Heraldic Devices from Bodleian Manuscript 264

collected and with comments by Coblaith Muimnech

These heraldic devices appear in the book identified in Oxford University's collection as Bodleian Manuscript 264. The images shown are significantly magnified. A version of the first shield below at roughly its original size (about one and one half centimeters tall) is provided at right for comparison.

Several types of heraldic display are pictured in this work--barding, banners, and messengers' escutcheons being among the most common. I've collected only those shown on shields for this article.

I have striven to blazon these devices as best I might, to make it easier for the user to search for specific elements. If you can identify errors in my efforts, please let me know. As they've aged, the blue and black pigments used in many cases seem to have shifted to a charcoal gray. As a result, I may have mis-identified as "azure" some elements which were, in fact, originally painted as "sable", and vice versa.

I was unable to collect devices from folios 152r, 153r, 154r, 156r, and 179r, as they were "unavailable" at the time of my survey. In addition, there are devices in folios 43v, 54v, 59r, 107r, 117r, 152v, 153v, and 158v that are too degraded, too obscured, or both to be identified. (One of these, from 43v, included charges vert, which are seen in no other devices in the book.)

MS Bod. 264 contains three separate works.

The largest document is a legendary telling of the life of Alexander III of Macedon compiled and illustrated by Jehan de Grise and his workshop in Flanders between 1338 and 1344. It occupies folios 3r through 208r. Alexandre de Paris' Roman d'Alexandre provides most of the text, supplemented by the anonymous Prise de Defur, Voyage d'Alexandre au Paradis terrestre, Voeux du Paon and Restor du Paon and followed by Jean le Névelon's La Venjance Alixandre. All pictured arms are, of course, attributed. (Alexander III lived from 356 to 323 B.C.E., about 800 years before the advent of heraldry.)

As one would expect, certain individuals feature again and again through the text. Consequentially, certain devices appear again and again in the illustrations. To save space and reduce redundancy, I have elected not to include every instance of these here. However, as the depictions of each device vary somewhat, I did not wish to offer only one version of each. Therefore, two or three representative images, chosen among the best-preserved, appear in these instances.

Devices seen in de Grise' romance of Alexander include:


Or, two lions combattant azure and a label gules.
folio 21v


Sable, a lion or.
folios 21v, 42v, 43v, 62v, 66v, 68v, 81v, 83v, 84r, 102r, and 108r


Or, an eagle sable surmounted by a bend argent.
folio 21v


Or, six mullets sable.
folio 21v


Or, an eagle sable.
folios 21v, 138v, 139v, 142v, 143v, 144r, 147r, and 156v


Gules, a lion or.

folios 42v, 43v, and 66r

This device may, when the manuscript was created, have been associated with Macedonia; it would be by the16th century.


Or, a lion gules.

folio 42v, 43v, 51v, 56v, 59r, 61r, 62r, 66r, 67r, 67v, 69r, 72v, 75r, 75v, 81v, 82r, 91r, 93r, 101v, 105r, 106r, 107r, 110r, 124r, 138v, 152v, 153v, 156v, 158v, and 193r

This is the device attributed to Alexander himself. At the time this manuscript was penned, the lion had as a symbol been associated with him for at least a millenium and a half.


Or, in canton a fleur-de-lys azure.
folios 43v, 67r, and 72v


Argent, a lion sable.

folio 43v

It is possible that the ground here is actually or.


folio 43v


Or plain.

folios 43v, 50r, and 59r

It's possible that one or more of these originally bore charges. Pigments applied over gold have flaked off many of the illustrations in the book to one degree or another.


Or, three boar's heads sable.

folios 51v, 58r, 59r, 60r, 74r, 75r, and 75v

These arms appear to be those attributed to Porus, king of Pauravaa, whom Alexander faced in the battle of the Hydaspes in 326 B.C.E.


Azure, a lion or.
folios 51v, 66v, 67v, 68v, 75v, 81v, 83v, 84r, 93r, 95v, 101v, 102r, 106r, 107r, 108r, 149v, 152v, 153v, 156v, 158v, and 201r


Or, a lion contourny gules.

folio 56r

This is apparently a variant of Alexander's arms.


