All of the Field Only Armory

The publication of this year’s updates to the Field Only Armoury Project are as good reason as any to point people towards this fabulous resource.

Vémundr Syvursson of An Tir has illustrated all 270 field-only badges and devices in the SCA’s heraldic database — all of the armory that consists only of a divided or decorated field, often with various complex lines, treatments, and furs, but without any heraldic charges arranged on top.

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Identifying Charge Groups Revisited

Four years ago I posted an adaptation of Yehuda ben Moshe’s “Charge Group Theory” flowchart, intended to guide people in classifying the elements in an armorial design.

The chart I posted was slightly simplified, but I worried that it still might be daunting for beginners, and the recent occasion of teaching a class on charge-group analysis provided a good excuse to revisit it.

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Ordinaries, Divisions, and Arrangements Revisited

Six years ago I posted a fun little chart that highlights the relationship between the terms we use for ordinaries and the related divisions, arrangements, and orientations.

Recently I made a few minor updates to the chart, the most notable of which was to add a column for the corresponding multiple divisions, such as barry and bendy.

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A Concordance of Heraldic Terminology

TL;DR: The International Heraldry Phrasebook provides translations of 500 blazon terms between six different languages.

When reviewing documents about medieval and early-modern European armory, it’s quite common to encounter blazons in languages other than English. In some cases, automated translation tools such as Google’s will suffice, but the degree of specialized heraldic jargon sometimes exceeds their grasp, or yields a confusing jumble that doesn’t resemble a workable blazon.

In the middle of the last century, the short book Vocabulaire-Atlas Heraldic, by Gaston Ferdinand Laurent Stalins, attempted to address a similar need by providing a concordance of over 500 terms, showing their equivalents in each of English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch, along with corresponding illustrations.

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On Contrast for Furs and Proper

There’s a widespread claim in modern heraldic circles that furs and proper charges are neutral for contrast purposes (eg Wikipedia on the Rule of Tincture), and many of them cite this passage from Fox-Davies:

Furs may be placed upon either metal or colour, as may also any charge which is termed proper.

AC Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909), p 86.

With all due respect to Fox-Davies, generally considered the leading light of Victorian-era English heraldry, I think this is a bad call.

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Populace Badge of Northpass

Back in 2018 I provided some support for the Canton of Northpass’s efforts to design and register a populace badge, but due to some other drama I somehow never got around to posting about it.

With the news that the Canton of Northpass will soon be reinstated, I thought it was fitting to dust off those emblazons and make them accessible again.

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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. Continue reading “Descriptions for Field Division Directions”

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).

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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.

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