King's College London
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The green sheaf

Opening showing two hand-coloured metallic plates showing angelic figures from the second issueOpening showing two hand-coloured metallic plates from the second issuePamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) founded, published, edited and contributed to The green sheaf, which ran from 1903 to 1904.

Smith is best remembered today for her illustrations to the well-known Rider-Waite tarot deck of 1910. This was not merely a commission for her but a reflection of her beliefs.

Along with WB Yeats, Aleister Crowley and Arthur Edward Waite, Smith was a member of the occult group the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888.

The occult consciously figures in the publication of The green sheaf. It had a run of 13 issues, an annual subscription price of 13 shillings and a single issue price of 13 pence. The number 13 has a sacred significance in the occult movement: there are 13 cards in each tarot suit and 13 lunar months.

Born in England, Smith started her career as an artist, illustrator and writer in 1899, after studying at the Pratt Institute in New York. She moved back to England to work as a theatrical designer. It was then that she met Yeats, Ellen Terry and the latter’s son, Edward Gordon Craig, who were to influence her heavily.

The green sheaf was a monthly experimental magazine of art and poetry with an impressive list of contributors including Yeats, Gordon Craig, Lady Gregory and John Masefield. Each issue was hand-coloured on hand-made paper.

The opening reproduced here shows two illustrations from the second issue, hand-coloured with metallic paints. The image and text on the right are by Pamela Colman Smith.

Every effort was made to contact the copyright holder for Pamela Colman Smith; and for Cecil French.

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