Roll of arms

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Hyghalmen Roll, German, c. 1485. An example of a late mediaeval roll of arms. College of Arms, London

A roll of arms (or armorial) is a collection of coats of arms, usually consisting of rows of painted pictures of shields, each shield accompanied by the name of the person bearing the arms. A roll may also consist of blazons (verbal descriptions) rather than illustrations.


The heraldist Stephen Friar, writing in 1987,[1] classified rolls as follows:

  • Occasional: relating to a specific event such as an expedition, tournament or a siege.
  • Institutional: associated with foundations, orders of religion or chivalry possibly compiled over many years.
  • Regional: collecting the arms of residents of a region; a practice almost unique to the English county rolls of the 14th century.
  • Illustrative: sometimes used to illustrate narratives or chronicles.
  • General: a combination or variety of collections.
  • Online rolls: In the Internet age, a number of societies maintain rolls of their members.

A roll of arms arranged systematically by design, with coats featuring the same principal elements (geometrical ordinaries and charges) grouped together as a tool to aid identification, is known as an ordinary of arms (or simply as an ordinary).

Known historical examples[edit]

Main article: List of rolls of arms
Dering Roll, c. 1270, Dover. Lists knights of Kent & Essex. British Library. Provenance: Sir Edward Dering (1598–1644), Lt. of Dover Castle
Segar's Roll, c. 1282. College of Arms.
  • Dering Roll, from the late 13th century, is the earliest surviving English roll of arms. It contains 324 coats of arms. It currently resides at the British Library.
  • The Camden Roll is a British roll dating from c. 1280, containing 270 painted coats, 185 with blazons.
  • Fojnica Armorial is a Balkan roll of arms of uncertain date, containing 139 coats of arms.
  • Gelre Armorial is a Dutch roll of arms from around 1370–1414, containing 1,700 coats of arms. It currently resides in the Royal Library of Belgium.
  • Hyghalmen Roll is an Imperial roll of arms made around 1447–1455 in Cologne. It currently resides at the College of Arms in London.
  • Siebmachers Wappenbuch is a general roll of arms of the Holy Roman Empire, compiled by Johann Siebmacher around 1605.
  • Wernigerode Armorial is a Bavarian roll of arms from around 1486–1492, containing 524 pages, 477 of which are illustrated with anywhere from one to thirty coats of arms (most of these have four coats of arms each).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • Wagner, Anthony Richard. A Catalogue of English Medieval Rolls of Arms. Aspilogia, 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1950.
  • Ayton, Andrew. “The English Army and the Normandy Campaign of 1346,” England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, eds. David Bates and Anne Curry, London, Hambledon Press, 1994, pp. 253–268.


  1. ^ A New Dictionary of Heraldry, 1987