.......Classical Heraldry .......

Heraldry Without Colour

A commentary in the Journalists' & Authors' Guide has made the point that colour is not absolutely essential for attractive heraldic illustration. Perhaps the first place to look for evidence of this is among the Ex Libris bookplates produced in such large quantities during the 19th century. Many of these were beautifully engraved and although a substantial proportion continued the ugly heraldic styles developed during the period now known as "the decadence", others deserve to be praised for their observance of classical heraldic principles, while a few were superb examples of nineteenth century artistic traditions.

The example chosen to head the first article on this subject is neither especially good nor particularly bad. The Reverend William Mordaunt Furneaux was the Headmaster of Repton School (an English public school, which is to say a private boarding school for the sons of parents who could afford its fees) in the late 19th century, and his bookplate was typical of a man in his social position. Its engraving is neatly executed and its design, although conformist, uses the crest to break the circlet imaginatively. The helmet, mantling and motto scroll are fashionable in style. The shape of the shield, although hardly classic, fits well the overall design and exploits the freedom accorded bookplate engravers. Although difficult to see at this scale and on a monitor screen, the shield uses the Sancta Petra system of hatching, the bend in the 1st and 4th quarters having spots to indicate gold, the field of the same quarters being striped vertically to indicated Red. The field of the 2nd and 3rd quarters has horizontal stripes to indicate Blue. The treetrunk of the crest is crosshatched to indicate black (and some readers will doubtless have noticed that the wreath on which the erased treetrunk stands probably has the colours of its twists, which ought to silver and red, reversed).
So, all in all, not unattractive and not grossly inaccurate in its heraldry.

Here are two more from the same period.

Both these have lost detail in the reduction of their size, but they illustrate well the similarities and differences between the approaches of a father (Joseph Jackson Howard on the left) and his son (Arthur Dashwood Howard on the right). The father was a noted antiquarian and held the office of Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, hence the collar of SS at the foot. Both shields are more typical of those found in bookplates rather than on the field of battle, but whereas the field on the father's shield is left plain, with a little light shading to give shape, the son's is diapered, as is more clearly illustrated below.
This expanded picture clearly shows the background pattern the artist has given to the field. It is known as diapering and owes its origin to the treatment of such surfaces as stained glass, in which it was found that the incision of the pattern increased the reflection of the light and enhanced the colour. This rationale does not apply to parchment or paper, of course, and properly it has no place here. However, it will be found frequently in bookplates, as artistic licence, but it is that only, and it is not heraldic. Diaper is never blazoned.
This is a classic worth examining at full size (click to do so, and a separate resizeable window will pop up).

The Duncans are today treated as a branch of the Robertsons, but arms granted to those of the name follow the style of arms granted to indeterminate cadets. Most feature a red shield charged with a chevron and in base a hunting horn, as here.

The owner of this elegant bookplate, dated 1904, was William MacDougal Duncan, descended of the Duncans of Lochrutton in Dumfries. Its comparison with the three bookplates shown above highlights immediately the trend towards simplicity and cleaner lines introduced at the turn of the century. The buckles and hunting horn are clear and realistic, the shape of the heater shield has proportions close to the classic.

The next article in this series will continued the examination of this theme.




The Shape of the Shield ~ Part One
The January-February 2000 Contents page
© 2000 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates Ltd
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