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.
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.
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.
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.
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
are some good books or Web sites about period rolls of arms?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
of these pan-European rolls reflected the international "tournament
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
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).
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,
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
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).
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
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:
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.
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
Print editions have also been published, one (with black and white
redrawings and explanatory text in French) from Leopard d'Or.
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).
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.
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
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
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.
also the heading for Germany, for heraldic material from South
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).
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).
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.
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
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.)
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,
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.
can you find period rolls of arms and armorials?
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
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
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 (http://www.ngw.nl/)
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.
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.
Book Web sites: Some significant used book Web sites are
and Amazon's used books (was http://www.bibliofind.com/).
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 http://www.amazon.co.uk/
(Great Britain), http://www.amazon.fr/
(France) and http://www.amazon.de/
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Heraldry Today, Parliament Piece,
Ramsbury, Wiltshire, SN8 2QH, U.K.
Websites: Ebay and similar sites have both new and used books.
Sometimes it is desirable to order books directly from the
publisher, rather than going through a bookstore. Some noteworthy
small specialty publishers are:
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.
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
or THE HERALDRY SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND, 25 Craigentinny Crescent,
Edinburgh, EH7 6QA, Scotland, UK.
du Gui: These are French publishers of high-quality limited
edition facsimile documents: http://www.editions-du-gui.fr/
or Editions du Gui, BP - 7, 74410 Doussard, FRANCE.
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,