‘He hath unmysteried the mystery of heraldry…’

Our copy of John Guillim’s Display of heraldry (5th edition 1679) is doubly delightful, as it is both a fascinating (and entertaining) early work on heraldry and also an excellent example of the practice of ‘Grangerisation’.

Guillim was an antiquarian and officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. He is described in Thomas Fuller’s 1662 edition of the ‘Worthies of England’ as being

‘…of Welsh extraction, but born [1565] in [Herefordshire]; and became a pursuivant of arms…but most eminent for his methofdical Display of Heraldrie (confusion being formerly the greatest difficulty therein); shewing himself a good logician in his exact divisions, and no bad philosother, noting the natures of all creatures given in arms, joining fancy and reason therein.

Besides his travelling all over the earth in beasts, his industry diggeth into the ground in pursuit of the properties of precious stones, diveth into the water in quest of the qualities of fishes, flieth into the air after the nature of birds, yea mounteth to the very skies about stars…and planets, their use and influence. In a word, he hath unmysteried the mystery of heraldry….’

The Display was first published in 1610, ran into seven increasingly large editions and remained the standard work on English heraldry for over 150 years. It is copiously illustrated and Guillim’s detailed notes regarding the different components of heraldry are very lively. Who knew that, in addition to the familiar lions and unicorns, a coat of arms could feature ‘emmets’ (ants), mole hills, body parts and even, in the case of the town of Lichfield ‘ divers Martyrs massacred…’

Our copy of the Display was once owned by a Mr John Twemlow of Hatherton, Cheshire. The Twemlow family seem to have been minor gentry, although we know little of John Twemlow, other than his profession, surgeon, and one rather odd fact – he was the doctor called to examine the body of a young servant girl, found strangled in a field, in the notorious murder case of Mary Malpas in 1835.

In the Census of 1851 he is described as aged 55 years and unmarried. He certainly seems to have had time on his hands, as he not only hand-painted every coat of arms in the Display (not always very neatly!) but also subjected the book to the process known as Grangerisation (after the Rev James Granger). This practice, which became popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is also known as  ‘extra illustration’ and is essentially where the owner of a book dismantles and rebinds it to include prints, drawings, maps or even photographs. Mr Twemlow’s selection includes mainly family portraits (including Hector and Silvia his dogs) and images of the ancestral home and land.


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