Crowley / Harris Thoth Deck – First Test Printing

I was fortunate to obtain 2 cards (The Lovers and the Ace of Swords) from the first test printing of the famous Thoth Tarot deck by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris.  These cards, along with many other Crowley/Harris/Thoth items, were made available in August 2007 from Weiser Antiquarian Books.

Here’s the information about these cards:

In 1943 Crowley had a series of collotype printing blocks made to reproduce in color the images of seven individual tarot cards plus the design that he intended to have printed on the reverse side of each card. The plates were primarily struck so that high-quality color prints could be made to tip into his forthcoming The Book of Thoth, however he also took advantage of their availability to have a small test run of those cards made, for distribution to friends and acquaintances who might be persuaded to help finance the full printing of the pack. These are two of that test run. Each with the Rose Cross design on the back. Very unusual, and the true first printing of one of the most famous tarot decks.

The cards are are not as heavy or firm as the later printed cards, but are in excellent condition, given that they are 64 years old. There is some very slight separation in a few spots on the edges where the two prints were glued together. The colors are vivid and the images clear.  Perhaps they were handled by old Uncle Al himself!

The Lovers:
(135 x 90 mm, 5 5/16 x 3 1/2 in)

Thoth - The Lovers - First Test Printing

Ace of Swords:
(134 x 90 mm, 5 1/4 x 3 1/2 in.)

Thoth Tarot - Ace of Swords - First Testing Printing

Note that these cards have an additional light grey unbroken frame line on the outer border, not found in other versions of the deck.

Back of card:

Thoth Tarot - Back - First Test Printing

The back has an additional full row at the bottom of the card that does not appear in later versions of the deck. This row does not contain the Wand, Cup, Sword, Disk designs within each section, but just contains the colors for each section (red for Wands, blue for Cups, gold for Swords, green for disks). There is also a partial row visible at the bottom, on the right, and at the top of the card.


5 Responses to “Crowley / Harris Thoth Deck – First Test Printing”

  1. 1 threefold31
    June 4, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Hi, are these your cards? I’ve used them in an essay about the history of the Thoth deck, and want to make sure that’s okay.

  2. June 4, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Yes indeed, these are my cards from the test printing of the Thoth deck. And I saw your essay on the Thoth deck that you posted on TarotL, and I though those images of the test cards looked familar!. It is OK for you to include those images in your essay, and thanks for asking!

  3. 3 martin
    October 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    just wanted to make a quick and obscure note:
    if you look at the rendition of the back of the cards in the book of thoth you can see that the partial rows go all around the card. they are also a bit wider and better visible there.

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