Seeking Proofreaders for Old LoARs

Folks — I’d love some help with a round of proof-reading for some old LoARs which I’ve transcribed for addition to the Laurel website.

There are a handful of letters from the 1970s which were scanned decades ago, but never got transformed into webpages. I’ve created new pages for them, but before they go live they could really benefit from a fresh set of eyes to spot any errors that may have crept in during transcription. The new pages were created via a mix of OCR and hand-typing, with manually-applied web markup, and almost certainly contain some errors.

Specifically, it is the Jan 1971, Apr 30 1973, Jul 1974, May 1975, Oct 29 1976, and Nov 1978 letters shown on this page, which are in need of this round of proof-reading. (The Dec 1970, July 1986, and Nov 1988 letters were already reviewed during a previous round of work, back in 2021 and have been successfully uploaded to the SCA Heraldry site.)

The Apr 30 1973 and Oct 29 1976 letters are both cases where Laurel issued two letters in the same calendar month — the first of which is already available on the SCA Heraldry site. Only the new second letter in each of those months requires review.

If you click on any of those, you’ll find paired links to the HTML version and a PDF file of the old scans.

It would be super helpful if each of those letters could be reviewed by one or two people, with the new page open in one window and the scans in another (or printed onto paper), and if you could send me any errors you find.

I’m interested in both large-scale errors and tiny details. Please pay special attention to the spelling of names, including the accent marks that are hand-written onto some of the old typewritten letters.

In a later round we’ll be comparing these letters to the O&A database, so I’d like these letters to match the original paper letters as closely as possible so we don’t introduce any new problems during reconciliation.

Thanks!

[Update, Jan 14:] I’ve updated the letters for 1971, ’73, ’74, ’75, and ’78 based on a first round of review; a second pass would be welcome (especially for 1974), although I’m hoping we’re pretty close at this point. The 1976 letter is untouched and still needs a close read.

[Update, Jan 16:] All letters have been proofed at least once — thanks to everyone who jumped in to help!

Who Owns the Copyright to the LoARs?

A couple of days ago, I was working on getting some old LoARs ready for publication online when I stopped to consider who held the copyrights to them.

[As with all of the legal commentary on this site, the below should be read with the knowledge that I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be taken as legal guidance — I’m just attempting to describe a somewhat-obscure issue as best I understand it.]

Because the letters were created by volunteers rather than employees, they are not “work for hire,” and I don’t think any past Sovereigns have been asked to sign agreements on the subject.

That would suggest that the copyrights to the LoARs remained with their original creators — the Sovereigns and their staff.

Breaking up is hard to do, and the split at the heart of this case was no exception. … Mr. Losieniecki agreed to serve … and participated in that event as an “official volunteer.” This, they argue, means the photographs are “works made for hire” under the Copyright Act… On that issue, the answer is clear… the Court finds that Mr. Losieniecki owns the photographs at issue […] “work made for hire” […] applies only to works produced by employees or, if a written contract exists, independent contractors. An unpaid volunteer for a nonprofit organization is neither.

— Judge Ranjan in Hubay v. Mendez, 2020

However, at least since 1997 or so, when the Sovereigns have caused the LoAR to be published online every month, it has appeared with a statement and link at the bottom of the page along the lines of “Copyright © 1997 Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.”

It seems credible that if a volunteer publishes something they wrote and causes it to include a statement that the organization is the copyright holder, that in and of itself might be sufficient to transfer the copyright.

The writing does not require any “magic words . . . Rather, the parties’ intent as evidenced by the writing must demonstrate a transfer of the copyright.” …. “Section 204(a), by its terms, imposes only the requirement that a copyright transfer be in writing and signed by the parties from whom the copyright is transferred…”

— Judge Huff, Johnson v. Storix, 2017

On these grounds, the existence of the letters, signed and authored by the Sovereigns, and posted with a statement of copyright by the SCA, seems evidence of the intention to grant copyright to the Society.

(This argument is weakened by the fact that the copyright statements were applied by the Morsulus Herald or post-meeting clerk at the time that the files were uploaded to the web, rather than written by the Laurels themselves, but given that Morsulus and Silver  Staple are working under the direction of Laurel, and that each Laurel sees these copyright statements many times and none of them have ever said “oh, no, wait, that’s a mistake, I didn’t intend to transfer the copyright to the letters I wrote,” this still seems like a clear indication of their intent.)

As to the letters created before 1996 or so, it’s quite possible that nobody ever considered their copyright status — I certainly haven’t been able to find any written mentions of it.

To my understanding, this likely means that the copyright to those early letters remains with the original authors, but that everyone involved understands that they have granted the SCA permission to use those letters in all of the ways that the Society typically does, including publishing, excerpting, citing, summarizing, and transforming them.

Thankfully, the people who sign up to be Sovereigns are pretty committed to the heraldic community, such that even if there was an acrimonious feud, it seems unlikely that any would try to revoke that permission. (And even if they did, some use would likely still be allowed under the “fair use” doctrine of U.S. law.)

Why You Can’t Register Marshalled Armory

Considerations of armorial designs including straight-line per-pale or quarterly field divisions often include a discussion of whether they have “the appearance of marshaling.” Putting aside the question of how we answer that question (already ably addressed elsewhere, see here and here), one might wonder why this is an issue — why doesn’t the SCA’s College of Arms register armory that has the appearance of marshalling?

I believe the answer is that marshalled arms were not issued as such by period heraldic authorities, nor did newly-armigerous families assume already-marshalled arms.

Instead, each individual coat of arms was granted (or assumed) independently, and it was only after that point they were ever combined via impalement or quartering (or sometimes more esoteric arrangements as seen in Iberia).

