05 June 2008

Warwick The Kingmaker, Or One Reason This Project Will Be A Bit More Difficult Than It Would Otherwise Seem


The head of Lancastrian forces at Barnet was Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (which, in honorable British tradition, we pronounce Warrick). He was called Kingmaker because after the death of his father he was the most influential land owner in England and lent his miltary support toward making his cousin, Edward IV, King of England.

Whichever side he would have been on, he was considered a force to be reckoned with.

While researching blazons (which we will remind are the concise and exact textual descriptions of coats of arms) Nevilles is one of the first. Now, rolls of arms such as the one pictured in the blog's header here can be fairly simple to lay out. A simple grid. But, like the presence of Warwick changed the terms of the battle, the presence of Warwick's coat changes the terms of the layout. Here's his coat:

Earl Of Warwick's Coat: 1st Grand Quarter, Beauchamp and Clare; 2nd GQ, Montague and Monthermer; 3rd GQ, Warwick with a Label of three; 4th GQ: Warwick and LeDespencer

Whole lot of stuff going on then, yes?

What you are looking at there is a little scheme called quartering, which seemed to be typically done to represent claims to family lines. In this case, the good Earl's arms say that he is heir to no less than six family lines outside of his own (which is represented by the lower left hand quarter, the only one with a single coat design). Outside of that lower left quarter it should be noted that each quarter is quartered further to unite two family's coats into a single design each; each one of these are grand quarters.

In identifying each quarter it is helpful to keep the following diagram in mind:


This is the way we identify quarters in blazon. We say 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Quarters. Basically rather simple in concept. The grand quarters are similarly divided.

Making a long story short, here's the rundown (facts gleaned via The General Armory of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, p. 727, by Sir Bernard Burke, C.B., LL. D., Ulster King of Arms, ISBN 0-7884-0558-6, published in 1996 by Heritage Books:

  1. In the first grand quarter, we have the coats for Beauchamp (pronounced "beecham") and Clare. The convention here is when two families arms are displayed in quarters, the first name mentioned is the coats in 1st and 4th quarters, the second name is 2nd and 3rd. So Beauchamp is in the upper right and lower left, and Clare is in the upper left and lower right.
  2. In the second grand quarter, the coats for Montagu (or Montacute in the Armory) and Monthermer.
  3. In the third grand quarter we find the personal arms of Richard Neville.
  4. In the fourth grand quarter are the arms for Warwick and Le Despencer.

If the reader will permit me to indulge in a bit of blazon, just for the sake of practice:

  • Beauchamp: Gules, between six crosses crosslet a fess Or.
  • Clare: Cheky Or and azure, a chevron ermine.
  • Montagu: Argent, three lozenges gules.
  • Monthermer: Or, an eagle vert, armed gules (notably the eagle is in German style, with the wings typical of that style ... the curved detail within the wing ending in a small cloverleaf shape is called kleestengl, and is reputed to be a stylization of the wing bones)
  • Richard Neville: Gules, a saltire argent, overall a label of three points. (note: my blazon is rather weak here. British tradition seems to hold some significance in decorating the label, which explains why those blue bars are on the label's points, but I have no idea what they mean. More on the label ... which is that band with the three ribbons hanging down, later). Another way to say this would be recursively: Neville differenced by a label of three points, which simplifies the blazon significantly but, lacking the illustration, requires research to find out what the original Neville arms were (in this case, the white X on the red field).
  • Warwick: Or, three chevronels gules.
  • Le Despencer: Quarterly, argent and gules, a fret Or, overall a bend sable.

Reviewing the previous posts in this blog, I note that I've said not all that much on the colors and shapes (or as armorists say, tinctures and ordinaries ) contained therein. This may be a good time to lay out some ground rules on that as well as I know them, but that should be reserved, I think, for the next discourse. This one has gone pretty far afield as it is.

Back to what was putatively the subject of this post. The viewing of Warwick's arms changes the rules here. We have made some preliminary estimates of layout and design which are being reconsidered. The mere complexity of Warwick's coat makes obvious that we cannot simply do a small coat or a coat that is the same size as other coats. Since we are going to be doing this in tempera on parchment this will be an adventure indeed.

And, my instructor reminds me, we will be doing two copies. And in the Middle Ages, there were no Kinko's. So once we create one, we will be creating another.

But this does open rather exciting new avenues for layout possibilities, if only because we can, for example, make Warwick's coat the centerpiece of a layout and array his supporter's coats about them in a style suggestive of who followed who.

