This area is currently being restructured. Each document is being given its own page with relevant information appended thereto. This particular page is being updated to allow new additions to be viewed while the site is restructured. However, this page is not being updated beyond adding the links to new documents and removing dead links. Therefore, don't be alarmed by the differences in the styles. I expect to finish the rebuild by the end of October 2001. This entire site will become a subdomain at It is taking me a very.long.time. to get it all moved, but moved it will be. Please bear with me until then.

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.

Heraldic Documents

The Grant of Arms to Sir Francis Drake
Yep, this is really his grant of arms. As you will see, it isn't anything elaborate.
Another image of a sixteenth century grant of arms.
Like Drake's, this GOA is just a document recording what was granted.
An Augmentation of Arms
A record of a decreed change to arms; this is one of the few areas in which period practice and Scadian practice merge.
Illuminated Grant of Arms
This, and the following two images, were the most elaborate examples of heraldic documents I was able to find.
Illuminated GOA
Note that these Illuminated GOA's, while attractive, are far less illuminated than the illuminated manuscripts we usually use as our examples.
Illuminated GOA
Note that these documents are far more text heavy, and that the illumination consists primarily of an addition of decorative motifs surrounding the heraldry.
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated Heraldic Grant
Illuminated GOA
Illuminated Heraldic Grant
Illuminated Heraldic Grant

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.

SCA illuminated documents based on historic documents rather than period illuminated manuscripts.


Ducal Privilege
Italian Document
Another Ducal Privilege
Italian Document
Unspecified Document
The source for this document image didn't specify the document type.
Unspecified Heraldic document
Close-up of the text of a heraldic document. The writing is tiny and extensive.
Unspecified Document
A letter under the King's signet; could be anything.
Petition for Divorce
This is the big one--the divorce petition sent to the Pope requesting the dissolution of the marriage of Henry VII and Katherine of Aragon.
A grant given under the signet of Richard III
This is an unusual in that it was granted with Richard III's signet.
A charter of the year 699, of King Wihtred of Kent, granting a variety of privileges to the churches and monastaries in Kent.
Letters of Confraternity
Iluminated charter promising that the monks of a particular abbey will pray for a particular family.
Land Grant
English, 1085. Recipient of the land promises to provide two fighting men to the land grantor.
Document confering compulsory Knighthood. Very different than what one might expect to see when compared to "Knighting Scrolls" of the SCA.
English, 1310, an indenture of retainer, essentially a written promise of service on the part of both parties involved.
Illuminated Grant
Illuminated Treaty
Illuminated Treaty
Illuminated Indenture
Letters Patent
Illuminated Treaty
Illuminated Charter
Illuminated Charter
Illuminated Plea Roll
Illuminated Letters Patent
Illuminated Papal Bull
Illuminated Charter; earliest illuminated doc on this site (dated 1291)

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.

Plea Roll

Section of a plea roll from the reign of Henry VIII of England.

Here and here: Irish Plea rolls

Partial transcriptions with pictures.

Search the OED

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

Anne Boleyn

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

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