A Catalogue Of Period Devices

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)

Liberating the Wappenbuch der Arlberg-Bruderschaft

Having had some success with the Gelre armorial, I thought I’d take a stab at extracting another renaissance-era armorial that is only available through a “click to pan and zoom” web interface: the Wappenbuch der Arlberg-Bruderschaft, painted by Vigil (sometimes spelled Virgil) Raber around 1550 in Tyrol, on the border between northern Italy and western Austria.

To run the below Perl script you will need the ImageMagick tools, which provide the montage command that stitches image tiles together. Mac users can install ImageMagick using the following commands:

# Install Homebrew
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

# Install Dependencies
brew install imagemagick

This quick-and-dirty Perl script works through the 462 pages of the book, fetching each of the 64 image tiles needed to assemble that page.

#!/usr/bin/perl

my $base_url = 'http://bilderserver.at/wappenbuecher/VirgilRaberEXAv2_52z2/img';

foreach ( 1 .. 462 ) {
    my $page = sprintf( "%04d", $) );
    foreach ( 0 .. 63 ) {
        my $tile = sprintf( "%02d", $_ );
        qx{ curl -o page_$page-tile_$tile.jpeg $base_url/$page/__00000$tile.jpg };
    }
    qx{ montage page_$page-tile_*.jpeg -geometry +0+0 -tile 8x8 page_$page.jpeg };
    qx{ rm page_$page-tile_*.jpeg };
}

The result is a folder full of JPEGs, each 7.7 megapixels covering two pages, averaging 2.3 MB each, which I then assembled into a single 1.1 GB PDF file.

As with the Gelre armorial, I am making a lower-quality version of this file available, which has been compressed to a mere 21 MB, which is somewhat fuzzy but sufficient to scroll through to locate interesting items to view in greater detail via the online viewer.

If you’d like a more-detailed version in either PDF or JPEG format, and are not able to run the above script yourself, contact me for a copy.

The Mystery of the Maunch Maltale

Today, I received an inquiry by email that sent me down an interesting research rabbit hole, and (with the permission of my correspondent) I thought I would share that question and my answer here:

Sir,

The arms of my Achym family of Pelynt in Cornwall, England, are recorded several slightly different ways:

  • Arg., a maunch within a bordure Sa. charged with eight cinquefoils of the field.
  • Arg., a maunch within a bordure Sa. charged with nine cinquefoils of the field.
  • Arg. a maunch maltayle S. within a border of the first charged with cinquefoils of the second (Harl. MS. 1956).

The arms as tricked on an ancient monument in the Pelynt church (ca. 1560) displays nine cinquefoils and the maunch that is shown in Maunch (2) of your online book. Both the maunch and the cinquefoils are displayed in gules.

I have searched to no avail to learn what “maltayle” means. Perhaps it is the rendering of the maunch shown as maunch (2).

Any advice or wisdom will be appreciated.

Ron Hill in Star, Idaho

Hello, and thank you for your interesting question!

Spelling in the medieval and renaissance periods is notoriously uneven, which can make it hard to search for terms like this — the same term shows up as maltayle, maltaile, and maltale — but I think I managed to figure this one out:

“Maltayle” means “poorly tailored,” as in a piece of clothing which might be decorative but would not fit well.

Charles Elvin’s book Dictionary of Heraldry (1889) defines “a maunch maltale” as “a maunch, as borne by Hastings… called by Legh, a Maunch Maltale, i.e., ill-shaped, or cut.” [archive.org]

The “Legh” he mentions here is a book by Gerard Legh (sometimes spelled Leigh), The Accedence of Armorie (1562), who uses the term “manche maltale” to describe a very stylized maunch, which no longer resembles a detachable sleeve, but has mutated into an abstract symbol. [archive.org]

Elvin’s book includes pictures of a “realistic” maunch and some abstract or “maltale” maunches (#31-35). [archive.org]

My interpretation of all of this is that your family’s arms have long contained a maunch, which at various times and places has been drawn differently, according to the style of the artist, and that when people many years later put together armorials listing old bearings, some of them described the maunch as “maltale / maltayle” to indicate that the version they were looking at was a heavily-stylized abstract depiction rather than a realistic image of a sleeve, while others did not.

I hope this answers your question!

— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin

Liberating The Gelre Armorial

The Gelre Armorial is a medieval manuscript including over 1700 coats of arms that was painted around 1395 near Geldern, presumably by Claes Heinenzoon, herald to the Duke of Guelders.

