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The Collation

A Pictorial Table of Contents

Last week’s Crocodile was a jumble of household instruments with numbers next to them. As our first commenter, Katie Will, correctly guessed, the detail was from the table of contents of a type of heraldic manuscript known as an Ordinary. An Ordinary is a collection of heraldic charges—geometric patterns, or depictions of animals, objects, or people—that can appear inside an escutcheon, or heraldic shield. Since no two coats of arms can be alike, an Ordinary is a way to organize and categorize the dizzying array of options for creating a coat of arms, and to sort designs that have already been assigned to families. Ordinaries are usually compiled and used by heralds.

This is the first page of the table of the contents from which the detail was taken:

table of contents

The first contents leaf (out of two leaves) of Folger MS V.b.91, the second volume of a two volume Ordinary of Arms.

Another detail from this page shows the intentions of the volume’s creator: “To find all these look a[t] the page at the bottom” (meaning, the page number at the bottom of each page):

detail of table of contents

Detail from Folger MS V.b.91, table of contents, leaf 1.

Folger MS V.b.91 is part of a two volume Ordinary of arms created by a herald at the very beginning of the seventeenth century. The compiler has not yet been identified, but we know that it was owned a century later by Peter Le Neve, a herald from the 1690s until the 1720s. I’ve not seen anything like it from this period, although, as Arnold points out in his comment, it resembles Randle Holme’s visual categories in his epic Academy of Armory, first published in 1688:

Charges representing occupations associated with metalwork, in Randal Holmes' Academy of Armory.

Charges representing occupations associated with metalwork, in Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory.

As a side note, it is always entertaining to see the various “canting” arms used by families with suggestive surnames. The thousands of arms drawn in V.b.91 include arms with hearts (for the Hert family); arms (for the Armstrongs and other “arm” families); dogs (for the Waggers), and cats (for the Catteys).

Arms of the Hert family.

Arms of the Hert family.

Families with "arm" in their surname.

Families with “arm” in their surname.



Arms of the Cattey family.



Arms of the Wagger family.



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