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A DISPLAY OF HERALDRIE: by John Guillim (c1551 - 1621)

being a complete transcription of the first edition (1610) of this work


I have reluctantly abandoned my project to transcribe this book, due to ill-health. However, I have had the book scanned professionally. Please email me if you are interested in obtaining a copy.
Paul Grant (


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Twenty-five years ago I found this amazing book in a second-hand book shop (long since vanished) in Canterbury, England, where I was studying to be a teacher. I was fascinated by its subject matter, its antiquity (a first edition copy from 1611) and by the hand-painted illustrations. Even in those days, 12 ($17, at the time) seemed like a bargain price, although it was certainly the most money I had ever spent on a book!

As I started reading, and getting used to the unfamiliar spellings and "King James" English, I began to understand what John Guillim was trying to do. He was attempting to treat the subject of the development of heraldry over the ages, with all its strange ideosyncrasies, in the same way that current philosophers were proposing order and classifications among living things, inorganic matter and the stars and planets.

I began to gain a great respect for the intellect of this man, who could see the benefit of representing his deep knowledge of this subject in a revolutionary, rational way. In his introduction "To the Courteous Reader" he declares that this approach is the most likely to be successful with students new to the subject, an opinion with which I must agree.

Writing in a time of profound ignorance of many aspects of the nature of the universe, and when the creative and governing powers of the Almighty were unquestioned, his statements often appear nave, to the point of ridiculous. However, he had a true desire to understand the hows and whys of many things, and in this respect he was reflecting the views of the leading philosophers and scientists of the age.

I had noticed that Internet search engines would often return references to quotations from Guillim, but the full text of none of the editions was available. Early in 2001 I decided that I should do what I could to share this book with the rest of the World Wide Web community because someone somewhere might want to read it.

Enquiries about this project to: Paul Grant (

Last updated: 10 January 2013

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