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An Introduction to Heraldry.

UERALDIC devices, truly so called, make their first Il appearance in Europe in the middle of the twelfth century; and about one hundred years later we find Heraldry has become a science in high repute, without our being able to trace its intermediate progress, or discover the names of those who first laid down its laws, or subsequently promulgated them. The earliest Heraldic document, of which even a copy has come down to us, is a roll of arms, that is to say, a catalogue of the armorial bearings of the King of England, and the principal barons, knights, &c., in this country in the reign of Henry III., and, from internal evidence, supposed to have been originally compiled between the years 1240–1245. This transcript was made by Glover, Somerset Herald, in 1586, and is preserved in the College of Arms. Other rolls are to be found, both there and in the British Museum, of nearly the same date, but none earlier, and no work explanatory of the science has been yet discovered of a period anterior to. the reign of Edward III. It is not, therefore, our intention to notice any of the various theories, either ancient or modern, which have been advanced to account for the origin of coat-armour, as they are purely speculative—the most rational resting on no contemporary authority. We shall confine ourselves to the fact that in the reign of Henry III. armorial ensigns had become hereditary, marks of cadency distinguished the various members of a family, and the majority of the present Heraldic terms were already in existence.

THE USE OF ARMO at that period was to distinguish persons and property, and record descent and alliance, and no modern invention has yet been found to supersede it. For this reason alone, as we have remarked elsowhere, of all ancient usages it is one of the least likely to become obsolete. Hundreds of persons may be entitled to the same initials, may possess precisely the same name; but only the members of a particular family can lawfully bear certain armorial ensigns, and the various branches of that family have their separate differences to distinguish one from the other. After the lapse of centuries, the date of a building, or the name of its founder or ancient possessor, may be ascertained at the present day, through the accidental preservation of a sculptured coat of arms or heraldic encaustic tile; and the careful study of early rolls of arms, enables us to discover matrimonial alliances and family connexions, of which no written record has been found, and thereby Eot only to complete the very imperfect genealogies of many of the bravest and wisest of our English nobility and gentry, but also to account for sundry acts, both public and private, the motives for which have been misunderstood, or altogether unknown to the biographer or the historian.

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THE ABUSE OF ARMS. In the middle ages, it began by an unhappy ambition in the heralds to exalt their science in the eyes of the commonalty; and a less excusable desire to pander to the vanity of those who had inherited ancient armorial devices. On charges simple enough at the time they were assumed, the most preposterous stories were founded. The wildest legends, the most unsupported assertions were adopted and exaggerated, if they could by any possibility be connected with the arms on the shield, or the badge on the standard, till the characters, which were originally so clear that those who ran might read, were mystified and misrepresented beyond our power to decipher them by the light which has been left us.

With the increase of education, the absurdities became more and more apparent, and at length the study of Heraldry was pretty nearly abandoned as a silly and useless pursuit. The critical spirit of archæology has, within the last twenty years, done much to correct the prejudice; and the curious and important information to be derived from the study of armorial devices is rapidly becoming appreciated by even the general public.

The abuse of arms in modern days is constantly exhibited in the crests engraved on the plate and seals, or stamped on the note-paper, of thousands of persons

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