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" Every species of study contributes to the perfection of human
knowledge, by that universal bond which connects them all in a philosophical mind.”—D'ISRAELI.
JERALDRY had its origin with
the Feudal system, and is one of the appendages to that rude combination, which has never
been abolished; but in reference to the necessary distinctions of Rank, its evident utility in society is still acknowledged, and the gentilitial assumption of hereditary armorial bearings has consequently been retained, as a convenient and powerful bar to the encroachments of one branch of the community upon the privileges of the other.
As its acquisition was originally in the field by military prowess, this hereditary distinction was first borne on the shield of the victorious warrior; next upon the banners, pennons, and housings, and was afterwards embroidered on the surcoats or tabards of the knights: the mantles of the ladies were even subsequently decorated with the family bearings.
Heraldry was very early connected with the sciences of architecture, sculpture, and painting, and was adopted as a tasteful and splendid decoration in churches and mansions, on the walls, pavements, monuments, windows and hangings, and still retains its use upon seals, and upon the coins of the realm.
Its history is a theme so fraught with pleasure to the imagination, ever ready to indulge in romantic ideas, that a generous mind is unable to resist the rational desire of information respecting it, and its ultimate design being to give due influence to all classes of society, it becomes at the same time so connected with the institutions and usages of our established constitution, that its investigation cannot fail to be considered as a most instructive, entertaining, and useful pursuit, to every one whose studies are directed to the history and antiquities of the kingdom.
When the numerous list of publications on this interesting subject is exainined, it must surely be a matter of great surprise, that no attempt bas hitherto been made to bring them all under one view, and by that means to unfold the vast extent of research that has been devoted to the study, affording also an opportunity of selecting those works, where it has been treated in the most perspicuous manner.
This profitable advantage, an important desideratum in every science, is now attempted for Heraldry, by the publication of a.“ Bibliotheca Heraldica,” a work not accomplished without much time having been consumed in the collection of materials, and a patient investigation of a great number of volumes: the result, it is hoped, will be found to convey decided information to the Genealogist, and not unworthy the attention of the Historian and the Antiquary.
In the year 1674, the second edition of a small tract, in Latin, was published by Thomas Gore, Esq. of Alderton, in Wiltshire, entitled
Catalogue of Writers upon Heraldic Subjects.” This work displayed much talent, and the books were classed in a scientific method, but the list was confined entirely to an enumeration of the names of authors, and brief titles of their works. The tract has become so exceedingly scarce, that it is now to be found in
very few libraries, and its purchase is only to be obtained at a price considerably above its intrinsic value.
The Rev. James Dallaway, in the course of his full and comprehensive Inquiries into the Origin and Progress of Heraldry, appropriately introduced “ Biographical Sketches of Heraldic Authors,” and “A List of Books, elementary, or connected with Genealogy, published in England, intended to suggest hints to those who are desirous of forming a complete collection of what has been written to elucidate that Science.”
A more copious list is contained in the Censura Literaria, under the title of “ A Catalogue of Writers on English Heraldry.” written by Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart. F. S. A. from an actual examination of the volumes themselves, and a manifest superiority of information on every point, relating to the subject.
The remarks and opinions of these learned predecessors have been in some instances adopted in the following work, with due acknowledgment, and the author has not omitted to avail him
self of the typographical researches of Ames, Herbert, and of the extended edition of their united labours by the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, F.S.A, to obtain the most exact information respecting early-printed books.
The author has a more pleasing task to perform, and he hopes that it will not be deemed presumptuous in him thus publicly to notice, with the utmost gratitude and respect, the names of those literary gentlemen by whose kind assistance and personal communications he is proud to acknowledge that his labour has been facilitated and his work improved.
His obligations are in the first instance due to John Moore Paget, Esq. for the unsolicited loan of the collections of the late Rev. Richard Paget
, M. A. a portion of whose MSS. relative to heraldic writers had been inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine, in the years 1792 and 1793, under the signature of “B. P.” and afterwards incorporated in the account given by Mr. Dallaway.
To George Ormerod, Esq. he has the honour to be under particular obligations, for his