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The Handbook to English Heraldry

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This Volume, specially prepared for the use of students at an early period of their study of English Heraldry, commends itself also to those inquirers who may desire to obtain some general information on the same subject, without having any intention to devote to Heraldry much either of their time or of their serious regard.

The success, no less extraordinary than gratifying, of my larger work on Heraldry, led me to hope that a not less favourable reception might be extended to a simpler and much shorter essay, more decidedly elementary in its aim and character, and yet as far as possible within its limits complete. Such a treatise I have endeavoured to produce in this Volume.

Inseparably associated with the History of our Country, and more particularly when our national History becomes the Biography of eminent Englishmen, English Heraldry has the strongest claims upon the attention not only of all Historians, but also of all who desire to become familiar with their writings. In like manner, Heraldry may be studied with no less of advantage than of satisfaction by all Artists, whether Architects, Sculptors, Painters, or Engravers. Nor is it too much to assert that some knowledge of Heraldry, in consequence of its singular and comprehensive utility, ought to be estimated as a necessary element of a liberal education. In confirmation of my own views, I am tempted to quote the following passage from M. Gourdon de Genouillac’s introduction to his excellent “Grammaire Héraldique,” published at Paris:—“Le blason,” says M. de Genouillac, “est une langue qui s’est conservée dans sa pureté primitive depuis les siècles, langue dont la connaissance, est indispensable aux familles nobles, qui y trouvent un signe d’alliance ou de reconnaissance, aux numismates, aux antiquaires, aux archéologues, enfin à tous les artistes, gens de lettres, &c.; cependant cette langue est presque inconnue, et la plupart des personnes qui possedent le droit de porter des armoiries seraient fort en peine de les expliquer selon les termes techniques!” Heraldry, indeed, I believe to be a study worthy to be universally regarded with affectionate respect, as it certainly is eminently qualified to inspire such a sentiment in every class of student.

In this spirit I have here treated the elements of the Heraldry of England, confident that, of those who may accompany me as far as I shall lead them, very many will not be content to stop where I shall take leave of them. Thus much I promise my companions—I will be to them a faithful guide. They may trust to my accuracy. I have made no statement, have adduced no example, nor have I exhibited any illustration, except upon authority. I myself like and admire what is real and true in Heraldry; and it is by the attractiveness of truth and reality that I desire to win for Heraldry fresh friends, and to secure for it firm friendships.

It will be understood that from the authority, the practice, and the associations of the early Heraldry of the best and most artistic eras, I seek to derive a Heraldry which we may rightly consider to be our own, and which we may transmit with honour to our successors....