Period Rolls of Arms and Armorials (and how to find them)
Articles > Armory

Period Rolls of Arms and Armorials (and how to find them)

by Leslie A. Schweitzer
copyright © 2006, Leslie A. Schweitzer (Reprinted with permission of the author)

Article revision history:

  • March 2003 Letter of Acceptances and Returns Cover letter: original publication
  • Later in 2003: slightly expanded and placed on the Laurel web site.
  • October 2006: Expanded to include 20 rolls and armorials (previous version had 12). Reorganized by nationality of the heraldry, and by time within each nationality. Revised web links and contact information.


One of the best ways to learn about heraldry and heraldic art is to look at rolls of arms and armorials. These documents were compiled by heralds, who drew the heraldry that they saw around them. Thus, period rolls of arms and armorials are excellent sources for "getting a feeling for" period heraldry and heraldic art, either by visual immersion or by logical analysis.

It is important to realize the limitations of most heraldic books and Web sites when trying to learn about period heraldic style. Many heraldry sources discuss individual heraldic elements (such as tinctures or charges) but do not provide any guidelines about how to combine these elements so that the heraldry is appropriate for a particular time and place. A look at a roll of arms or armorial from that time and place will help answer these questions.

In addition, one cannot truly understand period heraldry without seeing period heraldic art. Any person who would like his shield, scroll, or encampment to be decorated in the style of a particular place and time needs to see appropriate heraldic art. A good facsimile of an appropriate roll of arms or armorial will provide that artwork. It is important to be careful to look for a "good" facsimile, particularly when doing research on the Internet. A growing number of Web sites claim to represent a period roll of arms or armorial but use modern heraldic clip art. These sites are poor substitutes for the original artwork.

It is not always easy to find good facsimiles of period armorials and rolls of arms. So, in order to help with the search, the next two sections of this article describe some selected sources that are available, and some places where you might be able to find these (and other) sources.

What are some good books or Web sites about period rolls of arms?

The sources in this list are only a small subset of the sources available in libraries or bookstores. Each of the sources on this list has the following characteristics (except as noted below):

- It includes a good reproduction of the original heraldic art for an entire roll of arms.

- It contains explanatory text including at a minimum blazons, an armorial (or other name index) and scholarly description.

Because this article includes a focus on period heraldic artwork, it does not discuss the many valuable books that describe the contents of one or more period rolls of arms only through blazon.

Some of the books mentioned below are not in English, which is no surprise considering that French may be the premier language for heraldic studies today. Luckily, the grammar / word order of blazon is fairly standard across European languages, so it is not difficult to translate a blazon in an unfamiliar language. A good guide to translating blazon between various European languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch) may be found at

Some of these books are also no longer easily available in print, or on the web, or (due to the expensive photoreproduction publication technique, and limited edition) are expensive; inter-library loan is particularly useful for finding these volumes.

This article intentionally does not include Joseph Foster's The Dictionary of Heraldry in the list below, because this book does not reliably provide a good reproduction of the original artwork. Foster would often read a blazon-only roll of arms and create his own illustrations.

The following list begins with volumes which collected heraldry from throughout Europe. It then lists the volumes by the primary nationality represented therein.

Pan-European volumes

These pan-European volumes usually include significant amounts of heraldry from France, Flanders, Gelderland, Burgundy, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland. They also include material on heraldry from elsewhere in Europe, such as Scandinavia, Italy, Ireland, the Iberian peninsula, Silesia and Poland.

Most of these pan-European rolls reflected the international "tournament circuit".

  • Armorial Bellenville is a late 14th C armorial with about 1700 coats of arms and some crests. It covers much of Europe, and it has a high degree of overlap with the armory in Armorial Gelre. The older edition (still apparently in print) is a black and white tricked redrawing that includes French explanatory text and an ordinary: Léon Jéquier, Armorial Bellenville (Cahiers d'Heraldique V) (Le Leopard d'Or, Paris, 1983, ISBN 2-86377-029-2). The newer (limited) edition includes a color photograph volume and a scholarly accompanying explanatory volume in French by M. Pastoureau and M. Popoff. It is available from Editions du Gui.