But regardless of his complexity we can at least be thankful that he's not Lloyd of Stockton, which famously has 323 quarterings (see Ottfried Neubecker's Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning, ISBN 1-85501-908-6, pub. 1997, Tiger Books, London, page 95 in all its gory glory) or the 719 quarterings of the arms of the Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville family, which can be seen in the Wikipedia entry on Quarterings (or you can just go straight to this dog's breakfast, lunch and dinner here ... but a warning, it's ooooogly!)


  1. The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Sir Bernard Burke, C.B., LL.D., Ulster King of Arms. ISBN 0-7884-0558-6, 1998, Heritage Books
  2. Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning, Ottfried Neubecker, ISBN 1-85501-908-6, 1997, Tiger Books
  3. Wikipedia article on Heraldic Quartering, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartering_(heraldry)
  4. Wikipedia article on Richard Neville, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Neville%2C_16th_Earl_of_Warwick

Important Note On Wikipedia references:

We do not suggest that Wikipedia references are utterly dependable, but we do use them for conveniences sake after we have been satisfied that they do not contain erroneous information. For instance, we have confidence that the entry on Neville has correct arms, since this agrees with what Burke's Armory has.

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08 May 2008

About Tempera

15. The medium of employment for the project will be tempera.

Today, we find paints called tempera, or poster paints, on art store shelves quite commonly. This tempera vulgaris is decidedly not the same as classical tempera, which we will be using here; it is more like bodycolor, or gouache, which is essentially watercolor mixed with a substance such as chalk or diatomaceous earth to make it opaque. This common tempera, found frequently in elementary school art classes, is far enough away from classical tempera that it's a toll call.

Indeed, when speaking of classical tempera we usually say egg tempera. The word tempera itself, according to author Ian Sidaway in the highly commendable reference book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Art Materials, (a link to this exists on our references list to Amazon so you can buy it) is:

...the word given to the technique whereby pigment is prepared for painting, or "tempered" by mixing with egg yolk and distilled water.

Anyone who's ever tried to clean dried egg yolk off anything knows full well what a durable and sticky emulsion this can be. Tempera gives a thin, hard layer of color that is very durable but is not very flexible; typically period artists painted on a rigid surface, such as wooden panels.

A Bit Of Media History

Tempera was the dominant art medium since the decline of encaustic, which apparently happened around the same time as the fall of the Roman empire (about the 3rd Century AD) and held sway until the development of traditional oil paint in the 15th Century (Vasari seems to credit Jan Van Eyck with discovering it; certainly it seems that he at the very least rediscovered and perfected it). All easel painting done before then was done in egg-based tempera, including all the great and well-known masters of the time.

Making Tempera

While egg tempera is available in tubes pre-made, in order to copy the experience of our medieval cousins as closely as possible, we will be making our own. The general look to be as follows (llustrations excerpted from Sidaway's book):

A basic recipe for tempera emulsion that we might concievably use is as follows:

  • 3 parts egg yolk
  • 3 parts distilled water
  • 1 part linseed oil

Add the linseed oil to the egg yolk a drop at a time, using an eyedropper, and stirring all the time. Once mixed, add the distilled water in the same way, stirring gently until throughly mixed.

A pertinent question here is how much egg to use. One of the points that all the references we've seen make repeatedly is that mixed tempera does not really keep well, or if does is more trouble that it's worth to do, so the recommended amount to make is what one will need at a single session. Sidaway suggests one egg should do the trick, so according to the above recipe, if we'd use one egg yolk, we'd use an equal volume of distilled water, and 1/3rd of that of linseed oil.

Purists hold that to stay to the true one must limit themselves to only yolk and water, but experimentation down the years has proven that the addition of ingredients such as linseed oil, "stand oil" (linseed oil that has been heat treated to polymerize the oil molecules) or varnish can give benefits such as improved workability, flow, or slow drying. During a recent Google search, we were able to find out a small handful of different recipes, so with experience and experimentation, artists can be pretty sure to find an emulsion recipe that works for them.

Care must also be taken in the tools used to prepare the emulsion and keep the chances of contamination at thier minimum. Glass and ceramic vessels are recommended; tools and hands must be scrupulously clean, and metal tools are not recommended for mixing the emulsion.

