Post Archive

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.


[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.)

Extraordinary Recognition

During the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium this weekend, I learned from Master Yehuda ben Moshe that, as one of his final actions as Brigantia, I had been elevated to the rank of Herald Extraordinary, a recognition for which I am deeply grateful.

Unlike nearly all of the awards and honors of the Society, this rank can not be bestowed by royalty or their representatives in the baronage; instead it stems from the authority of the Sovereigns of the College of Arms and the Principal Heralds of each kingdom.

The term “extraordinary” is used here not in the sense of “unusual,” but rather to mean “outside the typical order” — a recognition of work being done sui generis, rather than in a fixed role within the Colleges’ normal organization.

“Such a rank shall have no fixed duties, unless such shall be agreed upon by the holder and the Kingdom Principal Herald, but instead the holder of the rank shall be a senior member of the College who shall lend heraldic expertise as s/he sees fit.”
— Wilhelm Laurel, July 1981 LoAR

The rank was established over forty years ago, and is closely held; the record suggests that only a dozen Extraordinaries have been named here in the East over the last two decades, and even fewer in the two decades before that.

This recognition is especially meaningful to me in coming from Master Yehuda, because it was during his elevation to Herald Extraordinary at KWHSS in 2018 that I first came to see this title as one to which I could aspire, and the members of this rank as a group of which I could hope to one day be considered a peer.

So, my thanks to Yehuda for the recognition, and to the Heralds of the Colleges for their companionship and conviviality over the last seven years — I will endeavor to continue to be worthy of this honor in the years ahead.

Descriptions for Field Division Directions

Following the 2021 rules change, SENA A5F1b now says that that changing the direction of partition lines is considered a Substantial Change, as is the difference between divided and undivided fields.

As a result, when using the Complex Search form to do conflict checking for fielded armory, we can add a second line for the field that matches anything with a similar direction.

For example, when looking for conflicts for armory blazoned “Per fess argent and vert, [anything]”, we would typically start a complex search with a criteria line for “PFESS:pl:argent:~and vert”. I believe that in this case we can safely add a second criteria line for “PFESS|FIELD DIV.-BARRY|NO”, which will still match per-fess items with other colors, or barry items, or fieldless items, but will exclude items which have solid fields, or per-pale fields, or bendy, etc.

That search should give us:

  • the maximum score for an identical per-fess field with the same line type and tinctures;
  • one less than the maximum for any per-fess or barry field;
  • one less than the maximum for any fieldless item;
  • two less than the maximum (and thus safely ignored) for any other type of field.

I’ve only been experimenting with this technique for a few weeks, and I’m not yet confident that I’ve figured out all of the potential hitches in it, but in my tests, this seems to cut down the number of items which have to be checked by hand (at times significantly), without ever excluding from consideration any items that might actually conflict.

If you want to give it a try, here’s a list of headings you can add as a second line for the field in a complex search when conflict-checking:

  • Per Bend Sinister or Bendy Sinister: PBS|FIELD DIV.-BENDY*3|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Per Chevron Inverted or Chevronelly Inverted: PCI|FIELD DIV.-CHEVRONELLY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Quarterly: QLY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Lozengy or Other Grid-like Tilings: FIELD DIV.-LOZENGY OR FUSILY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Party of Six, Orly, Others Not Mentioned Above: FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO

I’ve included the catch-all FIELD DIV.9OTHER type for all of these because items with that heading might also need hand-checking; for example, “party of six” is coded as FIELD DIV.9OTHER, and it’s not clear how much difference we would find between that and “checky.”

Sadly there isn’t a compact way to search for undivided fields, so if you want to add a line for those you need to mash a whole bunch of tinctures and treatments together; I think this might cover most of the relevant options, but I worry that I’ve missed a couple of salient choices:


If you give this a try, I’d love to know how it works out for you. I’m particularly interested in hearing of any potential traps, in which using this technique might exclude a legitimate conflict from consideration.

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.

Downloading Armorials from the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Austrian National Library, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, hosts online scans of a number of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts which may be of interest to armorial researchers, but sadly their website lacks a PDF download or bulk export feature.

To facilitate offline viewing and transfer to other repositories, we can use a little JavaScript in a browser with “developer mode” enabled to generate a batch of command-line download commands that will retrieve an entire volume.