  • Armorial Gelre is a personal favorite, because it includes armory from all over Europe and has excellent heraldic art. This armorial was compiled between 1370 and 1414. It contains some 1700 coats of arms (and some crests) from almost the entirety of Europe. The following edition has black and white photographs and explanatory text in French: P. Adam-Even, annotator, Gelre (Jan von Helmont, Leuven, 1992, ISBN 90-74318-03-7).

  • Grand Armorial Equestre de la Toison d'Or is a 15th C armorial covering most of Europe, with a concentration on the continent. It contains over 1000 coats of arms and some fine heraldic equestrian figures. The quality of the heraldic art in this roll is very high. There are two editions that are readily available. The older edition is a black and white redrawing with explanatory text in English: Rosemary Pinches and Anthony Wood, A European Armorial (Heraldry Today, London, 1971, ISBN 0 900455 13 6). The newer (limited) edition has a color photograph volume with an accompanying explanatory volume in French: M. Pastoureau and M. Popoff, Grand armorial equestre de la Toison d'Or (Editions du Gui, Paris, 2001).

  • L'armorial Le Breton is a collection of armorials from the 15th -16th C, which were bound together and in the possession of Hector Le Breton, Montjoie King of Arms of France. It contains a photofacsimile of over 900 coats of arms, many of which are French. It also contains significant amounts of introductory material by various authors, as well as a detailed armorial, providing not only names and blazons, but historical information about the armigers. All the explanatory text is in French. Emmanuel de Boos (and others), L'Armorial Le Breton, (Somology éditions d'Art, Paris, 2004, ISBN 2-85056-792-2.)

  • Traité d'Heraldique is not a facsimile roll of arms, but an excellent discussion of heraldry (in French), with a particular focus on heraldry from the 13th to 15th C. It addresses some questions about frequency of use of charges and tinctures in various countries by providing statistics. The illustrations include good black and white photos and redrawings of period heraldry. This book appears to have recently gone out of print but was widely available in bookstores through 2001 and is still available new or used in some bookstores: Michel Pastoureau, Traité d'Héraldique (second edition: Picard, Paris 1993, ISBN 2-7084-0413-X; ISSN 0242-7249, later editions now available).  

England and Wales

  • Anglo-Norman Armory and Anglo-Norman Armory Two discuss 13th C Anglo-Norman armory. They are written in English. The first book contains a discussion of 13th C armory. It also contains a black and white photograph of the entire Herald's Roll (Fitzwilliam version), along with explanatory text. The Herald's Roll (Fitzwilliam version) contains roughly 700 coats of arms. Anglo-Norman Armory Two is an ordinary to twenty-five rolls of arms compiled from 1250 to 1315, covering 3000 coats of arms. The artwork in the second volume is modern. The volumes are Cecil Humphery-Smith, Anglo-Norman Armory (Family History, Canterbury, 1973, ISBN 0-9504879-2-9), and Cecil Humphery-Smith, Anglo-Norman Armory Two (Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, 1984, ISBN 0-9504879-8-8).

Germany and Switzerland

  • The Manesse Codex was written in Zurich in the first half of the 14th C. It has 137 miniatures, each of which has a portrait of one of the Minnesänger (poets) and (in most cases) his arms and crest. The miniatures also give some lovely illustrations of tournament scenes (including heraldic costume) and courtly love. The reader should be aware that the manuscript includes tarnished silver which can appear almost black, such as the "zwei silberne (schwarz oxidierte)... Karpfen" in the arms of Wachsmut von Künzigen (miniature #50). The miniatures can be found on line in some web sites:

There have been a number of books written on the manuscript. One in-print edition, which contains all the miniatures in color and is the source of the quote about miniature #50, is: Ingo F. Walther and Gisela Siebert, Codex Manesse (Insel Verlag, Frankfurt, 1988, ISBN 3-458-14385-8). The explanatory text and blazons are in German.

