Skulls in Period Heraldry

Human skulls (and death’s heads: skulls lacking the lower jaw) are very rare charges in period heraldry, but they do show up occasionally. The following is a rundown of all the examples I’ve found so far.

The earliest examples are the attributed arms of Awil-Marduk, son of Nebuchadnezzar II, which started appearing in armorials in the mid-15th C (usually recorded as Ewfullmer or something similar).

Starting in the late 15th C, there are also occasional examples of a skull (or death’s head) used in the attributed arms of death.

As for arms that may have been borne by actual people, the earliest example I’ve found so far is a death’s head in the arms of Francesco Carosio, Bishop of Melfi, as they appear in the Chronicles of the Council of Constance. The earliest version of the Chronicles I’ve found the arms in date to 1483, almost 70 years after the Council, so it’s possible these aren’t an accurate representation of the Bishop’s arms.

In the 16th C we find a couple more examples. In France we have the arms of the Count of Macoy with a skull holding a bone in its mouth;  and in Germany the arms of Coeis(?), a death’s-head with a lily-of-the-valley plant.

And finally, edging into the early 17th century, there’s a German example in a crest from 1603, and the Italian arms of Bonifaci from c. 1605.

Another Big Armorials Update

I’ve added over 70 new sources today, so I’ll just mention some highlights.

In the French section we have the 16th C Blasons de Bretagne, which offers some interesting insight into a regional heraldic style that is generally not showcased.

A lot of the French sources I found were collections of the arms of the Knights of the Round table and treatises. Since I had a bunch of both of these already, and since neither of them are the best examplars of period armorial style, I’ve separated them into their own sections.

There were a few neat German finds. There’s a 15th C Wappenbuch (München, BSB, Hss Cgm 8030) with over 2500 items. I noticed a large amount of overlap with Grünenberg, both in content and organization, so I suspect it’s from sometime in the second half of the 15th C.

Then there’s a Wappenbuch from the 15th or 16th C (the art style suggests 15th C, but some of the content seems like it’s from the 2nd half of the 16th C to me, so it’s tough to call) with over 500 items (Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Fol. 221).

And another Wappenbuch that is dated by the musem as simply 16th C, but based on the number of items in it that I’ve only ever seen in alba amicorum I suspect it’s  closer to the end of that period, which contains over 2500 items (Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Fol 223)

There’s also a Wappenbuch from Cologne in the 2nd half of the 16th C (Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln, A 99). It’s very roughly sketched, with tricking indicating the tinctures along with sporadic painting. It’s theorized that it was a workbook for an heraldic artist.

And finally from Germany is Stuttgarter Schiessen (Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Cod.hist.fol.165), a book celebrating a shooting competition in 1562, which has some amazing heraldic art.

One of the new sources added to the Italian section is the lovely Priorista, a catalogue of the priors of Florence. I looked up some of the corresponding arms in Insignia Florentinorum, and it’s fascinating to compare styles between the two.

The biggest component of this update is 39 new alba amicorum, which offer an excellent selection of bizarre heraldry – the below are from Eberhard Werll, Leonhard Bininger, and Johann Georg Nocker, respectively.

Great Britain

France

Germany

Italy

Iberia

Album Amicorum

Treatises

Knights of the Round Table

Giant Update to ‘Period Armorials Online’

The full list of the 66 new additions is at the bottom of this post, but first some highlights.

Armoriaux et copies de pièces concernant spécialement les Flandres, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 22485) is an unfinished armorial with a lot of uncoloured line drawings that would make for excellent templates.

Confréries de la Cour amoureuse et de l’Épinette ; Traité de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 10469) has a small treatise in the middle, but is mostly real, and nicely drawn, armory.

Recueil de blasons peints, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 17256) is well worth a look. Gorgeous artwork and unusual charges, such as violets, snails, and a mirror. It also has quite a decent selection of Iberian heraldry.

Traité de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 6128) is unfinished; most of the arms haven’t even been inked, so are effectively pencil sketches. Heraldic artists will find this one particularly interesting.

And speaking of heraldic art, I’ll let Traité de blason, avec de nombreuses armoiries coloriées, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5231) speak for itself.

German Armorial, c 1447-1449 (London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS774) has artwork that is fairly typical of the time (the same artist is responsible for some of the Ingeram Codex), but considering how heavily weighted the German list is towards the 16th C, it’s nice to have some more 15th C examples.

