A Note on the Scans: Many of my scans are slightly unclear, and I have had people request that I provide clearer scans. Rather than try to get my scanner to do something it can't really do, the location of each scan is indicated in the subarticles as they are updated, and will show you where to go for a better picture. Besides, no web picture can be as clear and nice as the photographic reproductions.
The first examples presented above are more typical examples of what heraldic documents might look like. The scribes who wrote them were busy people, with much too much work to do to spend time futzing with a fancy document for some minor merchant who happend to be able to support the notion that he was a gentleman. Illuminated documents were usually created by paid commission.
Illuminated documents hosted at other sites:
Hungarian example of 1488
Very nice example. Like a lot of 15th and 16th century Hungarian illumination, there is a decided Italian flavor to the painting.
3 examples of Grants of Arms
The first example hosted there (a nice, simple grant in English) is not on this site, the other two are.
Illuminated Grant of Arms dated 1587
Located at the British College of Arms site, the scan is of surprisingly poor quality, but worth a look. There are also scans of some other illuinated documents hosted here, but the scans there aren't any better than the scans here, alas.
Section of a plea roll from the reign of Henry VIII of England.
Here and here: Irish Plea rolls
Partial transcriptions with pictures.
To help you learn about real period documents, check the Oxford English Dictonary. Try charter, writ, indulgence, grant, bull, privilege, deed, dispensation, indenture, patent, letters patent, and any others you might think of while searching.
Here and here are a couple of short glosseries with some documentary definitions to help you until the time you can grab on to the OED.
It is true that there are many flaws in the SCA's method of awards; one of the biggest is the seperate levels of Arms--the Award of Arms, Grant of Arms, Patent of Arms. This is not based on period practice. There was, historically, only one level; either you had arms or you didn't.
The images for this page are from:
The Common Chronicle: Archival Treasures from the County Record Offices of England and Wales
The Knight in Medieval England
The Breslaur Collection of Manuscript Illuminations
English Handwriting, 1400-1650
The Oxford Guide to Heraldry
Calligraphy: The Art of Written Forms
Rivals in Power: Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties
Practical Calligraphy: Technique and Materials