Games
By David Parlett
Oxford University Press 1990 ISBN 0-19-214165-1
Not a guide to how games are played as such but rather a general history of our regular playing cards from their origin to the development of various families of games played with them – including tarot. A fascinating, informative, and enjoyable book. If you want to understand tarot cards and the games played with them in the broader context of card gaming, then this is another essential book.
This web site, maintained by John McLeod, is the single largest resource for card games on the internet. It includes a large number of tarot games along with some detailed strategy notes by experienced players. Like the other books listed here, the games are given with their original language terms. However, while perhaps the most up-to-date source of tarot rules, it is not a complete survey of contemporary games. If you want completeness, then Dummett & McLeod 2004 should still be on your shopping list.