I like decks made by readers.
There’s reasons for this. You’ve probably heard it said many times that beginners should learn Lenormand with a traditional deck. But as the years go by, you’ll find yourself relying on certain conventions. You’ll probably find yourself preferring a deck with workable facing directions, and you’ll certainly find it easier to locate a card in the Grand Tableau if the images are uncluttered. Maybe you’ll want the playing card insets long after you’ve learned which are the people cards, because sometimes you feel like using Etteilla’s multiples. I still prefer traditional decks. I always will.
Most of the people making self-published decks aren’t really readers, and so they can’t produce a deck that functions as a reading tool. It’s all about THEIR “innovation” and “creativity”, i.e., their own little ego time, and this, coupled with the fact that most of them are novices (and will remain novices, due to willful ignorance) makes for some extremely dysfunctional decks. The big publishers aren’t immune to it either. People on amazon are saying that Lo Scarabeo’s latest Dondorf reproduction has roughly the same dimensions as a Tarot deck. I won’t be seating clients on the floor in order to read their Grand Tableaus, and so won’t be purchasing that one. Ever.
The older Lenormands are small and for the most part, very readable. I love reproductions, and I’m starting to see them with those wonderful linen (cambric) finishes that make them handle like my beloved Bulldog Squeezers. The first linen repro I got was the Vintage Altenburger. I like it, but it’s kind of murky, and the whole deck has a nicotine yellow tint like the walls in those downtown saloons where the old farts play dominoes. I much prefer it to the saccharine-twee crap that’s vogue these days, but the images don’t really pop. It’s a lot better than those collage things, but it still takes a couple of extra beats to locate a card in a GT.
I’ve always liked Dondorf. I’ve worn out a couple of copies of “French” Cartomancy and a Königsfurt, and my current purse deck is Lauren Forestell’s Purple Dragon. (For months, I resisted it, until I was sure there were no licensing issues with her Game of Hope Lenormand. And I’d like to publicly redact and apologize for anything I may have written during that time. The rumor started when some clown at the British Museum who was not involved the transaction fueled Katz’s attack on her. I have since been satisfied that she DID purchase the rights. I’ve also been informed that Katz never apologized. He’s apparently content to smear someone’s rep KNOWING that it’s bullshit, and make an ass out of everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt. Well, I won’t be falling into that one again. Kamp Katz, take note.
I like my Purple Dragon a lot. But I’ve been lusting for after a linen finish Dondorf since 2005 or so – if only somebody would print it!
Le Fanu’s Lilac Dondorf Lenormand by Lauren Forestell delivered the goods and more. It’s standard Lenormand size, and the print quality is so good that you can make out the dark side of the Clouds. Prior to Lauren’s repros, you needed an actual antique Dondorf to see that. Dondorf lithography is the stuff of legend. The Lady has been flipped so that she can face the Man (or not), it’s a copy of the FIRST Dondorf with the old color scheme – Rider on a grey horse, etc., and the backs are just stunning. It even comes in a tin printed with the back design:
The only nod to “new” Lenormand would be the extra Man and Woman cards, which of course can be removed if you use the Rider and Snake as the male and female lover cards, respectively. And it’s a small gesture of support in a backwards era that still denies gay people basic civil rights, so this is the one modernization you’ll never hear me griping about.
There’s a story behind this deck, it all started when Le Fanu (who has some kind of amazing juju, or an eagle eye that brings him the most awesome things from virtual junkyards like ebay and flea markets) acquired a Lilac Dondorf, Variation #1.
Later (probably when the shock wore off, lol) Lauren tweaked the images and printed a small run of decks. She has a great instinct for what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be left as is.
She READS LENORMAND, so she understands that form can be beautiful, but it has to follow function.
The Lilac is a limited edition, and alas and alack, it’s sold out now. But her next one will be the C.L. Wüst, and she’s taking pre-orders. You can also find other great decks, all repros, some in both standard and mini sizes, and some ace tins. Her online store is HERE. And it rocks. 😀