The Heraldry Society
of Scotland
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Scotland, UK.




The Heraldry Society of Scotland

  An Annotated Bibliography of Scottish Heraldic Materials - compiled by Leslie A. Schweitzer & David Hunter of Montlaw

This bibliography discusses various sources of information on Scots heraldry. It includes facsimiles of heraldic manuscripts, both generated in Scotland and outside of Scotland (but including Scottish materials.) It also includes a variety of heraldic treatises. Some journals, which often have articles of interest, are discussed at the end of the article.

Both authors have personal research interests in Medieval and Renaissance heraldry, and thus, this bibliography will be more comprehensive when covering these time periods than in the later time periods.


This bibliography does not include works on Scottish onomastics, or the vast wealth of materials which are largely on English heraldry but which make passing references to Scots heraldry. The bibliography also does not include books on the heraldry of single families.  Similarly, while many genealogical books and periodicals make passing reference to heraldry, they are not included in the bibliography unless they are of significant heraldic interest.

The materials are organized alphabetically by the authorís surname. If an ISBN or ISSN number is available, this has been provided in order to assist the reader in obtaining these materials.

Clan Books

Many, many books have been written about the clans of Scotland. Most are in a dictionary form, where each clan has a listing containing the history of the clan, and perhaps some information about the etymology of the name, tartans, mottoes, clan badges and chiefís arms.  It is our experience that, with some notable exceptions, these books are not useful for the serious researcher. They tend to emphasize colorful legend over greyer, but accurate, fact. As a class, they also tend to imply that certain elements of modern clan insignia or dress are of greater antiquity than seems historically accurate.  

This bibliography lists the clan books we have found to be most useful. No judgment should be implied by the omission of a clan book from this bibliography.

The Bibliography
Books and Pamphlets

Adams, F. and Innes of Learney, Sir Thomas, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, (Johnston and Bacon, Stirling, 1970 (8th edition)) (ISBN: 0 7179 4500 6)

An extensive discussion of the clan system, clan structure, and Celtic culture. While the clans of the Highlands are each given roughly a page of discussion, the primary aim of the volume is a much broader focus on the clan as a social system. This volume does not address any of the clans which are located in the lowlands. The volume does contain a useful discussion of the law as it applies to clan matters, especially the succession to the chiefship. In addition, there are useful discussions of the surnames and designations of various clans and in clan groups.

Heraldic information is provided for most of the clans, in the form of a black and white line drawing of the arms and a blazon. The motto, achievement elements and Lyon Register matriculation information are also discussed as applicable.

Adam-Even, P., annotator, Gelre, (Jan von Helmont, Leuven, 1992) (ISBN 90-74318-03-7)

This armorial was compiled between 1370 and 1414 by the Gelre Herald, Claes Heinenzoon. The Scots section appears to date from 1385. The arms are primarily from the Edinburgh area. The arms of the Earl of Angus are present in the English section of this Armorial as well.

This edition has black and white photographs of the entire roll. It includes French blazons for all the armory and the names of the owners of all the arms (in Flemish spellings of the armory's owners.) It also includes references to other sources where the armory can be found, a directory showing the arms found in various countries, and some discussion of the Roll, mostly in French. The foreword is in French, Flemish and English.

The indexing takes a bit of practice to use easily. Each coat of arms is given a unique number in the blazon section. The numbers are sequential, but are not provided on the pages where the photographs are provided. In order to identify a particular escutcheon in the photograph, one must turn to the blazon index, find the appropriate folio number, and from there locate the correct shield by matching the blazon with the emblazon. The numbers are allocated in order from top left to bottom right, but that is not always a clear ordering in Gelre, given the way the shields are positioned on each folio.

Note: see also Stodart, for more information on Gelre.

Balfour Paul, Sir James, An Ordinary of Arms (2nd Edition) [1672-1901], (Genealogical Publishing Co, Baltimore, 1903 reprinted 1969)

Reid of Robertland, David and Wilson, Vivien, An Ordinary of Arms, vol. 2 [1902-1973], (Lyon Office, Edinburgh 1977) (ISBN: 0 9505299 0 7)

These are ordinaries of all arms that have been matriculated in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland ("the Lyon Register") since its origin in 1672 to 1973. Each coat of arms is included in the ordinary once. However, quartered arms are divided so that each unique quarter is listed independently. Each armory is indexed only by the primary charge on the field. The entry lists the blazon of the arms, the person to whom the arms are matriculated and the year of matriculation. Volume 2 also references to the volume and page in the Lyon register where the matriculation may be found. Crests, supporters, mottoes, and badges are not included in these volumes

Balfour Paul, Sir James, Heraldry in Relation to Scottish History and Art, (David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1900)

A very interesting book by the then-Lord Lyon King of Arms. The book has six chapters, each representing one of the 1898 Rhind Lectures in Archaeology. The writing style is both clear and conversational.
The book covers the following topics:
∑         Basic introduction to the grammar of heraldry (a small portion of the book).
∑         How Heraldry reflects the history and culture of Scotland.
∑         Heraldic design trends in Scotland (brief discussion of charge, tincture and design trends).
∑         The history of the heraldic offices in Scotland and their holders.
∑         Discussion of Heraldic Authors.
∑         Important Heraldic Manuscripts.
∑         The Art of Heraldry (philosophy of heraldic art).
∑         Heraldry as Ornament.

