The Curiosities of Heraldry

The Curiosities of Heraldry

LITTLE need be said to the lover of antiquity in commendation of the subject of this volume; and I take it for granted that everyone who reads the history of the Middle Ages in a right spirit will readily acknowledge that Heraldry, as a system, is by no means so contemptible a thing as the mere utilitarian considers it to be. Yet, notwithstanding, how few are there who have even a partial acquaintance with its principles. To how many, even of those who find pleasure in archaeological pursuits, does the charge apply:

“neque enim clypei cæslamina norit”

Two hundred years ago, when the study of armoury was much more cultivated than at present, this general ignorance of our noble science called forth the censure of its admirers. Master R.. Brathwait, lamenting it, says of some of his contemporaries:

“They weare theire grandsire’s signet on their thumb. Yet aske them whence their crest is, they are mum;”

and adds:

“Who weare gay coats, but can no coat deblaze. Display’d for gulls, may bear gules in their face!”[1]

This invective is perhaps a little too severe, yet it is mildness itself when compared with that of Ranulphus Holme, son of the author of the “Academy of Armory,” who declares that unless the reader assents to what is contained in his father’s book he is:-