  • Zuricher Wappenrolle is a 14th C Swiss/German roll of arms known from later copies, with about 450 coats of arms and some additional armory depicted on standards. A color facsimile with explanatory text has been found on the Internet in the past, but at this current May 2006 date is withdrawn and in revision, with the final version not yet available - see the Laurel web site's educational page for references ( Print editions have also been published, one (with black and white redrawings and explanatory text in French) from Leopard d'Or.

  • Vigil Rabers Neustifter Wappenbuch is an armorial from the 16th C. containing a color photofacsimile of over 1500 coats of arms, drawn in art styles ranging from excellent to adequate, depending on the emblazon. Most are on the excellent side. Its author was Vigil Raber, a true Renaissance man who was not only both a herald and a painter but also an important figure in the history of the theater. Vigil Raber was from South Tyrol, which is currently an autonomous province of Italy, but culturally German in period. The volume listed here contains introductory material and an armorial, all in German. (Harwick W. Arch, Virgil Rabers Neustifter Wappenbuch (Verlag A. Weger, Brixen, 2001, ISBN 88-85831-76-1).

  • Siebmacher's Wappenbuch is an armorial from 1605 covering Germany and neighboring areas, including portions of Silesia. It has 3400 coats of arms with associated crests. The edition described here does not have blazons but it does have a name index. It has been going in and out of print about every five years, with the most recent edition in 1999, and is often available at a very low price. The 1994 and 1989 editions are effectively identical to the 1999 edition: Johann Siebmachers Wappenbuch von 1605 (Harenburg Komm., Dortmund, 1999, ISBN: 357210050X). These are photofacsimiles of the printed black and white volume which were hand-colored at some date.

Flanders (French-speaking/Walloon)

  • Armorial de la Flandre Wallonne dit de La Marche de Lille is a roll assembled between 1543-1544 what is now Northern France/southern Belgium, but was at the time a part of Flanders. It includes a color photofacsimile of 288 coats of arms (264 on shields, 24 on banners) from the (heraldic administrative) Marche of Lille (which included the towns of Lille, Douai and Orchies.) Useful discussions of the heraldry in the book are provided in French. Armorial de la Flandre Wallonne dit de La Marche de Lille, Francois Boniface, Sources Genealogiques et Historiques des Provinces du Nord, ISBN 2-908976-72-2 2001. The publisher's web site is

Great Britain

  • See headings for England and Wales and Scotland.


  • Stemmi depicts heraldic art, which performs a function similar to that of a roll of arms. This book describes 176 armorial bas relief plaques in the courtyard of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy. The arms belonged to the individuals holding the position of Podesta at the Bargello between 1313 and 1557. The heraldic art is excellent, and often includes crests and supporters. For each plaque, the book provides a black and white photograph, some information about the Podesta, and the name of the artist (in Italian). The book also has a scholarly introduction. The blazons are accurate when describing the charges but may not be accurate for tincture, as the pigments have mostly worn off the plaques. (In some cases, the blazon in the book gives the same tincture for a charge and the field or other charge on which it lies.) Unlike a roll of arms, where all the artwork was done in a short period of time, these plaques were roughly contemporary with the arms that they depict, and thus they survey over 200 years of Tuscan heraldic art: Francesca Fumi Cambi Gado, Stemmi (Firenze, 1993, no ISBN). The museum's web site is

  • Stemmario Trivulziano contains hundreds of arms from Milan in the mid-15th C. The heraldry of Milan shows both German and Italian influence. The book is a high quality color photofacsimile. Ed. Carlo Maspoli, 2000, Casa Editrice Niccolo; Orsini de Marzo, ISBN 88-900452-0-5.