Start by visiting the ONB web viewer for a manuscript such as the Wappenbuch des André de Rineck. While you are viewing the first page of the manuscript, open the browser’s console window and paste in the following bit of JavaScript:

window.snap_and_step = function () { src = $('img.imageTile[src!="images/loading4.png"]').first().attr('src'); console.log( 'curl -o page-' + src.match('img=00000([0-9]+)')[1] + '.jpg "' + src.match('(.*?)&[a-z]=')[1] + '&s=1.0" && sleep 5' ); navigateNextPage(); setTimeout(window.snap_and_step, 5000) }; snap_and_step();

Then sit back and wait. The process is designed to run slowly, with a five-second delay between pages, in part to avoid putting any unusual load on the ONB’s web server. (You can estimate the number of minutes required by dividing the page count by twelve.)

As it runs, it will output a series of commands in the console log similar to the following, one line for each page:

curl -o page-001.jpg "" && sleep 5
curl -o page-002.jpg "" && sleep 5
curl -o page-003.jpg "" && sleep 5

When it reaches the last page of the text, it will repeatedly output the same command multiple times; at some point I’ll get around to refining the code to detect this condition and exit. You can interrupt the process by pasting the following bit of code in to the console:

window.snap_and_step = 0

Then, copy all of the console log output and paste it into a text file named something like Save that file in a new folder on your computer. Open a command-line terminal window and change your working directory to that folder, then run the commands:

$ cd andre-de-rineck
$ sh

Then sit back and wait again. This process also has a built-in delay as it fetches high-quality JPEG images of each page and saves them as numbered page files in the current directory.

When the process completes, you’ll have a directory full of images which can be browsed individually, packaged into a PDF, or uploaded to another hosting service such as

Name Change for Appleholm & Whyt Whey

The Canton of Whyt Whey was founded in the late 1980s, with its name registration appearing on the January 1990 LoAR. In the decades since, the original population has moved out of our region and been replaced by a new generation of participants, for whom the old name didn’t have the same valence, and over the last few years an effort was undertaken to consider possible changes. Following a great deal of thought, the populace settled on Appleholm as its new name, for which the forms were submitted this month.

Appleholm is a constructed Middle English place name.

Apple is an English word for a variety of tree-borne fruit. The Middle English Dictionary (s.n. appel) provides an example from Boece (circa 1380), Chaucer’s translation of a work by Boethius: “And autumpne comith ayein hevy of apples.” The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Watts) provides examples of its use in compound place names such as Applby, Appleford, and Appleton.

Holm is an element of English place names meaning land rising from the water, such as islands in a harbor or a meadow by the side of a stream. The Middle English Dictionary (s.n. hōlm) provides an example from Promptorium Parvulorum (1440), Anglicus Galfridus’s Middle English-to-Latin dictionary: “Holm, of a sonde yn the see.” English Place-Name Elements (Smith, s.n. holmr) provides examples of its use in compound place names with varieties of plants such as Brackenholm, Bromholm, and Dockholm.

A petition of unanimous support from our branch officers is included with this submission.

There is no provision to maintain retired branch names as there is for “ancient and honorable” arms, so in order to preserve this remanent of the canton’s history, a parallel submission was made to register a household name using the same elements.

For context, the canton’s existing name is a reference to one of our most famous landmarks, the Great White Way, a modern name for a stretch of Broadway in Manhattan’s Theater District where bright outdoor lighting was first introduced at the start of the twentieth century.

When the canton’s name was submitted in the late 1980s, the branch’s founders wanted to name it the Canton of the Grate Whyt Whey but were advised by a local herald that the word Grate was unregistrable; many old-timers are still bitterly disappointed by this omission. The spelling of Whey was selected as an homage to the canton’s parent branch, Østgarðr, whose name might be read by a modern Scandanavian as Ostgård, the contemporary Swedish word for “cheese farm.”

As we prepare to change our canton’s name to reflect a new generation of participants, we would like to preserve the old name as part of our history, ideally in the form our founders originally intended. Including the word Great / Grate would help to communicate their intended theatrical reference while avoiding a potentially offensive misreading of the name as racially exclusionary.

Company is an English household designator found in SENA Appendix E.

“Company of <place name>” is an attested pattern for association names in English.

Companie is a period English spelling of company. The Middle English Dictionary (s.n. cǒmpaignīe) provides an example from De Re Militari around 1450: “Þe worþiest persone in þe companie.”