Preparing the Yolk

Preparing the yolk for use is a simple process but likely not many have been exposed to it. We ourselves recall our mother separating yolk from white by cracking the egg and tipping the contents between the two shell halves. This stage of the process is quite similar.

Once cracked, pour the contents into clean hands. Roll the egg's contents from hand to hand. As you do so, the white will drain off (presumably you have a receptacle under your hands at this point), leaving you in short order with the yolk, alone. Dry this yolk by either rolling it around on your hand, or carefully rolling it onto a paper towel.

At this point comes the time to drain the yolk from its natural container. Hold the yolk carefully by its sac (this is why you want to use absolutely the freshest eggs you can find; not only are fresh eggs more workable, but the yolk sac is strongest when the egg is fresh), puncture it with a scalpel or a craft knife, and drain the contents into a glass jar or dish.

Follow the instructions on whatever recipe you're using to mix in distilled water and whatever oil or varnish you'll be using, and your emulsion will be ready for the pigment.

Preparing the Pigment

Dry pigments are sold as finely ground powders, but a common approach to improve the properties of the resulting tempera is to grind them with a small amount of distilled water to produce a creamy paste.

The paste is ground on a ground glass plate using a ground glass muller, then adding to the emulsion a little at a time.

Once the pigment is successfully mixed with the emulsion, the tempera is ready for use.

By way of final observations, we are still researching exactly how one would go forward from using the mixed tempera. From what we've seen, a little goes a long way, and some colors can be preground and kept for a while, while others should only be mixed on the palette at the time of use. Different recipes require different strategies for storage, and some colors are more powerful than others meaning you'll use more of some pigments and less of others.

Along the way, we've found some interesting web-based references. Check our list of links in the sidebar, and following this is a list of references we've consulted while putting this article together.

Reference Links:

  1. Society of Tempera Painters on making tempera
  2. Watercolorpainting.com's tempera reference
  3. Daniel Smith's tempera making page (includes valuable information on how the dry pigments behave)
  4. Some Tempera History (Brandywine Museum Article)
  5. More Tempera History (Courtesy VanAken Artist Colors)
  6. Scribal Writes #7, Article on Making Tempera

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07 May 2008

Heraldic Achievements in 3D

14. Yes, the Barnet Roll research is proceeding. Not apace, perhaps, but proceeding. We've found out a great deal about tempera, about how to make it and what goes into it, and are beginning to assemble the blazons needed to draw the coats themselves.

We also know now about how vellum and parchment get made. Maybe a little too much, but arts and crafts during medieval times were nasty, brutish, and short. Or something.

Anyway, it had occurred to me that one stop we ought to make is in the matter of heraldic display. There are many misconceptions about what is called what and why and what it all means. While heraldic design within the bounds of the shield (or if you want to be technically correct, the escutcheon) need not necessarily mean anything – looking distinctive is the point here – the froufrou that surrounds the shield do have meanings, and certainly in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The various parts of the complete heraldic display – also known as the achievement – are awarded according to a hierarchy of dignities, with J. Random SCAdian who hasn't done anything significant yet at the bottom, and the peerage orders – Laurels, Pelicans, Knights and the like – in the lofty heights. Simply put, the more you got, the more you get. There is a gradient progression, and we'll define and get familiar with that in a future article.

For the moment, refer to this article by Torric inn Bjorn (and further updated by Mistress Elizabeth Braidwood and Lord Frederic Badger). It's a very useful and fast introduction to the achievement system, and some terms from it we will use in the discussion to follow.

Achievements in 3-D

The Dame Giuliana Benevoli is a valued and beloved acquaintance of ours (and incidentally the lady of our honored instructor, Ciaran Cluana Ferta). The An Tir Roll of Arms blazons her registered arms as such:

Per chevron sable mullety argent and gules, a sun in splendor Or.
This results in the display you can see illustrated here. When considering the full achievement, we find that she is entitled to quite a lot. Dame Giuliana is a member of the Order of the Laurel, a dignity given for continued excellence in the arts and sciences, and, according to the article referenced above, she is entitled to display a helm, crest, torse, mantling, compartment, motto, and supporters, amongst other things.

Unlike within the bounds of the shield, armigers are allowed a bit more freedom in what they can choose as elements of thier achievement. Of course, the elements must be correct for SCA period, but within that rubric, the sky is kind of the limit.