  • See also the heading for Germany, for heraldic material from South Tyrol.


  • No specifically Polish documents yet listed, but you may wish to reference the Silesia heading.


  • See heading for Spain and Portugal.


  • The Balliol Roll is a 14th C roll containing 36 Scottish coats of arms, which was probably compiled by (or for) an Englishman. A color photograph of the one-page roll is included. The explanatory text is in English and also includes historical and genealogical information about the people in the roll: Bruce A. McAndrew, The Balliol Roll (New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 2002, no ISBN).

  • Scots Roll is a Scottish roll from the 15th C with 114 coats of arms. The following edition is available from the publisher at a bargain price, and it includes color photographs and explanatory text in English: Colin Campbell, The Scots Roll (The Heraldry Society of Scotland, Scotland, 1995, ISBN 0 9525258 0 1).

  • The Lindsay of the Mount roll is a Scottish roll assembled in 1542 by David Lindsay of the Mount, who shortly later became Lyon King of Arms. A few coats were added later in the 16th C. It contains over 400 coats of arms from all over Scotland (including the Highlands), and was used as the starting point for the official Scots heraldic registry that is still active today. This edition is not a photofacsimile but is a heraldically accurate redrawing. While this was a limited edition, it may be found in a number of libraries in their non-circulating collections. Facsimile of an ancient heraldic manuscript emblazoned by Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount 1542, William Paterson, Edinburgh, 1878.

  • The Dunvegan Armorial is a Scottish roll from the end of the 16th C. It contains a color photofacsimile of over 50 noble coats of arms depicted in a full achievement (with crest and supporters.) and over 200 "Gentleman's arms" (with the escutcheons only.) The heraldic art quality of each portion of the Armorial is high. In addition, it has an appendix giving color photofacsimiles of various heraldic manuscripts' depictions of the achievements of the Earls of Lennox, the MacLeods of Lewis, and MacLeod of that Ilk. These give an opportunity to consider various heraldic art styles in Scotland. The editors have provided significant explanatory material in English, with particularly detailed historical information about the owners of the noble coats of arms. This is a limited edition volume. John and Eilean Malden, The Dunvegan Armorial (The Heraldry Society of Scotland, 2006, ISBNs: 0-9525258-5-2 and 978-0-9525258-5-1.)

  • The Dublin Armorial of Scottish Nobility dates from the end of the 16th C. It contains a color photofacsimile of pages depicting the marital coats of the various Kings of Scotland (Scotland to dexter, the Queen's original arms to sinister). It also includes over 50 noble coats of arms depicted in a full achievement (with crest and supporters.) Of particular note are the achievements where the arms are shown, not on an escutcheon, but on a tabard, with the arms shown in full on the front, and half of the arms visible on each sleeve. The heraldic art quality is high. It contains significant explanatory information in English, with particularly detailed historical information about the owners of the arms. This is a limited edition volume. Leslie Hodgson, The Dublin Armorial of Scottish Nobility, The Heraldry Society of Scotland, 2006, ISBNs: 0-9525258-4-4 and 978-0-9525258-4-4.)


  • See Siebmacher's Wappenbuch, under the Germany and Switzerland heading.

Spain and Portugal

  • Libro de Armeria del Reino de Navarra is a 16th C Navarrese roll containing over 700 coats of arms. It includes a color reproduction of the roll with explanatory text in Spanish. One edition is from 1974: Faustino Menendez Pidal, Libro de Armería del Reino de Navarra (Editorial La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, Bilbao, 1974, ISBN 84-248-0119-9). A new edition of the book appears to be on sale from the government of Navarre, according to their Web site, with a new second editor: Faustino Menendez Pidal and Juan José Martinena Ruiz, Libro de Armería del Reino de Navarra (Gobierno de Navarra. Dpto. de Educación y Cultura, 2002, ISBN 84-235-2166-4).

