This is probably the best known and is certainly one of the widest used tarot decks in the world. Numerous tarot books have been produced over the years, most of which base their teachings on this deck. This is also the deck I used to learn about tarot cards and is still my favoured deck for most general readings.
The cards were first published in 1910 and are named after the publishing company (Rider Books) and Arthur Edward Waite, who was an occultist and member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Waite collaborated with the artist Pamela Coleman Smith (also a Golden Dawn member) who designed the cards.
The cards were innovative for the time in two interesting ways. While previous tarot decks tended to feature more simplistic design in the Minor Arcana (Suit/Court cards), the Rider-Waite deck featured figurative pictorials with several layers of meaning. The other difference was a reduction in Christian influence. So in the Major Arcana (Trump cards), the Pope became the Hierophant, and the Papess became the High Priestess.
This new emphasis on imagery and design led to the Rider-Waite tarot becoming hugely popular as people all over the world were able to resonate with these cards and learn so much from them. Since then, a great many other tarot decks have been produced, many of which are heavily influenced by the Rider-Waite deck.
The images in the Rider-Waite tarot illustrate the different layers of meaning in each card perfectly, which make them ideal for anyone wanting to learn about tarot, while they’re intricate and symbolic enough to satisfy any professional reader.