I’m pleased to have added 5 new items to the Iberia section, including Blasón de armas, 1601 Spanish (Biblioteca Histórica de la USAL, Ms. 1683), which has many of its blazons in a Spanish poetic style called copla real (I’m a sucker for heraldry that rhymes); and the charmingly poorly drawn Tratado del blasón/Linages de España, 1464 Spanish (Madrid, Real Biblioteca, II/86).

I’ve also added 18 new items to the Alba Amicorum section, including the earliest one I’ve found so far, that of Johann Hegenmüller (1533-1566), which contains an owl displayed; plus that of Janus Dousa (1563-1597) with a dragon’s jambe; and that of Kurt von Knöringen (1587-1598) with fox’s tails in saltire.

Great Britain

  • Scottish Armorial, c 1560-1625 Scottish (London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS316)
  • La liste des seigneurs, barons, chevaliers et gentilshommes, envoyez en France par Elizabeth, c 1572 English

France

  • Livret de blazon, 15th C French (Paris, BnF, Français 2475)
  • Recueil d’armoiries peintes, armoiries des rois, princes, ducs, comtes, etc., 15th C French (Paris, BnF, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Ms-4800)
  • Recueil de généalogies, 15th C French (Paris, BnF, Français 5472)
  • Traité à l’usage des rois d’armes, 1454-1500 French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5241)
  • Traité de blason, c 1492 French (University of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, MSS 01026)
  • Recueil de blasons coloriés, 1501-1525 French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5937)
  • Armorial de France et traités de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. NAF 1075)
  • Armorial de Flandre et du Hainaut, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. NAF 25664)
  • Armorial et traités de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. NAF 4381)
  • Armoriaux et copies de pièces concernant spécialement les Flandres, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 22485)
  • Confréries de la Cour amoureuse et de l’Épinette ; Traité de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 10469)
  • Français 1435, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 1435)
  • Français 1438, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 1438)
  • Français 5470, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5470)
  • Généalogie de la maison de Dreux et de Brayne, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 2784)
  • Histoire généalogique des comtes d’Auvergne et de Boulogne, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. 5227)
  • Le second volume de la premiere partye du blason d’armoiries, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Ms-5255)
  • L’institution de l’Ordre de la treshaute, tresillustre et trespuissante maison de Savoye, 16th C French (Bibliothèques municipales de Chambéry, MSS B 000.618)
  • Recueil concernant le blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Fran çais 5939)
  • Recueil de blasons peints, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 17256)
  • Recueil de documents concernant les maisons de Boulogne et d’Auvergne, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 4652)
  • Receuil de la généalogie de la noble maison de Luxembourg, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 22481)
  • Recueil de traités et pièces diverses concernant le blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5242)
  • Recueil sur les armoiries et les tournois, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Ms-5027)
  • Statuts de l’ordre de la Toison d’Or, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5235)
  • Statuts de l’ordre de la Toison d’Or, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5236)
  • Traité de blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 6128)
  • Traité de blason, avec de nombreuses armoiries coloriées, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 5231)
  • Traité de blason et recueil d’armoiries, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 11463)
  • Traité de l’art du blason, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. 2776)
  • Trésor des Armoiries, 16th C French (Paris, BnF, ms. Dupuy 259)
  • Armoriaux de la table ronde, 1525-1545 French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 1436)
  • Les Armories et enseignes du souverene et compagnions du tresnoble ordre de la Jarretiere, c 1572 French (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 14653)

Germany

  • German Armorial, c 1447-1449 German (London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS774)
  • Concilium zu Constanz, 1483 German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 97)
  • Coats of arms of Nuremberg families, 16th C German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 17)
  • Schönbartbuch, 16th C German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 18)
  • Das Concilium, so zu Constanz gehalten ist worden, 1536 German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 669)
  • Das Sächsische Stammbuch, 1546 German (Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden – Mscr.Dresd.R.3)
  • Bericht vnd Antzaigen der loblichen Statt Augspurg aller Herren Geschlecht, 1550 German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 690)
  • Der Geschlechter von Fürsten, Graffen, Herrn, vnd vom Adel, Wappen mit Schilten vnd Helmen, c 1573 German (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 709)

