Armorial Families

Before referring to the most important of the changes in the present edition, it may be as well to refer to several minor points as to which I often receive inquiries.

First, as to the "catch-line" names which appear in the book. In the first edition the first entry for each surname was so distinguished for mere purposes of ready reference, or perhaps even, for it was not my own idea, by the desire of the printers to make an "artistic" page. Their efforts and labour to that end have been unceasing, beyond even my own desires. But even before the completion of the first edition the fatal objection had become apparent that the addition of an entry for the same surname but with a christian name earlier in the alphabet involved the displacement of the catch-line from the one paragraph to the other, and the resetting of both. The catch-lines were therefore abandoned; but I did not consider their importance, in or out, was worth the cost of resetting in order to provide for their deletion. Consequently those which were then standing in the type were allowed to remain until such time as other alterations necessitated a disturbance in the type of the particular entries containing them. As such opportunities arise they are deleted, and each new edition has seen their number largely reduced. They are thus automatically disappearing, and doubtless ere long will have vanished.

In the present edition a new form of entry has been adopted. One seldom at the very beginning of a project hits off the precise plan which the experience of years in carrying out that enterprise eventually indicates as the most advantageous. There were two considerations always before me. The chief was the eternal literary difficulty of "space." My book was growing, and some drastic change was necessary. My original idea (based upon the inclusion of impalements) had been a separate entry for each separate person. That involved a repetition of parentage (a matter of four or five lines, in the cases of brothers, and a repetition of the tails of the arms, sometimes running to a column or more. But if repetition became practically purposeless, because I found in practice that a very small proportion of the entries carried impalements. Man is keenly anxious to establish his own right to arms, who feels this not his business, but the business of the male members of his family to prove the right to arms on that side. Consequently a new system was adopted in the present edition by which all bearing the arms are grouped together under that coat, and all brothers together under the names of their parents.

I have not thought while to reset the book at a cost of many hundreds of pounds, m obtain a fixed uniformity of arrangement, where no change is made information afforded between one type of entry comprising several and a number of separate entries. On this point in the matter of lines I have taken, as I propose to take in the future, every opp as alterations or changes occur necessitating the disturbance of type entry, to convert the book to the form now adopted. The other option was a printing technicality. Certain parts of an entry, the aim, the livery, are permanent, needing no change generation after generation. Other parts are constantly altering, and by putting the permanent portion first it becomes less costly to make alterations.

Whilst the new form has been adopted in all new entries which now appear in the work for the first time, the reverse is not the case. In all entries in which alterations of any moment occurred the opportunity was taken to adopt the new form, and the deduction to be drawn from the appearance of an entry in either form is no greater than from the insertion or absence of the black-letter catch-lines.

The coloured illustrations speak for themselves, and I can only hope the insertion of these illustrations will prove the attraction I anticipate.

The dating of the arms has turned out a matter of great difficult; much greater than I had anticipated. In the first place, few seem to know or care about the date of their arms. It is easy enough to check the truth of a given statement of claim : except in the grant of a modern coat it is almost impossible to ascertain the date save by research and the expenditure of time wholly prohibitive to the attempt. Where a reasonable claim has been made I have attempted to verify it, and with few exceptions all such coats of arms are dated. But the claims made have been much fewer than I anticipated. The dates which are inserted are {a) those of the dates which I have been asked to insert, which I believe to be correct, (d) dates which have been within my knowledge before they were supplied to me by the owners of the arms. The date of a grant of arms is public property to anybody who cares to pay the fees for a search, but where, to assist me in my editorial work, my correspondents have been good enough to tell me what the date of the grant is and have expressed a wish that the date should not be published, I have respected that wish and treated the information as supplied to me in confidence. But some people object the publication of a date a century or more ago, which most would proud to acknowledge. The dates where the arms are dated are those official authorisation. In a few cases where the arms are found on early rolls it is possible to take an old coat back approximately to its date of origin, but in the bulk of ancient English cases one can do no more than refer to the Visitations, which, though the earliest date of authorising may or may not be the date of origin.

In Scottish cases, with rare exceptions, the earnest quotable date of authorisation is 1672. But these coats form but a small proportion of the arms in use.

The omission of the italic entries which have appeared in former editions may or may not be an improvement. Many correspondents have written to me on the point, some advocating insertion, some omission, but the imperative necessity of reducing the space was the factor which finally decided the point. At first I could not claim for " Armorial Families " any approach to completeness, but-as each successive edition has brought more and more families under review the approximation to completeness has lessened the necessity for the retention of the italicised part, and lessened it to an increasing extent. But even yet I do not claim to have reached the end, though I think I am now justified in thinking my book is approximately a complete directory of those who are proved to be officially entitled to. bear arms. I have sent out right and left for the last twelve years, hundreds of thousands of information forms asking that they should be filled up and returned to me. Whenever a form has been returned to me from which on the face of it it seemed possible that the arms claimed were born by right, I have taken steps to ascertain if the claim were good, and whenever this has been the case such arms have been inserted without charge or stipulation. I have gradually worked through such books as Burke's " Landed Gentry," and each edition has left a diminishing remnant. Shortly before I closed up the present edition for the press I wrote to the head of every remaining Sourfamily in the "Landed Gentry" pointing out what I was doing, saying I was aware of no modern proof of the right to the arms which were attributed to him in that work, and asking that I might be advised if I were wrong. The result of my letters astonished me. A very large number at once informed me of their right under a comparatively modern grant or record, not to the ancient arms attributed to them, but to some entirely distinct coat!

I believe the present edition of "Armorial Families" may be fairly described as approximately complete.

Peers and Baronets were included in the first and second editions of "Armorial Families." They were then omitted solely for the reasons of space. But I published a list of those whose right to arms was faulty. This list has since been published in every edition. Corrected and reduced to date, it will be found herein on pp. 1523-4. A few Peers and Baronets, however, appear in the body of the book. Some remain under the under-taking I gave in my first prospectus to retain in perpetuity the arms of every subscriber. The rest have been inserted from time to time for various reasons, chiefly technical, which it is not necessary to explain. Suffice it to say that every Peer and every Baronet has genuine arms (but not always those which figure under his name in the printed Peerage Books), except those to be found in the list I refer to.

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Source: Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles. Armorial Families: a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour. Published 1905, Edinburgh: T.C. & E.C. Jack.

Heraldry Introduction

Surely even those who affect the greatest contempt for Heraldry will admit that if Arms are to be borne at all, it should be according to the laws of Arms; and that, if the display of them be an empty vanity, it is a less creditable vanity to parade as our own those which belong of right to others.

Heraldry has been contemptuously termed "the science of fools with long memories." There is more wit than wisdom in the remark, and with the many a smart saying has unfortunately a great advantage over a just one.

It is impossible to say that there is any direct testimony to the existence of Armorial bearings in the now accepted sense of the word earlier than the twelfth century, when they seem to have been adopted with one accord throughout Europe. Previous to that period we read of "white shields" and "red shields" and "gilded shields." In Salmund's Edda mention is made of a red shield with a golden border. The Encomiast of Emma speaks merely of the littering effulgence of the shields suspended on the sides of the vessels of Canute. In the Anglo-Saxon illuminations we perceive the shields of warriors generally painted white, with red and blue borders and circles: on those of our Norman invaders as represented in the Bayeux Tapestry, a work at the earliest of the close of the eleventh century, we find crosses, rings, grotesque monsters, and fanciful devices of various descriptions, but nothing approaching a regular heraldic figure or disposition of figures. Some of the standards are striped and spotted in a fashion which may have originated the pales, bars, and roundels of the succeeding century, but as these devices are not repeated on any of the bearers' shields they cannot be considered as personal insignia.

Thus we see that Heraldry as we know it, Heraldry even as it was understood in its earliest stages, had no existence at the time of the Norman Conquest, nor can any authenticated example be discovered of a proper Armorial shield prior to the first Crusade. Ere the second had reached its termination its usage was extensive and assured. That is all that is known of its origin, but undoubtedly, for it is a matter no one has as yet dreamed of disputing, the Crusades have exercised an influence difficult to truly estimate. Not only are a vast proportion of heraldic "charges" easily traceable to the Holy Land, but the assemblage of the flower of European chivalry in all its nationalities, all claiming nobility of birth, must have given a great impetus to the progress of a science devoted and confined to themselves, apart from the encouragement afforded to it by the requirement of some method of distinction amongst themselves.