Thursday, March 29, 2012

From an Old "Book of Arms", Part 1 of 3

I was perusing once again through a book I'd bought a while back, Mr. Punch's Book of Arms by E.T. Reed, published in 1894.  For those of you familiar with Punch in England, you'll already have figured out that it is humor, or at least intended to be such.  (For others who may not be so familiar with Mr. Punch, one of the primary characters in Punch and Judy shows, please check out the article at for more on the character.)  Punch was also a weekly humor magazine from 1841 to 1992, and this book certainly follows in that vein.

Before getting into a couple of the arms in it that really struck me, however, I thought I'd share with you the bookplate glued inside the front cover.  (The facing page now has one of my own bookplates on it.)

These are the arms of William John Mercer, which arms mark him as one of the Mercers of Huntingtower, county Perth, as noted in Burke's General Armory.  The arms are blazoned there as: Or on a fess between three crosses patty gules in chief and a mullet azure in base, as many [that is, three] bezants, a canton gules charged with a boar's head couped or.  Crest: The head and neck of a stork, holding in his beak a serpent writhing proper.  Mottoes (over the crest): Ye great pule [I'm uncertain as to the meaning.  The OED cites pule as "whine," as an obsolete term for "pillow," and as a Scottish variant of "pool;" but "the great pool" doesn't make a lot of sense to me as a motto.  Still, what do I know?  And the motto of one of the other Mercers in Burke is a similar "the grit pool"], (under the shield): Crux christi nostra corona (the cross of Christ is our crown).

I find it fascinating that the the torse, which originally hid the attachments that held the crest to the helm, has become here a thing unto itself, delicately balanced atop the helm and liable to blow off at the slightest breeze.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Heraldry in the Blogosphere

There's a recent (March 9) post over on the blog Austen Only that discusses the Austen coat of arms, crest, and motto.  Included with the post are images of a wax impression of the crest, a bookplate of Jane Austen's father George with the crest on it, three pictures (including a detail shot) showing an intaglio seal of the arms, crest and motto, as well as a color photo of the Austen arms from a memorial to James Austen's first wife Anne in the Steventon parish church.

It's a nice little article, by someone (J.F. Wakefield) who is not only knowledgeable about the Austen's but also has a good grasp of heraldry and heraldic usage.  Whether your interest is about Jane Austen and her family, or only in heraldry, I can recommend this article to you.  It can be found on-line at:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heraldry in Collegiate News!

A recent article entitled "Looking back on a myriad of Martles" in the McGill Reporter, "the official news source of McGill University" in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, talks about the history, and various renditions, of the University's coat of arms, which features three martlets (an heraldic swallow which has no feet at the ends of its legs).

Martlets have appeared in university publications and other items since 1850.  In preparation for the University's 190th anniversary celebrations, Theresa Rowat, Director of McGill University Archives, and her team have created two on-campus displays to show how the martlets have been used over the years.  (The image above is from an intercollegiate hockey program in 1946.)

The University's arms were granted by the English College of Arms in 1922.  Different versions were in use until 1975, when the University's Board of Governors settled on the current version, which was registered by the Canadian Heraldic Authority in 1992.  (Alas, the CHA has not yet gotten its grants from that early up on its website yet.  They do have the vast majority of their grants, etc. from 1995 onwards accessible on-line, though.  You can consult The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada at:

The full article, with more illustrations, can be found on-line at:

How great to see an institution not only using, but celebrating, their coat of arms!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Vermont State Coat of Arms

It's not really a great coat of arms -- it's landscape on a shield -- but it's what the State of Vermont uses and has used for a long time (at least since 1821) and who am I to tell them that it's not really good heraldry?

