An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
Or, maybe it's newsworthy, but neither controversial nor interesting.
In a story on July 11 in the Niagara-On-The-Lake Town Crier, it was noted that at a public meeting at Niagara-On-The-Lake to get input from the public on the town's updated coat of arms and flag, only half a dozen people showed up, none of whom were the town councilors.
So, apparently, as the process of obtaining a grant of arms and a flag from the Canadian Heraldic Authority nears its end, nobody cares.
Or, what I hope is more the case, no one has any real objections to the design.
The Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society is publishing a new book of the Roll of Arms registered by the Committee between 1928 and 1980, previously published over the years in a series of nine booklets.
It is still possible to find some of these booklets on such websites as eBay (this is how I have managed to acquire Parts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9), but they are clearly pretty rare and it takes a lot of hunting to acquire a copy.
So it comes as good news that the NEHGS is going to republish these historical American arms in a single volume.
According to the NEHGS website, A Roll of Arms will sell for US$34.95, and will be available in July 2013, although Jeremy Hammond of the blog Maine Heraldry has noted in a posting in the forum of The International Register of Arms that email correspondence from Henry Beckwith of the Committee on Heraldry has said that the volume will not be available until the end of this year.
Still, whether this month or later this year, this volume is going to be a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone with an interest in American Heraldry. You can be sure that as soon as it is available, I will be adding it to mine.
There's a nice (albeit short) article at Rochdale Online about Charlie Oldham's commission by the Oldham Borough Council to carve the Borough's achievement of arms (and seven other coats of arms and badges) for display in the Oldham Civic Centre.
The large achievement is six feet in diameter, making this a really impressive piece of work. Of course, Mr. Oldham is a member of the Society of Heraldic Artists, and it's easy to see why looking at his work above. (I wish the photo from the article were a little clearer; I'd really like to see more of the details of some of the smaller carvings.)
... and as I noted in my last post, "You can find heraldry everywhere!"
In this case, it was while I was shopping at the mall, where I ran across a display of mannequins wearing black tee shirts with this logo:
There are a couple of ways to blazon this. It's either:
Argent a cross quarter-pierced and on a chief sable an African lion passant adumbrated* argent, or
Checky of nine argent and sable, on a chief sable an African lion passant adumbrated argent.
Though the image is fairly small and not as clear as I would like (what can I say? My telephone does not take especially good pictures. Of course, when I was younger, the only thing you could do with a telephone was to talk to people on it), it is still clearly an African rather than an heraldic lion on the chief.
My only real quibbles with the design is that the helm is unnecessary, lacking a crest as it does, and the mantling tends to overwhelm the entire design. Still, though, as a trademark, it is pretty distinctive and quickly identifiable, which are some of the qualities of better heraldic design.
* Parker's A Glossary of Terms Used In Heraldry defines "Adumbration, or Transparency: the shadow of a charge, apart from the charge itself, painted in the same colour as the field upon which it is placed, but of a darker tint, or, perhaps, in outline only. The term belongs rather to the romance of heraldry than to its practice, and is imagined by the writers to have been adopted by families who, having lost their possessions, and consequently being unable to maintain their dignity, chose rather to bear their hereditary arms adumbrated than to relinquish them altogether. When figured by a black line the bearing is said to be entrailed."
Technically the lion in the arms above, not being of a darker shake of black, is not truly adumbrated, but being outlined in white, is not truly entrailed, either. What it is, is a white outline of a lion on a black chief.
Fellow blogger Jeremy Hammonds, on his Maine Heraldry Blog (a link to his blog can be found in the left-hand column here, under Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest), recently discussed the adoption of a flag (that in my opinion would also serve well as a coat of arms, should the city decide to go that route) by the city of Bath, Maine, on July 3, 2013.
I'm sure that Jeremy's post is at least in part because of his pride in having played a role in the design and adoption of the flag. Given the very clean design and easy identifiability of all of its elements, I think his pride in this achievement is well-earned.
I could probably say a lot more about this new flag, but so much of it would simply repeat what Jeremy has already posted - along with a brief but interesting history of the design and the various elements, as well as the two coats of arms which served as inspirations for it - that you'd do just as well to go to his blog and read about it there.
... you can find heraldry (or at least stuff that is trying to look like heraldry) everywhere!
In this case, I found it at work. Specifically, on a three-ring binder from a client's staff handbook. I found the following:
Shelton School located in Dallas, Texas, serves over 800 students with learning problems such as dyslexia, or who have difficulty with reading comprehension, math, written expression, and attention. The school provides specific instruction/remediation for students from three years of age through the 12th grade.
When I went to check out their website, though, I found that they have apparently changed (I suspect the term used would be "updated") their arms-like logo to the above image. In some ways, it's an improvement, in that it is slightly less cluttered and thus more quickly identifiable. (I'm not at all sure how the field would be blazoned, though; per bend sinister azure and azure? No, that can't be right. As heraldry, it still needs work.)
