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Early Heraldic Literature, part 4

These early writers of Heraldic literature, wrote in days when Heraldry was in everyday use and they constantly saw living illustration of coats of arms. Armoury or Heraldry was established to meet a practical need and was not under centralized control until a late period. Heralds did not come into existence until after Heraldry came into existence, just as registrars of births did not exist prior to births themselves. At first Heralds were unofficial personages attached to the Nobleman or King’s court just like any other domestic help. The functions of the Heralds expanded because among other things it was very useful to have lists of arms and their users. The early Rolls of Arms were compiled, not by officials...

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Early Heraldic Literature, part 3

Early Heraldic literature was not confined to England. John of Guildford referred to Bartholus as a great authority on the subject of Heraldry. This Bartholus or Bartolo of Sassoferrato was a well know medieval Italian jurist who died in  1356. He has been referred to as the father of international law. He lived from 1314 to 1356 and was at different times professor of law at Bologna, Pisa and Perugia universities. His book Tractatus de Insigniis et Armis, is the earliest known composition on Heraldry.The English writers of these early times follow him closely, quoting him as decisive on disputed points of law. His treatise can be seen in the British Museum in a copy dated to 1475 in black...

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Early Heraldic Literature, part 2

One of the most interesting cases of early Heraldic literature comes from a woman, Dame Juliana Berners who wrote the Boke of St. Albans. Very little is known about Dame Juliana beyond her authorship of this book. She was supposedly a Prioress of Sopwell, a convent near St. Albans in Hertfordshire in the south of England. The book was first printed in the Abbey of St. Albans which gives it it’s name. The book is divided into 5 sections and contains  a Treatise of Hawking, of Hunting, of Coat Armour, of Fishing, and Blazing of Arms. The third and fifth portions of the work concern Heraldry, but the whole composition represents a dissertation on some of te main accomplishments of...

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Early Heraldic Literature, part 1

The earliest compositions on the subject of coats of arms are 200 years later than the first appearance of heraldic devices and 100 years after the early Rolls of Arms. John of Guildford, in the late 14th century asks the question “ Who can grant arms ?  “ which he answers “ I say it is a king, a Prince, a King of Arms, or a Herald”. Another early writer on the subject was Nicholas Upton who wrote De Studio Militari. This composition and that of John of Guildford were printed in 1654 by Sir Edward Bysshe, Garter King of Arms, together with the Aspilogia of Sir Henry Spelmann written at the end of the 16th century. The whole document...

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