We don't have a drawing of her achievement available, but we do have a 3-dimensional dramatization, as pictured thus:


What we have here is an assemblage of the elements in 3-dimensional relief, which is accomplished in a really strikingly beautiful way. Dame Giuliana has chosen to realize the crest, the helm, the torse and mantling, the compartment, and the motto. All in all, a very charming display.

Let's take some close looks.

Her dexter supporter is a sable unicorn with an Or horn and argent mane (we would say "crined argent"). Here's a closer look at that beast:


Her sinister supporter is a heraldic beast called a pantheon. This is a creature with the body of a hind (a red doe deer), a bushy tail as a fox, cloven hooves, and whose body is strewn with stars. No, we don't know why, because of all the heraldic history that was recorded, what the heralds were imbibing whilst working never was marked down.

Anyway, the pantheon:


The artist has the number of the pantheon, that seems apparent. Make special note of the wreath of green leaves encircling the beast's neck: Dame Giuliana is entitled to display this as her rank allows her to display a laurel wreath gorging (being displayed about the neck) one of her supporters.

Another element allowed her is the stuff on the top: the helm (that should be obvious), mantling, and a torse which functions to hold the mantling on the helm. Here's a close look at that:


Note here the torse. It's a bit like a twisted pair of scarves and is in the two dominant colors of her device – gules (red) and Or (gold). This is also heraldic tradition. The mantling – the streamers– are similarly colored. The sun atop the helm is also important.

This is the crest, and is said to have been a jousting accessory; it's said that it was used in tournaments and to knock a knights crest off his helm (they were designed to break away) was to have scored a point. Quite a few crests, in our experience, recapitulate some element of the device design or, in this case, is the armiger's badge, though that's not a hard and fast rule; your crest can be anything appropriately period.

We like the idea of a demi-maiden for ours. The last part of the display is the compartment, and for this, the artist has really come up with a clever way to do it and t include the actual motto scrolls as well:


This ordinary wooden plaque has been charmingly taken to the next level by the addition of a tile mosaic, fleurs-de-lis, and two mottoes on actual curled paper scrolls:


Which is a wonderfully witty way of making the scroll of the graphic display concrete and real. What the whole point of this is is to give some sort of an idea as to why heraldic display is fun and cool and how it contributes to the overall feeling and atmosphere of the medieval mien we of the SCA claim.

Whether or not you care to go creative or have any interest in obtaining arms at all, isn't this just plain neat? The passion the creator has for her life in the SCA comes through in productions like this – we find it exciting, and we're pretty sure we've never seen anything quite like it. Good heraldry contributes to the game we all play as SCA members.

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20 February 2008

Heraldic News: Do Not Taunt The Lord Lyon

13. Heraldic practice, to be effective, requires regulation. There are Colleges of Arms in many countries (even a private one here in America) and famously the one in England. The Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, though, is the only one which we are aware of which carries authority to levy civil fines and penalties in the event you use unregistered heraldic bearings.

That's right. If you use arms in Scotland and you don't have them registered, you'll get written a ticket for your troubles.

The Court of the Lord Lyon is the heraldic authority in Scotland; it's leader, Lyon King of Arms (a/k/a Lord Lyon) is its judge. It has sat in daily operations for more than four hundred years.

Latterly Donald Trump has designs on a new golfing resort in the Land of the Bruce, and developed a coat of arms to use as a logo. Inevitably, since it's such a newsworthy development, it happened that the Lord Lyon Court got wind of this.

An investigation has been started. Via the BBC:

The Court of the Lord Lyon invoked a law dating from 1672 which means Mr Trump must register a coat of arms.

A spokeswoman for Mr Trump said they were working with the court to register the coat of arms.

The businessman has been using the banner on promotional material and official clothing while mounting his bid to create the resort at the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.

Just because you're Donald Trump, it doesn't mean you can flout over four hundred years of tradition. Four hundred years from now (climate change notwithstanding) Trump will be a footnote in history, but the Lord Lyon will still be here, God willing.

Matriculation: it's not just a good idea, it's the law!

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05 February 2008

More Information on the Battle Of Barnet

12. The American branch of the Richard III Society (who knew he had a society devoted to historical scholarship on the man, much less an American branch?) has an excruciatingly detailed article on the Battle of Barnet written by a member here.

I'm getting through it little by little. Much more a hands on amateur historian, the eyes do tend to glaze over a bit. Military history has never been my forte.

But it's fantastic source information.

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24 January 2008

Beginning to Compile The Names

11. Nota Bene on the sidebar there are two sections; one labelled The Yorkists, the other, The Lancastrians. They are now partially complete.

