1902 Encyclopedia > Heraldry > Literature of Heraldry

(Part 19)


The literature of heraldry commences with the treatises of Sasso-ferrato about 1358, De Fosse in the reign of Richard II., and Upton about 1441, all written in Latin and printed by Sir E. Bysshe in 1654. They are followed by the Boke of St Albans, written by Dame Juliana Berners, prioress of Sopwell, and printed in 1486. These, especially those of Upton and Dame Juliana, are valuable. The lady writes in a mixture of early English and Latin, but her de-scriptions are intelligible and copious, These writers were followed by a crowd of other, of whom the chief were Gerard Leigh, Ferne, and Morgan, who wrote in the latter half of the 16th century. Their great aim was to elevate their subject by tracing back the use of armoiries to the patriarchs and heroes of Jewish and pagan an-tiquity, whom they invested with coats of arms on the type of those used by Norman barons. There are traces of this folly in Dame Juliana, but it reached its height in the writing of her successors, and was not quite extinguished when Guillim wrote his Display of Heraldry 1610. Guillim, whose work is still a standard, wrote in English, but as late as 1654 and 1688 Spelman, in his Aspilogia, and John Gibbon strove hard to restore the use of a dead language upon a subject to which it was eminently unsuitable. In 1722 and 1780 were published the excellent volumes of Nisbet, chiefly relating to Scotland, and of Edmondson, whose list or ordinary of bearings was long very useful to those who seek to identify the name to which a coat belongs, until superseded by the very laborious and far more complete work of Papworth.

Recently the same critical spirit that has pervaded the works of our historians has been applied with equal diligence to the whole Subject of heraldry ; a number of authors, led by Planché, Boutell, Seton, Nichols, and Lower, have set aside all the fabulous pretensions and baseless assertions of the earlier writers have sifted the old evidence and adduced much that is new. The whole subject of heraldic and quasi-beraldic seals has been brought under notice by the publication of Laing’s fine plates of Scottish seals; and it may truly be said that the real origin and growth of the use of armorial bearings is placed before the reader in the books of these writers in a truthful and most attractive form. (G.T.C)

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Heraldry - Table of Contents

The above article was written by George Thomas Clark, formerly Deputy Lieutenant for Glamorgan; author of Mediaeval Military Architecture in England and Genealogies of the Older Families of Morgan and Glamorgan.

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