Anyway, I recently ran across a website that gives a history of Vermont's coat of arms, and thought that some of you might find it of interest.  If you are, feel free to drop on over to and take a look.  (The page loads a bit strangely on my computer; it looks like a blank page with ads running down the left-hand side, but if you scroll down the article appears.)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rules of Heraldry

It's always interesting to me to see some of the various sets of rules that different groups establish in order to encourage a particular heraldic style and philosophy.  I was reminded of this the other day when I ran across (again) a set of  the "Ten Commandments for a Designer of Finnish Heraldry", drawn up by Jukka Suvisaari and amended by a committee set up by the Heraldic Society of Finland in April 1990.  These rules are similar to the guidelines that are found for other Scandinavian heraldry in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  The rules, along with other general information about heraldry in Finland, can be found on-line at

The Ten Commandments for a Designer of Finnish Heraldry are:

1.  Only heraldic tinctures are used. These are the metals, gold (Or) and silver (Argent); and the colors, red (Gules), blue (Azure), black (Sable) and green (Vert). In heraldic drawings yellow can be used in place of gold and white in place of silver. In flags and pennants this is almost always done nowadays. Heraldic colours are bright and clean; tones of the colours are picked from center of the scale.

2.  The use of only two tinctures, of which one is a metal, is preferred. The use of a third tincture requires good reasons, but a fourth is definitely bad heraldry.

3.  According to the tincture rule, one must not place colour on or next to colour or metal on or next to metal, unless the line of contact is very short.

4.  Letters, numbers or texts do not belong on a heraldic emblem.

5.  Figures (charges) must be as big as possible and fill the space intended for them as completely as possible.

6.  In figures natural presentation is not important, but characteristic is. (i.e the ferocity of the lion, majesty of the eagle, gracefulness of the deer)

7.  In principle the charges should be two dimensional. At a minimum they must be recognisable even when presented as coloured flat surfaces, without shading or extra borderlines.

8.  A heraldic emblem must be easy to remember. It should not be crowded with too many symbols, only the absolutely essential. The ideal is only one charge.

9.  It is forbidden to be repetitive in heraldry: one idea should not be symbolized with two or more charges. On the other hand, if one charge suffices to symbolize two or more ideas, it only strengthens the symbolism of the charge, and therefore the whole emblem.

10. The charges and the whole emblem must be such that they can be redrawn according to a written description (blazon) of the coat of arms or flag without a model. This means that the charge must be a general presentation of its kind. For example, a castle cannot be a specific castle, but only a stylized heraldic castle (although it can be explained as referring to, say, Korela Fortress). In other words, the description of the charge should not require the use of a proper noun.

Monday, March 12, 2012

John B. Stetson Company

I was reminded the other day, while scrolling through some of the conversation threads over on The Fedora Lounge (yes, I have a number of hats, all of which fit me or else I wouldn’t have bought them in the first place.  Thank you for asking), of some of the coats of arms (or close imitations of heraldry) that have been used by a number of hat companies over the years.  One of my favorites, living in Texas as I do, were those of the John B. Stetson Company.  I have owned a Stetson or two in my time, though I do not have one right at this moment in my closet or on my hat tree.  (My current primary cowboy hat is a Resistol, and a fine hat it is, too!)

Anyway, here's a few images of the two different heraldic logos that Stetson has used over the years in their hats (on the hat band or the liner) and on their hat boxes.  The first one here is also the oldest, and is of a different design than the later ones.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Let’s Talk Heraldry Books

It’s time to do something that I try not to do very often, and that is to make a "shameless plug" and talk about one of the books I have written and published.  Specifically, I’d like to talk about The Gore Roll: An Early American Roll of Arms.

For those of you who may never have heard of it, the Gore roll of arms was created in Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-18th Century.  A paper describing and giving some of the history of  the Gore roll which I presented at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held in Bruges, Belgium in 2004 may be found on-line at

Here’s a couple of photographs from the time I was able to go to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston and see the Gore roll (and the copy made of it by Isaac Child in the 1840s).

While several articles have been published about the Gore roll in the past, those articles most easily and inexpensively available (by William A. Whitmore in the mid-19th Century) contain many errors, and those which are error-free (by Dr. Harold Bowditch in the 1930s) are either difficult to find or expensive or both. And none of the articles have illustrations of the coats of arms contained in the roll.  (That statement is not completely true.  The articles by Dr. Bowditch contain a drawing of one coat of arms from the Gore roll and the same coat of arms from the Child copy.)

The hardbound volume I wrote contains the most complete history and analysis of this unique American roll of arms ever published. It includes the complete review by William A. Whitmore in 1865 (errors and all) and the complete published review by Dr. Harold Bowditch of the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in the 1930s, as well as additional research I did, along with line drawings of all of the coats of arms in the roll and illustrations and photographs of many of the arms in the roll from other sources.