The Wars of the Roses, without going to a complete exposition right now, were the epic struggle between the English noble houses Lancaster and York. Each well-known name supported one side or the other.

Tonight in conversation with my instructor we began collecting the names necessary to begin to track down the heraldry. So, we have the following.

For the Yorkists, the list stands currently:

  • King Edward IV
  • Richard III, Duke of Gloucester
  • Lord Hastings
  • George, Duke of Clarence
  • Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers

On the Lancastrian side:

  • Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
  • John de Vere, Earl of Oxford
  • John Neville, Marquess of Montagu
  • Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
  • A Somerset of some description, but we're a little unsure on this one
  • John Paston

European royalty has always had the reputation of being, regardless of nationality or partisanship, a big extended family which is in one way or another related to each other. It so happens that George, Duke of Clarence was Edward IV's brother, and Richard Neville's son-in-law. Moreover, it's no accident that John Neville's byname is the same as Richards; John is his younger brother.

Richard III was, as a matter of fact, that Richard III, the "Sun of York", the one who the Bard did that play on ... that fellow whose winter was so discontented.

The name John Paston is of some importance outside of Barnet and the Wars of the Roses. The Paston Letters, an important British historical compilation, comprise the correspondence of the Paston family between the years 1422 and 1509, giving an important window on those times.

Amongst other locations we will be scouring for names would be Joseph Foster's Feudal Coats (known under a variety of names), which is a beautiful if rather flawed record (though correct where we need it to be) and Wikipedia's listings on important people of the year 1471.

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22 January 2008

Creating The Roll has Joined ORBlogs

10. A bit of administration is called for, so we'll step out from behind the curtain for a moment and assume modern voice.

I've just been notified that this blog has been accepted as one listed on the ORBlogs omnibus. For those whose connection with local blogs – or any blog – is this one, what ORBlogs (a free service run for the last four or more years by blogGod Paul Bausch, who apparently lives on good karma to our inestimable benefit) is is an aggregation site for blogs by Oregonians – of which I am one (an Oregonian, not a blog).

Principally this will make my blog more easily findable by Oregon and Washington surfers who would be apt to enjoy this content ... for those who like this sort of thing, this would be just the sort of thing they should like.

In the interests of full disclosure, this blog persona (Sebastian zem Sterne) is the same person who runs the vastly underrated The ZehnKatzen Times, if I may be so bold as to say. And I can, because this is my blog. So I do.

Back to the medieval crazyness.

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Email Subscriptions Enabled

9. I've tried the email subscription box myself and it seems to work okay. I noticed an error message on subscribing, but I don't think that will prevent anyone from getting updates.

Coming up, we're going to be taking a deeper look at what goes into the making of vellum. We will be looking in depth at the information the Lady Tegan has graciously provided me. Also, my instructor has directed me to get a first hand view if possible, and that's in the works.

Stay tuned to this scroll for further details.

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20 January 2008

An Example of a Roll of Arms

8. With all the interesting terminology flying about, what a Roll of Arms is is almost surprisingly straightforward. As respects heraldic art, it's a visual listing of coats of arms. This example is from an document known as the Armorial Lebreton, described here by a local SCA colleague of my acquaintance, Zenobia Naphtali in this article as:
L'armorial Le Breton is a collection of armorials from the 15th -16th C, which were bound together and in the possession of Hector Le Breton, Montjoie King of Arms of France. It contains a photofacsimile of over 900 coats of arms, many of which are French. It also contains significant amounts of introductory material by various authors, as well as a detailed armorial, providing not only names and blazons, but historical information about the armigers. All the explanatory text is in French. Emmanuel de Boos (and others), L'Armorial Le Breton, (Somology éditions d'Art, Paris, 2004, ISBN 2-85056-792-2.)

And here's a section of it:


This picture was scanned in from the book Heraldry: Its Origins and Meaning, by Michel Pastoureau, a rather prolific heraldic authority and one of the ones you're most likely to run into when researching via the SCA. This particular one, ISBN 0-500-30074-7, is a pocket-sized by highly useful volume, nicknamed "the little Pastoureau" by Collegians; the "big Pastoureau" I only know by reputation, it's in French, and is called Traité d'Héraldique, and is both hard to find and quite expensive, I understand.

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What is Vellum and Parchment, And What Makes Them Durable?