Burnett, Charles J. and Bennett, Helen, The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1987) (ISBN: 0 948636 07 6)

This is a short history of the Order of the Thistle produced in conjunction with an exhibition held in 1987. It features many examples of the insignia of the Order, both in terms of heraldic display and of actual objects.

Burnett, Charles J. and Tabraham, Christopher, The Honours of Scotland: The Story of the Scottish Crown Jewels (Historic Scotland, Edinburgh, 1993) (ISBN: 0 7480 0626 5)

A history of the Honours of Scotland: the Crown, the Scepter and the Sword. It describes the pre-history, origin and manufacture and present form of each object. It also provides a general history of the honours and how they have survived to the present day.

Burnett, Charles J. and Dennis, Mark D. Scotlandís Heraldic Heritage, The Lion Rejoicing, (The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1997) (ISBN: 0 11 495784 3)

A pleasant introduction to Scots heraldry and heraldic art, written in a fashion that will be accessible and interesting to the neophyte but still of interest to others. Charles Burnett holds the position of Ross Herald in Scotland.

The book is very well illustrated. The original drawings by Mark Dennis pay homage to the whimsical illustrations of Don Pottinger in Simple Heraldry. The book also includes many good quality color or black and white photographs of heraldic display, spanning the time from the beginning of heraldry to the present day.

The book discusses the Grammar of Heraldry, Heraldry in Scotland (including the Royal Arms and their history), regalia, the Achievement, cadency, marshalling, Lyon Court, Heraldry as decorative art, and Heraldic Funerals.

Burnett, C.J., & Hodgson, L., Stall Plates of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle in the Chapel of the Order within St. Giles' Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh (Heraldry Society of Scotland, 2001) (ISBN: 0 9525258 3 6)

This volume provides full color photographs of all the stall plates found within the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle.  The oldest stall plates are contemporary with the chapelís construction in 1911.  The most recent stall plate included in the volume dates to 2000.  There are over 100 stall plates illustrated, each with a full-page picture of the plate.  In addition, facing each plate is a text description containing a blazon of the arms, a brief history of the knight, and a history of the arms.  The volume also contains a brief history of the order, a history of the chapel, and a history of stall plates in general and the manufacture of these stall plates.

Bute, John, Third Marquess of, Scottish Coronations (Alexander Gardner, London, 1902)(reprint: Royalty Digest, East Sussex, 1997)

The best (and essentially only) published discussion of the form of the coronation service used for the Kings of Scotland, from the earliest pre-Christian times to the last coronation in 1651 of Charles II. One of the more useful aspects of the volume is a reprint of a Report by Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon, from 1628, on the form of the coronation of the Kings of Scotland.

Campbell, Colin, Medieval Flags, (Heraldry Society of Scotland) (No date and or ISBN provided)
A good discussion of Medieval flags, with many Scots examples. Illustrated with black and white photographs of original flags, and manuscripts showing flags.
Campbell, Colin, The Scots Roll, (The Heraldry Society of Scotland, Scotland 1995) (ISBN: 0 9525258 0 1)

This is a color photo-facsimile of a 15th c. Roll of arms, accompanied by blazons and name attributions by Colin Campbell. The names are given both in the spellings found in the Roll, and in the normal modern spellings. Colin Campbell gives an introduction with information about dating the roll, statistical analysis of the tinctures, charges and differencing methods, and unusual features of the roll.

Colin Campbell's statistics must be inspected carefully so the data is not misinterpreted. For example, when tallying tinctures, "No account has been taken of secondary charges, such as the chief and molets in the Douglas arms." This method of statistics may help select 'family groupings' rather than individual armories by removing peripheral charges (a common differencing method) but it also has its drawbacks. The Douglas example, chosen by Campbell, is an example of armory where ignoring peripheral charges might backfire. The main charge of the Douglas family armory is a chief charged with mullets. Some branches of the family have also added charges beneath the chief (such as the best-known branch with a heart under the chief, and the less-famous branch with a lion's head under the chief.) Other branches of the Douglas family continue to use armory with only a charged chief, such as the Douglasses of Lochleven, also in this roll. It is entirely possible that Mr. Campbell has not disregarded the charged chief in this Douglas family, knowing that this is the important part of the achievement. But still, the example shows that these statistics should be used with great care.


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© The Heraldry Society of Scotland   last Update 27 Oct 2021