I want to publish a tarot deck and it's corresponding instructional book based on the life of a famous dead person. Each tarot card would include illustrations of that famous person and their life history as it corresponds to the symbolism of the tarot. However, the illustrations would in no way identify the person or the people they knew when they were alive. However the written interpretations of the cards could lead to their identity. Any information used to discuss this famous dead person would be taken from the public record (newspapers, bios). How can I avoid breaking copyright law?
I can only foresee a problem if the person in question was in the public eye for a long time and there are a lot of images that have copyrights attached to them.
Copyright law can be very sticky and famous people's estates can and will sue over use of any likeness that they deem infringes upon their property.
If the person was famous enough to have an army of lawyers behind their image, then you may have to get permission to use their likeness.
If you copy an image that is copyrighted and "tweak" it enough, you may be able to get away with using it. Otherwise, you may be better off creating your own images from scratch so you won't encounter any problems.
Their life story, however, is in the public domain as Adam stated in his reply.