I still have  two dozen copies of the first printing of this book available at the current price of US$50.  Once those are gone, if I do a second printing the price is going to increase significantly, since costs for binding alone have more than doubled since the first printing.  If you think you might be interested in The Gore Roll, more information about it can be found on-line at:

If you should have any questions or comments about the Gore roll of arms, its history, or my book on it, feel free to either email me or leave a comment here on the blog and I’ll get back to you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heraldry (and Heraldic Stained Glass) in the News!

Over on the website of radio station WNYC in New York City there's a nice article about Sunlites Stained Glass in Rockaway Park, New York, and the stained glass panel that the owner there recently did for the installation of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC.

As you can see, it's a beautiful piece of work.

The arms of the diocese (to dexter, or the left side as you are looking at it) are notable for their use of the windmill vanes which are the major element in the arms of New York City (  The personal arms of the Cardinal are on the sinister side (to the right as you look at it) of the shield.

A greater discussion of both this panel and of stained glass work in general can be found on-line at:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Heraldry in Las Vegas, Nevada

So there I was, strolling through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, heading home after several days visiting with my mother and my sister, and a somewhat heraldic teeshirt in one of the shops there caught my eye.  It was black, and had a nicely drawn (and large) white fleur-de-lys on it, outlined with shiny metallic studs and surrounded by some complex line artwork.  So I entered the store, and looked for one in my size.  Alas, there were none.  There were several in smaller sizes, but nothing in my size or larger.  They did have a similar shirt done in black and dark gray on a gray shirt in my size, but that one didn’t really appeal to me as much.  So I stepped out of the store, with their having lost a really easy sale.

But ...

Right next door was another shop that was exclusively teeshirts, sweatshirts, and other clothing, so I thought I’d go ahead and see if they had anything heraldic in stock (and in my size).  Sure enough, they did.  So I came home with not one, but two, heraldic teeshirts added to my collection.

The first, this one in red, caught my eye not only because of its bright color, but because of the lines of the helmet and mantling, not to mention the inverted polearm issuing from beneath it.  The words “Las Vegas” and date on the scroll refer to the establishment of Las Vegas as a railroad town in 1905.

The other, in gray, has a coat of arms on this that reminds me of nothing quite so much as the flag of Nevada’s neighboring state of Arizona (  The mantling on the helm is very well done, though I haven’t quite decided what the part of the crest between the two wings is supposed to be.  It might be a sprig of three acorns, but I’m not at all certain about that.  I will have to ponder it some more as I wear the shirt.  Here again, the “Las Vegas” and “05" refer to the establishment of Las Vegas in 1905.  The scroll under the coat of arms has an error, I believe.  The scroll has the words “Nevada” and “Silver State,” the latter being the nickname of the state, and the words "Est. 1964," but Nevada became a state in 1864; I suspect the 1964 is an error for that notable date in Nevada history.  (I can’t think of what else it might be; I was living in the state in 1964, and don’t recall anything besides Nevada’s centennial of its admission into the Union that was worthy of note in that year, and I think I would have noticed if there had been.)

But the fact that I could find three different shirts bearing heraldic themes in a couple of small shops at an airport is more proof positive of my longstanding statement that “You can find heraldry everywhere!”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

I was tickled pink (or, as blazoned in Canadian heraldry, rose) to see a brief article about the coat of arms of the town council of Knutsford, England (below), and a presentation on that coat of arms given by on-line blogger, heraldist, author, and chairman of the Cheshire Heraldry Society, Martin Goldstraw.  (His blog, the Cheshire Heraldry Web Journal, can be reached by a link in the left-hand column here under "Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest.")

The article, with a photograph of Mr. Goldstraw and audience member Dorothy Webster can be found on-line at the website of the Knutsford Guardian, at:

If you are interested, additional information about Knutsford's coat of arms can be found on their website at:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

Canada’s Western University in Ontario decided to update its coat of arms and create a more updated logo, a situation that we have seen in many organizations and educational institutions over the years.  But in this case, they did it the right way!  They got the Canadian Heraldic Authority involved in the process.

The full story, along with the before and after illustrations above and a fair number of quotes by Bruce Patterson, Deputy Chief Herald of Canada and a Western alumnus, can be found on-line at: