Heralds [in the past] … blazoned [the arms they granted] so fully and aptly, that no man could be at a loss to draw them with accuracy and exactness.
Modern heralds, however, … the descriptions which they give us of those very arms are so loose and defective, that such arms cannot with certainty and exactness be drawn from their blazon, as they stand worded in the grants.
Joseph Edmonson, A Complete Body of Heraldry, Vol. 1, 1780, p. 171
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't design and 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. (You can find some of my books about heraldry and a list of my articles and presentations about heraldry at "Our Website" below.) 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 ask or let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and I thought I would share a new find that I am thankful for on this day.
To be truthful, while I'm thankful for this particular find, I'm even more thankful to the Bavarian State Library, which has been for several years now digitizing and uploading 16th and 17th Century heraldic books to make them available to people like me who likely would never even know they existed except for their being uploaded on-line. So, a hearty Thank You! to the fine folks at the Bavarian State Library.
That being said, the specific book I'm thankful for today is the Hofkleiderbuch (Abbildung und Beschreibung der Hof-Livreen) des Herzogs Wilhelm IV. und Albrecht V. 1508-1551. Wappen mit Reimsprüchen des Holland. Abbildungen bayerischer Regenten - BSB Cgm 1952 (16th Century). Bing translates the title as "Court dress book (illustration and description of court liveries) of Duke Wilhelm IV. and Albrecht V. 1508-1551. coat of arms with rhyming slogans of Holland. Pictures of Bavarian Regents". Which is probably close enough to get a rough understanding of what it contains.
Which is a whole lot of stuff, including a page of heralds in their tabards.
Isn't that cool! (Although the Bavarian herald in the lower right looks like he's about to use his trumpet or baton as a mace!)
So, after making my way through the naval museum at Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, guess what I went to see next?
This is BB-64, the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship, now decommissioned and acting as a living museum.
And you'll never guess (well, unless you are familiar with this blog) what I found there. That's right, heraldry! This was a painted coat of arms of the Wisconsin.
And here's a more "official" version that I found on-line of the same, well, not same, exactly, but similar, coat of arms. I mean, the stars on the shield, the crest, and the motto are the same, as are the designators USS Wisconsin and BB64. But really, did no one notice the difference between a propeller and a ship's wheel surmounted by the arms of the United States? It seems to me that it would have been fairly obvious. But what do I know?
And up on the side of the battleship was this bit of heraldry, for the Destroyer Cruiser Flotilla Eight.
And here's a patch with those arms (again, found on-line).
I've not seen anything yet that definitely places the Wisconsin as a part of that flotilla. It's possible that she was, and it's also possible that the men of the flotilla are among the donors and supporters of the Wisconsin as a museum.
Either way, it's heraldry, which, as I have said so often, you can find everywhere! In this case, sitting at a dock in Norfolk, Virginia.
Having had the time to do a little more research into the naval heraldry noted in my last post, I feel pretty safe in identifying the ship from which that particular bow decoration came from as being the armored cruiser ACR-2 USS New York. (The ACR-1, which was later designated as a second class battleship, was the USS Maine, of "Remember the ..." fame.)
My reasons for believing the arms belonged to the New York are several: first, the word "Excelcior" (which I believe is a misspelled "Excelsior"); second, the eagle over the shield; and finally, the two human figure "supporters" seen in profile on each side of the arms. So why exactly does that make me think "New York"? Well, this does: the arms of the State of New York.
See what I mean? Compare this achievement with the external ornaments (or to use a different term, artistic "frou-frou") about the shield of the arms of the United States in my last post, below.
And here is a photograph of the New York, with the eagle showing quite prominently above the shield on the bow.
And here is another, taken from the starboard side. If you click on the picture here, you should see the full-size version, where details of the bow decoration show up pretty well.
The New York was not, alas, a part of the Great White Fleet which circumnavigated the globe under President Theodore Roosevelt. She did, however, have a long and active service, being at one time the flagship of the Pacific Fleet.
All in all, a really great piece of heraldry, and history, to have run across!
I had been asked once again to speak to the Virginia Beach Genealogy Society (this was my third time out there; they must really like me!) and found that, once again, you can find heraldry wherever you go.
In this specific instance, since I had all day before the presentation to "play tourist" and see the sight, I was visiting the Nauticus Maritime Museum in Norfolk. It's a really great place to visit; they've got a lot to see (including BB64, the USS Wisconsin battleship, but more about that in another post), with a great series of exhibits that covers basically the history of the United States Navy from its founding until today. Among a whole lot of other things, they've got a piece of the armor plating of the USS Monitor (on loan from the Mariner's Museum in Newport News), as well as a cannonball and the ship's bell from the Monitor's famous opponent, the CSS Virginia (an ironclad ship built on the hull of the former USS Merrimac).
But when I came to the section of the Museum dedicated to the Great White Fleet sent by President Theodore Roosevelt on a circumnavigation of the globe from December 1907 to February 1909, I ran across the following bit of heraldry:
It is, of course, the arms of the United States done in a really nice carving that decorated the prow of one of those pre-WWI warships. You can see how it would have been mounted on the ship based on the model below.
What a wonderful piece of heraldic carving, from the shield of the arms to the very fierce-looking eagle above to the scroll with the word "Excelcior" below, to the leafy foliage on each side as well as the human figures supporting the cartouche on which the arms are placed.
There is, as many of you will no doubt see for yourselves, an error in the arms, though. Instead of being Paly [or for the purists out there, paleways] of thirteen Argent and Gules a chief Azure, the colors of the vertical stripes have been switched, making them Gules and Argent. An easy enough mistake to make, I suppose, except perhaps for "us heralds." I've certainly seen it often enough in renditions in various media of the national coat of arms. At least they didn't put any stars on the chief, which is a even more common error, conflating as it does the national arms with the national flag.
But what a great piece of naval history, and heraldic art, to find while playing tourist!
One of the things that I get to do on a fairly regular basis that I really enjoy is to talk to others (mostly genealogists, but also folks from various lineage and patriotic societies) about my little hobby: Heraldry.
And almost inevitably, I'll get asked if I have a coat of arms in my own family. I used to be able to remark that it was very disappointing, that none of my ancestors seemed to take note of the hobby of one of their descendants, and that no, for all the research that I'd done, I had not yet (and I always stressed that "yet") found a coat of arms used by any of my progenitors.
Well, then we went and spent a week in Massachusetts, looking at ancestral gravesites and historical sites and all that, and wouldn't you know, I found something that meant I could no longer use that story about no use of armory in my family. It came about when I was visiting the table tomb of my 13th-great grandparents, John and Mary (Chilton) Winslow, in King's Chapel Burying Ground in Boston.
Which was all well and good, and it was a pleasure to be able to visit their memorial (and to buy an armorial tee shirt, bearing the arms of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain, sold at the Chapel!), when around on one side of the table tomb (the side off to my left), this plaque:
These arms also appear in the Gore roll of arms (about which I have written before) as number 91, Joshua Winslow, a descendant of John's brother Edward.
Do I know if John Winslow used this coat of arms? No, not for sure, I don't. But his brother, Edward, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, did (most notably on the seal of his will in 1654), and as his younger brother, John would also have had the right to do so whether he did or didn't actually use them during his lifetime.
So I've had to change up my patter a little bit, and explain that while you may or may not immediately find a coat of arms used in your family, you should keep looking, because you just never know when you might run across one!
Several years ago when I was doing research for my book on the Gore roll of arms (http://www.appletonstudios.com/BooksandGames.htm), I ran across the use of a coat of arms from that roll on a tombstone that demonstrated once again to me that you have to be careful about your assumptions when seeing or researching a coat of arms.
The use of this particular coat of arms was on a headstone in Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston.
While the arms carved on the headstone are those of Clark, as shown here in the second and third quarters of the inescutcheon taken from number 92 in the Gore roll, the arms of McAdams-Kilby-Clark ...
... and while the lower part of the stone gives some of the particulars of William Clark who is buried there, the most visible words on the stone are those along the bottom of the upper part, "No. 13 the Tomb of Samuel Winslow."
These same arms also appear on the stone of Johannis Clarke, also in Copp's Hill Burying Ground, where they are far less likely to be accidentally mistaken for those of a Winslow.
Both stones are beautifully carved and a pleasure to see, but the first one above serves as a warning to pay attention to everything on an armorial memorial; too quick a reading (and that's something that's easy to do when you've been walking all over central Boston looking at historical sites and armorial gravestones!) and you're likely to misidentify what you are looking at. (Not that I have ever done that, of course! Why, no, never. Who, me?)
It was the subtitle to the news story that caught my eye: "Project to open rare and valuable collection to the world is finally up and running."
"Rare and valuable collection?" "Open ... to the world?" What collection is this? What's in it? And, of course, the inevitable question, "Is there heraldry?"
Some of the answers, at least, appeared in the headline: "Digitizing history: 82,000-manuscript collection Vatican Library goes online" Oh, boy!
The goal of this digitizing project, which is anticipated to end up using a whopping 43 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,000 terabytes; and knowing that now makes my with my 1 terabyte hard drive seem inadequate) of digital storage, is to make all 82,000 (including 8,900 incunabula, books printed before 1501) of the Vatican's manuscripts available on-line. Naturally, finishing that project is going to take some time; the staff of 15 digital archivists can, on a good day, scan one page a minute once all the equipment is in place.
But the work is progressing, and the project has posted its first digitized results, a series of 300 14th century German volumes already.
Is there any heraldry in them? The article doesn't say, but given the discussion of gold or silver in the illuminations, I've got my hopes up.
And, yes, I've already answered for myself the question about heraldry. In the second manuscript I opened, at the bottom of page 2r of manuscript Vat. lat.11506 is a rendition in color of the coat of arms (of a cardinal, I'm guessing, based on the red galero over it). See for yourself at http://digi.vatlib.it/view/bav_vat_lat_11506 If you click on the picture of the page, it opens up a set of thumbnails of the entire book for you, and you can then click on the individual pages to get to large versions of them.
I've said before, as I find new websites or books or whatever of special interest to heraldry enthusiasts, I will remark upon it here, and often will add a link to it on this blog.
Well, I've recently run across another cool armorial. This one is Das Sächsische Stammbuch - Mscr.Dresd.R.3 (dated 1546).
One of the things that's really nice about this old armorial is that not only can you peruse its pages on-line, which is great enough, but there's a link (on the right of the page under "Werkzeugkasten", Engl. "toolbox") that will let you download a .pdf copy of the entire manuscript to your computer, allowing you to review, research, and generally scroll through its pages without the necessity of an internet connection. (Something that I like a lot, as I don't always have a decent wired or wireless connection to the internet everywhere I happen to be.)
There's also an inset on the left-hand side of the page that gives a transcription of the Latin headings of each page, whether of the geographical entities or, later in the book, individuals whose full-length depictions are shown with their coats of arms.