The Accedence of Armorie.

  • Legh, Gerard
  • London: [Colophon:] Imprinted at London in Fleetstrete within temple barre at the signe of the hand and starre, by Richard Tottell 1591
  • ESTC S108422.


SKU: 5946 Category: Tag:


8vo, pp. [vii], 135, [2] + 1 folding plate. Woodcuts within pagination, several full-page. Eighteenth-century half calf, marbled boards, spine divided by gilt rolls. Some soiling and light staining, title-page a little worn with small repair to verso, plate nearly split at fold, one leaf with several names censored in early ink. Extremities a little rubbed, front joint cracking at foot, a paper label sometime lost from spine. Ownership inscription of Stephen Newman dated 1792 to flyleaf, date calculation from 1809 to front board, early purchase note partially cropped at head of title-page: ‘[?] Roberts 23rd January 97 precium 2d’.


First published in 1562 as 'The Accedens of Armory', this is the fifth recorded printing of the sole published work of Gerard Legh (or Leigh, d.1563), the son of a draper who became a member of the Inner Temple. It became one of the most widely read works on heraldry in the sixteenth century, and 'certainly it seems to have been particularly well adapted to the class-conscious claims of the gentry, whose obsession with pedigrees and coats of arms were almost as much a reaction to social mobility as an anachronistic longing for chivalry' (ODNB).
Its later reception was mixed; it has been called 'a medley of irrelevant learning' and classified among the 'wilder advice' found in books of its type. 'It is true that Legh was more interested in symbolism than was required for a simple description of blazon... [but] Legh's learning is evident if idiosyncratic; he cites not only classical authors but also Chaucer and other medieval authorities, even giving a usually overlooked version of the Lear story' (ODNB). One woodcut depicts a fictional herald (the 'Panther Herald') with what may be a portrait of Legh himself.

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