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. The purpose of an ordinary is to facilitate the identification of the bearer of a coat of arms from visual evidence alone.
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.