No Time Like The First Time (University Books RWS)

OK, Betty’s talking about sex. But I want you to do this for me if you will: think back…to your very… first…DECK.

Mine was a University Books RWS, a lonnnnng time ago. I had it for about 10 years, from about age 13 to 23. It finally got lost in a move.

I loved that deck! (In spite of the crazy pink ankh backs.) I used to practice while my roommates were watching boring television, endlessly riffle shuffling and laying the cards out. One guy, superstitiously, got scared I was putting curses on him. 😆 I probably should have, he was a shitbag! But the Karminator eventually got him. 😉 All hail the Karminator!

A few years after I lost that deck, a friend gifted me another RWS, a “normal” one with plaid backs, but I couldn’t love it. I didn’t know why, and guessed that maybe I’d moved on? The deck was special for sentimental reasons (the gifter was a good friend, the best anyone could hope for – Brandi/Judy if you’re out there, leave me a comment!) but I just couldn’t get into it the way I used to.

The years went on. I got an “Original” RWS, and I liked the green tones in the deck, but not the lines. (The lines were so borked, some of the facial expressions were changed. Case in point: the Empress.) That deck isn’t really original, I’m told it’s from a 1930’s print made when the plates were quite worn.

But – besides the “Original” phase, the font phase, the copyrights on the card faces, etc. – all of which I could overlook – something else was not right. And it took getting another copy of the University Books deck on ebay for me to figure it out. Look at these brilliant turquoise blues!

And the curious details like the extra rock on the island behind the 2 of Swords lady:

    And the half-shadow on Rosalind’s face:

    Compare the colors. The USG High Priestess has dull, greyish blues and near-invisible greens. But the University Books High Priestess – well, see for yourself!

    For me, there is no RWS that can compare with University Books. Not the Centennial, hell, not even a Pam A or B. The only beef I ever had with it was those pink ankh backs (they bugged me back then!), but now I appreciate the sheer kitschiness of them. Of all the RWS repros I’ve seen, none beat this one. ❤

    What was your first deck? 😀

13 responses »

  1. My first deck was a very worn out Aquarian Tarot, gifted to me by a school friend. I have no idea where she got it from, but considering the deck only came out in 1970 and this would have been about 1976-77, whoever had it before was a SERIOUS card reader. I loved the artwork but I couldn’t connect with the deck. More to do with me being a complete novice, I’m sure, but the state of it didn’t help. A few years later I bought a basic yellow box RWS and things progressed. I still have the Aquarian and I’ll always cherish it but it is distressingly “distressed” so I recently purchased an 80s copy to use.

      • Curious, I Googled, and apparently there was one – https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/12/a-short-history-of-art-deco-from-high-art-to-two-tone-shoes-garden-gates-to-twiggy/

        “Fifty years ago, the art and design historian Bevis Hillier named and explained art deco in a new kind of art book. Deco was the interwar style whose 1960s revival was becoming a dominant design influence in everything from smart movie settings to graphics, architecture and interiors… The great deco revival decade from, let’s say, 1965 to 1975 seemed to end completely with the look of punk — its clothes and graphics and council-block imagery — feeling like a sharp red line drawn underneath it. But in the early 1980s, when the money came back to London, so did something of deco in the high-style music videos, and postmodern architecture, with its pointless pediments and giant arched windows everywhere — an obvious deco legacy.”

        I was a kid in those days, and oblivious to design influences. 😉

      • We really are oblivious when we’re kids. My paternal grandmother had a lovely Deco vanity table in the guest bedroom. She’d obviously relegated it there when she got a 50’s blonde wood monstrosity. That generation always seemed to want to keep up with trends.
        The Deco vanity had a big, round mirror and the wood was made to look like parquet, with the wood grain running at different angles, but symmetrical on both sides. The top edges were rounded.
        I would give not only my eyeteeth but every tooth in my head for that vanity now! But then, it was just a piece of furniture, no big deal!

  2. Mine was the Mythic Tarot sold in a kit with a book. I actually got into Tarot because I was passionate about mythology. I still have it along with the book and the black cloth. Great memories!

  3. I used a friends Marseilles style deck when I first started reading at 14–that was in 1967. Since money was tight I used shared decks through high school. In 1971 I moved to New York City. An occult book store I frequented had the Thoth deck in the box. I count that as my first deck that was all mine, 1972. I carried that deck for decades till I gave it to my son. I then switched to the RWS decks primarily.

  4. I realize that I don’t really like the Centennial (while elegant and of quality) because of its colors, not vibrant at all. Actually it gives a greyish vibe not appealing (at least for me!).
    This University Books RWS has a much stronger presence!!

    Concerning my first deck? I was a teenager, and it was the TdM of course (the standard in my country!), but to read it was something challenging.
    The RWS was a late discovery.

    • Hi Decan!
      It really IS greyish. And the “regular” USG deck looks washed out to me, except for those screaming yellows!

  5. MIne was the Weiser large-format Thoth from 1969 that I picked up when I returned from Germany in 1971 (where I had been exposed to a friend’s Aquarian). Interestingly, when I met my wife in 1977 she had a Tarot Classic, a Gypsy Witch deck and a Zolar with the ugly magenta tones, but she didn’t know how to read them. (Now she can sort of read the Thoth.) I have her Classic now; it has the best “feel” in the hand of any deck I own. Since I doubt I’ll ever get my hands on a University Press RWS, the Albanao-Waite will have to serve for strong colors.

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