I often encourage people who are beginning the process of designing a personal coat of arms to start by looking at period rolls of arms. Doing so can help to set expectations and provide inspiration that contribute to creating a device that is plausibly medieval — especially if you focus on rolls from the particular time and place that you want to evoke for your persona.
Without this context, it’s easy to fall into the trap of recycling SCA armorial tropes, such as “per bend sinister, an X and a Y counterchanged,” which is almost never found in period coats.
However, when viewing period rolls, one can be distracted by the artistic style, which is sometimes rough, and in other cases the original document is difficult to view as paint has flaked off of velum or colors have faded over the centuries.
Back in A.S. XXXIX (2004), William Castille of Lochac produced a document entitled A Catalogue Of Period Devices, with over seventy pages of armorial line art, including over twelve hundred designs suitable for registration in the Society. (It also includes seventy five designs which are unregistrable, along with explanations for the rules they violate — typically marshaling, pretense, and reserved or restricted charges.)
By reproducing period arms using simple outlines and standard clip art, and by grouping arms according to design patterns rather than precedence or name, this collection makes it easier to focus on the elements and arrangements used.
The illustrations are small, and some of the line art is a bit faint, but if you zoom in the details are generally clear.
Each design includes a simplified blazon without tinctures, the full blazon from period, the armiger’s name, and the source in which it was found.
This useful document had sadly dropped out of sight, but Mistress Sofya la Rus was able to find a copy in her archives and I’m pleased to be able to share it here.
I have taken the liberty of adding pages to separate the sections containing registrable and unregistrable designs, but otherwise I believe this document is unchanged since it was originally published more than fifteen years ago.
A Catalogue of Period Devices
(PDF, 12 MB, 79 pages, A4 size)