Tarot has been around since early 15th-century Italy, spun off from traditional playing cards. The 78 cards are split into two groups called the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana features allegorical characters like the moon, sun, the fool and the lovers, while the Minor Arcana is divided into numbered and face cards in four suits: wands, swords, cups and pentacles.
Pamela Coleman Smith was the artist who illustrated the iconic Rider-Waite
tarot deck (more properly, the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck) in 1910.
The Rider–Waite Tarot is a widely popular deck for tarot card reading.
It is also known as the Waite–Smith, Rider–Waite–Smith, or Rider Tarot.
The cards were first published during December 1909, by the publisher William
Rider & Son of London. The first printing was extremely limited and featured card
backs with a roses and lilies pattern. A much larger printing was done during March
of 1910, featuring better quality card stock and a "cracked mud" card back design.
This edition, often referred to as the "A" deck, was published from 1910 to 1920.
Rider continued publishing the deck in various editions until 1939, then again
from 1971 to 1977.
In 2009, U.S. Games Systems published a commemorative deck titled
"The Smith-Waite Centennial Deck" as part of The Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the 1909 deck. This deck notably places Smith's name first and omits the publisher's name (Rider.) In this vein, some contemporary tarot readers call the original deck and its various iterations the "Smith-Waite deck" in order to give credit and focus to Smith's contribution to the deck.