Databases & Materials
These databases and dictionaries will help to identify a depicted coat of arms as well as a blasoned one.
Steen Clemmensen, Medieval Armorials
This website is dedicated to armorials. Clemmensen has made an elaborate database of armorials and coats of arms in armorials, which can be downloaded from the website, containing more than 14,000 individual coats of arms. This database enables you, among other things, to identify coats of arms and find out which family bore which coat of arms in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, it presents quality editions of armorials by the author which can be consulted for free.
For more information on this database: http://heraldica.hypotheses.org/673.
Bibale: Collections anciennes et transmission des manuscrits médiévaux
While it is the main aim of this database to clarify the provenience of manuscripts, it also becomes a useful resource for coats of arms since these are used to identify the owners of specific manuscripts. When searching (“consultation”), several different heraldic sources types (“heraldiqué”) can be selected to narrow down the results, which usually provide a blazon, a picture of the respective arms, and a link to the digital copy of the manuscript it can be found in of more than 4000 coats of arms.
Laurent Hablot, Devise: Emblématique et héraldique à la fin du Moyen Age
This database deals with mottoes and lists an abundance of information on specific personal mottoes and related signs such as words, livery colors, numbers, and monograms, as well as the objects the objects these can be found on. Currently there are 300 mottoes of about 200 people, but eventually, there will be more than 2000 symbols (taking numbers and monograms into account) and an estimated 1000 to 1500 people.
Printed tools for identification
Johannes Rietstap, Armorial général, contenant la description des armoiries des familles nobles et patriciennes de l’Europe, précédé d’un dictionnaire des termes du blason
The first edition of Rietstap’s reference work was published in 1861. This massive work presents the coats of arms of thousands of European noble families. Rietstap is a much-consulted work. However, since Rietstap has not mentioned his sources and contains some errors, the researcher cannot totally rely on this reference work. The most recent edition, containing ca. 110,000 coats of arms, dates from 1965 but is not available on-line. The 1861 edition is available on the page of the Gallica Project of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).
A digital transcription of the entries of Rietstap is available here: www.euraldic.com
Théodore Renesse, Dictionnaire des figures héraldiques
Théodore Renesse’s Dictionnaire des figures héraldiques was published between 1894 and 1903. While Riestap is taking the family names to order his entries, Renesse works in the reverse mode, starting by the descriptions of coats of arms. Volume 7 contains an index of all the heraldic terms and figures you might be looking for, referring to the according volume and pages. It still often used as a reference work, but, as with Rietstap’s work, it contains errors and does not mention sources, therefore one cannot entirely rely on it. The most recent edition, containing ca. 116.000 coats of arms, dates from 1992 but is not available on-line. The first edition is available on the page of the Gallica Project of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). This work consists of seven volumes.
- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Volume 3
- Volume 4
- Volume 5
- Volume 6
- Volume 7 (table générale des matières, p. 291)
Siebmachers Großes Wappenbuch
This is the largest reference work for coats of arms in German. Started in 1605, it has been supplemented with new editions up until 1961. The oldest editions are known as the ‘Alte Siebmacher’. From 1854 the new ‘Neue Siebmacher’ started, now comprising 60 volumes, structured by rank and region.
For a digitized version of its index (based on the “General-Index zu den Siebmacher’schen Wappenbüchern: 1605 – 1961” by Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau, containing 137.000 family names): http://data.cerl.org/siebmacher/_search/
The entries in this database feature links to the digitized version of the respective volume. However, if you need access to the single volumes as such, you find a list of all volumes and the addresses of a digitized copy here: Siebmacherliste.
Dictionary of British Arms. Medieval Ordinary
In four volumes, the Dictionary of British arms gathers the known coats of arms from the British Isles from the beginning of heraldry up to 1530. Unlike other instruments like the Rietstap or the Siebmacher, here the coats of arms are not arranged by the names of their bearers but – as a so called “Ordinary” – by their figures. This approach makes it much easier to identify unknown coats of arms by the help of this dictionary.
- Volume 1: Anchor – Bend
- Volume 2: Bend – Chevron
- Volume 3: Chief – Fess
- Volume 4: Fetterlock – Wreath
For an overview of the different volumes and their digitized versions on Austria, Bavaria, Württemberg, Prussia, Saxony, European monarchies, see: www.dr-bernhard-peter.de
Further sources (e.g. collections of Bavarian epitaphs, etc.): http://www.dr-bernhard-peter.de/Heraldik/seite53-wabu-neu.htm
Sceaux armoriés des Pays-Bas et des pays avoisinants
J.-Th. de Raadt: Sceaux armoriés des Pays-Bas et des pays avoisinants (Belgique–Royaume des Pays-Bas–Luxembourg–Allemagne–France) recueil historique et héraldique, 4 Bde., Brüssel 1898-1903.
Die westfälischen Siegel des Mittelalters
Philippi, Friedrich, Tumbült, Georg, Ilgen, Theodor (Hgg.): Die westfälischen Siegel des Mittelalters, mit Unterstützung der Landstände der Provinz hrsg. vom Verein für Geschichte und Alterthumskunde Westfalens, 4 Hefte, Münster 1882-1900.
François R. Velde, International Illustrated Glossary
Since heraldry is an international discipline you often read books and articles in a foreign languages, and specific heraldic terms differ remarkably in each language. What is ‘crest’ in French? What does ‘gespalten’ mean in English? This website can help you. Though it is rather old (last updated in 2004), it still contains a useful translation tool. The tool translates heraldic terms into six modern languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Additionally the website, despite its age and lack of lay-out, presents a decent introduction into heraldry.
Further Material for research
Deutsche Inschriften Online
This project aims to collect all Latin and German inscriptions to be found in German-speaking territories from the Middle Ages until 1605. While not explicitly heraldic in focus, looking for terms such as “Wappen” (coat of arms) will return descriptions of inscriptions containing coats of arms or appearing next to depictions of arms, which is incredibly useful for genealogical research for example.
Coats of Arms in Austrian Castles
Martin Augner’s website contains a list with pictures of coats of arms in various Austrian castles. Most of them appear in medieval arms halls and can serve as an interesting additional database of coats of arms.
Chief Herald of Ireland, Heraldic and Genealogical Sources Online
The Chief Herald published about 35 digitised volumes of English and Irish heraldic and genealogical sources on the website of the National Library of Ireland. These include heraldic grants and confirmations of coats of arms, funeral entries as well as predigrees. While most of them date from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, one volume dates back to the fifteenth century, listing English monarchs from Biblical times to the reign of Henry VI (1422-1471).