Great White Way is a constructed English place name for an area marked by a major thoroughfare with a pale appearance.

Great is an adjective that may appear before English place names, as documented in “Compound Placenames in English” by Juliana de Luna.

Grate is a period English spelling of great. The Middle English Dictionary (s.n. grēt) provides an example from Mallory dated around 1470: “They threste togedyrs and eythir gave other grate strokis.”

Whiteway is a place name in Dorset, derived from the highly-visible hillside road worn by centuries of traffic exposing the underlying bright white chalk. Period spellings include “Whyteweye” dated to 1329 in J. Hutchins, The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset (3rd edition), ed. W. Shipp and J. W. Hodson, 1861-70.

Whyt Whey is our current branch name, until the processing of the name change submitted simultaneously with this registration, and thus covered by the existing registration allowance.

Whyt is a period English spelling of white. The Oxford English Dictionary (s.n. white) provides an example from an inventory of 1568: “whyt reged cowe.”

Whey is an interpolated variant spelling of way, in the sense of road or path. Attested period spellings include waie, way, waye, wegh, wei, wey, weye, and whay. Given this diversity, we believe that whey would have been a plausible spelling of the word in period.

Traceable Art Autumnal Wrapup

With the cold weather setting in, I thought the time was right for another periodic summary of updates to the Traceable Heraldic Art collection. Since this summer’s announcement, more than two hundred additional images have been added, bringing the total to over 5,500 charges, fields, and assorted accessories.

This project would not be possible without the many contributors who’ve shared their illustrations with the community. Of particular note is Volusia Zoe, who provided more than fifty lovely new images, including many beasts’ legs, claws, and tails that may be used both as independent charges and to assemble hybrid heraldic monsters. I would also like to thank returning artists Jessimond of Emerickeskepe, Vémundr Syvursson, and Li Xia, as well as first-time conributor Nest verch Gwilim.

Another tranche of sixty images was drawn from WappenWiki, a wonderful site full of very-well drawn armorial imagery with a very consistent and sophisticated style, all released under a Creative Commons license. My sincere thanks to site editor Joakim Spuller for making this material available under terms that facilitate its use by the historical recreation community, and I look forward to incorporating additional images in the coming year.
Continue reading “Traceable Art Autumnal Wrapup”

A Modern British Princely Achievement

Although I generally ignore the heraldic practices of modern aristocratic families, I was struck by the below achievement, which was designed by the Garter King of Arms in 1969 upon the investiture of Charles Windsor as the Prince of Wales, as it does a nice job of incorporating both the subject’s primary arms as well as their badges and other arms to which they were entitled.

Designed by Garter King of Arms. Illustrator unknown. Printed in The Observer. Archived by UK College of Arms.


Brainstorming Armorial Designs From Period Sources

Sometimes submitters know that they want a device that looks authentically like the period arms of a particular time and place, but aren’t sure where to start.

My general advice for this situation is to spend an hour flipping through a couple of armorials from that culture to get a feel for the range of arms typical in that environment.

You can find armorials on this site, grouped by region and sorted by century:

Pick a few sources from your region and jump in, flipping through pages and getting a high-level impression of the arms that you see. Look at a few dozen pages of one source, and then bail out and choose another to flip through to see what’s similar and what’s different.

As you page through, take screenshots of your favorite elements — charges, arrangements, color schemes, etc.

After you’ve collected a dozen or so items that appeal to you, you can combine and remix them to produce something that’s uniquely yours.

Resist the temptation to shoehorn everything in, creating a monster with a dozen types of charge and all of the possible tinctures — your new design should have a complexity that’s comparable to the examples you are working from.

The result of this process is likely to be something that looks historically plausible, reflects the aesthetics of your chosen culture, and that meets the Society’s requirements for submissions, or is at least close enough that it serves as a good starting point.

However, while browsing period armorials for inspiration, there are a couple of caveats to be aware of:

  • Firstly, many armorials start with a pages of notable figures, which can include royalty of other kingdoms, or attributed arms of historical/mythical figures; you can usually just skip past the first quarter or so of the armorial to reach arms that are more representative of the populace at large.
  • Secondly, you’ll often find marshaled arms (especially in those opening sections of royalty) in which two or more arms are combined into quarters; when viewing those, treat each quarter as an independent device.