  • Livro da Nobreza e Perfeicam das Armas is a Portuguese roll from the first half of the 16th C, including over 300 coats of arms. It includes a color reproduction of the roll with explanatory text in English and Portuguese. Livro da Nobreza e Perfeicam das Armas, Introduction, notes etc. by Martim de Albuquerque and Joao Paulo de Abreu e Lima, Acadamia Portuguesa da Historia, Lisbon 1987.


  • See heading for Germany and Switzerland.


  • See heading for England and Wales.

Where can you find period rolls of arms and armorials?

Libraries: Most heraldic books can be obtained via inter-library loan if you have their publication information. You may also consider seeing whether your local librarian or academic librarian would be willing to order books on rolls of arms for their library. It may be helpful to remind your librarian that these books are both of historical and artistic interest.

Web Sites: Most Web sites are poor sources for period rolls of arms. As noted above, most Web sites do not use period heraldic art. For example, uses modern heraldic clip art and geometric stylizations in its depictions of period rolls of arms, giving a very modern appearance to these coats of arms. Other Web sites include some period artwork but are not always clear about the date of the artwork. For example, the International Civic Arms site ( gives dates for when the civic heraldry was originally granted, and will sometimes date an illustration. However, the International Civic Arms site does not always date its illustrations, and the illustrations may significantly post-date the date of the grant. This observation is not a criticism of the site; it just reflects the purpose of the site. If a city has used the same coat of arms since they were granted in the 14th C, and the Web site designer chooses to illustrate that coat of arms with a 19th C drawing, the illustration is still an accurate depiction of that city's arms. But it doesn't help an SCA artist gain an understanding of 14th C heraldic art.

Stores and Publishers: No formal endorsement of these stores or publishers is implied by the following list. Neither the SCA Sovereigns of Arms nor Laurel Clerk are employed in any capacity by these stores or publishers.

  • Used Book Web sites: Some significant used book Web sites are and Amazon's used books (was

  • The Amazon empire: Amazon has a good selection of heraldry books in print, even from smaller publishers like Leopard d'Or. Don't forget to check all the countries, particularly (Great Britain), (France) and (Germany).

  • Heraldry Today: This is an English new and used bookstore with a huge selection. They will maintain a "want list" for books that are not currently in stock and will notify you when the book is in stock. Their Web site only shows a small selection of their stock; if you want to know if they have a book in stock, you should send them a letter or e-mail and inquire:,, or Heraldry Today, Parliament Piece, Ramsbury, Wiltshire, SN8 2QH, U.K.

  • Auction Websites: Ebay and similar sites have both new and used books.

  • Publishers: Sometimes it is desirable to order books directly from the publisher, rather than going through a bookstore. Some noteworthy small specialty publishers are:

    • Leopard d'Or: These are French publishers of facsimile documents and heraldic articles. Their publications include a number of small rolls of arms with black and white redrawn artwork and French explanatory text, such as the Armorial Lalaing and the Armorial des Rois de l'épinette de Lille. They also have some blazon-only editions of period rolls of arms. Their works are readily available in French bookstores. Their contact information is: 8 rue Ducoüedic - 75014 PARIS France - Tél. : 01 43 27 57 98, Fax: 01 43 21 40 03.

    • Heraldry Society of Scotland: The Society publishes some good sources on period heraldry, including a good pamphlet on medieval flags as well as the books listed above (some of which books are limited editions):, or THE HERALDRY SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND, 25 Craigentinny Crescent, Edinburgh, EH7 6QA, Scotland, UK.

    • Editions du Gui: These are French publishers of high-quality limited edition facsimile documents: or Editions du Gui, BP - 7, 74410 Doussard, FRANCE.

    • Casa Editrice Orsini de Marzo: These are Italian publishers of high-quality limited edition facsimile documents: or Casa Editrice Orsini de Marzo, Via Cernaia 11-I-20210 Milano MI, Italy.