International Heraldry - Rolls of Arms

A roll of arms (or armorial) is a collection of coats of arms, usually consisting of rows of painted pictures of shields, each shield accompanied by the name of the person bearing the arms.

A roll may also consist of blazons (verbal descriptions) rather than illustrations.

They typically fall into one of the following classes:

  • relating to a specific event such as an expedition, tournament or a siege.
  • associated with foundations, orders of religion or chivalry possibly compiled over many years.
  • collecting the arms of residents of a region; a practice almost unique to the English county rolls of the 14th century.
  • used to illustrate narratives or chronicles.

They may also be a combination such collections.

In the Internet age, a number of societies maintain rolls of their members on line.





Medieval Rolls of Arms


Dering Roll, c.1270, Dover. Lists knights of Kent & Essex. British Library. Provenance: Sir Edward Dering (1598–1644), Lt. of Dover Castle

Heralds' Roll, c.1280. College of Arms, MS B.29

Glover's Roll, c. 1240–1245 as dated by Sir Harris Nicolas,[2] 55 coats. British Museum Add MS 29796. Made by Robert Glover(d.1588), Somerset Herald, in 1586 from a now lost roll of arms of the reign of King Henry III (1216–1272). The arms are not drawn but only blazoned. Planché states it to be the earliest source of heraldic information and was the first to name it after Glover.[3]

The Dering Roll,[4] late 13th.c., the earliest surviving English original roll of arms. 324 coats, painted. Parchment, 81/4" wide by 8ft 8" long. British Library. Provenance: Sir Richard Dering (1598–1644).

The Bigot Roll, 1254, French. 300 coats. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, fonds français no 18648 fo 32 – 39.

Walford's Roll, c.1275, 185 coats with blazons. British Museum MS Harl 6589,f.12,12b.

The Chifflet-Prinet Roll, c. 1285–1298, 147 coats with blasons. Bibliothèque Municipale, Besançon, Collection Chifflet, MS 186, pp. 145–154.

The Camden Roll, c.1280, 270 coats painted, 185 with blazons. British Museum, Cotton Roll, 8.

St George's Roll, c.1285, 677 coats, painted. College of Arms, London, MS Vincent 164 ff.1–21b.

Charles' Roll, c.1285, 486 coats, painted. Society of Antiquaries, London, MS517 (Copy, c.15th.c.). Planché however names as "Charles's Roll" a copy of a mid-13th.c. roll containing nearly 700 coats drawn in pen & ink (i.e. "tricked") by Nicholas Charles(d.1613), Lancaster Herald, in 1607 (British Museum, Harley MS 6589). Charles stated that the original had been lent to him by the Norroy King of Arms.[5]

The Galloway Roll, 1300, 259 coats with blazons. College of Arms, London, MS M.14, ff.168–75 (copy by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms, d1534).

The Falkirk Roll, c.1298, 115 coats with blazons. Lists the knights with King Edward I at Battle of Falkirk(1298). Various copies exist. The British Museum copy (MS Harl 6589, f.9–9b) was formerly in the Treasury Chamber in Paris in 1576.[6]

The Heralds' Roll, c.1280, 697 coats, painted. FitzWilliam Museum, Cambridge MS297 (Copy, 15th.c.)

Roll of Caerlaverock or Poem of Caerlaverock,[3] 1300, 110 poetry blazons, no images. Near contemporary copy, vellum: British Museum, Cotton Caligula A XVIII, ff.23b–30b. Two other copies exist, made by Glover from a now lost different original source, one at College of Arms, London, the other at the Office of the Ulster King of Arms, Dublin. Made in 1300 by English heralds during Edward I's siege of Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland. Text: see s:The Roll of Caerlaverock/The Roll

The Lord Marshal's Roll, 1295, 565 coats, painted. Society of Antiquaries, London, MS 664, vol.1, ff.19–25. Collin's Roll (Q)

Collins' Roll, 1296, 598 coats, painted. Queen's College, Oxford, MS 158, pp. 366–402 (Copy c1640). College of Arms, London

Stirling Roll, 1304, 102 coats. College of Arms, London MS M.14, ff.269–272 (Copy by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms, d1534).

Armorial du Hérault Vermandois, c. 1285–1300. 1,076 blasons. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS.français 2249 (Copy, 15th.c.)

Armorial Wijnbergen, French. Part 1, c.1265–1270; Part 2, c.1270–1285. 1,312 coats, painted. Royal Dutch Association of Genealogy & Heraldry, The Hague.

Stepney Roll, 1308. Lists knights present at Stepney Tournament, 1308. Published in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, p. 63.

Dunstable Roll, 1334. Lists knights present at Dunstable Tournament, 1334. Published in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, p. 389.

Calais Roll, 1346/7. 116 shields in brown ink, shaded & lettered to denote tinctures. Made probably in late 16th.c. from transcripts of accounts kept by Walter Wetewang, treasurer of the household 1346–7 showing wages paid to participants at the Siege of Calais. Extant only in form of about 20 16th. c. manuscripts. Classed as spurious by Wagner (1950), but as “one of the documentary pillars of fourteenth-century military studies,” by Ayton (1994).[4]

Gelre Armorial, Dutch, c.1370–1414, 1,700 coats. Royal Library, Belgium.




Pan-European volumes Available in Reproduction

These volumes usually include significant amounts of heraldry from France, Flanders, Gelderland, Burgundy, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland. They also include material on heraldry from elsewhere in Europe, such as Scandinavia, Italy, Ireland, the Iberian peninsula, Silesia and Poland.

Most of these pan-European rolls reflected the international "tournament circuit".

Armorial Bellenville is a late 14th C armorial with about 1700 coats of arms and some crests. It covers much of Europe, and it has a high degree of overlap with the armory in Armorial Gelre. The older edition (still apparently in print) is a black and white tricked redrawing that includes French explanatory text and an ordinary: Léon Jéquier, Armorial Bellenville (Cahiers d'Heraldique V) (Le Leopard d'Or, Paris, 1983, ISBN 2-86377-029-2). The newer (limited) edition includes a color photograph volume and a scholarly accompanying explanatory volume in French by M. Pastoureau and M. Popoff. It is available from Editions du Gui.

Armorial Gelre includes armory from all over Europe and has excellent heraldic art. This armorial was compiled between 1370 and 1414. It contains some 1700 coats of arms (and some crests) from almost the entirety of Europe. The following edition has black and white photographs and explanatory text in French: P. Adam-Even, annotator, Gelre (Jan von Helmont, Leuven, 1992, ISBN 90-74318-03-7).

Grand Armorial Equestre de la Toison d'Or is a 15th C armorial covering most of Europe, with a concentration on the continent. It contains over 1000 coats of arms and some fine heraldic equestrian figures. The quality of the heraldic art in this roll is very high. There are two editions that are readily available. The older edition is a black and white redrawing with explanatory text in English: Rosemary Pinches and Anthony Wood, A European Armorial (Heraldry Today, London, 1971, ISBN 0 900455 13 6). The newer (limited) edition has a color photograph volume with an accompanying explanatory volume in French: M. Pastoureau and M. Popoff, Grand armorial equestre de la Toison d'Or (Editions du Gui, Paris, 2001).

Click for some extracts from the Grand Armorial Equestre de la Toison d'Or


L'armorial Le Breton is a collection of armorials from the 15th -16th C, which were bound together and in the possession of Hector Le Breton, Montjoie King of Arms of France. It contains a photofacsimile of over 900 coats of arms, many of which are French. It also contains significant amounts of introductory material by various authors, as well as a detailed armorial, providing not only names and blazons, but historical information about the armigers. All the explanatory text is in French. Emmanuel de Boos (and others), L'Armorial Le Breton, (Somology éditions d'Art, Paris, 2004, ISBN 2-85056-792-2.)

Traité d'Heraldique is not a facsimile roll of arms, but an excellent discussion of heraldry (in French), with a particular focus on heraldry from the 13th to 15th C. It addresses some questions about frequency of use of charges and tinctures in various countries by providing statistics. The illustrations include good black and white photos and redrawings of period heraldry. This book appears to have recently gone out of print but was widely available in bookstores through 2001 and is still available new or used in some bookstores: Michel Pastoureau, Traité d'Héraldique (second edition: Picard, Paris 1993, ISBN 2-7084-0413-X; ISSN 0242-7249, later editions now available).


Livro do Armeiro-Mor is an illuminated manuscript dated 1509, created during the reign of King Manuel I, fourteenth king of Portugal. The codex is an armorial designed by João do Cró, Rei de Armas (John Cro, King of Arms). It is considered one of the masterpieces of illuminated manuscripts preserved in Portugal.

Click for some extracts from the Livro do Armeiro-mor




England and Wales


Anglo-Norman Armory and Anglo-Norman Armory Two discuss 13th C Anglo-Norman armory. They are written in English. The first book contains a discussion of 13th C armory. It also contains a black and white photograph of the entire Herald's Roll (Fitzwilliam version), along with explanatory text. The Herald's Roll (Fitzwilliam version) contains roughly 700 coats of arms. Anglo-Norman Armory Two is an ordinary to twenty-five rolls of arms compiled from 1250 to 1315, covering 3000 coats of arms. The artwork in the second volume is modern. The volumes are Cecil Humphery-Smith, Anglo-Norman Armory (Family History, Canterbury, 1973, ISBN 0-9504879-2-9), and Cecil Humphery-Smith, Anglo-Norman Armory Two (Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, 1984, ISBN 0-9504879-8-8).


Germany and Switzerland


The Manesse Codex was written in Zurich in the first half of the 14th C. It has 137 miniatures, each of which has a portrait of one of the Minnesänger (poets) and (in most cases) his arms and crest. The miniatures also give some lovely illustrations of tournament scenes (including heraldic costume) and courtly love. The reader should be aware that the manuscript includes tarnished silver which can appear almost black, such as the "zwei silberne (schwarz oxidierte)... Karpfen" in the arms of Wachsmut von Künzigen (miniature #50). The miniatures can be found on line in some web sites:

There have been a number of books written on the manuscript. One in-print edition, which contains all the miniatures in color and is the source of the quote about miniature #50, is: Ingo F. Walther and Gisela Siebert, Codex Manesse (Insel Verlag, Frankfurt, 1988, ISBN 3-458-14385-8). The explanatory text and blazons are in German.

Zuricher Wappenrolle is a 14th C Swiss/German roll of arms known from later copies, with about 450 coats of arms and some additional armory depicted on standards. A color facsimile with explanatory text has been found on the Internet in the past, but at this current May 2006 date is withdrawn and in revision, with the final version not yet available - see the Laurel web site's educational page for references ( Print editions have also been published, one (with black and white redrawings and explanatory text in French) from Leopard d'Or.

Vigil Rabers Neustifter Wappenbuch is an armorial from the 16th C. containing a color photofacsimile of over 1500 coats of arms, drawn in art styles ranging from excellent to adequate, depending on the emblazon. Most are on the excellent side. Its author was Vigil Raber, a true Renaissance man who was not only both a herald and a painter but also an important figure in the history of the theater. Vigil Raber was from South Tyrol, which is currently an autonomous province of Italy, but culturally German in period. The volume listed here contains introductory material and an armorial, all in German. (Harwick W. Arch, Virgil Rabers Neustifter Wappenbuch (Verlag A. Weger, Brixen, 2001, ISBN 88-85831-76-1).

Siebmacher's Wappenbuch is an armorial from 1605 covering Germany and neighboring areas, including portions of Silesia. It has 3400 coats of arms with associated crests. The edition described here does not have blazons but it does have a name index. It has been going in and out of print about every five years, with the most recent edition in 1999, and is often available at a very low price. The 1994 and 1989 editions are effectively identical to the 1999 edition: Johann Siebmachers Wappenbuch von 1605 (Harenburg Komm., Dortmund, 1999, ISBN: 357210050X). These are photofacsimiles of the printed black and white volume which were hand-colored at some date.


Flanders (French-speaking/Walloon)


Armorial de la Flandre Wallonne dit de La Marche de Lille is a roll assembled between 1543-1544 what is now Northern France/southern Belgium, but was at the time a part of Flanders. It includes a color photofacsimile of 288 coats of arms (264 on shields, 24 on banners) from the (heraldic administrative) Marche of Lille (which included the towns of Lille, Douai and Orchies.) Useful discussions of the heraldry in the book are provided in French. Armorial de la Flandre Wallonne dit de La Marche de Lille, Francois Boniface, Sources Genealogiques et Historiques des Provinces du Nord, ISBN 2-908976-72-2 2001. The publisher's web site is




Stemmi depicts heraldic art, which performs a function similar to that of a roll of arms. This book describes 176 armorial bas relief plaques in the courtyard of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy. The arms belonged to the individuals holding the position of Podesta at the Bargello between 1313 and 1557. The heraldic art is excellent, and often includes crests and supporters. For each plaque, the book provides a black and white photograph, some information about the Podesta, and the name of the artist (in Italian). The book also has a scholarly introduction. The blazons are accurate when describing the charges but may not be accurate for tincture, as the pigments have mostly worn off the plaques. (In some cases, the blazon in the book gives the same tincture for a charge and the field or other charge on which it lies.) Unlike a roll of arms, where all the artwork was done in a short period of time, these plaques were roughly contemporary with the arms that they depict, and thus they survey over 200 years of Tuscan heraldic art: Francesca Fumi Cambi Gado, Stemmi (Firenze, 1993, no ISBN). The museum's web site is

Stemmario Trivulziano contains hundreds of arms from Milan in the mid-15th C. The heraldry of Milan shows both German and Italian influence. The book is a high quality color photofacsimile. Ed. Carlo Maspoli, 2000, Casa Editrice Niccolo; Orsini de Marzo, ISBN 88-900452-0-5.

See also the heading for Germany, for heraldic material from South Tyrol.




No specifically Polish documents yet listed, but you may wish to reference the Silesia heading.





The Balliol Roll is a 14th C roll containing 36 Scottish coats of arms, which was probably compiled by (or for) an Englishman. A color photograph of the one-page roll is included. The explanatory text is in English and also includes historical and genealogical information about the people in the roll: Bruce A. McAndrew, The Balliol Roll (New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 2002, no ISBN).

Scots Roll is a Scottish roll from the 15th C with 114 coats of arms. The following edition is available from the publisher at a bargain price, and it includes color photographs and explanatory text in English: Colin Campbell, The Scots Roll (The Heraldry Society of Scotland, Scotland, 1995, ISBN 0 9525258 0 1).

The Lindsay of the Mount roll is a Scottish roll assembled in 1542 by David Lindsay of the Mount, who shortly later became Lyon King of Arms. A few coats were added later in the 16th C. It contains over 400 coats of arms from all over Scotland (including the Highlands), and was used as the starting point for the official Scots heraldic registry that is still active today. This edition is not a photofacsimile but is a heraldically accurate redrawing. While this was a limited edition, it may be found in a number of libraries in their non-circulating collections. Facsimile of an ancient heraldic manuscript emblazoned by Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount 1542, William Paterson, Edinburgh, 1878.

The Dunvegan Armorial is a Scottish roll from the end of the 16th C. It contains a color photofacsimile of over 50 noble coats of arms depicted in a full achievement (with crest and supporters.) and over 200 "Gentleman's arms" (with the escutcheons only.) The heraldic art quality of each portion of the Armorial is high. In addition, it has an appendix giving color photofacsimiles of various heraldic manuscripts' depictions of the achievements of the Earls of Lennox, the MacLeods of Lewis, and MacLeod of that Ilk. These give an opportunity to consider various heraldic art styles in Scotland. The editors have provided significant explanatory material in English, with particularly detailed historical information about the owners of the noble coats of arms. This is a limited edition volume. John and Eilean Malden, The Dunvegan Armorial (The Heraldry Society of Scotland, 2006, ISBNs: 0-9525258-5-2 and 978-0-9525258-5-1.)

The Dublin Armorial of Scottish Nobility dates from the end of the 16th C. It contains a color photofacsimile of pages depicting the marital coats of the various Kings of Scotland (Scotland to dexter, the Queen's original arms to sinister). It also includes over 50 noble coats of arms depicted in a full achievement (with crest and supporters.) Of particular note are the achievements where the arms are shown, not on an escutcheon, but on a tabard, with the arms shown in full on the front, and half of the arms visible on each sleeve. The heraldic art quality is high. It contains significant explanatory information in English, with particularly detailed historical information about the owners of the arms. This is a limited edition volume. Leslie Hodgson, The Dublin Armorial of Scottish Nobility, The Heraldry Society of Scotland, 2006, ISBNs: 0-9525258-4-4 and 978-0-9525258-4-4.)


Spain and Portugal


Libro de Armeria del Reino de Navarra is a 16th C Navarrese roll containing over 700 coats of arms. It includes a color reproduction of the roll with explanatory text in Spanish. One edition is from 1974: Faustino Menendez Pidal, Libro de Armería del Reino de Navarra (Editorial La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, Bilbao, 1974, ISBN 84-248-0119-9). A new edition of the book appears to be on sale from the government of Navarre, according to their Web site, with a new second editor: Faustino Menendez Pidal and Juan José Martinena Ruiz, Libro de Armería del Reino de Navarra (Gobierno de Navarra. Dpto. de Educación y Cultura, 2002, ISBN 84-235-2166-4).

Livro da Nobreza e Perfeicam das Armas is a Portuguese roll from the first half of the 16th C, including over 300 coats of arms. It includes a color reproduction of the roll with explanatory text in English and Portuguese. Livro da Nobreza e Perfeicam das Armas, Introduction, notes etc. by Martim de Albuquerque and Joao Paulo de Abreu e Lima, Acadamia Portuguesa da Historia, Lisbon 1987.





Renaissance Rolls of Arms


Stemmario Trivulziano, Italian, c.1470–1480, 2,000 coats.[7] Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan, Italy. Possibly the most renowned of the Italian Renaissance armorials, probably a work by Gian Antonio da Tradate, formerly the property of the Princes Trivulzio. This codex dates back to the early years of the condottiere Francesco I Sforza as Duke of Milan (1450–66). It blazons the ducal arms and those of linked families such as Brandolini, Savelli, Colonna, Orsini, Scaligeri, Este and Gonzaga. Also the arms of the German merchant-bankers Fugger.

Armorial of Hozier. Charles René d'Hozier, son of Pierre, helped him in his research, succeeded to him in the charged of judge of arms and was named genealogist of the king. He published the Grand Armorial of France established on order of Louis XIV in 1696, containing 120,000 coats of arms.





Modern Rolls of Arms


Burke's General Armory: "The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; Comprising a Registry of Armorial Bearings from the Earliest to the Present Time". By Sir Bernard Burke, C.B., LL.D., Ulster King of Arms. London 1884. May be considered a Roll of Arms in the widest sense of the term. A listing of every known armorial ever used in the British Isles, still not superseded in usefulness, though not always reliable.





Medieval Rolls of Arms







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