It is kept in the Royal Library of Belgium, or KBR, and until very recently it was not available in full online, although images of several pages or noteworthy arms had been posted, such as the earliest known color depiction of the flag of Denmark.

Very recently, KBR published high-resolution images of the complete book, but they were only available through an interactive point-and-click “zoom to view” web interface, and could not be downloaded in a simple PDF format.

These image viewer tools are fairly common in the online library world, and when I looked around I discovered that several people had developed open-source tools that automated the process of downloading the raw image tiles and stitching them together.

With a bit of fiddling, I was able to use one of these tools to capture all 260 high-resolution scans of the Gelre Armorial.

The steps I used are shown below. The first two sections are specifically for Mac users. (Folks on Linux probably already have wget and imagemagick installed, or can use their own package manager tools to obtain them.)

# Install Homebrew
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

# Install Dependencies
brew install openssl
brew install wget
brew install imagemagick

# Install Dezoom
wget -O dezoom.sh "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/lovasoa/dezoom.sh/master/dezoom.sh"
chmod +x dezoom.sh

# Download Gelre
perl -e '$t = qq{./dezoom.sh -o gelre-NNNN.jpeg -X 3 -Y 5 -p "--referer=https://viewerd.kbr.be/gallery.php?map=A/1/5/8/9/7/3/5/0000-00-00_00/" "https://viewerd.kbr.be/display/A/1/5/8/9/7/3/5/0000-00-00_00/zoomtiles/BE-KBR00_A-1589735_0000-00-00_00_NNNN/2-%X-%Y.jpg" && sleep 5\n}; foreach $n ( 1 .. 260 ) { $p = sprintf( "%04d", $n ); $s = $t; $s =~ s/NNNN/$p/g; print $s }' | bash

When that process finished, I had a directory full of 260 JPEGs, averaging about 2 MB each. I opened them all in Preview and used the “Print > Save as PDF” feature to create a single massive 494 MB PDF file.

Then I used the “Export > PDF > Reduce File Size” option to knock that down to a low-resolution PDF file that’s only 9 MB in size. The smaller PDF is pretty fuzzy, and while it does have enough detail to allow arms to be identified, one would still want to switch over to the higher-quality file to see any fine details.

You can download a copy of that 9 MB PDF file of the Gelre Armorial for your own reference, or follow the above procedure to capture your own set of high-quality scans.

While I appreciate the work KBR has done to preserve this book, and to capture and share these images, making people click around their site to view individual pages seems unnecessarily restrictive, and as the book is six hundred years old, it can not possibly be restricted by copyright law, so I don’t think I am infringing on anyone’s rights by making this document available to the heraldic community.

A few other notes for folks perusing this armorial:

  • The yellow used for Or has faded almost to white, while the silver used for argent has tarnished and in many cases appears black. In most places the vert has faded a lot, but in a few it’s gotten darker and looks almost black. The gules and azure generally remain vibrant.
  • When trying to interpret a confusing image, this page-by-page index of names and blazons is very helpful.

New Fall Illustrations

This fall, I have started to separate the largest volume of the collection, with over six hundred illustrations of man-made objects, by moving all of the illustrations related to food and farming into a section of their own, and the same for all of the military-related charges. I intend to continue this process, perhaps splitting out all of the clothing and fabric-related items into a volume of their own.

I hope that this makes it easier for folks who want to page through items related to a particular theme, while still allowing easy lookups of individual charges.

There are a hundred new illustrations that have been added to the collection since this August’s Pennsic. My thanks to the artists who have contributed new charges, including Pennsic Art Tent illustrators Bahja al-Azraq, Kryss Kostarev, and Li Xia, among others.

As with previous updates, each item listed below includes a single design unless a number is provided in parentheses, and represents a new heading unless marked as an addition.

