Historiography, Heraldry and Noble Identity: Armorial Münster and the Urban Environment of a Noble Patron
On 20-21 May 2015, four young scholars from the Belgian universities of Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven had organized a conference entitled ‘Towards New Thinking In Urban Historiography: Old Texts, New Approaches. A Reconsideration of Urban Historical Consciousness in Northwest Europe’. The conference took place in the formidable location of the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, with no less than two keynote lectures, sixteen case studies, and four round table discussions.
One session was dedicated to ‘Heraldry, Nobility and Historical Identity’. Most of the chronicles treated during the conference featured coats of arms, but it was only in this session that heraldry was treated as a proper ‘narrative source’. As Marcus Meer pointed out in his contribution, the use of coats of arms in chronicles was essential not only for visual display and communication, but also as a means of social distinction.
In the same session I gave a paper on the so-called Armorial Münster, which in German is also known as ‘Niederländisches Wappenbuch’. This is a very interesting manuscript that is nowadays kept in the library collection of the Dutch ‘Hoge Raad van Adel’ (High Council of the Nobility) in The Hague. The armorial is named after the German city of Münster where it was preserved in the city archives until the second World War, when it was ‘returned’ to the Netherlands with some other manuscripts in exchange for some box loads of ‘German’ documents. 
The manuscript is in fact more than an armorial since it consists of two major parts. The first part is indeed an armorial with some 400 coats of arms. The armorial again can be subdivided into two parts. The first seven pages of the armorial are quite traditional: twelve coats of arms per page, all of them German princes, dukes and counts, with the identification written above. However, after that the author of the manuscript changes the format of the armorial. Instead of the twelve coats of arms in large format, the author painted fourteen to twenty smaller coats of arms in the margins of the page, most of them of princes and nobles from the counties of Holland, Hainaut and Flanders. In the middle he wrote the accompanying blazon, that is the technical description of each coat of arms. According to Wim van Anrooij this is one of the few late medieval
armorials in which these heraldic terms are described in such detail in Middle Dutch.
The other half of the manuscript, contrary to that the name Armorial Münster suggests, contains a chronicle with some 110 entries covering two centuries from 1315 to 1515. Almost half of the entries concern the five decades from 1415 to 1464. Moreover, most of the information deals with events occurred in the towns of the county of Holland and with the ruling dynasties of this principality. Both the contents of the chronicle, the coats of arms and the handwriting indicate that the manuscript was made in the first decades of the sixteenth century, with a terminus post quem of 1515. The writer of the chronicle, like so many others in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, used extensively other historiographic sources that were at his disposal. The original entries almost all concern local events taking place predominantly in Delft, which have lead scholars to presume that a town clerk of this city in the county of Holland may have been the author. 
But how do both parts of the manuscript relate to each other? Why was this ‘urban’ chronicle combined with an armorial? What does the content of both the armorial and the chronicle reveal about the identity of the patron and the scribe and about their motives for its creation? And finally: how does this manuscript fit into the historiography of the county of Holland at the end of the Middle Ages? In my contribution, which will be converted into an article, I suggest that an answer to these questions lies in an analysis of the interplay of the entries in the chronicle and the coats of arms in the armorial. However, the article wants to be more than a study of this particular manuscript and aims to contribute to debates on the articulation of noble identity through historiography and heraldry in late medieval Europe.
 E.J. Wolleswinkel, ‘Uit de collecties van de Hoge Raad van Adel, het ‘Niederländisch Wappenbuch’ uit Münster, ruilobject uit de Tweede Wereldoorlog’, De Nederlandsche Leeuw 126 (2009), 108-112 (available online).
 Ibidem, 112.