A Brief History of Free Trumpet Press

Free Trumpet Press was the name for a small organization that existed in several forms from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s to publish materials for the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The story of Free Trumpet Press doesn’t seem to be clearly documented anywhere, so I gathered up some traces from publicly-available sources in an attempt to get an overview of its history.

The original Free Trumpet Press was associated with heralds in the East and Middle, founded to publish hard copy versions of the Ordinary & Armorial (called the Armorial & Ordinary in those days), along with KWHSS Proceedings and occasional chapbooks of research done by Society heralds.

It grew out of efforts to publish the first complete versions of these documents, based on the database which had been assembled starting in 1976.

The Armorial and Ordinary is now being proofread by the Principal Heralds and Clarion is preparing an update from May to December, which can then also be proofread for errors. When all corrections have been received and entered a final draft will be printed and checked locally for errors. After correction of these last errors a camera ready copy will be printed on a laser printer or type setter and sent to the printers. The Armorial and Ordinary will be complete through the end of 1983. Dragon and Brigantia have volunteered to handle the printing and distribution. They are currently looking into the best bids and methods of printing, so the final price is not yet set, although it should be under $20 for the set.
[Cover Letter, Dec 1983 LoAR]

Free Trumpet Press was formally established in 1984.

I have issued a charter to the Free Trumpet Press, the joint heraldic publishing venture of the Middle and East Colleges of Heralds, who published the A&O and will be publishing the A&O updates, the Authentic Medieval European Names book, the SCA Herald’s Handbook, and such other heraldic publications as they deem worthwhile. They have permission to use the name of the SCA and the College for their checking account, and to use the profits from the sales of the A&O and updates as a publishing fund to be used as advance money for publication of further heraldic works in the SCA.
[Cover Letter, Jul 1984 LoAR]

The last evidence I have found for the original Free Trumpet Press was in 1987, at which point operations were moving to the West.

As you all know, ongoing developments in mandated rules and policies have to this point made it inadvisable to embark on a full-scale publication of the Armorial and Ordinary at this time, even if the funds to do so were now available. However, I am glad to announce that, as a result of discussions at the Symposium, an interim Armorial and Ordinary, covering all material registered through the end of A.S. XXI, will be published jointly by the Morsulus Herald and House Markheim with financing from the Free Trumpet Press.
[Cover Letter, June 1987 LoAR]

Free Trumpet Press West was a similar but independent venture, founded by 1987, which was initially affiliated with the College of Heralds in the Kingdom of the West.

As with the original Free Trumpet Press, the largest element of Free Trumpet Press West’s publishing business was producing print copies of the O&A.

In June 1988, a letter from the West’s Vesper Herald to Lochac identifies the current publisher as:

Lord Iathus of Scara… Sea Wolf Herald for the Mists, publisher of the Ordinary and Armorial
[Lochac Heraldic Letter, June 1988]

As of March 1990, the current edition cost $50.

I now have an official price list (dated April 1st [1990]) for publications of Free Trumpet Press, including the SCA Armorial ($25) and Ordinary ($40) now complete through April of Year 23, six-month updates ($5 each), proceedings of several heraldic symposia, The Compleat Russian Name Book ($10), and The West Kingdom Heralds Handbook ($15). If you get the O&A together, there is a $15 discount. … I don’t represent or work for FTP, but you can always ask me questions.
[Iulstan Sigewealding, rec.org.sca, 9 Apr 1990]

The price of the O&A was significantly higher for folks overseas, after factoring in shipping costs for the 1,200 pages, 9 pound tome:

At the time of writing, 25th March, the new Armorial & Ordinary is about to be sent to the printers in the United States, so copies will be available for purchase very soon. It’s a massive 1200 pages, and once you put it in a box for shipping it weighs 4.3kg. … The more copies Thorfinn can sell, the cheaper they’ll be, but in any event don’t expect much change out of $100 [AUD].
[Lochac Heraldic Letter, 18 Mar 1990] 

In the late 1980s and start of the 1990s, Free Trumpet Press West was managed by Iathus of Scara, and that responsibility appears to have been transferred to Iulstan Sigwealding around the same time as the transition of the position of Morsulus Herald, although the two were nominally independent roles.

Printed updates of the O&A were published once or twice a year, and cost $5 at first, later rising to $7.

Lord Morsulus wishes everyone to know that Updates 9 and 10 to the SCA Armorial and Ordinary are now available, through him. The cost, including postage, is $5.00 each; an order form is included with this LoAR.
[Cover Letter, Nov 1992 LoAR]

In addition to the printed O&A, Free Trumpet Press West also distributed the O&A database on diskettes.

“Raw O&A [Ordinary and Armorial] data (3 High Density 3.5″ diskettes, DOS format, ASCII” at $5.00. Price is in U.S. dollars and includes sales tax, shipping and handling.
[rec.org.sca, 29 Mar 1994]

The association of Free Trumpet Press West with the Kingdom of the West’s CoH was still very close in the public imagination as of the early 1990s.

Golem Herald maintains it and the CoH of the West sells copies. (Free Trumpet Press, actually).
[Hal Ravn, rec.org.sca, 4 Mar 1994] 

By the mid 1990s, Free Trumpet Press West was affiliated directly with the College rather than solely with the West, but confusion about the status of Free Trumpet was a recurring point during debates about the operations of the College of Arms.

