Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Christmas Is Coming ..."

"... the herald's buying books."  (If I may be forgiven changing the words to the old song.)

I try to remind folks every once in a while that in addition to writing this blog, I also research, write, reproduce, and publish books on heraldry.  With less than two months to go before Christmas, I thought that now would be a good time to get people thinking about what they'd like to receive (or to give) as Christmas presents.  And if "a new heraldry book" might be on that list, may I suggest one of the following:

The Gore Roll: An Early American Roll of Arms. The Gore roll was, in fact, a colonial Boston roll of arms, the earliest known American roll of arms, which has been reviewed twice before: once in the mid-1800's by William Whitmore by way of a copy of the roll, and again in the 1930's by Harold Bowditch, who rediscovered the roll.  But Whitmore's review, though still widely available, has a lot of errors, and Bowditch's review, though more accurate, is hard to locate (it only appeared in the quarterly journal of the Rhode Island Historical Society).  And neither previous review gave more than a drawing of one of the 99 coats of arms contained in the roll.  This volume, however, contains the full text of Whitmore's review, the full text of Bowditch's review, the results of additional research by the author, an armorial of the roll, an ordinary of the roll, other contemporary images of some of the arms contained in the roll, as well as accurate line-drawing reproductions of all of the arms contained in it.  It is, if I may say so, the most complete and accurate review of the Gore roll ever made.

The Boke of St. Albans.  Written (at least in part) by Dame Juliana Berners, the Boke of St. Albans was originally published in 1486. Consisting of three parts, it contains the first treatise on heraldry published in English. (Prior works on the subject were generally published in Latin.) It was thought so important a work that the heraldry portions were reprinted in James Dallaway's Inquiries into the Origin and Progress of the Science of Heraldry in England, published in 1793. It was the text of this reprint which I have used for this modern English rendition, in the hopes of making this seminal work more widely available to the modern reader with an interest in heraldry. We have also created new illustrations of the arms described in the Boke, which were not included in the reprint in Dallaway. The arrangement used in this modern rendition is a two-column one, with the text from Dallaway appearing in the left-hand column, and the modern English version in the right-hand one, so that the reader may compare the texts.

Camels In Heraldry.  Whether found as charge on the shield, as a crest, as a badge, or as a supporter, camels have been used in heraldry a lot more than I had believed when I first set out to research the subject.  This specialized volume contains a brief natural history of camels, their use as a symbol, and their use in heraldry. It also contains an armorial of arms, badges, crests, and supporters which use camels, as well as color and black & white pictures of many of those arms, crests, and badges.

Virgil Solis' Wappenbüchlein, or Heraldry Booklet, was originally printed in Nuremberg in 1555. Virgil Solis, a contemporary of Albrecht Dürer, was an engraver of some skill, as this facsimile reproduction of his work clearly demonstrates. The booklet, reprinted in facsimile, is in the form of a roll of arms and includes, among others, the arms of the Papacy and many of the princes of the Church, most of the kingdoms of Europe, and a number of fictional attributed arms of kingdoms in Africa and Asia, as well as the "first three coats of arms in the world" and the arms of the Three Wise Men.

The Grund-Saeze der Wappenkunst, or Basic Principles of Heraldic Art, is a German manual of heraldry by noted heraldic author Otto Titan von Hefner, published here in a facsimile edition. It is a brief overview (in German) of the development of heraldry going well back into the Middle Ages, describing many of the charges used, along with fourteen plates of illustrations.

Additional information about these books, and others (including a link to our selection of gently used and remaindered heraldry books), with links to .pdfs of sample pages from each of them, can be found at:

Interested in one (or more)? Ordering is easy: You can order on-line and pay with a credit card or checking account through PayPal, or print out an order form, fill it in, and mail it with your check or money order.

And, yes, we ship internationally!

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog posts.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Great Place for Heraldry, Part 1

During our short stay in Chicago earlier this year, as our long-suffering hosts were ferrying us all about the city, we passed a really great spot for heraldry. So great, in fact, that it’s probably going to take three posts just to cover what I was able to photograph on the exterior as we passed it.

