Since the mysterious appearance of the first known Tarot deck in the mid-fifteenth century in Northern Italy, we only speculate regarding its original purpose. It was meant to be an entertainment instrument, a deck of cards for game playing, or it was created for divination, respectively a tool for preserving and transmitting esoteric wisdom (knowledge) hidden in plain sight?
While the vast majority of the scholars seem to agree that it was ‘just a simple card game’, considering the dense content and esoteric nature of its architecture, I respectfully disagree.
However, the Tarot evolved in both directions. Apparently, the card game playing branch preserving the esoteric content. These directions may be considered as vertical evolution.
The first known and assumed esoteric Tarot, a deck designed specifically for divination and fortune-telling, is the deck created by the French cartomancer Jean-Baptiste Alliette, better known as Etteilla and published between 1789-1804.
The horizontal evolution divides the Tarot into esoteric and commercial decks. One stress the esoteric content of the deck, the other focuses more or exclusively on the aesthetic.
In my opinion, the first commercial Tarot deck is the one created under the supervise of Arthur Edward Waite and published by the Rider publishing house originally in 1909. Waite was only in it for the money.