[paper:] New perspectives on the armorial in the Schichtbuch (Elmar Hofman) – Wolfenbüttel 21 November 2014

Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibl., 120 Extrav., f.165v. The coats of arms of the four Kontor of the Hanseatic League

Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibl., 120 Extrav., f.165v. The coats of arms of the four Kontor of the Hanseatic League

The Schichtbuch is a renowned manuscript. Written in the 1510’s, it described the numerous civil revolts that struck Braunschweig in the Middle Ages. Various parts of this Schichtbuch have been subjected to thorough research, but there is one section that has been ignored by scholars: the armorial. That is a pity, since the armorial in the Schichtbuch is unique in several ways. It depicts the coats of arms of groups that are not often represented in armorials, such as the kontor of the Hanseatic League and an extensive list of Hanseatic cities. Furthermore, every section in this armorial is introduced by a short text, which gives a rare insight in the intention of the author and the use of the book.

 

This armorial has too many interesting elements to deal with in one paper, therefore I am forced to concentrate on certain aspects. These are, however, very important facets of the armorial: the codicological structure and the visual presentation.

 

More often than not, armorials lack a coherent structure. Regularly one finds that armorials are composite sources, consisting of different parts, and often the sequence of the quires has been disordered through additions, omissions or rebinding of the book. Before one can give a ruling on topics like internal hierarchy, dating or the relation between an armorial to the rest of the manuscript, one should examine the material structure of the armorial. In this paper, I will present the results of a codicological study of this armorial and this will shine a new light on the structure of the source.

 

Many armorials are primarily visual sources. The maker communicated with images and visual signs, thus using visual communication. With visual aspects, the maker could highlight particular coats of arms, show internal relations, represent a certain hierarchy, etc. Until now, most researchers turned directly to the content of the communicated (i.e. identification of the coats of arms) without paying attention to the visual presentation. That is a pity, since often the manner in which the coats of arms were presented can provide many insights on the content. In this paper, I will discuss two particular sections (the coats of arms of the Hanseatic kontor and a series of banners) and I will argue that their visual presentation is strongly connected to their meaning in the context of this armorial. This new perspective shows that the armorial in the Schichtbuch has much more to offer to the historian than previously thought.

 

This paper will be presented at the conference ‘500 Jahre Schichtbuch. Aspekte und Perspektiven der Bote Forschung’ (Wolfenbüttel, 20-21 November 2014)

 

The Schichtbuch, including the armorial, has been digitised and can be accessed through the page digitised armorials on this blog.

Cite the article as: Elmar Hofman, "[paper:] New perspectives on the armorial in the Schichtbuch (Elmar Hofman) – Wolfenbüttel 21 November 2014", in: Heraldica nova. Medieval Heraldry in social and cultural-historical perspectives (blog on Hypotheses.org), published: 17/11/2014, Internet: http://heraldica.hypotheses.org/2137.

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