Monday, August 18, 2014

“Crests vs Coats”

AC Silver in England has posted a nice short article by Rachel O’Keefe over on their website about the difference between “crests” and “coats” (of arms).

It’s a great little article that covers one of the confabulations that tend to annoy heralds and heraldry enthusiasts like me: the use of the term “crest” to refer to either crests or coats of arms.

I’d tell you a lot more about the article, but I really can’t afford to spend very much time at AC Silver’s website, because they sell a lot of antique silver, and a bunch of that antique silver is engraved with coats of arms and/or crests, and frankly, I don’t have the money to buy it all (or a place to put it if I did).  So it’s better for me to just avoid the temptation as much as possible.

But you can go!  Be my guest.  Enjoy!

And check out Rachel’s article (will illustrations from engraved silver) at

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Once Again …

…. proof that you can find heraldry everywhere.

Reader and correspondent Jon von Briesen shared the following with me, and is graciously allowing me to share it with all of you.

“Snapped this cell phone pic, as we were about to depart from a hospital in so. Jersey. We had just dropped off a patient.

“PennStar is a helicopter operating in our region and, I think, owned by U of Pennsylvania Hospitals.  You can see the arms of U Penn on the side, and belly, of the aircraft.

“The three plates on chevron azure allude to the three plates on a fess sable, in the arms of Wm. Penn.”

You just never know where you are going to see another coat of arms!  Thank you for sharing this, Jon!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heraldry in the Heraldry News!

A recent (July 29, 2014) article on the website of the College of Arms in London speaks of pedigree rolls and a project to locate, rehouse and list comprehensively the large collection of rolled material held at the College, of which pedigree rolls comprise the largest portion.

As a part of this project to preserve and conserve these materials, the newly-appointed Pigott Library at the College has been fitted out with archival shelving and environmental controls, and the rolls housed in custom-made acid-free boxes. Over 1,100 rolls have now been entered into a searchable database there.

There’s more to the article of course, but I’m not going to repeat it all here for you.  Feel free to go to the website of the College of Arms, or click this link to not only see what the College is doing with this project, but to see some of the pictures that they have included of some of these one-of-a-kind pedigree rolls.  (I especially like how the reverse side of one roll was used to draw out some chess problems!)

The College of Arms is to be congratulated on this massive undertaking, which will preserve and make more accessible these unique materials.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Heraldry in the News!

A recent (July 23, 2014) article in the Wells Journal gives some of the ancient background behind the symbolism of the seal and coat of arms for the city of Wells, England, used since 1867, though only authorized by the College of Arms in 1951.  The coat of arms portrays a large tree, reputed to be an ash, surrounded by three of the wells that give the city its name, and is based on a 13th Century seal used by the city.

Archaeologist Dr. Stephen Yeates, an expert on life in the area before the Roman conquest, notes that one of these ancient peoples, the Dobunni, used an image of a Mother Goddess who is always depicted accompanied by a large bucket or round vessel.   Over the ensuing centuries elements were added to this Mother Goddess myth, one of which is that she usually inhabited the roots of a large tree.  The 13th Century seal and 19th unofficial and 20th Century granted coats (this last shown immediately below) of arms use the image of the tree and three vessels (representing the three wells of the City of Wells) and can be seen as a direct descendant of these far earlier images.

You can read the whole story on the website of the Wells Journal at

Monday, August 4, 2014

Always Double-Check Your Assumptions

It may not always pay to double-check yourself when researching or writing about heraldry, but there are many, many times when it does, and so it's something that you, and I, should make a habit.

I had this forcibly brought to my attention the other day, when I was finishing up the research on a presentation I've been preparing on the history and usage of the arms of the United States.  As a part of that presentation, I give examples of some of the individual states of the union which incorporate the arms of the U.S., or some variation of them, in their own official insignia.

One of those examples was the State of Mississippi.

