Matthew Paris and others now in Digitised Armorials list
The manuscript London, British Library, Royal MS 14 C VII is now added to the Digitised Armorials list. The manuscript contains the entire Historia Anglorum (covering 1066-1253) and the last part of the Chronica Majora (covering 1254-1259). It is identified as an autograph of Matthew Paris (d. 1259), monk in the abbey of St. Albans.
The manuscript contains coats of arms in the margins, 95 in total. These make this a valuable document for everyone interested in heraldry, especially since it is made in a period from which few manuscripts with coats of arms have survived. It is written in the 1250s, and it is argued that Matthew Paris himself was responsible for the painting the coats of arms.
The coats of arms in the margins refer to persons accounted in the chronicle, and among them are some striking shields. On f.86v the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV displays on the one half the English royal leopards and on the other half the Holy Roman imperial eagle. Further, Matthew Paris has done more with the coats of arms than just representing persons. He has inverted the arms of those who die in that part of his chronicle. For example, on f.13v the royal English arms are displayed twice. The inverted arms indicate the death of William the Conqueror, while the upright arms indicate the accession of his son William Rufus. This manner of communicating through coats of arms in close relation to the text makes this manuscript particularly interesting.
Matthew Paris is also known for making the so-called “Matthew Paris shields”. These are in a different manuscript: the Liber additamentorum (London, BL, Cotton MS Nero D I). We have not found a digitised version of this manuscript. Some pictures of the folio containing these shields are online, but only of the verso side. Therefore these “Matthew Paris shields” are not included here.
The manuscript Royal MS 14 C VII may not qualify as an actual armorial. However, its value for the study of coats of arms is evident. Therefore we have added it to our digitised armorials list. Since there are more manuscripts (chronicles etc.) with a large number of coats of arms in either the margins or miniatures that could be an interesting heraldic source, we have decided to start including these as well. The digitised armorials list is therefore expanded. Other chronicles with coats of arms that have recently been added are:
- Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 1110 (Die Excellente Chronike van Vlaenderen)
- Brugge, Openbare Bibliotheek, Ms. 437, (Die Excellente Chronike van Vlaenderen)
- Bruxelles, KBR, MS IV 684 (Brabantsche Yeesten)
- Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, MS A 75 (Zürcher- und Schweizerchronik by Gerold Edlibach)
As always, we cannot do without your help. If you know of any digitised manuscripts with a large number of coats of arms, please let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. We are grateful for your input.
 Numbers are from Richard Vaughan, Matthew Paris, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 6 (Cambridge, 1958), 250. For an edition of the coats of arms in all manuscripts by Matthew Paris: Thomas Daniel Tremlett and Hugh Stanford London, Rolls of Arms Henry III: The Matthew Paris Shields, C. 1244-59, Aspilogia 2 (London, 1967), 3–86.
 Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 251.
 On these Mattew Paris Shields: Anthony Richard Wagner, A Catalogue of English Mediaeval Rolls of Arms (London, 1950), 1–3.
Correction of next to last line: The small ones are mostly older (1350) illustrative or occasional armorials or decorative, and the large are mostly late (>1350) composite armorials.
Large and small as well as what constitutes an armorial are rather personal choices, though most people follow a variant of the proposals of Anthony Wagner on armorials: illustrative – occasional – general -ordinary and may add (some) treatises and decorative (e.g. murals and tables) to the definition. For size, my present division is:
very small – 100 – small – 500 – medium – 1000 – large – 2500 – very large.
The small ones are mostly older (1350) composite armorials.
In other contexts, a dozen arms may be a large selection – but not for an armorial.
Is there any definition of ” a large number of coats of arms”?
Thank you for this comment. No, there is no clear definition of a large number of coats of arms. Delineating this is indeed an issue, but one that is not intended to be solved here. The digital armorials list contains collections of coats of arms in the broadest sense of the word. The goal is not to present a clear-cut definition of “armorials” or “large numbers of coats of arms”, but to offer a list of manuscripts with collections of coats of arms that might be of interest for anyone studying heraldry. In some cases, these sources might not be regarded as an “armorial” or “containing a large number of coats of arms” by everyone. However, it would be a pity to exclude some of these interesting sources because they would not fit into a narrow definition. Therefore the terms “armorial” and “large number of coats of arms” have remained a bit vague.
This isn’t very helpful. Which is the manuscript in your list with the smallest number of coat of arms?
I am not sure, as I haven’t counted all arms in all manuscripts. Examples of manuscripts in the list with a relatively low number of coats of arms are:
– Heidelberg, UB, cod. pal. germ. 156
– Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, cod. hist. qt. 420
– Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, cod. hist. qt. 584
– Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, HB XIII 1
– Paris, BnF, ms. fr. 90
These examples are all illustrative (or family related, 420, 584), which irrespective of the age will have relatively few arms. fr.90 , a chronicle like cpg.156, has 100, HB XIII 1 Weingartner Liederbuch has fewer than the Manesse with 147.
My smallest has 3 – BL Add.45133 Flodden Standards
Check https://galerij.kb.nl/kb.html#/nl/wapenboek/page/0/zoom/3/lat/-5.44102230371796/lng/-91.7578125 for the Beyeren Armorial – I can send you all the pics you want, and there is more to come!
Dear Ed, thanks for your comment. The Beyeren armorial is included in our digitized armorials list. I am very glad the KB has digitized this wonderful armorial, and please keep us posted on future digitizations of heraldic sources!