ANSTHRLD - period style reference
werisman at mail.utexas.edu
Sun Feb 15 15:12:17 PST 1998
Below is a short guide to period-style armory I wrote while I was
Sigillarius. Feel free to copy and distribute as you please.
Period Heraldic Style
This style sheet is a very basic resource intended to encourage the use of
more period style armory in the SCA. The suggestions in it are based on
Anglo-Norman heraldry prior to the sixteenth century, the style of armory
used by the College of Arms as the basis for its Rules for Submission.
Following these suggestions will not guarantee that a piece of armory will
be registered by the College of Arms but will improve the style and reduce
the chances of return for non-period style.
I. Use easily identifiable charges.
Charges in medieval heraldry were very stylized and thus immediately
recognizable. Avoid very detailed or naturalistic depictions of charges.
Draw complex lines of division big and bold. Identifiability can also be
enhanced by the use of default postures for animate charges. In medieval
heraldry, lions were nearly always rampant or passant, eagles displayed,
and martlets close. Avoid postures such as dormant that reduce the
identifiability of animate charges.
II. Use groups of identical charges in symmetrical arrangements.
Charge groups in period heraldry contained several identical charges
arranged around the horizontal or vertical axis of the shield or around an
ordinary. Avoid mirror symmetry, a modern rather than a medieval concept.
III. Use arrangements that fill the available space.
Groups of charges should be arranged according to the space they fill.
Charges surrounding ordinaries thus tend to vary in number depending on
which ordinary is used. Fesses and chevrons usually have three charges (two
and one) around them; crosses and saltires have four. Bends often have six
charges around them, three on either side, arranged to fill whatever space
the form of display allows (on a heater, the arrangement would be two and
one above the bend and three in bend below it). Charges should also be
drawn to fit the space available. With groups of identical charges, some
may be drawn smaller or larger to fill in extra space.
IV. Make cants on surname.
Canting arms were very common in the Middle Ages and reflected a pun on the
bearers surname. These puns were sometimes quite subtle. The family of
Valence, for example, bore martlets on their arms, punning on the French
word for flying, "volans." Most unusual charges in period heraldry are
cants, and canting charges are usually the central charges on a device.
V. Keep devices simple.
Simplicity is central to period style heraldry. Many period devices can be
described with blazons of ten words or less. Period devices also tend to
have a complexity count of six or less (counting the number of tinctures
and the number of types of charges). Another way to keep devices simple is
to use only one unusual or complex charge or treatment on any device
1) Use purpure and vert sparingly and not in the same device.
2) Avoid excessive counterchanging.
3) Use multipart divisions such as checky, barry, and bendy for fields
and, occasionally, for charges.
4) Do not place ordinaries over corresponding field divisions.
5) Avoid charges placed overall.
6) Use a single group of identical charges repeated three or six times,
especially for canting.
7) Use strewn charges (semy), but keep them simple and dont cover them up
8) Make badges fieldless.
Daud ibn Auda, "Period Style: An Introduction," Proceedings of the Known
World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, Kingdom of Trimaris, A.S. XXIX.
Aodhan Ite an Fhithich, "Heraldic Design: Theoretical and Practical Aspects
for the Branch Herald," Dobharchu Publishing.
Hilary of Serendip, "The Philosophical Roots of Heraldic Design," The Known
Frederick of Holland and Eilis OBoirne, "Heraldry in the SCA," The Known
Go to http://www.ansteorra.org/lists.html to perform mailing list tasks.
More information about the Heralds