Still, though, to me this example helps to point out one of the differences between having real heraldry, a coat of arms, and having a logo (even if it is "arms-like"). Heraldry can be pretty timeless; sure, artistic interpretations will vary, depending on the artist drawing the arms, and I think that is a good thing. That makes it possible to "update" or "modernize" the arms without the need to send off to yet another graphic design firm and pay them a bunch of money to redesign the logo. Want your coat of arms to look more modern? Find an artist who can draw them in a more modern style, and you're good to go, and at a tiny percentage of the price. (Yes, good heraldic artists cost money, but have you seen what graphic design firms charge for a new logo? You're talking some very big bucks there!)
I was reminded again the other day of just how many heraldic projects that I have which are currently “on hold” awaiting the availability of more time in which to actually do them. The time is coming when I may really be able to sit down at my desk and get to work on many of them. Unfortunately, that day has not yet arrived; the need to do things like pay the mortgage on the house and buy such minor incidentals as, say, food and electricity (necessary to accomplishing any meaningful work on a computer), keep me working at my full-time job.
But, as I say, I was reminded of one of these heraldic projects the other day by a posting on Facebook. Some of you may already know that I had written a small book entitled Camels In Heraldry (information about which can be found at http://www.appletonstudios.com/BooksandGames.htm). Shortly after publication, I found some more coats of arms and crests with camels in them, and so have begun a file for a supplement or a second expanded edition of this book. Well, this post on Facebook linked to a book owned by the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Das Wappenbuch Conrads von Grünenberg, Ritters und Bürgers zu Constanz – BSB Cgm 145, um 1480, which can be found on-line (and downloaded!) from http://bsb-mdz12-spiegel.bsb.lrz.de/~db/0003/bsb00035320/images/*
In a quick look through this copy of Conrad von Grünenberg’s Wappenbuch, I noticed on p. 55 two different coats of arms with camels on them.
One is the arms attributed to the king of “Cana” in greater India, Or a native [Moor?] Proper[? He’s kind of an iron-gray color all over] astride a camel statant Gules.
The other is the arms attributed to the king of “Manchy” [? It’s not easy to decipher the handwriting in the short time I’ve had available to look at this), also in India, Vert a Bactrian camel statant Or.
Now, while I am happy to have found two more coats of arms to add to my work on Camels In Heraldry, it did serve to remind me that I have a number of heraldic projects waiting for my time and attention to complete. So, yeah, I’m afraid I’m rapidly getting to the point where retirement from full-time employment cannot come too soon. Because when it does come, I should be able to get some of these projects completed, something I hope that we all can look forward to. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as they develop.
*There are a whole lot of old heraldic books which can be viewed and/or downloaded from the Library. There is a link in the left-hand column of this blog under “Some Good On-Line Armorials and Ordinaries” for the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek, where the link (http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/index.html?suchbegriff=wappenbuch&c=suchen) will take you to a results pages for a search for “wappen” in their holdings.
According to the post, seventy men from this unit were transferred into the Royal Artillery to accompany General John Burgoyne's expedition down from Canada in 1777. They were captured by American forces following the battle of Saratoga.
The button (which is available for purchase from The Military Campaign at http://www.themilitarycampaign.co.uk/badges/product/296-royal-regiment-of-irish-artillery) shows the arms of the Royal Regiment of Irish Artillery. I have not found a color emblazon of the arms anywher, but I would assume that the field is azure (blue) with the golden harp of Ireland; the cannon would be either gold or silver, as would the chief, which has the Royal crown (normally gold) and two roundels representing cannonballs (probably black, which are sometimes blazoned, appropriately enough, as gunstones, though they have also been blazoned as pellets and as ogresses). Were I to guess at a blazon, I believe it would most likely be: Azure, in pale an Irish harp Or stringed Argent and a cannon Or [or Argent], on a chief Argent the Royal crown Or between two gunstones [or, roundels Sable].
Whether my speculative blazon is correct or not, it was still a neat bit of historical heraldry that played a role in the American Revolutionary War.
I spend far more time than I should puttering about on the "information highway," and periodically I run across something that I consider to be worth sharing with you.
Over the years, several individuals have tried to write software that would create an emblazon - a drawing of a coat of arms - from the blazon - the word description. And it is the sort of thing that you'd think would be not terribly difficult. The language of blazon has its own very specific grammar and structure which should make it amenable to being done by computers, at least to a decent extent.
The trouble is, of course, is that all of the programs that I've found over the years have had some pretty serious limitations, like the one where the blazon had a sword fesswise on a chief, but the program crammed the sword in palewise, a very unartistic result.
This most recent entry is a website (Blazonry Server, at http://web.meson.org/blazonserver/) that you can go to and type in a blazon, then choose an output format (.png or .svg), and then click the "Render Blazon" button to have the program draw the coat of arms for you. And it actually isn't too bad, as you can see from the first two examples below, sampled on the site, of a very simple coat of arms, and then a more complex one.
But then, of course, I felt the need to type in the blazon of my own arms, with this result.
So I'm guessing that "apples" are not in the program's definitions yet. (To be fair, the website does say that it's mostly the geometric charges that are represented in its database.)
Still and all, it's a fun site to play around on, trying out different blazons and seeing what the program creates. As my alter ego Da'ud Bob ibn Briggs, Historical Drive-In Movie Critic (www.appletonstudios.com/movies1.htm) would say, "Check it out!" I'll probably be spending some time there myself, seeing what it will do the the arms of, say, Calvert, and Crossland. (The quarters of the arms of the State of Maryland.)