The building is that of the Klas Restaurant, located at 5734 W. Cermak Road in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, Illinois. The restaurant was founded nearly 90 years ago, features Bohemian cuisine, and has played host to such notables as Alfonso “Scarface Al” Capone. You can see the restaurant’s menu and learn more about it from their website at:

But the most notable feature to me was not only the number of coats of arms scattered across the façade of the building, but the variety of media used for them.

Most prominent, and appearing in some very high relief carvings on either end of a row of windows, are the arms of what was then Czechoslovakia.* The depiction of the lion in each of the shields has a vitality that is fairly rare but which is a pleasure to see.

* These are not the current arms of the Czech Republic (for which see below), but rather the old Gules a lion rampant queue-forchy argent crowned or.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It’s Still Not Heraldry, But …

… it’s a lot closer. The two shields below are on the face of one of the buildings of the Chicago campus of Northwestern University. Like the streetside banners of the town of Westchester, these are not really heraldry either. But they certainly come a lot closer than Westchester did.
Indeed, one can see a similarity to the factory in the shield of “Industry” and the castles and towers that appear on many coats of arms (e.g., the castle in the arms of Castile, or the college in the arms of the College of William & Mary, for which see my post of July 29, 2010).
And the ship on the shield of “Commerce” is not all that different (except for being more three-dimensional) from the galleons and drakkars found in many Scottish coats of arms.

So they may not be real coats of arms, but they’re at least close approximations.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Daniel de Bruin, well-known heraldic artist, whose work - especially his bookplates - was truly unique, has passed away.  He was only 60.

I had the chance to meet Daniel at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Bruges, Belgium in 2004.  He was an enthusiastic artist whose work reflected his motto: Dare to be different.  I shall miss him.

More information about Daniel, along with a link to some tributes, can be found at his website, The Ermine, at

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Heraldic-Like Logo

It shouldn’t, I suppose – I mean, I’ve lived in the United States all my life, and I’ve seen it happen over and over (and over, and over, and over) again – but it continues to surprise me that people and institutions create logos for themselves to help establish their “brand” that appropriate, or misappropriate, many of the elements of heraldry, of a coat of arms and sometimes even a crest, but which end up looking nothing like heraldry.

A case in point is the city of Westchester, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where we stayed for a couple of days this past summer while we were there to give a presentation to the Illinois St. Andrew Society. (They are a truly wonderful group of people, and if you are ever in the Chicago area I urge you to see what activities they might be having while you’re there.)

As you can see, Westchester has adopted (and placed on banners along a number of major streets through the city) a logo which appropriates elements of an achievement of arms – a shield, a helmet, and even a motto scroll – but put them together in a way that cannot be considered to be heraldry except in the very broadest sense of the term. The helm issues from the motto scroll (instead of sitting atop the shield, or even being a charge upon the shield), which itself is placed across the center of the shield.

I’m not at all sure what the design of the shield underlying the helm and scroll (and date of founding) is supposed to be. It looks a little like Per chevron checky argent and vert, and argent, but the green line around the whole thing is plain on the bottom portion of the shield and embattled on the inner edge of the upper portion (I know it's hard to see against the checky field(, the whole surrounded with a bordure per bordure argent and azure, overall a mount issuant from base azure.

It’s a shame, really. With just a little bit of tweaking, it could be turned into something like real coat of arms. As it stands, it’s just a mish-mash of heraldic elements thrown together to create a design that is kind of heraldic, but which isn’t heraldry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"These Are Just Two ...

... of my favorite things."  (With aplogies to The Sound of Music.)

It's always fun when I can combine, or even see someone else combine, two of my favorite things.  In this specific instance, heraldry and ... chocolate.

The Chocolate Priestess, over on her blog The Chocolate Cult, had a recent (October 10) post ( discussing the celebration of Fiji Day, when the Fijians celebrate their independence from Great Britain.  And what does that have to do with heraldry, you ask?  As well you should.

Fiji's coat of arms has an English lion (albeit crowned here) on the chief, but in this case it's holding a cocoa pod, one of the main exports of the Fiji Islands.

I love heraldry, and I love chocolate, and I especially love it when those two separate loves overlap!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leaving Virginia

So there we were, making our way across the airport parking lot after having dropped off our rental car, intent only on getting into the terminal, checking our bags, and getting to our gate on time for our flight home. And what, do you think do we see while we are on our way? That’s right. Another coat of arms!
This time it was the arms of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, bold as brass (well, okay, aluminum) on the license plate of an auto in the parking lot at the airport. (According to VPI’s website, this is their “traditional seal.” Their “logo” consists of a shield and the words “Virginia Tech” in a specific typeface.) The shield on the seal is, like so many American arms designed by committee,* quartered, but each quarter is of the same tincture. The charges on the shield, all in white, are, as best I can make them out: First: the central figure from the seal of the State of Virginia, Virtus, the Roman goddess of virtue, standing over a defeated opponent (or as I usually think of it, standing atop some dead guy); Second: a scroll bendwise surmounted by a staff bendwise sinister being held by a (disembodied) sinister hand aversant couped in chief, overall a tripod ensigned with what appears to be a footed flat bowl; Third: a retort atop a square brazier containing a fire, distilling to sinister into a tall glass of some kind; and Fourth: An ear of corn (maize), shucked open. The crest above the shield is: A lamp of knowledge with a dexter hand (also disembodied) couped reaching for the lamp lid’s finial. Below the shield is their motto: Ut prosim (That I may be of use). All within, of course, the circular legend that gives the institution’s full name, in case you couldn’t identify it from the coat of arms, crest, and motto .

Anyway, we had a great time in Virginia, and I look forward to the next time we have the opportunity to go there. Given all of the pictures of heraldry that I took, it’s hard to believe that we were there for only a week. I’ve said it before, and I will (no doubt) say it again: You can find heraldry everywhere!

* Or as I sometimes think of it, the “kitchen sink” school of heraldic design, since they seem to throw in just about everything, including the kitchen sink!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flags in the News!

It's a terrible thing, when you find out something about the place you live that just makes you embarrassed.  Here I am, living in "The Great State of Texas" (and yes, that is a single phrase down here, and sometimes treated like it's a single word, something akin to the single word "damnyankee," of which I am one), and it seems that some public officials have made an error.  That in itself wouldn't be all that bad, perhaps, but it's an error that has continued over a number of years.  Hence my embarrassment.

It seems that ballots for absentee voters in Atacosa County, Texas, have a depiction of the state flag of Texas on them.

Except that they don't.  What they have is a depiction of the national flag of Chile.  Here's the Texas flag.

Now, admittedly, the two flags are very similar.  In heraldic terms, I suppose it would be the difference between a canton charged with a white star and a dexter tierce charged with a white star.  But still, I generally expect better from the public officials here, especially since you can't drive anywhere in the state without seeing the state flag flying here, there, and everywhere.

So, as I said, it makes me embarrassed.

A more complete version of this story can be found on-line at:

Hollywood Cemetery, Part 9

For our last stop in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, we have the grave of Fitzhugh Lee (1835–1905). “Fitz” Lee, the grandson of Richard Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame and a nephew of General Robert E. Lee, was a Confederate cavalry general in the Civil War, the 40th Governor of Virginia, diplomat, and United States Army general in the Spanish-American War. He is shown here as he appeared during the Civil War, and again later as governor of Virginia.

No less a figure than J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee’s cavalry commander (who is also buried next to his wife, in Hollywood Cemetery), said shortly after the Gettysburg campaign that Lee was "one of the finest cavalry leaders on the continent, and richly [entitled] to promotion." Lee was promoted to major general in the Confederate army on August 3, 1863.

Fitzhugh Lee is buried under an obelisk bearing the coat of arms of the Lee family of Virginia, which arms are known to have also been used by his uncle and (at least the pronomial coat in the first and fourth quarters) by his grandfather.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hollywood Cemetery, Part 8

Our next bit of heraldry comes from a memorial placed in the cemetery by the John Marshall High School Corps of Cadets as a memorial to their members who have given their lives in the service of their country.