Italy

  • Descrittione del regno di Napoli, 1586 Italian

Iberia

  • Tratado del blasón/Linages de España, 1464 Spanish (Madrid, Real Biblioteca, II/86)
  • Nobiliario perfetamente copylado [y] ordenado, 1492 Spanish (Library of Congress, Rosenwald 580)
  • Linajes de España, 16th C Spanish (Madrid, Real Biblioteca, II/3076)
  • Blasón de armas, 1601 Spanish (Biblioteca Histórica de la USAL, Ms. 1683)
  • Crònica de cavallers cathalans, 1603 Spanish (Universitat de Barcelona. CRAI. Manuscrit. Ms. 84)

Alba Amicorum

  • 1533-1566: Johann Hegenmüller (Muzeum Jindřichohradecka, S 0090)
  • 1561-1565: Georg Weis (Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg. MS.6.667)
  • 1563-1597 Janus Dousa (Leiden University Libraries BPL 1406)
  • 1570-1572: Frederik Van Reede (KU Leuven Libraries Special Collections, Ms. 1992) – Dutch
  • 1579-1600: Daniel Rindfleisch (Universitätsbibliothek Rostock, Mss. Meckl. P 60)
  • 1581-1587: Conrad Kechler von Schwandorf (Paris, BnF, Latin 18599)
  • 1582-1605: Friedrich IV. von der Pfalz (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 120)
  • 1582-1610: Henrik Frankelin (Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala, Y52)
  • 1583-1586: Hessel Beshemius (Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala, Y29k)
  • 1584-1607: Caspar von Schatz (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg, Cod. In scrin. 198a) – Austrian
  • 1585-1595: Elizabeth Buycken (Paris, BnF, Smith-Lesouëf 85) – Dutch
  • 1586: de Beaullart (Paris, BnF, Français 14561) – French
  • 1587-1598: Kurt von Knöringen (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 608)
  • 1591-1616: Johann Gastel (Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala, Y55)
  • 1595-1597: Joachimi a Loss (Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht Hs 10 B 19)
  • 1596-1612: Johann Müllegg de Nuremberg (Paris, BnF, Allemand 362)
  • 1598: Christoph von Haugwitz (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg Cod. Pal. germ. 621)
  • 1598-1601: Oswald Keller (Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala, Y55)

Armorials Update

A few updates to the armorial already, bringing the total up to 246 items.

First up we have the 16th C German Koloriertes Wappenbuch, (Universität Tübingen, Universitätsbibliothek, Md 247-[1, 2, 3, 4]), spread over 4 volumes:

This one is pretty amazing. It has a unique art style and a lot of interesting arms. A few examples:

A dove atop a death’s head (with peacock feathers coming out of the eye-sockets for some reason) – Volume 1, p.285
An adorable snail – Volume 1 p.294
A monkey learning its ABCs – Volume 1 p.438

The library gives the date as simple “16th C”, but based on how much overlap the arms have with those in ‘Siebmacher’, I suspect this is quite near the end of that date range.

Next is Genealogie- und Wappenbuch, 1524 German (Universität Tübingen Universitätsbibliothek, Mc 250)

Being a genealogy this repeats a lot of arms, but it has enough variety to keep it interesting. It also has a simple art style that would work well for creating digital heraldic art:

Fers-de-loup, a bear, and a cauldron, from ‘Genealogie- und Wappenbuch’ p.200

Also from Germany, from the 2nd half of the 16th C, is Schembartbuch und Wappenbuch der ratsfähigen Geschlechter der Reichsstadt Nürnberg (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Merkel Hs 2° 1046)

This one is mostly uncoloured, but the line drawings have a lots= of potential as a source for artwork. After f.71r the shields are blank.

Schembartbuch, folios 11r and 25r

And finally in the main German section there’s Meissnische Land und Berg-Chronica, a printed book from 1589 with a nice collection of arms between pages 423 and 445.

To the French section I added another edition of Jerome de Bara’s Le blason des armoiries, this one from 1581 (Paris, BnF, département Réserve des livres rares, RES-V-626). It has much clearer images than the 1579 edition that’s already there.

And in Stammbücher I added the Stammbuch of Jodocus Nagel. It only has 3 shields, on pages 12, 388, and 402.