[The Jack Spicer Tarot Deck]. Russell FitzGerald. Russell FitzGerald. 1969.
[The Jack Spicer Tarot Deck]. Russell FitzGerald. Russell FitzGerald. 1969.
[The Jack Spicer Tarot Deck]. Russell FitzGerald. Russell FitzGerald. 1969.
[The Jack Spicer Tarot Deck]. Russell FitzGerald. Russell FitzGerald. 1969.

[The Jack Spicer Tarot Deck].

Russell FitzGerald, 1969. Item #2020

The deck comprises 77 cards (3 1/4 x 4 7/8 in.) including the colophon card. This is no. 99 from the first edition of 100 copies numbered, signed, and dated by the artist. Also included is a saddle-stitched 16 pp. pamphlet hand-lettered, illustrated, and written by FitzGerald with instructions for reading the cards and an index card with autograph text “Well, dammit, just because Russell” presumably by way of inscription to Joanne Kyger, from whose library this deck emerged. The original folding cover, also designed by FitzGerald, is included. 


In 1957, artist Russell FitzGerald arrived in North Beach, and quickly took in the scene; he noticed poet Jack Spicer at the Howl trial, and they soon began a relationship. 

Though FitzGerald's interest in poet Bob Kaufman ultimately sparked a fatal jealousy that ended his relationship with Spicer, their honeymoon phase resulted in at least one mutually-inspired collaboration: Spicer's plan for a book on Tarot, complemented by FitzGerald's design for a new deck. 

For Spicer, the Tarot was an extension of poetics; he wrote in his plan that "an individual card has no meaning solely in itself but only in relation to the cards around it and its position in the layout - exact analogy to words in a poem" ("A Plan for a Book on Tarot," Boundary 2, 1977). FitzGerald's sensual and phallic illustrations lend a homoerotic, psychedelic edge to the Tarot reading experience, imbued with Spicer's poetics and influenced by FitzGerald's and Spicer's time together.

The deck's provenance of Joanne Kyger is significant for her involvement in the North Beach poetry world. As a young poet, she was a regular participant in Jack Spicer's and Robert Duncan's Sunday meetings beginning in 1957. Given this, the deck is an important artifact of magical thinking and practice of the San Francisco Renaissance, and an object whose symbolism in this vein deserves further study and exploration. 


There are few known copies of this deck, and it is under-documented even in Tarot circles. Very good.

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