7. In the current phase of my research I am being directed to learn what I can about the basic materials that medieval scribes used to produce the works they produced. The current focus is on the "paper" they drew and wrote on.

I say "paper" because, unlike today, the material that our medieval cousins used to write on, or as we'll say in these discourses the substrate, the more upmarket varieties of said substrate were made from animal skin.

The following comes from the common knowledge as I am aware of it, and as a long time user of artistic-grade papers.

Today we can buy parchment and vellum for our work from commercial vendors, and these are manufactured out of plant products, notably cotton. If we want to acquire something that has archival value, we want as high a "cotton rag" content as possible; one of the by-products of wood-pulp-derived paper substrate is that the resulting paper is of an acidic character, which actuallly causes the paper to essentially consume itself over time. Anyone can check this out for themselves; mass-market "paperback" books that are any more than perhaps ten or fifteen years old have 'gone yellow'; this is the paper in the first stages of this breakdown. Particularly fragile are "pulp" magazines and books made with this paper from, say, the 1950s and before. This are immediately obvious from thier nearly-amber color and the extreme fragility of the paper. There is no saving these in thier original form.

By contrast, parchment and vellum substrates are made from components more akin to cloth than wood pulp, and are as near as possible chemically neutral. 100% rag vellums and parchments have, with proper care, a practically indefinite shelf-life, or as near as makes little difference. They can be damaged with improper handling, and inattentive care can cause them to degrade, certainly; but if attention is paid to handling and storage, they can be considered, for any practical purpose, permanent records.

Medieval Substrates

The medieval scribe and heraldic artist also had vellum and parchment available to them. They were, however, not made from plant product; they were made from animal skin.

Local SCA member Lady Tegan of Conwy, in a very informative handout on the subject, has this to say about parchment:

Parchment, by definition, is the skin of an animal, usually sheep or goat, prepared as a surface n which to write or paint. Parchment has been in continuous use for over six thousand years. Pergamum, in Asia Minor, is traditionally regarded as the place where parchment is said to have been invented in the early part of the second century BC. The source of this tradition is Pliny’s Natural History, Book IV.

Exactly why medieval scribes and artists used parchment when papermaking was, while maybe not widespread in Europe possibly not unknown (with the Egyptians and Chinese having made paper of various kinds from plants for centuries) is a bit beyond the ken of this author, at least for the moment. One of the Lady Tegan's sources provides a clue which we can note in our passing:

During medieval times some of the books produced in English monasteries were written on parchment of outstanding quality, especially in respect of whiteness, even appearance, smooth flexible handle (sic) and excellent writing properties. This was due mainly to the use of modified compositions known as stanchgrain - thin pastes made by mixing lime, quicklime, and flour with egg-white and milk.

Parchment was simply the best writing substrate available, and therefore presumably seen as fitting grounds to support scrolls, heraldic art, and the like.

Defining the Terms

At this time, we figure that a more complete definition of terms would be of use. For convenience sake – and for the moment – we will help ourselves to the definitions provided by Wikipedia.

The definition of parchment is:

thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin. Its most common use is as the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is not tanned, but stretched, scraped, and dried under tension, creating a stiff white, yellowish or translucent animal skin. The finer qualities of parchment are called vellum. It is very reactive with changes in relative humidity and is not waterproof.

We see here that vellum is more or less simply an upmarket type of parchment. The Wikipedia definition of vellum reads:

Vellum (from the Old French Vélin, for "calfskin") is a sort of processed animal hide that is thin, smooth, durable and was used in the pre-printing age to produce written works in the form of a scroll, codex or book.

An important point to note here also is that the chief difference between parchment/vellum and leather – also made from animal skins – is that leather is tanned, whereas parchment and vellum are not.

Perhaps one can say that parchment has many uses, but vellum is specifically for the making of written works and art, and probably those of great value meant as historical records.

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19 January 2008

The Battle of Barnet: Defeat from the Jaws Of Victory

6. In initially discussing Barnet with my teacher, he seemed to much enjoy pointing out that an heraldic misidentification turned what could have been one of the War of the Roses's pivotal triumphs into an embarrassing, tragic and deadly (at least for Richard Neville) defeat.

