Thursday, October 15, 2015

HERALDRY: "What's Your Blazon?" in "Oxford Today" (Updated Mar 8, 2017)

Cover of The Michaelmas 2015 Oxford Today.
Sent to a quarter-million Oxonians: The Michaelmas 2015 issue of Oxford Today.

On p. 66, note the fine obit of Dan Topolski, about whose life and death I have posted.

My article, "What's Your Blazon?" is on pages 45-50. I am grateful to Ian Senior, who emails out a  newsletter about Oxford, for alerting his readers to what he calls a "very interesting" article.

Special thanks to Windsor Herald, William George Hunt, TD, BA (Southampton, UK), FCA, for giving me a tour of the College of Arms in London when I visited in February. I add more acknowledgments at the end of this post.

The College of Arms is, especially for an American, an amazing institution. The traditions go back to Edward III and 1364, 651 years ago. It is the ancient predecessor of something most Americans think they invented – brands and trademarks.

To show my gratitude to the College of Arms for keeping alive the heraldic traditions, I made a contribution to their U.S. foundation and I urge other Americans to do the same. The College has managed to survive for six-and-a-half centuries, mostly from fees and contributions from private sources. But in inflation-adjusted money its revenues have not been keeping pace. Americans can make gifts deductible from taxable income to support the College of Arms through the College of Arms Foundation, administered by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

The rich topic of the Oxford and Cambridge college coats of arms is ripe for greater enjoyment. Heraldry is too much fun to be restricted to specialists, although I am determined to keep learning as much as I can. We don't want to go to the other extreme either, of the mass-produced "family" coats of arms.

Anyone with greater expertise or imagination, please share comments with me here and I promise to email back my appreciation for any feedback, any further required contrition and of course I will correct anything I have posted online that needs to be corrected.

Last month I spent a day at the Society of Genealogists (SOG) in London (they have an excellent heraldry section in their library) and I have become a member.

On Monday in New York City I will be going to the next heraldry committee meeting of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYGBS), which I have joined and where Windsor Herald will be speaking.

Exonerating anyone else from any shortcomings as a heraldry expert, I would like to acknowledge the help of a number of sources, for which there is little space in Oxford Today articles. The heraldry holdings of the British Library and New York Public Library were helpful (although I wish more of the NYPL holdings were open-stack, as they are at the British Library), as well as genealogical societies in New York (NYGBS) and London (SOG). The library at the College of Arms was under reconstruction when I visited, so I wasn't able to use it much. The new Weston Library of the Bodleian in Oxford has a small but helpful open-stack collection.

Several people read drafts of my article. My wife Alice Tepper Marlin, of course, read it at an important juncture. Marlene Rehkamp, with whom I worked in the New York City Comptroller's Office, kindly gave it a thorough read and as usual came up with excellent suggestions.  The Editor of Oxford Today, Richard Lofthouse, saw the potential for the article at an early stage and deserves huge credit for turning Oxford Today into a forum for general discussion among alumni around the world, both in print and online. I think we are increasingly finding out that print and cyberspace have a lot to offer each other.

Other Posts on the Arms of Oxford Colleges and PPHs: Original Article in Oxford Today . Heraldry as BrandingHeraldry as Fun .  Coat of Arms vs. Crest . Sinister QuestionsVisit to the College of Arms . Windsor Herald Talks to New Yorkers . Shaming of Harvard Law Crest :: Rapid Expansion of Oxford's Colleges and Halls . Oxford Stars . Links to Heraldry, Oxford, GWHarris Manchester College . Linacre College . St Catherine's . St Cross College . St Edmund Hall . Trinity College :: Regent's Park College . St Benet's Hall . 

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