Friday, 27 May 2011

Heraldry

Heraldry goes back centuries to the days when knights were identified in battle by the armorial bearings they carried. Heralds kept records which had practical benefit as the authoritative record for purposes of inheritance.

This Ngram for "Heraldry" shows a long-term decline over two centuries. It parallels that for "knight" (not shown).

Today all Canadian citizens or corporate bodies (municipalities, schools, societies, associations, institutions, etc.) may petition to receive a grant of armorial bearings. Having the petition granted is an honour which recognizes the contributions made to the community by the petitioner. While few go to the effort and expense many are curious enough to seek out their "family coat of arms" at kiosks on shopping centres.

With such ancient origins it's little wonder that there are many old books on heraldry. A search on the Internet Archive reveals 918 hits for the word "heraldry". One of them is, according to a blog post by Chris Paton, the original 1909 edition of  A. C. Fox-Davies' book A Complete Guide to Heraldry. Access the work at www.archive.org/details/completeguidetoh00foxduoft. The book which, according to Chris, and presumably in updated editions, is still used as a reference in Scottish universities.

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