Saturday, 24 August 2013

On Tinctures in Period - Part I: Or

This is the first post in a series on the tinctures of heraldry, as seen in five heraldic treatises written in or shortly after period. The first one we will look at is Gold or Yellow, known in the language of Blazon as Or (from the latin Aurum, for Gold)

Dame Juliana Berners - Boke of Saint Albans (1486)
Primus lapis

The first stone is calde Topasion signyfiyng golde in armys.

This stone Topasion is a semy stone. and golde it is calde in armys. The vertue ther of is : that the gentilman the wiche thys stone in his cote armure berith a fare messangere in his kyngs batyll shalt be. The wich stone is reseved in the angelis crowne that was a trwe massanger and a sure in his kyngs batayll of heven whan they faught with Lucifer.

John Bossewell - Workes of Armorie (1572)
Golde, termed Or, is compared to The Sunne, and to The Topace. Bossewell chooses to include (and even use) the planetary and gemstone systems of tincture.
Plinie saieth, that this Gemme is of grassie colour, although that in Germanie, it is founde like to Golde, and otherwhere, of that bygnes and quantitie, that Philadelphus is saide to have framed thereof and made an Image in length of foure Cubites.

John Ferne - The Blazon of Gentrie (1586)
Ferne gives a much more thorough treatment of the comparisons:
The I. cullor is yellow, & signifieth in

1 - Planets. - The Sun
2 - Precious stones. - Topazion & Chrysolith.
3 - Vertues. - Faith & constancy.
4 - Celestiall signes. - The Lion.
5 - Months. - July.
6 - Days of the week. - Sunday.
7 - Ages of Man. - Yong age of adolescentia. (From 14. till 20. yeeres.)
8 - Flowres. - The Marygold.
9 - Elements. - Ayre.
10- Sesons of the yeer - Spring time.
11 - Complexions. - Sanguine.
12 - Numbers. - 1. 2. 3.
13 - Mettailes. - Gold.
I find it interesting to note that Or is compared to the Sanguine complexion, whose name is occasionally used as a tincture of blood red colour.

Later in the book, he also gives comparisons of the tinctures to the orders of angels. Or is given to Angels, with the virtue of a sure messenger

Edmund Bolton - The Elements of Armories (1610)

Bolton refers to three orders of tinctures, which give each their rank in precedence, by Upton, Leigh and Scohier. In all of them, golden Or is placed as the first, chief of all tinctures. However, as colours, white is taken as a degree above yellow. On his own 'throne of colours', Or ranks as the chief tincture, standing alone on the first tier.

John Guillim - Display of Heraldrie (1611)
Guillim sees white and black as pure colours, with red being an exact mix of the two. Between them, yellow is "compounded of much White, and a little Red, as if you should take two parts of White, and but one of Red" and commonly called GoldYellow.
And therefore such is the worthinesse of this Colour which doth resemble it, that (as Christine de Pice holdeth) none ought to beare the same in Armes, but Emperours and Kings, and such as be of the Bloud Royall, though indeed it be in use more common. And as this metall excelleth all other in value, puritie and finesse ; so ought the Bearer (as much as in him lieth) indevour to surpasse all other in Prowesse and Vertue.
In his table of the names used for the tinctures and their order, Guillim gives Or the first place, as Or. Topaze. Sol.

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