The John Marshall High School was founded in 1909; the Corps of Cadets in 1915.

The arms used as the badge of the JMHS Corps of Cadets may be blazoned: Azure, a pale argent, overall an arm erect aversant gules maintaining in its fist a hanging balance or, though the pale does not appear on the plaque in the cemetery. It does, however, appear on the shoulder badge of the Corps of Cadets, below. The crest is A bald eagle displayed proper.

The Corps has a webpage at on which can be found a few photographs from its history. There is also a webpage for John Marshall Corps of Cadets Alumni at, which has more information on the Corps’ history, and one page of which, “Memorials,” has a black and white photograph of the full plaque in Hollywood Cemetery.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hollywood Cemetery, Part 7

This next bit of heraldry is not technically “in” Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. It was in the rear windshield of a car which was in the parking lot there.
The arms are those of the University of Richmond, Checky argent and gules. Officially, the University’s logo, as they call the shield, also contains “On a chief argent, the words ‘University of’ and ‘Richmond’ azure.”

The University is located six miles from downtown Richmond. It is a liberal arts university which was founded in 1830. Its website, on which its arms appear to have been used sparingly, usually just one small image on each webpage (except in its Trademarks and Logos Style Guide), can be found at

Still, it’s a distinctive, clear, and easily identifiable coat of arms, err, pardon me, “logo.” But isn’t that much of the purpose of heraldry? To be distinctive, clear, and easily identifiable?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Heraldry in the News!

Another heraldic "mystery" has appeared similar in some ways to the one I noted in two posts on July 8 (regarding the code in the new logo/coat of arms of the United States Cyber Command).  This time, however, the "code" isn't one, and there's no hidden meaning behind the string of binary code (ones and zeros) on the arms of Canada's new Governor General.  At least so says both Rideau Hall (the Governor General's office) and the Canadian Heraldic Authority (which designed the arms), though that hasn't stopped folks from speculating that there is a hidden meaning here.

Still and all, it's kind of nice to have something like this stir up the internet a bit and get people looking at and talking about heraldry.

You can find the story on the website of The Globe and Mail at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hollywood Cemetery, Part 6

Our next bit of heraldry comes from a flag holder at the grave of a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists and displaying the seal of the Society. The seal of the Society consists of a shield bearing an oak tree in full foliage; the border of the shield bears the name “National Society Daughters of the American Colonists.” Surrounding the shield is an open wreath of acorns and oak leaves, ovoid rather than circular, taller than it is wide.

The Society is headquartered in Washington, DC. Its stated goals are: “The object of this Society shall be Patriotic, Historical and Educational; to make research as to the history and deeds of the American colonist and to record and publish the same; to commemorate deeds of colonial interest; to inculcate and foster love of America and its institutions by all its residents; to obey its laws and venerate its flag—the emblem of its power and civic righteousness.”

More information about the NSDAC can be found on their website at:

And here’s a color version (in "Colonial Blue" and "Yellow") of their seal from the NSDAC website.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

O. M. G.!

I ran across a brief note about this little site ( of someone who does original "family crests".  The fact that the URL is at "" should give you an inkling of the kind of "New Age" work the artist does.  But it was the blurb under the heading "Family Crests" (well, okay, along with the examples of his work) that really did it for me:

Through spontaneous revelation Ahonu paints your family crest without a history of distortion, struggle, sacrifice or battle. He tunes into the original soul essence of your family name BEFORE there was any damage or distortion. For those that have had the privilege of having their new Family Crest re-created by Ahonu, there have been immediate shifts in outer circumstances:- Prosperity increased, old rivalries and patterns cleared, and feelings of joy and personal power were immediate. Order yours ... now.
Umm, no.  Here, let me think about that some more.

Nope.  Still no.

But don't let my bad attitude stop you from dropping by his website and checking out his work.  Just be prepared -- it doesn't look like heraldry, with or without "distortion, struggle, sacrifice or battle."