About the Grammar of Heraldry

The text that follows is taken from a 1793 book about heraldry. It was transcribed by Liam Quin in 2003.

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Stainand Colours

title page


Gentleman's Vade Mecum, &c.

  1. Rules of Blazoning, Cautions and Observations.
  2. Practical Directions for Marshalling; with Discourses on the several Parts (or Ornaments) of an Atchievement.
  3. A Large Collection of Arms, by the way of Example, Alphabetically digested.


And a List of the Subscribers; to most of them their Arms and Titles. The whole adorn'd with proper Cuts.


The Second Edition.


Printed for J. Pemberton, at the Buck and Sun against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet street.

Price Six Shillings.

page x

Chap. I. Of Blazon.

BLAZON, Strictly taken, signifies, the Explication of Arms, in apt and significant Terms; more largely, it is taken for a Display of the Vertues of the Bearers of Arms. A certain French Armorist has comprehended both in a Word, viz. To Blazon is to express what the Shapes, Kinds, and Colours of things born in Arms are, together with their apt Significations. This Chapter will contain Nine Sections, whereof the first is,

chap1sec1Sect. I. Rules of Blazoning in General.

page xi

1. IN Blazoning you must use an advised Deliberation before you enter thereinto, for having once begun, it argues an inconsiderate Folly to recall what you have said.

2. The fewer Words you make use of in blazoning a Coat, the better it is blazoned; Be cautious however, that while you endeavour to be short, you are not mysterious, and that you omit nothing which ought to be mention'd.

3. In Blazon you must take special Heed to Words, for Arms differently blazoned cease to be the same; and tho' one Coat may be blazoned two ways, yet they do then both come to the same, the Phrase only chang'd, as in the Arms of Akelont of Gloucestersh. in the following Sheets.

4. You must not be too full of Conceits in Blazon, nor over forward of Speech.

5. You must use no Repetition of Words, in the self same Coat, viz. the Names of Metals, Colours or Furrs, the Numbers of Ordinaries or Charges; but especially not of the Words



For the Repetition of these, is reckon'd
an unpardonable Crime.

How to vary your Words, to avoid this Fault, you may see among others in the Arms of Cecil E. of Salisbury, Addison, Atkins of Saperton.

6. In blazoning you must have Regard to the things that are born in Arms, and to what they may be resembled, whether Natural or Artifical, and so commend them accordingly.

7. Begin to blazon with the Field, then proceed to the Charge, if any be: Also, if there be more Charges page xii than one, you must evermore name that first, which is suppos'd to lie nearest the Field; see the Arms of Dyxeon, Capt. Aldridge, Villiers E. of Jersey, &c.

8. The Arms of Gentlemen, Knights, and all Persons not enobled, are to be blazoned by Metals and Colours; all the Degrees of Nobility have their Arms blazoned by Precious Stones; Emperors, Kings and Princes, by Planets; as hereafter will appear more plainly, by Rule and Example.

chap1sec2Sect. II. Accidents of Arms.

THose are called Accidents, which are not Necessary Parts, but such as being taken away or chang'd, the Substance of the Arms is still the same. They are two, Tinctures and Differences.

Paragraph 1. Tincture is the different Hew of Arms, and things born therein; and is common to the Differences, as well as to the Arms themselves.

Tincture is either of Colour or Furr.

Diatriba 1. We have nothing to do here with the Natural Colour of Things (tho' that also must be carefully regarded) but our Business is to make mention of such Colours only as are us'd in Heraldry; and they are Nine, viz.

Two Simple, as White and Black.

Seven Mixt, as Red, Yellow, Green, Blew, Purple, Tawny and Sanguine.

Note 1. The Two last seldom serve for the Colours of Fields, being called Stainand Colours, and used to signify some Disgrace, or Blemish of Honour or Vertue, in the Bearer; as you may read in the 3rd Section of this Chapter, in the 2d. Diat. of the 1st. Parag.

Note 2. White and Yellow are called Metals, representing Silver and Gold, the rest Colours.

Note 3. That Coat is assuredly false, wherein there is Metal upon Metal only, or Colour upon Colour only, that is, Gold upon Silver, Silver upon Gold, Blew, Red, &c. upon one another; But this Rule ceases, if page xiii a Coat be Paly, Barry, Quarterly, Checkie, or Party per Pale, Chevron &c.

Note 4. In blazoned the Arms of Gentlemen, &c.

Yellow is called Or.




Of Furrs; and they are in Heraldry, White; Ermine, which consists of White distinguish'd with Black Spots; Ermynes, which is Black powder'd with White; Erminois, Black powder'd with Yellos; Pean, the contrary; Ermynites, the same with Ermyne, only it has a Hair of Red on each Side the Black.

There are other Sorts of Doublings (or Furrs) differing from those I have mention'd, in Form and Name.

1. Verrey, which is compounded of Argent and Azure; an Example of which is in Dr. Atterbury's, Mr. Aston's of Gloucest. and many other Coats.

But if your Verrey consist of any other Metal and Colour or Furr; see the Arms of Duffield, Estanton and Drake of Greslow. page xiv

2. Potent-Counter-Potent, of which (because I do not remember to have seen it in all my Collections) the Form follows,


Neither do I find that it is fix'd to any Colours, but that the Blazoner is to name those whereof it does at any time consist.

3. Vaire, which (as some will have it) consists of four Colours together, viz. Argent, Gules, Or and Sable; but I chuse (with Gwillem) to make it the same as Verry.

Parag. 2. Differences; are extraordinary Additaments, whereby Bearers of the same Coat-Armour are distinguish'd each from others, and their nearness to the Princial Bearer is demonstrated.

Differences are



Diat. 1. For Differences in ancient Times they us'd Bordures and Imbordurings of several Sorts.

The Plain Border first, which is said to resemble the Fimbria's the Israelites wore on their Garment: And in blazoning must be called a Border, wihout mentioning its Plainness. The Content of the Border, is the fifth Part of the Field.

Note. When the Field and Border are both of one Tincture, you are not then to say, He beareth a Border, but He beareth such a Metal, Colour or Furr, Imbordured.

Besides this, there are other Borders, which consist of one Tincture only, but being compos'd of the diferent Lines, hereafter mention'd, have quite another Form.page xv

Note. Some Borders consist of more Colours than one (these are mostly compos'd of the strait Line) and are

Counter-componed, as in the Example following,

Border counter-componed:

He beareth Azure, a Border Counter-componed, Or and Gules.____Counter-compony consisteth of no more than 2 Tracts.

Checkie, which is like the former, but that it consisteth of many Tracts.

Borders (as the Fields themselves) are subject to be charg'd with things Natural and Artifical; as with Birds, and then your Border is said to be charg'd with Enaluron of such or such Birds, to such a Number; Beasts, and then it is Enurny; Vegitables, and then 'tis call'd Verdoy; Furrs, and then Perflew; a Border charged with things inanimate, of what kind soever, is said to be Entoyre. See the first Appendix.

There are several other Kinds of Borders, of which in the following Sheets you will find Examples.

Diat. 2. The Modern Differences, which not only distinguish Houses, but the diferent and subordinate Degrees in each, are, the File, Crescent, Mullet, Martlet, Annulet and Fleur de Lis. Of which view the following Scheme, which distinguish'd by Figures on the Top and in the Margin, shows the different Houes and Degrees.page xvi

tableofhousesThe Table of Houses

[table of houses]

It must be remember'd, that Sisters have no Differences, for they are always equal.

chap1sec3Sect. III. Essential Parts of Arms

THE Parts of Arms are, The Escocheon,
and The Ornaments without the Escocheon.

PARAGRAPH 1. An Escocheon is the Form of a Shield, of what Kind soever, so call'd of the Latin Word Scutum, which signifes the same thing. It consists of page xvii Points, and Abatements.

Diatriba 1. Points, which are Nine, and denominate the several Parts of the Escocheon; the Knowledge of which (as you will find hereafter) is of absolute Necessity. They are as follows,

shield labeled with points A

 } is called {

The Dexter Chief

 } point

BPrecise middle Chief
CSinister Chief
GDexer Base
HExact middle Base
ISinister Base

Diat. 2. An Abatement is an accidental Mark annexed to Coat-Armour, denoting some ungentlemanlike, dishonourable or disloyal Demeanor, whereby the Dignity of the Coat-Armour is greatly debased. They are these Nine.

[shield with shaded square inset]

He beareth Argent, a Delse, Tenne: This is due to him that revoketh his Challenge, or eateth his Words.

[shield with inset inverted shield shape]

He beareth Or, an Escocheon reversed, Sanguine: This is given to him that discourtously useth a Maid or Widow, against her Will; or flies from his Sovereign's Banner.

page xviii [shield with top left corner shaded]

He beareth Argent, a Point dexter parted: Given to a meer Braggadochio.

[handwritten insertion before Given: Sanguine]

[shield with curved triangular shaded area with point in centre, extending downwards to fill the bottom third of the shield

He beareth Or, a Point in Point, Sanguine: Which is due to one that does not demean himself well in Fight.

[shield with bottom fifth or so shaded, top of shaded area is an arc with lowest point in the middle ]

He beareth Or, a Point Champaigne, Tenne. A Diminution due to one that kills his Prisoner.

[shield with bottom fifth or so shaded, top of shaded area is flat and horizontal]

He beareth Or, a a Plain Point, Sanguine. The Mark of a Tale-Bearer and Liar.

[shield with cresting wave shaded,but shaded area is from bottom centre to top right]

He beareth Argent, a Goare sinister, Tenne. The Reward of a Coward.

Note. A Dexter Goare is not an Abatement, tho' it should happen to be of a Stainand Colour. page xix

[shield with both sides shaded, leaving a sort of thick-stemmed martini glass unshaded in the centre from top to bottom]

He beareth Argent, two Gussets, Sanguine. In Abatement there can be but one Gusset; and he that is given to Lust shall wear it on the right Side, a Drunkard on the left. But two Gussets together do not imply a Disgrace, several Families bearing them, particularly that of Conningham, who bear Sable, two Gussets Argent.

Note. All the above Marks of Diminution, must be Sanguine or Tenne, which are Stainand Colours.

2. When you find two or more of 'em in an Escocheon, it is not by way of Abatement, but Charge.

3. Judge the same (tho' single) if they be of any Metal, or charg'd upon.

The last (and worst) kind of Abatement, is call'd Reversing, and that is, when the whole Escocheon is turned upside down, contrary to the usual Form of bearing: This is never given but to the finish'd Traitor.

The Second Paragraph of this Section will be spoken to in the next Chapter.

chap1sec4Sect. IV. The several Kinds of Escocheon.

PLain Shields were anciently used, as many Authors testify, and as we may inferr from the History of Solomon in our Bibles, and the Lives Alexander Severus, and Alexander of Macedon, where Mention is made of Golden and Silver Shields, but not of any Portrait or Imbossment upon them. In the history of King Edward I of England, Mention is made of Eumenius de la Brect, who bore his Shield only Gules.

Some have consisted only of Furrs, as among others (for Example) the Arms of Gresly of Drakelove.

In all these there was no Distinction of Field and Charge; but Instances of this kind are very rare. page xx

chap1sec5Sect. V. What Field and Charge are.

THE Field is the whole Surface of the Shield or Escocheon, overspread with some Metal, Colour or Furr, and comprehendeth in it the Charge, if there be any.

Note 1. There are as many several Fields as there are Tinctures.

Note 2. When ever a Field consists of one only Metal or Colour, it is said, that in such a Coat, such a Colour, or Metal does predominiate. But in some Coats the Field consists of many Tinctures.

A Charge is whatsoever is contain'd in the Field, whether it occupy the whole, or only a Part thereof.

All Charges are Proper or Common.

Those which are common only to and in this Art, are called Proper or Honourable Ordinaries.

chap1sec6Sect. VI. The several Kinds of Honourable Ordinaries and their Diminutives.

HOnourable Ordinaries are Nine, as follows,

1. The Cross, which contains the 5th part of the Escocheon, when uncharg'd and charg'd, the 3rd. See the Arms of Allesbury.

2. Chief the 3d. See Worksly.

3. Pale the 3d. See an Example in the Arms of Areskine, Dodge, &c.

The Diminutives are,

A Pallet.
[shield with wide vertical bar centred, top to bottom, with shading at top and bottom and a shadow to the right]
An Endorse.
[shield with thin vertical bar centred, top to bottom, with shading at top and bottom and a shadow to the right]

4. Bend, which contains when charg'd the 3d Part, uncharg'd the 5th part of the Escocheon; and has the following Diminutives,

A Bendlet.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left (on the left side) to bottom right, on the bottom]
A Gartier.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left to bottom right corners]

A Cost.
[shield with narrow diagonal bar from top left (on the top) to bottom right, on the right]
A Riband.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left to bottom right corners, not reaching the corners]

There are also Bends Sinister, with proper Diminutions, as,

A Bend.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left (on the left side) to bottom right, on the bottom]
A Scarpe.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left (on the left side) to bottom right, on the bottom]
A Battune.
[shield with wide diagonal bar from top left (on the left side) to bottom right, on the bottom]

Note. The Battune is a Mark of Bastardy; and every Bearer may have it of what Colour he please, but only the spurious Sons of Princes, may bear them of Metal or Furr.

5. Fesse, containing the 3d part of the Escocheon; see the Arms of Abbehall.

6. Escocheon the 5th part; see Hulgreve's Coat.

7. Chevron, containing the 5th, or as others, the 3d part of the Escocheon; see one in the Arms of Avene. Its Diminutives are

page xxii
A Chevronel.
[shield with upward-pointing chevron stripe]
A Couple-Close.
[shield with downward-pointing chevron stripe]

There is extant a rare Example of bearing a Chrvron, which I have thought to insert, for that Reason.

Chevron in Chief

He beareth Or, a Chevron in Chief, Azure. This Charge (saith Gwillim) was not remov'd from its proper place, without good reason; nevertheless, the Beating it as usual, had been better.

8. The 8th Ordinary is the Saltire, which uncharged has the 5th, charg'd, the 3d part of the Escocheon; there is a plain Saltire in the Arms of Aston.

9. A Bar, containing the 5th part of the Field, of which there are in the Book, numerous Examples: The Diminutives are,

A Closet.
[shield with upward-pointing chevron stripe]
A Barulet.
[shield with downward-pointing chevron stripe]

Note 1. When you have any of the Ordinaries born plain, you need not mention their Plainness, for that is their natural Form.

Note2. All of most of these may be A, inveck'd, ingrail'd, indented, &c. voided, couped, cotised or surmounted, as in the 8th Section will further appear.

page xxiii

There are other Common Charges, which tho' they do not take upon 'em the Title of Honourables, are yet of Worthy Bearing, as


And these you will find born, not only single and in Pairs, but by the six, eight, ten or twelve together.

The Canton, of which you have an Example in the Arms of Basset of Uleigh, Carey of London, and others.

A Quarter; see Estanton's Coat.

A Pile, for the Shape and different Bearing of which, both as to Position and Number, see many Examples in the Pages following, particularly the Duke of Newcastle's.

The three following are the same secundum quid (as to their Form) but not secundum quantum (as to Magnitude), and in this Book there are some few Examples of 'em.


An Orle, of which you will find Examples; as also of Common Charges born, in Orle, or Orlewise.

I purposely forbear to mention the several Kinds of Crosses, because such as are now used in Arms, are very frequently to be found.

page xxiv

chap1sec7Sect. VII. Of Lines with their diverse Forms.

ALL Ordinaries are suppos'd to be made of a strait Line; therefore when they are composed of a crooked one, you are to take particular Care to mention such Crookedness by a proper Appellation.

The following Scheme contains such Forms of Lines as are used in Heraldry, with their proper Names against them, viz.


The Lines Indented and Dancette do not differ in Form, but Quantity; the last being much larger and deeper than the other.

chap1sec8Sect. VIII. Some few Coats referr'd to, for the diverse bearing of several Ordinaries.

1. THE Cross is born Plain, in the Arms of Allesbury, Hussey, Shelton, Wall, Smith, Rainsford, &c. Voided, Atkinson of Stowel. Voided wavy, Duckensfield. Couped voided, Woodnoth. Couped peirced, Grill. Peirced, Ralphson. Ingail'd, Norwood, Warner of Norfolk, Wall, ERROR HERE