It is not privately run.
[Daniel de Lincoln, rec.org.sca, 7 Apr 1996]

Later communications from Free Trumpet Press West make a point of emphasizing its nature as part of the SCA.

Free Trumpet Press West (FTPW) is the official publications office of the SCA College of Arms. It is an SCA entity, reporting to the Laurel Sovereign of Arms and the Society Exchequer, not a private business.
[Rory mac Feidhlimidh, Ansteorran Gazette, Oct 2001]

In 1995, Iulstan started a “COA Subscription Service,” which redistributed commentary letters to people who weren’t on the main LoI / LoC mailing list.

Also enclosed from Free Trumpet Press West you will find a letter and release. For all of you who are on the mailing list and produce Letters of Intent, Letters of Comment, Letters of Intent to Protect, and/or Letters of Comments on Comments or Letters of Response, I urge you to read this letter and release carefully, and to sign the release and mail it to Morsulus Herald. This is a service which he is offering to undertake on his own time, and which will make the deliberations of the College available to a wider number of interested parties without adding any expense to the already burdened participants of the College.
[Cover Letter, Aug 1995 LoAR]

This subscription list continued to grow in subsequent months.

Morsulus reports that the subscription service to the CoA correspondence is going strong. It has six subscribers, and mailed out its seventh issue on 17 December. He reports that about 80% [Corrected in a subsequent CL to 20%] of the Mailing List has not given permission for their letters to be redistributed. If you know of anyone not on the Mailing List who would like to receive LoIs and LoCs, please put them in touch with Master Iulstan.
[Cover Letter, Dec 1995 LoAR]

In 1996, Iulstan started looking for a successor to take over the subscription service.

[Iulstan] has also decided, effective the end of the year, to give up the CoA subscription service (but nothing else). If anyone is interested in taking it over from him, please contact him directly.
[Cover Letter, Nov 1996 LoAR]

In 1997, he likewise began looking for a successor to take over the job of selling print publications.

Yulstan Sigewealdeing has been Morsulus Herald (in charge of maintaining the A&O) and selling the A&O’s and other heraldic publications, since 1992. While he is perfectly happy to continue in the Morsulus job, (and Laurel is more than happy with the job he is doing) he would like to find someone else to take over the selling end of the job. If anyone is interested they should contact him for further details on what the job entails. He estimates it takes 200 hours a year, needs a small bedroom or the equivalent to store the merchandise.
[Cover Letter, Jun 1997 LoAR]

Somewhere in the next year or so, Iulstan stepped down and the position of editor for Free Trumpet Press West (sometimes styled “curator”) passed to Rory mac Feidhlimidh.

In the absence of the original venture from the East/Middle, the remaining entity was sometimes referred to simply as Free Trumpet Press. (Indeed, Rory mac Feidhlimidh was living in the Middle, so its nexus of operations were not particularly Western.)

In the late 1990s, although the College of Arms’s reference materials were available online, folks who couldn’t or wouldn’t access them could still purchase printed copies from Free Trumpet Press West.

The Rules for Submission (RfS). … also comes with the Administrative Handbook … The SCA Ordinary (for armory) and Armorial (for names). It’s big, it’s bulky, and you can’t conflict check without it. … Compiled Laurel Precedents … All these are available from Free Trumpet Press West.
[Basic Conflict Checking, Teceangl Bach, Apr 1999]

In 1998, Free Trumpet Press West began distributing the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry As Used in SCA. (Free Trumpet Press West is sometimes listed as the publisher of the PicDic (second edition, 1992), but this seems to be a confusion based on the subsequent distribution deal for what had originally been a self-published work.)

Free Trumpet Press West is now selling the PicDic.
[Cover Letter, Aug 1998 LoAR]

Similarly, as of 2001, they were selling “The Old Norse Name”, by Geirr Bassi Haraldsson, which likewise had been self-published (1977).

A snapshot from 2003 of the web page for Free Trumpet Press West, hosted on the SCA.org server, is available from archive.org, as is a price list from the same era.

At the end of 2003, Free Trumpet Press West announced plans to be folded into the SCA’s own marketplace, known as the “SCA Stock Clerk.”

… as of the end of this year, Free Trumpet Press West will be moving further west… and merging with the SCA, Inc. Marketplace. They will be handling all orders after the beginning of 2004. There should be more details coming from the California office & the Laurel King of Arms about this merger. This combining of the offices has been in the works for over a year, and I’m very glad to see it finally pushed through.”
[Rory mac Feidhlimidh, An Tir Heraldic Newsletter, Nov 2003]

This process was completed in March 2004:

NEWS FLASH: Effective immediately, Free Trumpet Press West (FTPW) is no longer accepting orders. Publications should all shortly be available from the SCA Marketplace.

[Free Trumpet Press West Website, 16 March 2004]

For more than a decade after this merger, the SCA Stock Clerk continued to use the name Free Trumpet Press West in conjunction with their distribution of heraldic publications.

One thought on “A Brief History of Free Trumpet Press”

  1. From the East Kingdom Herald’s Handbook: “The SCA O&A is probably the most important work a herald can have access to. […] It is updated periodically with new information, either in the form of updates added on, or a whole new version. A full O&A costs around $60 in 1994, plus the cost of any current updates (around $6 each). The updates may or may not be useful to you, but the O&A is a must-have book. Be prepared to get some LARGE three-ring binders to hold it together.”

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