Saturday, 21 September 2013

On Tinctures in Period - Part V: Sable

The fifth in the series of Tinctures in period treatises bring us to Black, known in Blazon as Sable.

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

This stone is blake and it is called Sabull

The . viii . stonn is a Dyamond a blake stone . Sable it is calde in armys . The vertue therof is . what gentilman that in his Cotearmure thatt stone berith : durabull & unfaynt in his kyngys batayll he shall be . The wich stone was reserved in the cherubyns crowne that was durable & unfaynt in his kyngys batayll of heven . whan thay faught with Lucifer

John Bossewell - Workes of Armorie (1572)
Blacke, termed Sable, is compared to Saturne, and to the Diamonde.
Diascorides sayth, that it is called the Stone of reconciliacion and love: for (sayth he) That woman that hath withdrawne her love from her husbande, by this, is brought to love him anewe: yea it goeth further: for it is saide to give proofe, whether she be chaste or no. For if she be say they, she shall whilest she is in sleape embrace her husbande, through the workyng of this Stone, yf not, she shall flye, and go backe from him. Sir Thomas Eliot in his Dictionarie, saith, that Adamas is the Diomonde, and that Magnes the lode Stone, that hath vertue to drawe Iron unto hym, is of some unproperlye called the Adamant.

John Ferne - The Blazon of Gentrie (1586)
Ferne continues on form with his table of the significance of colours.
The 5. cullor is black called Sable, & signifieth in

1 - Planets. - Saturne.
2 - Precious stones. - Diamond, Agate, or Chelydoin.
3 - Vertues. - Prudence, Constancie.
4 - Celestiall signes. - Capricornus and Aquarius.
5 - Months. - December, January.
6 - Days of the week. - Saturday.
7 - Ages of Man. - Decrepit or crooked old age.
8 - Flowres. - The Aubifaine.
9 - Elements. - Earth.
10- Sesons of the yeer - Winter.
11 - Complexions. - Melancholic.
12 - Numbers. - 5. 8.
13 - Mettailes. - Iron and leade.
In the angelic system given later in the book, Sable is given to Cherubins, with the virtue Unfaint and durable.

Edmund Bolton - The Elements of Armories (1610)

There is quite a range of rankings for Sable in the orderings of tinctures: Upton places it last of all, while Leigh has it fifth, after Azure, and Scohier places it sixth, superior only to Purpure. Bolton's own throne of colours considers Sable much higher, being placed third, sharing the second tier of the throne with Argent.

John Guillim - Display of Heraldrie (1611)
Guillim considers black as being one of the two Simple colours, opposing white and making the creation of all other colours
Blacke is a color contrary to White, having little participation of light [...] Whereby it is apparent that blacke is of lesse perfection then white. This colour is called in blazon Sable of the latine word Sabulum, which signifieth , gross, sand or gravell, in respect of the heavy and earthy substance, wherein it aboundeth above all others. And this colour is reputed farre inferior in dignity to white, and is likened to darkeness [...] Note that the rest of those speciall colours before mentioned, besides white and blacke, are called Colres medii, that they have their primary Essence from these, either by an equall or unevenfor concorporation or mixture of these two together: and in regard of these two extremes from which they have their being, cannot properly be called Colores, nifi per participationem.
In his table of the names used for the tinctures and their order, Guillim gives Sable the fifth place, as Sable. Diamond. Saturne.

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