  • Field Divisions: Per Bend Sinister Rompu, Per Chevron Wavy (1 additional), Barry (1 additional), Barry Wavy (1 additional), Bendy (1 additional), Bendy Sinister (1 additional), Chevronelly Wavy, Paly Wavy (2), Chevronelly And Per Pale
  • Ordinaries: Bend Wavy (1 additional), Chevron Engrailed (1 additional), Chevron Humetty, Chevronels Humetty (2), Cross Bretessed, Cross Counter-Embattled, Cross Raguly, Fess Wavy (1 additional), Pale Embattled, Pale Fusilly (1 additional), Pale Wavy, Pile Bendy Issuant From Dexter Chief, Saltire Bretessed
  • The World & Heavens: Stream Fesswise Throughout, Sun (1 additional)
  • Plants: Cluster of Ash Keys, Clove, Fleur de Lys (1 additional), Three Holly Leaves In Pall (1 additional), Mandrake (1 additional), Pear (1 additional), Chili Pepper, Rose (1 additional), Orle of Thorns
  • Invertebrates: Cicada, Snail (1 additional)
  • Birds: Cock (1 additional), Eagle (1 additional), Falcon Belled
  • Beasts: Allocamelus Statant, Antelope Statant, Ass Passant (1 additional), Bear Sejant, Bison Passant Guardant, Domestic Cat Rampant (1 additional), Dog Sejant Erect, Elephant’s Head Erased, Hedgehog Statant Impaling Grapes (2), Hyena Statant, Lion Queue Forchy (1 additional), Monkey Statant Collared and Chained (1 additional), Otter Passant, Panther Passant (1 additional), Panther Rampant, Three Rabbits Salient Conjoined, Rhinoceros Rampant, Stoat Rampant
  • People: Skeleton, Pair of Testicles, Tress (2)
  • Farming and Food: Coulter, Plowshare (2), Sieve, Wool-pack (1 additional)
  • Military: Bardiche Axe, Pole Axe (1 additional), Billhook (1 additional), Glaive, Halberd, Great Helm (1 additional), Partisan, Spear (1 additional)
  • Objects and Tools: Awl (1 additional), Hand-Basket, Brogue, Chain (1 additional), Annulet of Chain (1 additional), Orle Of Chain, Chisel, Column (1 additional), Wool Comb, Cresset, Grozing Iron, Hose (1 additional), Mantle, Domino Mask, Visard Mask, Mitten, Closing Nail, Orb (1 additional), Phial (1 additional), Staircase, Trivet (1 additional), Trowel, Urinal In A Basket, Water-Bouget (1 additional)

Name and Device for Engel der Pfau

Engel der Pfau is a skilled fencer with a flamboyant Landsknecht persona who recently became the rapier champion of our local group.

He decided it was time to register a device, and asked for “an angry, fighting, pissed off peacock, his tail plumes out” on a red and black field.


Quarterly sable and gules, a peacock in his pride Or 
maintaining over his shoulder a billhook bendwise sinister argent.

I found a fierce-looking depiction of a peacock in the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry and combined it with a wicked-looking polearm traced from a photograph of a medieval exemplar.


Engel is a German word meaning “angel” used as a male given name. This use is documented to 1497 in “German Names from Nürnberg, 1497.”

der is a German article sometimes used to mark descriptive bynames. Examples including “der Fuhs” (“the fox”), “der Rise” (“the giant”), and “der Guot” (“the good”) are documented to the early thirteenth century in “Some Early Middle High German Bynames.”

Pfau is a German word meaning “peacock” used as a descriptive byname. This use is documented to 1560 in FamilySearch batch C73926-2 which shows that Barbara Pfau was christened on 5 December 1560 in Wuerttemberg, Germany.

The documentation I found for these name elements is separated by about three hundred years, which is close enough for Society registration, but I suspect that people with more expertise in German onomastics will be able to locate additional examples that show them all to have been used within the same century, preferably around Engel’s preferred first decades of the sixteenth century.

Family Per-Pale Badges

Earlier this year, Alienor and I submitted a pair of very simple field-only badges.


Per pale vert and Or… &  Per pale purpure and Or.

I believe these were the last uncharged, plain-line, no-fur, per-pale designs remaining open for registration.

(They obviously conflict with each other, having only one DC for change of tincture to half the field, but as part of our submission paperwork we each granted the other permission to conflict.)

I discovered their availability by writing a small computer program that queried all field-primary armory and produced a series of reports grouped by field division and tinctures, the results of which I presented a few months ago in “The Last Super-Simple Field-Only Armory.”

I couldn’t quite believe that they were registrable, and have been waiting on tenterhooks throughout the commentary process to see if someone flagged a conflict I had missed. They have not yet been formally accepted, but enough time has elapsed that I’m increasingly optimistic that they will pass.

Traceable Art at Pennsic XLVIII

This was the third year of service for the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art at Pennsic, and once again the collection got a workout in the art tent behind Heralds’ Point.

