The images were drawn by artist Pamela Colman Smith, to the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, and published by the Rider Company. While the images are deceptively simple, almost childlike, the details and backgrounds hold a wealth of symbolism. The subjects remain close to the earliest decks, but usually have added details. Significantly, Waite had the Christian imagery of older tarot decks' cards toned down—the "Pope" card became the "Hierophant," the "Popess" became the "High Priestess." The minor arcana are also, like the earlier Sola Busca Tarot, fully illustrated with designs created by Pamela Colman Smith. The chief aesthetic objection to this deck is the crude printing of colours in the original: several decks, such as the Universal Waite deck, simply copy the Smith line drawings, but with more sophisticated coloring.
The cards were originally published in December 1909, and the symbols used were influenced by the 19th century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi. In 1910, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite was published, providing an overview of the traditions and history behind the cards, criticism of various interpretations, and extensive descriptions of their symbols, along with 78 black and white plates of each card in the deck.
The Rider-Waite tarot deck has been extremely influential in the development of later divinatory tarot decks to the extent that many are called 'Rider-Waite clones' to indicate that they are easily read by those familiar with Rider-Waite.
|Suit of Wands|
|Suit of Cups|
|Suit of Swords|
|Suit of Pentacles|