The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City has opened its annual summer exhibition of rare items from its collection. These include everything from a draft of George Washington’s inaugural speech to a deck of medieval tarot cards, including the one shown here in this Wikimedia Commons image.
This card is the Wheel of Fortune, and comes from the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck, made in Milan c. 1450. The tarot cards are some of the oldest of 29 items on display. Much of the collection is more recent but no less interesting.
One item of interest to any reader is Noah Webster’s original manuscript for his first dictionary. The dictionary was first published in 1828 after Webster spent 27 years and learned 26 languages to complete it. Webster had the distinction of creating the first American dictionary, and he was the last to tackle the massive task alone.
Other items include Oscar Wilde’s manuscript for “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” including homoerotic passages excised from the print version; a letter from Ernest Hemingway to The Paris Review; and Edgar Allen Poe’s manuscript of “Tamerlane.”
The collection will remain open to the public through September 8.
If you happen to be in Iran and want to have your fortune told, you’re in luck. The news on the streets, (in the paper-see article by Zahra Hosseinian) is that fortune tellers are on the rise. Tarot cards, reading coffee grounds, or having a love bird pick a poem written by 14th century Persian poet Hafez out of a hat are part of the process. Although fortune telling is not accepted by Islam according to the clerics there, it’s not stopping business. People of all ages and all levels of religious beliefs are heading to soothsayers.
The fortune tellers say that people who come to see them are looking for happiness and security. Security, often meaning love and wealth. That sounds a lot like the reasons anyone would head to a fortune teller. Friends of mine tell fortunes at ComFest. They set up a booth, cover a table with gauzy fabric and take out their Tarot card decks. My friends will read cards for $5 a pop.
The reasons for heading to a fortune teller also sound similar to why people might go in the U.S. Uncertainty about the future. In Iran, one reason for shaky feelings is the relationship Iran is gaining with the West. Hmmm. What is adding to some unshakiness on this side of the globe? Well, I’ll be. The relationship to Iran sort of gives a person pause.
In Iran, one fortune teller charges $21 and it takes about an hour. If you’re looking for a job that will make you loads of money. This one is probably not it. Don’t be a tour guide either.