My wife, Teceangl, latterly has supplied me with a page out of Stephen Slater's lovely 2002 reference The Complete Book of Heraldry (Lorenz Books, ISBN ISBN 0-7548-1062-3) that gives an excellent thumbnail of who battled and what sad thing actually happened. The information is contained therein on page 29 of that edition. Here, Slater (which ironically, also describes an insect one may find on a coat of arms) lays out the groundwork:

The white mullet, or star, of the de Veres was partially responsible for one famous defeat during the Wars of the Roses. In 1471, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the former friend and supporter of the Yorkist king Edward IV, was fighting against him, having now sided with his Lancastrian rival, Henry VI. The two armies met at Barnet. The royal troops wore the rising sun of York; Warwick's forces were wearing red tunics upon which was the white ragged staff. (The bear and the ragged staff of Lancaster were, initially, two separate badges, combined only in later centuries.)

So we have Lancastrian and Yorkist partisans meeting on the field of battle not only to decide a battle but obviously to settle at least one score, bringing to mind a maxim that would have found a comfortable home amongst the royal houses of Medieval Europe: Fighting never proved anything – except who wins.

We will doubtless come to treat the bear and the ragged staff in future. For now, they are a bit beside the point, so we will note that parenthetical in passing.

The fight is joined and initially it looked as though it would be perhaps a Lancastrian rout of the Yorkists. Sadly, however the famous English weather and any number of conditions we might guess at conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of Lancaster victory that day. Slater continues:

On that day Warwick was joined by the troops of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. At the height of the battle, which was fought in thick mist, de Vere's forces managed to drive the Yorkists backwards. After this success they attempted to rejoin the main Lancastrian force, and appeared out of the mist at some distance from their colleagues. Warwick's archers, mistaking the star on Lord Oxford's badge for the Yorkist sunburst, believed they were being attacked by King Edward's men, and let loose a shower of arrows. Oxford's troops believed that their former comrades had turned traitor and what had lately seemed to be destined to be a Lancastrian victory soon turned into a shambolic defeat for them. Warwick was killed and King Edward was able to march on to Tewkesbury and complete the defeat of King Henry's cause.

Awkward, to say the least, not to mention fatal to several members of the then-winning side. And ironically lethal to the Earl of Warwick.

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A Guide for Subscribers And Commenters

5. A commenter, via email remarks, indirectly reminded me that there are more options I could be providing to those wishing to access or be notified of new comment in this blog, and for the act of commenting itself.

As someone who has his own style of content gathering which is as unique as he (it is to be hoped) is, I understand that some who have interest here might not wish to load the blog each time or, say, subscribe via RSS. By adjusting settings I have increased to maximum the ways to stay updated on the progress of research chronicled in this blog:

  1. Naturally, of course, loading this blog is the basic way to see if any new content has been added.
  2. One can subscribe to the RSS Feed to be notified of new posts when they happen. The RSS Feed provides a summary of blog developments as they happen, updated as they occur, in a compact format which can be subscribed to. Many if not most of the current crop of web browsers support it (in Firefox, it's called Live Bookmarks, in Safari, there's an RSS icon in the address bar, and so on). There are also a surfeit of RSS reading software that range in price from free on up.
  3. And, one more exciting option for those who don't care to bother with RSS; thanks to FeedBlitz, who provided a free widget, you can now subscribe to this blog via email. This was just installed, so there may be some debugging, but we will work this out.

Insofar as commenting goes, I have just enabled anonymous commenting for this blog. Previously, you had to be signed in to your Google account to comment. Naturally, this isn't everyone's can of beer, and I'm sympathetic to that ... it seems I have more logins and regstrations for things than a sane person really needs.

Anonymous commenting allows commenters maximum freedom:

  1. If one wishes to sign in to post a comment, one can of course. Just choose the service from the dropdown list and fire away.
  2. You can subscribe to email follow comments by signing in, if you so desire.
  3. If you don't wish to sign in but want to leave your name, click the Nickname radio button and fill in the box. Your comment will be posted with your name. This is a nice quick alternative if being notified of follow up comments is not of-the-essence.
  4. And, of course, there's the anonymous option. Just click the Anonymous radio button and you're off to the races (I'd ask that you'd sign it with your name so that any information added to the common weal gets its due and proper credit, or at least I can take any necessary conversations up with you in email).

Of course, if any correspondent wishes to simply forgo all that folderol and shoot me a comment via email, just feel free to do it that way. All comment will be treated with respect and dignity – though if it's interesting enough to share (or teaches me something, as the last comment via Moreach did), I will share it with the readership, so if it's something you don't want shared, please make sure to tell me.

