Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2004 23:27:15 -0500
Subject: [SCA-AS] Links: Medieval Seals

Greetings everyone: This week's Links List is about Seals and Signet Rings, something we KNOW existed in the Middle Ages, but which we seldom see re-created in the Modern Middle Ages :). So, to make information more widely available on the subject, here you go: go forth and pontificate on paper, and sign your work with your own seal!

As always, please share this links list wherever it will find an interested audience. Happy Spring!



Dame Aoife Finn

Medieval Seals A Collection of Facsimiles at the Medieval Institute
(Site Excerpt) In the Middle Ages, one of the most common ways to proclaim the authenticity of a document was to attach a seal to it. Seals were images carved into a matrix which, when pressed into a substance like warm wax, left behind an inverse of the picture on the seal. The image, and often a legend written around it, identified the author of the document and was meant to prevent people from forging or tampering with official correspondence. More importantly, in an age when even illiterate people needed to transact business, seals allowed individuals to declare their consent to an agreement even if they couldn't sign their names.

An Image Collection of European Written Historical Documents
British Medieval Seals
from A Guide to British Medieval Seals, P.D.A. Harvey & Andrew McGuinness,
University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-0867-4, pp. 1-4:
(Site Excerpt) "In medieval Britain sealing was for some three hundred years the way almost all documents were authenticated. Before the late eleventh century, however, the most solemn grants of land and rights in England bore no seal but proclaimed their authority through their stately script and format and the names of the numerous eminent witnesses, each accompanied by the sign of the cross - some ecclesiastical documents still took this form throughout twelfth century. The crosses, were held to have sacred significance, invoking divine authority and protection for the transaction, whereas a seal might be seen as having only secular, legal, standing; some early-twelfth-century charters bore both and later in the century a chronicler at Ramsey Abbey contrasted the duplicity of his own age, which he used seals, with the open honesty of the tenth century did not. 1"

Medieval Seals (from an antiques trader: Images of Originals)
(Site Excerpt) Medieval Seal, late 13th Century. Bronze, 3.76 grams; 27.13 mm. Vessica shaped, with loop at rear intact. Unusual bird-like animal, with personal name. Sharpe detail with a good even patina. Ex. Mitchell collection.

Medieval Writing: Royal Seals
(Site Excerpt) On legal documents and letters, the seal was a ratification of authenticity. On closed up letters, the seal served to ensure that the letter arrived unopened and untampered with. On official documents delivered open, the seal, displayed either on the face of he document or hanging from it on parchment strips or cords, served to verify the agreement of interested parties to the document. The seal served in place of an autograph signature. This practical and legal function did not prevent the seal from becoming an art form in its own right. Seals became exquisitely crafted and in many cases, very elaborate.

Collection Medieval Seals (Antiques trader: Images of Originals)
(Site Excerpt) Quadruple bronze seal matrix
Showing a heart and anchor, acorn, stag and a three-master. Attractive dark green toning.
Very special and rare type of matrix ! Diameter: ca. 3,6 cm (1.42")
Period: 16th century

Municipal Seals
(Site Excerpt) Berwick-upon-Tweed
Description: Obverse: Round, a bear, with collar and chain, walking to the dexter, in front of a tree upon which are two birds. The field of the seal is diapered with a delicate floral pattern and the device is surrounded with the Scottish tressure. Reverse: God the Father, seated on a throne holding in front of him, the figure of Our Lord upon the cross (emblem of the Trinity). The field is diapered in a foliage design and the inner edge of the border cusped.

Stefan's Florlegium: Seals
(Site Excerpt of the One Message, which includes a bibliography) Cylinder seals of stone and baked clay were used in ancient times. I have at least one book on that. Those are very very old. European Merchant tags were used on bags of shipped materials in period o=o folded over and stamped.

I believe that in the Orient there were stone stamps as well.

Called Chops. In cast metal also. One of the things the Japanese brought up from the bottom of the (Hakone?) bay where the Mongols attempted an unsuccessful invasion (mostly due to weather) is a large bronze probably general's seal.

The Schoyen Collection 16 Seals
(Site Excerpt) 24 items are listed of a collection of over 560 seal matrices and ca. 400 seal impressions. The collection starts with 150 stamp seal matrices from the 5th and 4th millennium BC, and ends with wax seals on medieval documents and papal lead bullas. The core of the collection is about 400 mainly English, private medieval stamp seal matrices, surpassing the size of British Museum's comparable holdings.

Medieval Seals Online Project (Acrobat Reader necessary to view article)
This site is a plea to assist in preserving Medieval Seals on documents by publishing images of them online.


(Site Excerpt) Please do not send sealed letters through the mail. The U.S. Post Office uses elaborate automatic sorting machines that will eat your seal. If you wish to mail a sealed letter, place it inside a padded mailing envelope. This will insure the survival of your seal and the U.S. Post Offices machines.

Bronze Signet Ring February - March 2003 (Includes Bibliography)
(Site Excerpt) The four gemstones shown to the right are from Ribe, dated to the Roman Age (Jensen 19). These gemstones are carved with seals or signets of various types, and likely made their way to Ribe as trade items. The patterns carved into them are clearly in reverse.....

Signet Rings
(Site Excerpt) signet a seal used to attest documents (Dan. 6:8-10, 12). In 6:17, this word properly denotes a ring. The impression of a signet ring on fine clay has recently been discovered among the ruins at Nineveh. It bears the name and title of an Egyptian king. Two actual signet rings of ancient Egyptian monarchs (Cheops and Horus) have also been discovered.