Mississippi has used the same seal since before it became a state way back in late 1817.  The seal has been used from 1798 when it was a territory.  (It was bigger back then; the Territory of Mississippi also include what is now the State of Alabama, another entity which incorporates the arms of the U.S. into its own arms.)  It used this seal from that time until January 31, 2014 (just earlier this year) ...

... at which time it added the words "In God We Trust" to the legend on the seal.

I had been looking at both versions of the state seal and trying to figure out the reasons for the fact that the shield only has eleven stripes while the arms of the United States has thirteen (for the original thirteen colonies), and has eleven stars on the chief, while the arms of the U.S. has a plain blue chief (with no stars).  And not knowing at the time the dates of usage of the seal, I was speculating that it may have been a reference to the short-lived Confederate States of America, of which Mississippi was one.

But the date for the use of the seal, beginning in 1798, was well before the 1861 establishment of the Confederacy.  So I was left with an unsupported assumption, one that seemed to be incorrect.  Doing from more research, just to see if I could find out why eleven stripes and eleven stars, I ran across a photograph of the original seal matrix for the Territory of "Missisippi" (the name is missing an "s").  I've reversed the image here so it appears as a positive:

As you can see, the arms here are actually those of the United States which had been adopted in 1782, heraldically hatched with thirteen white and red stripes and a plain blue chief, and with the eagle supporter holding an olive branch in its dexter talon and thirteen arrows in its sinister one, with the motto scroll in its beak with the words E Pluribus Unum, and the crest of stars in a blue sky surrounded by clouds and a glory (the sunshine-like "rays").

Well, then, when did the state start using only eleven stripes and add the stars to the chief?  I don't know yet.  I'll have to do some more research into the matter.  And it may turn out that my original assumption - that the number eleven has to do with the Confederate States of America - might have been correct, and that all this research will just lead me full circle back to confirm that.  If it does, great.  If it doesn't, and there's a different reason for the number of stripes, that's great, too.

But at least I will know for certain, instead of making an unfounded assumption.  One that could have been wrong by some seventy years.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Somewhere Else You Can Read Me

Well, only if you want to, that is.

I’ve been asked if I’d be willing to do an occasional guest blog post over on another heraldic blog, a relatively new one that I’d already added to the list of blogs about heraldry (in the left-hand column of this blog), Fine Legacy.  (The link takes you to their main page; from there just click on the “Blog” tag.)

It will be an opportunity for me to write the occasional longer post than I usually do here about some aspect of heraldry that may not necessarily match closely with what I envisioned for “Heraldry: Musings on an esoteric topic.”  Being published in more than one on-line blog will also look good on my “resume” as another leg in my “career” in heraldry.  (Sarcasm off.  I really don’t see this stuff I do with heraldry as much of a career.  It is, however, a really fun and interesting hobby.)

In any case, you can see my first guest post over at the Fine Legacy Blog at

If you have any comments about that post, please feel free to comment on there or over here.  I’m always interested in what my readers have to say.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A New Book With Lots of Heraldry

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with, or financial interest in, this book or its publishers.  I just thought it was a really neat new book, and that I should let my readers know about it.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

I ran across an announcement the other day about a new book on heraldry: A Celebration Of Scottish Heraldry, compiled by Martin Goldstraw and John Duncan of Sketraw.

This book has been published in celebration of the 340th anniversary of the Lyon King of Arms Act of 1672, and consists of "227 pages containing 82 Letters Patent and over 233 other images, most of which have never been seen by the general public before,"  and illustrates "the many practical ways in which Scottish Armigers of today enjoy and demonstrate their personal armorial bearings."

At £65.00, plus shipping and packaging, it may not be for everyone, but it looks to be a great celebration of heraldry in general and Scottish heraldry in particular, and certainly ought to be of interest to any student of heraldry and the heraldic arts.

For more information about this book, see some of the pictures that it includes, or order a copy if your budget will withstand the blow, stop by the website of The Armorial Register at