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Author Archive for Steen Clemmensen

Out now! Editing armorials. Cooperation, knowledge and approach by late medieval practitioners

The title of these books can be interpreted both actively and passively. The active form is when one or more manuscripts are being transcribed, the arms identified and commented on, and the whole analyzed and published. Less effort may suffice and leave the armorial as just a listing of transcribed items with or without identification. More or less critical editions have been published over the years and more are…

Show me a coat-of-arms: The Lyncenich armorial.

Elmar Hofman recently summarized a number of research problems concerning medieval armorials, among which were by whom and to what purpose(s) were they made (https:/ on 20/09/2016). Though I know that Elmar does put great importance on knowing both content and context of any armorial studied, I felt that for the casual reader, he somewhat underplayed the descriptive work needed before any serious discussion can take place. That was…

Evaluating armorials (IV) – Grünenberg, the unfortunate armorist

The last post in the series on evaluating armorials is a case study of the famous Grünenberg armorial, in which different elements that have been discussed in the previous posts return.   There is one question that is seldom asked: How reliable is the studied armorial  – or to rephrase it: Can we trust a single occurrence of a coat of arms? The answer would in any case be highly subjective and dependent on the armorial or other material studied. As an example, we can use the Grünenberg. An armorial of fine repute that is easily available and frequently cited. A kind of facsimile was published in 1875 and two recent editions are available.[1] The manuscripts have been described by Christof Rolker and Bernd Konrad on this blog.[2]   Conrad Grünenberg The Grünenberg is not an autograph compilation, but a book commissioned by Conrad Grünenberg, a citizen of Constance, from a commercial workshop. It is likely that Conrad Grünenberg himself was closely involved in the selection of the arms and the editing of the various parts, but the artwork was done by a professional painter, and much of the content was copied from older material.[3] As such we may characterize […]

Evaluating armorials (III) – Comparing armorials

In the first two parts of this series on evaluating armorials, many mistakes regarding coats of arms and legends have been discussed. This third part deals with the topic of comparing different armorials, and in this process the incorrect coats of arms prove to be quite useful. Comparing armorials can be important for several reasons. As we have seen in Steen Clemmensen’s previous blogposts, it is not uncommon to find variations of the same coat of arms in different armorials. By comparing their depiction in these armorials, one can gain insights on the various appearances of a certain coat of arms and maybe be able to seperate the correct from the incorrect depictions. Furthermore, many armorials are partly copies from other armorials. Comparing them is an important research technique to increase our limited knowledge on topics as the production of armorials, the heraldic knowledge of their makers and the relation between different armorials.   Armorials as non-verbal documents Detailed identification and documentation for all or most items is nice to have when comparing armorials, but it is not necessary. In essence, an armorial is just a non-verbal document like a pack of cards or a frieze on a wall. Kings, Queens and Jacks may be […]

Evaluating armorials (II) – Variant coats of arms

The first part of these series on evaluating armorials dealt with the identification of coats of arms in armorials. It appeared that many armorials were copied and that copyists were prone to make mistakes. This sometimes leaves the researcher with different coats of arms for the same family. This post deals with the problematic of these variant coats of arms more thoroughly by discussing their origins and how they should be analysed. A lot of heraldic terms are used in this post. In order to make this article intelligible for everybody, we have created a short dictionary of the terms used by Steen Clemmensen.     Coats of arms belonging to the same family may vary in their depiction between sources.[1] Some variations (tincture of crowns, beaks, claws etc.) are of little or no practical importance when studying armorials or the bearing of arms. Other variations, like the absence or presence of crowns, tail forms, heads facing guardant or not, and differences in the number of secondary figures may be important for discussions of the usage of arms by branches, but not for comparing segments or individual arms in armorials. Some representations varied with time, e.g. posture of the lions in […]

Evaluating armorials (I) – Identifying coats of arms

Having edited a number of armorials and shown several of them to be dependent on the same sources, the editors of Heraldica Nova asked me: How does one evaluate an armorial and its contents? The short answer is by having common sense, lots of reference materials and treating armorials as non-verbal prose. In this first part of this series on how to evaluate armorial, I will deal with the challenging task of identifying individual coats of arms and the problems that one may encounter in this process.   Reference materials Ordinaries with sources identified are the best form of reference materials one can get, since they are already sorted by charges and other heraldic details, and can be consulted depending on the features of the coat of arms in question. Unfortunately, they are almost absent outside England and Scandinavia. Most modern editions of armorials have ordinaries listing the arms covered.   Another important reference are collections of medieval seals, since they present the use of coats of arms at a given date and usually provide a clear and sound identification by the inscriptions or the document. A few collections of seals dispose an ordinary at the end as well , e.g. Demay: Inventaire […]