My thanks to Muirenn ingen Dunadaig for printing all of the pages that have been added over the last year (over five hundred) and getting them added to the binders, and to everyone who provided feedback to help improve the collection.

I’m especially looking forward to importing some of the new illustrations produced in the art tent — hopefully that will happen over the coming winter.

Below is a list of the new items added to the collection since April. As with previous updates, each includes a single illustration unless a number is provided in parentheses, and represents a new heading unless marked as an addition.

  • Field Divisions: Per Bend Nebuly (1 additional), Per Chevron Flory Counter-flory (2), Per Fess Indented Pometty, Per Fess Nebuly (1 additional), Per Pale Nebuly (1 additional)
  • Ordinaries: Chief Wavy (1 additional), Fess Dancetty (1 additional), Fess Flory, Pile Ployé (1 additional)
  • Shapes & Symbols: Crescent (1 additional), Cross Doubly Pommeled (1 additional), Cross Pomelly (1 additional), Heneage Knot (1 additional), Hungerford Knot, Latin Cross Pomelly, Ray of the Sun Issuant From Dexter Chief (1 additional), Rogacina Crossed and Fourchy, Rogacina Double Crossed, Rogacina Issuant From A Cauldron, Rogacina Issuant From A Demi-Annulet, Rogacina Issuant From A Moustache, Schneckes, Triskele (1 additional)
  • Plants: Acorn (1 additional), Cinquefoil (1 additional), Columbine Slipped and Leaved (1 additional), Mushroom (1 additional), Nesselblatt (2 additional), Oak Leaf (1 additional), Rowan Leaf (1 additional), Rowan Tree, Seeblatt (1 additional), Tiercefeuille, Tree Stump Eradicated, Tree Trunk Eradicated
  • Fish: Calamarie Embowed, Prawn, Prawn Naiant
  • Birds: Cormorant’s Head Erased, Crow (1 additional), Eagle (2 additional), Falcon Rising, Moorcock, Plume of Three Ostrich Feathers, Swan’s Head Couped
  • Beasts: Ass Head Couped, Elephant Head Couped, Lion’s Jambe Erased, Tyger Passant (1 additional)
  • People: Armed Demi-Man Drawing a Bow, Breast Distilling Gouttes (1 additional), Manticore Statant Collared and Chained
  • Objects: Annulet of Rope (1 additional), Arch with Open Doors, Beehive (1 additional), Broad Axe (1 additional), Castle (2 additional), Dagger (1 additional), Dolmen, Drawbridge, Dumbek Drum (1 additional), Empty Embroiderer’s Quill, Fire Beacon, Furison (1 additional), Gridiron, Jew’s Hat (1 additional), Jeweled Goblet, Ladder (1 additional), Needle (1 additional), Open Book (1 additional), Prunted Beaker, Rake Head, Saddle, Scimitar (1 additional), Sickle (1 additional), Spade (1 additional), Spiked Mace (1 additional), Square Weaver’s Tablet, Stool (1 additional), Three Sickles Interlaced, Torii (1 additional), Tower (1 additional), Turning Cratch (2), Two Mosaic Tablets Conjoined, Two-Man Cross-Cut Saw, Viol, Watchtower, Yoke (1 additional)

Awards from Pennsic Provincial Court

At Pennsic, the Viceregents delivered an Award of the Golden Lyre to Godiva de la Mer on behalf of Ozurr and Fortune. Young Johanna Brandrsdottir was inducted into the Province’s Order of the Sea-Urchin in appreciation for her service at local events and the lovely jewelry she has created. Friderich Grimme was recognized for his skill in archery, and for his efforts training so many of the province’s archers, by making him a member of the Order of the Silver Sea-Lion. And the Viceregents rewarded Angelica di Nova Lipa for her many years of service to the Province — at events, in artistry, and behind the scenes — by inducting her into the Order of the Seahorse.

An Updated Order and Awards Chart

A year and a half ago, I drafted a chart summarizing the orders and awards issued by the East Kingdom and the Crown Province of Østgarðr.

With the passage of time, I wanted to update this document to include the newly-added youth orders, the kingdom-level Tyger’s Eye and provincial Sea-Urchin.

As with the prior version, this is available as a PDF file or a series of images which you may click for a higher-resolution view.

Royalty of the Society

Awards, Grants and Patents of Arms

Non-Martial Orders & Awards of the Society and East Kingdom

Martial Orders & Awards of the Society and East Kingdom

Orders & Awards of the Crown Province of Østgarđr