How to evaluate medieval armorials and their contents? A new series of blogposts by Steen Clemmensen
For identifying medieval coats of arms, medieval armorials are very important sources. They have been transmitted to us in a fair number (for a list of digitised armorials see here on our blog), they are relatively easy accessible and – contrary to the other important source for coats of arms such as seals – they show the colours of the blasons. So if you are trying to identify a specific coat of arms, chances are big that you end up browsing through an armorial.
Armorials are, however, difficult sources. They can be quite deceiving. For example, it is not uncommon to find that a coat of arms does not belong to whom the legend says it should belong to. How is this possible?
And this problem just addresses the level of a single coat of arms. Makers of armorials often copied whole sections from each other, a process that proved to produce many mistakes. Knowing this, how should one assess an armorial if one wishes to use it as a source? And how should we compare different armorials in order to gain knowledge on the relations between the various sources? These questions have spurred the editors of Heraldica Nova to invite an expert in the field to explain how to deal with these issues.
Steen Clemmensen has been working on armorials for several decades now and made many editions of these sources, all of which are available on his website. He also established a database of armorials and coats of arms, which is equally available on his website and a most useful tool for anyone working on heraldry and armorials. For more information on this project, you may also see Clemmensen’s blogpost on Heraldica Nova.
Now, Clemmensen has written a series of articles for Heraldica Nova discussing various aspects of the practice of evaluating armorials, adressing this issue on the level of individual coats of arms as on the level of armorials as a whole. In four articles he succesively deals with the identification of coats of arms, variations of arms in armorials, comparing different armorials, and incorrect coats of arms in the famous armorial of Conrad Grünenberg. We are looking forward to publishing them on a weekly basis, starting this Wednesday.
We hope that these blogposts will help you sharpen your view on armorials and make you aware of the various pitfalls you can encounter when using them as a source.
Here are the titles of the different blogposts of this series:
- Steen Clemmensen: Evaluating armorials (I) – Identifying coats of arms
- Steen Clemmensen: Evaluating armorials (II) – Variant coats of arms
- Steen Clemmensen: Evaluating armorials (III) – Comparing armorials
- Steen Clemmensen: Evaluating armorials (IV) – Grünenberg, the unfortunate armorist