Louis Little Coon Oliver, a Creek poet, once mentioned the bronze "spatulas" that had recorded the history of his people in the old Alabama language. Long lost in the depths of the Mississippi, Oliver said that only a vision could recall those words.
I experience a similar emotion with regard to the Sola-Busca Tarot, a Ferrarese deck probably dating from the late 15th Century. The unknown artist who designed it, alas, failed to include a "little white book," which most modern decks include. Thus, the deck's original purpose is mysterious and subject to speculation.
This deck is notable in that the Minor Arcana cards depict scenes and figures, unlike the conventional Tarot de Marseilles and other contemporary decks that showed only the requisite number of swords, pentacles, cups, or wands. Indeed, the next deck with illustrated Minors was the Rider-Waite deck, four centuries later, and it's clear from even a cursory examination that Pamela Colman Smith based many of her own illustrations on those of the Sola-Busca deck.
The most obvious difference between the Sola-Busca and other Tarot decks, of its time or our own, is that it is strictly speaking a "Tarocchi" deck. The Major Arcana figures primarily depict warriors of Roman antiquity, rather than "The Magician," "The Hermit," and the other conventional Arcana. Thus, it has more in common with the various-themed Tarocchi decks popular in the 19th century, used primarily for card games.
The author of this book, in her attempt to explain the deck's meaning, makes the imaginative leap that the cards represent stages in "alchemy," defined by her as some sort of spiritual discipline or progression. Alchemy, however, was nothing of the kind; it was the systematic attempt to transmute base metals into precious ones or the "philosopher's stone," an imaginary substance with magical properties. Although the alchemists made many discoveries in chemistry (in fact, they are considered to be the precursors of that branch of science), their endeavor was doomed to fail. Limited solely to chemical manipulations, the elemental changes they envisioned would have required levels of energy unavailable at the time, capable of affecting subatomic structure. If an alchemist ever achieved this, we have no record of it.
The original, true purpose of the Sola-Busca deck is lost, and perhaps only a "vision" could discover it. My best guess is that it was intended as a game deck for Tarocchi, a card game similar to modern Contract Bridge. Its importance is primarily historical, being the first deck with illustrated pip cards, and as the inspiration for the important and influential Rider-Waite deck.
Thus, this book is misleading on two levels: as a misrepresentation of alchemy, and of the Sola-Busca deck itself. A cursory Internet search will reveal several web sites that identify the characters shown on the deck; perusal of these is recommended to anyone interested in this fascinating deck, providing far more useful information than the misleading flights of fancy contained in this book.
This website gives the correct descriptions of the cards: