Ordinary of arms

An ordinary of arms (or simply an ordinary) is a roll or register of coats of arms arranged systematically by design, with coats featuring the same principal elements (geometrical ordinaries and charges) grouped together.[1][2] The purpose of an ordinary is to facilitate the identification of the bearer of a coat of arms from visual evidence alone.

Thomas Jenyns' Book, an English ordinary of arms compiled in c.1398. This page shows a sequence of coats of arms featuring lions rampant. British Library, Add. MS 40851.

Ordinaries may take a form which is either graphic (consisting of a series of painted or drawn images of shields) or textual (consisting of blazons – verbal descriptions – of the coats). Most medieval and early modern manuscript ordinaries were graphic, whereas all the principal modern published ordinaries have been textual. A knowledge of the technicalities of blazon is essential for the student hoping to make best use of a textual ordinary.

By extension, ordinaries may also be compiled of other elements of heraldic display, such as crests, supporters or badges.[3]


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