LE NOBLE BLASON DES ARMES, in French, ILLUMINATED ARMORIAL MANUSCRIPT
[Flanders, mid-16th century]
2° (280 x 195mm). 108 leaves (including 9 blank) up to 38 lines within a ruled text area 215 x 140mm., written in brown ink, large calligraphic and illuminated initials throughout, ILLUMINATED ARMORIAL FRONTISPIECE AND TITLE-PAGE, with the armorial bearings of the Dolhains family supported by 2 wild men, FULL-PAGE FLEMISH-STYLE BORDER of flowers sprays and a butterfly strewn on a yellow ground, 74 leaves with full-coloured armorial illustrations, 1-8 per page, 19th-century antique-style calf.
Made for the Dolhains family whose armorial bearings form the frontispiece and whose coat of arms is the first of those painted on ff.44-48; Alan Lubbock (bookplate).
This manuscript comprises a treatise on heraldry addressed to 'tous jounes et nobles hommes a scavoir congnoistre et aprendre la maniere de blason leurs armes et toutes aultres'. The opening section of the rules of blasoning (ff.3-43v) is followed by 8 pages with the coats of arms of leading 16th-century Netherlandish families (ff.44-47v). Subsequent sections include the rules governing the bearing of arms, the prejudice to the King of France by the English King's bearing his arms, the bearing of arms by bastards and by women, and 'Quelques aultres petites questions darmes'. From folio 65 the sections are concerned with more general aspects of a herald's duty, the organisation of tournaments and battles, ennoblement, precedence between a constable and a general, questions of protocol, the responsibility of the office of 'Rois d'armes heraulx ou poursuivans' (ff.81-83), the privileges of heralds (ff.83v-84), accounts of the funeral arrangements for Seigneur de Malain in S. Juan de los Reyes, Toledo in 1525 and for the Marquis of Brandenburg, instructions on a herald's conduct on a mission for his sovereign to an English King, a Cardinal, a Patriach etc. The final section (f.103) concerns the representation of arms on tombs.
The detailed instructions governing the disposal of funeral hangings (to avoid the inevitable 'debats et questions' that arise between the Church and 'nos officiers' are Ordinances of Philip Archduke of Austria (ff.91-92v). The work must have been compiled before 1556 when he succeeded his father, the Emperor Charles V, as King of Spain. The author is likely to have been a herald at Philip's court during his governorship of the Netherlands.