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

4. This blog is as much about my continuing learning as it is my teaching my revealing what I know. School, as they say, is in.

A person and fellow Dragons Mist citizen of whom I consider a friend of longstanding is Moreach nic Mhaolain. She points out perforce:

I notice on your "Mundane" blog side, you call this conflict "The English Civil War". Certes it was such, if you can call any war"civil". Yet there was more than one of these internacine events and this isn't considered to be "the famous one".There was the Civil War between the heirs of William the Conqueror, starring the "Empress" Maude, King Stephen, and Maude's son and heir - Henry and a cast of confused thousands. (Nearly unknown to moderns, it was so long ago. 12th C) Then there was the later, famous, one starring King Charles, his Late Cranium, the Roundheads, and the Cavaliers. 1642 to 1651 Mayhap "War of the Roses" is less confusing term after all...?
Aside that, methinks this blog is a swell idea!

My impression had been up til now that the "War of the Roses" was a nickname for the English Civil War, but as Moreach says above, that's not quite correct on my part. I gratefully take the point, and thanks for the extra information – all of which go into this glorious public notebook.

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17 January 2008

My "Mundane" Self

3. Another thing that would I think be fair to the readers to do is to establish my "Mundane" identity.

The SCA is as much a state of mind as it is anything else. When in persona, as I am trying to be with this blog (this is the man behind the curtain, stepping out and telling you this ... if this were a show, I'd be breaking the fourth wall) I am a scholar and artist of late-15th Century Germany, specifically a resident of Nürnberg (what latterly we call Nuremberg, an important center of population and culture in northern Bavaria).

It bears mentioning, I think, because my activities pre-school as a budding heraldic artist in the SCA was also an inspiration toward trying to muscle into the field of graphic design; heraldic art, I feel, is the ancestor of what they called "commercial art" which was the father, mother, and grandparents of what we today call graphic design.

If you wonder what I try to get away with in the day-to-day land we call Mundania (from mundane, as in ordinary, rather than in the strict Xanthan sense) follow this link to my mundane blog, The ZehnKatzen Times.

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My Arms

2. The concept of a "coat of arms" is one which is vastly misunderstood in today's world, especially by residents of countries such as the United States of America which does not have a heraldic tradition (we almost had one, but it was stillborn – which will be the subject of a future discourse). As currently understood, a person's arms is what the American public thinks of when they tend to talk of a "family crest" (a crest is merely a part of the complete achievement of arms, a term which will also be defined soon). However understood or misunderstood, the heart of the armorial achievement is the arms, also called a device. Here's mine: There are two ways to refer to any armorial device. The above, the graphical display, has a certain name – technically we call this the emblazon. There is a precise verbal description of the above, and that is called the blazon. The blazon for mine reads as follows: Azure, a bend sinister and in canton a compass star argent pierced azure Perhaps there are some familiar words used in unfamiliar ways here. To an armorial expert trained in unpacking it and equipped with the proper references, the description is a little like a computer program – it will inerrantly produce the above result every time when correctly followed. At the risk of venturing into territory uncharted to the reader, we'll define a few terms here and now. The term azure refers to the background; in Heraldese the word means blue. A bend refers to the fat diagonal stripe and sinister refers to the way that that stripe runs (relative to the viewer) from upper right to lower left. And in canton positions the star; particularly the verbiage and in indicates we are moving on from describing the bend shape, with the atom canton describing the region it occupies; a compass star is what the shape is (as the bend is the name of the diagonal stripe), the word argent is the color of the bend and the compass star (depicted in color illustrations as paper-white) and pierced azure provides us the hole in the compass star. I will admit that while I (and some others) consider myself quite adept at unpacking blazons and creating emblazons, the same cannot always be said for my skills at encoding and explaining blazons. The SCA heraldic community very much distills along right brain/left brain lines; my lady Teceangl Bach specializes is the verbal, or what we call book heraldry which concerns itself with research of names and comparisons of blazons to prevent similar designs from being registered with the SCA College of Heralds. A great many of us prefer to draw, and leave the research to the book heralds. At any rate, the reader is encouraged not to fret (which is an inside heraldic joke whose funny will become apparent in time) too much. We will take many trips around the heraldic shield on our journey, and all will become clear eventually (my intent is sooner rather than later). The point I'm working for here is to indicate that heraldry is a system of technical precision that, like any other technical pursuit, has its cant and jargon, and that standards are important.