Or, a lion azure.
folios 60r, 78r, 84r, 84v, 85v, 94v, 95r, 95v, 107r, 121r, 130v, 152v,156v, and 201r

folio 62r


Gules, an unidentified charge sable.
folio 62r


Sable plain.
folio 69r


Or, an unidentified charge gules.

folio 69v

Based on the context, it's possible this is another example of "Or, a lion contourney gules," which is seen in folio 56r


Or, three jambs gules.
folios 74r, 78r, 85v, 86r, 94v, 107r, 113r, and 113v


Or, an eagle azure.
folios 75v, 90v, 91v, 92r, 93r, 121r, and 122v


Azure, three lion's heads or.
folios 75v, 153v, and 156v


Sable, six trefoils or.
folios 75v, 90v, 92r, and 95r


Or, a lion sable.
folio 75v


Azure, an eagle or.
 folios 78r, 114v, 117r, 152v, 156v, and 158r


Sable, two lions combattant or.
folios 81v, 83v, 149v, and 153v

Or, three unknown charges azure.
folios 84r and 85v

Or, three human heads sable.
folios 84v, 90v, 95r, 95v, 96r, and 107r


Sable, three lion's heads or.
folios 84v and 86r


Or, three jambs azure.
folio 84v


Barry wavy sable and or.
folio 85v


Or, scaly sable.
folio 86r


Or, an eagle gules.
folios 88v, 92r, 107r, 113r, 117r, 121r, and 152v


Or, an unknown charge.
folio 88v


Gules, three jambs gules
folio 90v


Gules, three lion's heads or.
folio 90v


Or, a cross moline sable.
folio 92r


Or, a human head sable.
folio 92r


Or, a gryphon sable.
folio 92r


Or, a swan azure.
folios 93r, 94v, and 101v


Azure, three jambs or.
folio 95r


Sable, a gryphon or.
folio 95r


Or, a wyvern sable.
folio 100r


Gules, three jambs or.
folio 101v


Sable, an unknown charge or.
folio 102r


Sable, an eagle or.
folios 113r, 113v, 117v, 119r, 130r, 150r, and 158v


Or, three eagles azure.
folios 113r, 114v, 130r, and 156v


Or, three frogs sable.
folios 113r and 132v


Or, a cross engrailed azure.
folio 113r


Or, an eagle sable and a lable azure.
folios 113v, 117v, and 130r

Or, three amphorae azure.
folios 113v and 130r


Or, three unknown charges sable voided.

folio 114v

It's possible that these were to have been colored in but never were.


Or, three jambs sable.
folios 114v, 117r, and 161r


Or, three unknown charges azure.
folio 117r


Sable, three unknown charges or.
folio 119r



folio 126r

This may just be a shield blank that was never painted in. There are a couple of sketched but unpainted elements elsewhere in the book.


Or, a boar sable.
folios 129v, 130v, 132v, 133r, 150r, 152v, 153v, and 158r

Sable, three lions Or.
folios 129v, 130v, 139r, 139v, 149v, and 153v

Or, a cross between four annulets azure.
folio 132v


Or, three sickles argent handled gules.
folios 132v and 133r


Azure, three lions or.
folios 137v, 139v, and 201r


Or, an eagle sable and a label gules.
folio 139r

Much shorter is the tale of Alexander and Dindimus, told in Middle English verse, which occupies folios 1r and 209r through 215v. It was added to the manuscript around 1400, in England, and incorporates only one device:


Gules, on a chevron argent some unidentifiable beast sable.
 folio 1r

The final work is a tale of Marco Polo's journeys, known as Li Livres du Graunt Caam, illustrated by Johannes and his school. It occupies folios 2v and 218r through 271v, and was also added in England around 1400. No heraldic devices are included.

Creative Commons LicenseCoblaith Muimnech holds the copyright to this document, including all illustrations not excerpted from works more than 300 years old. It is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


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