A heraldic authority might confirm that a particular individual had the right to display each of the individual quarters, but they were still separable, and (for example) a noble might split their titles and lands between two offspring, who would each inherit the armory associated with specific estates, in a process we might think of as “un-quartering.”

It’s possible that there were occasional exceptions to the above principle — for example, Birgitta Lulli, Pelican emeritus, reports that in post-period Scandinavia, some nobles adopted new coats with quarters that had not been independently granted, in an effort to make themselves seem of equal status to older families which bore quartered arms — but I haven’t ever encountered any period examples of arms being granted in already-quartered form.

An individual either has rights to each particular coat or does not; once they have secured those rights, it’s up to them as to whether they impale or quarter them, or display the one they think is most prominent and ignore the other, or display one in one place and another elsewhere, or whatever they’d like.

Therefore, if you want to display arms that have the appearance of marshaling, you must register each individual design, after which point you are free to display them together, pass them on to your heirs, and so forth. (Just like in period, where if you wanted to display the arms of Savoy quartered with the arms of Loraine, you had to first achieve the lordship of each territory, at which point you could fly them together.)

This policy has been in place since the early years of the Society, when Ioseph of Locksley, second Laurel Herald, wrote in the June 1973 LoAR that “… it is the policy of the Imperial College to register the individual parts of marshalling rather than the full marshalling itself… Let [a couple wishing to display marshalled arms] submit individual applications and emblazons [for each part].”

[January 2023 — Edited to add:] An Iberian example of seemingly-quartered arms was recently circulated, dating to 1524. Nonetheless, these examples are rare, and appear late, and are not the foundation of our practices.

How the East Kingdom got its Blue Tyger

The Blue Tyger (sometimes informally known as “Sparky”) serves as a sort of mascot for the East Kingdom, appearing in its populace badge as well as many of its award insignia.

Earlier this year I got curious about why this was, and asked some Eastern heralds, who provided a bunch of the context: the blue tyger had been selected by Alfgar the Sententious, first Brigantia Herald, as a figure from East-Asian mythology and a riff on the dragon of the Middle Kingdom. Continue reading “How the East Kingdom got its Blue Tyger”

An Unsubmitted Badge for the “Vicar-General” of Østgarðr

For the first eight or nine years of Society activity on the East Coast, the Kings and Queens of the East lived within driving distance of New York City, and the Crown Province of Østgarðr was governed directly by the royalty.

However, in the winter of AS X the Crown Tourney was won by Sir Alaric of the Southern Region (now Atlantia) and this situation became untenable — in the spring, rule would pass to a king who lived too far away to visit the city regularly.

To prepare for this situation, at Twelfth Night in January 1976, King Aonghais (yes, that Aonghais)  named Count Vardak Mirceavitch Basarabov of Iloi (yes, the only Court Count) to be a royal representative, tasked with overseeing the province on behalf of the Crown. Continue reading “An Unsubmitted Badge for the “Vicar-General” of Østgarðr”

Memories of Hal Ravn, Former Morsulus Herald

[I recently got in touch with Hal Ravn, who first transferred the Ordinary of the Society into electronic format, and asked him about that experience. Following a few rounds of correspondence, he granted permission for me to post an excerpted version of his recollections here, for which I am extremely grateful. I have attempted to place the narrative into chronological order below, eliding mundane names and non-heraldic elements. Points where I’ve stitched material together out of the order in which it was written are marked with […] and editorial interjections are marked with square brackets. — Mathghamhain]


Continue reading “Memories of Hal Ravn, Former Morsulus Herald”

The Strange Case of the Codex Herald Advocate

In today’s College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the title of Codex Herald is given to the member of Laurel’s staff responsible for maintaining the College’s web site.

But it turns out that there was an earlier office, the “Codex Herald Advocate,” which existed for a couple of years in the late nineteen-seventies, and I found the story of its creation and abolition peculiar enough to share.

Continue reading “The Strange Case of the Codex Herald Advocate”

Memories of Iathus of Scara, Former Morsulus Herald

[This autumn, I contacted Iathus of Scara, who served as the Morsulus Herald of the SCA from 1989 through 1992, and asked him some questions about that experience. He graciously wrote up two lengthy documents narrating that history, which I have integrated below in what I believe is chronological order. The spots where I’ve stitched material from those two documents together are marked with “[…]”. I’ve also added a few missing words or bits of context in square brackets, redacted a few mundane names, and tweaked the punctuation and formatting for ease of reading. I am so grateful to Iathus for writing up this history and giving me permission to share it here. — Mathghamhain] Continue reading “Memories of Iathus of Scara, Former Morsulus Herald”

Heraldic Authority In the Earliest Bylaws of the SCA

The Society for Creative Anachronism started as a party in 1966 and was named as a joke, but over the subsequent years elaborated a set of governing policies which today control an international not-for-profit organization with over a hundred thousand participants.

It’s interesting to look back at the early practices of the organization to see the seeds that grew into the structure we know today, and so I was pleased to discover a copy of the earliest bylaws archived on the web site of Master Justin du Coeur, a former historian of the East Kingdom. Continue reading “Heraldic Authority In the Earliest Bylaws of the SCA”

The Lineage of Morsulus Heralds

The Morsulus Herald is a deputy to the Laurel Sovereign of Arms of the SCA, responsible for maintaining the Society’s record of heraldic registrations, as embodied in various forms of the Ordinary and Armorial.

The title of Morsulus was created by Karina of the Far West as her last official act before stepping down as third Laurel Sovereign, taking her inspiration from Latin: “Morsulus, a small byte.” [Cover Letter, Jun 1979] Continue reading “The Lineage of Morsulus Heralds”