Lines of Partition

The following text is from A.C. Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909, 91–96) and presents a nice overview of use and style of lines in heraldry.

If there is one subject which the ordinary text-books of armory treat in the manner of classification adapted to an essay on natural history or grammar, with its attendant rigidity of rule, it is the subject of partition lines; and yet the whole subject is more in the nature of a set of

Fig. 47 From A Complete Guide to Heraldry

Fig. 47 From A Complete Guide to Heraldry

explanations which must each be learned on its own merits. The usual lines of partition are themselves well enough known; and it is hardly necessary to elaborate the different variations at any great length. They may, however, be enumerated as follows: Engrailed, embattled, indented, invecked or invected, wavy or undy, nebuly, dancetté, raguly, potenté, dovetailed, and urdy. These are the lines which are recognised by most modern heraldic text-books and generally recapitulated; but we shall have occasion later to refer to others which are very well known, though apparently they have never been included in the classification of partition lines (Fig. 47). Engrailed, as every one knows, is formed by a continuous and concurrent series of small semicircles conjoined each to each, the sharp points formed by the conjunction of the two arcs being placed outwards. This partition line may be employed for the rectilinear charges known as “ordinaries” or “sub-ordinaries.” In the bend, pale, pile, cross, chief, and fess, when these are described as engrailed the enclosing lines of the ordinary, other than the edges of the shield, are all composed of these small semicircles with the points turned outwards, and the word “outwards” must be construed as pointing away from the centre of the ordinary when it is depicted. In the case of a chief the points are turned downwards, but it is rather difficult to describe the use of the term when used as a partition line of the field. The only instance I can call to mind where it is so employed is the case of Baird of Ury, the arms of this family being: Per pale engrailed gules and or, a boar passant counterchanged. In this instance the points are turned towards the sinister side of the shield, which would seem to be correct, as, there being no ordinary, they must be outwards from the most important position affected, which in this case undoubtedly is the dexter side of the shield. In the same way “per fess engrailed” would be presumably depicted with the points outwards from the chief line of the shield, that is, they would point downwards; and I should imagine that in “per bend engrailed” the points of the semicircles would again be placed inclined towards the dexter base of the shield, but I may be wrong in these two latter cases, for they are only supposition. This point, however, which puzzled me much in depicting the arms of Baird of Ury, I could find explained in no text-book upon the subject.

The term invected or invecked is the precise opposite of engrailed. It is similarly composed of small semicircles, but the points are turned inwards instead of outwards, so that it is no more than the exact reverse of engrailed, and all the regulations concerning the one need to be observed concerning the other, with the proviso that they are reversed.

The partition line embattled has certain peculiarities of its own. When dividing the field there can be no difficulty about it, inasmuch as the crenellations are equally inwards and outwards from any point, and it should be noted that the term “crenellé” is almost as often used as “embattled.” When, however, the term describes an ordinary, certain points have to be borne in mind. The fess or the bar embattled is drawn with the crenellations on the upper side only, the under edge being plain unless the ordinary is described both as “embattled and counter-embattled.” Similarly a chevron is only crenellated on the upper edge unless it is described as both embattled and counter-embattled, but a pale embattled is crenellated on both edges as is the cross or saltire. Strictly speaking, a bend embattled is crenellated upon the upper edge only, though with regard to this ordinary there is much laxity of practice. I have never come across a pile embattled; but it would naturally be embattled on both edges. Some writers make a distinction between embattled and bretessed, giving to the former term the meaning that the embattlements on the one side are opposed to the indentations on the other, and using the term bretessed to signify that embattlements are opposite embattlements and indentations opposite indentations. I am doubtful as to the accuracy of this distinction, because the French term bretessé means only counter-embattled.

The terms indented and dancetté need to be considered together, because they differ very little, and only in the fact that whilst indented may be drawn with any number of teeth, dancetté is drawn with a limited number, which is usually three complete teeth in the width of the field. But it should be observed that this rule is not so hard and fast that the necessity of artistic depicting may not modify it slightly. An ordinary which is indented would follow much the same rules as an ordinary which was engrailed, except that the teeth are made by small straight lines for the indentations instead of by small semicircles, and instances can doubtless be found of all the ordinaries qualified by the term indented. Dancetté, however, does not lend itself so readily to general application, and is usually to be found applied to either a fess or chief, or occasionally a bend. In the case of a fess dancetté the indentations on the top and bottom lines are made to fit into each other, so that instead of having a straight band with the edge merely toothed, one gets an up and down zig-zag band with three complete teeth at the top and three complete teeth at the bottom. Whilst a fess, a bar, a bend, and a chief can be found dancetté, I do not see how it would be possible to draw a saltire or a cross dancetté. At any rate the resulting figure would be most ugly, and would appear ill-balanced. A pile and a chevron seem equally impossible, though there does not {94}seem to be the like objection to a pale dancetté. An instance of a bend dancetté is found in the arms of Cuffe (Lord Desart), which are: Argent, on a bend dancetté sable, plain cotised azure, three fleurs-de-lis, and on each cotise as many bezants.

Wavy or undy, which is supposed to have been taken from water, and nebuly, which is supposed to be derived from clouds, are of course lines which are well known. They are equally applicable to any ordinary and to any partition of the field; but in both cases it should be noticed by artists that there is no one definite or accepted method of depicting these lines, and one is quite at liberty, and might be recommended, to widen out the indentations, or to increase them in height, as the artistic requirements of the work in hand may seem to render advisable. It is only by bearing this in mind and treating these lines with freedom that really artistic work can sometimes be produced where they occur. There is no fixed rule either as to the width which these lines may occupy or as to the number of indentations as compared with the width of the shield, and it is a pity to introduce or recognise any regulations of this character where none exist. There are writers who think it not unlikely that vairé and barry nebuly were one and the same thing. It is at any rate difficult in some old representations to draw any noticeable distinctions between the methods of depicting barry nebuly and vair.

The line raguly has been the subject of much discussion. It, and the two which follow, viz. potenté and dovetailed, are all comparatively modern introductions. It would be interesting if some enthusiast would go carefully through the ancient Rolls of Arms and find the earliest occurrences of these terms. My own impression is that they would all be found to be inventions of the mediæval writers on heraldry. Raguly is the same as embattled, with the crenellations put upon the slant. Some writers say they should slant one way, others give them slanting the reverse. In a pale or a bend the teeth must point upwards; but in a fess I should hesitate to say whether it were more correct for them to point to the dexter or to the sinister, and I am inclined to consider that either is perfectly correct. At any rate, whilst they are usually drawn inclined to the dexter, in Woodward and Burnett they are to the sinister, and Guillim gives them turned to the dexter, saying, “This form of line I never yet met with in use as a partition, though frequently in composing of ordinaries referring them like to the trunks of trees with the branches lopped off, and that (as I take it) it was intended to represent.” Modern heraldry supplies an instance which in the days of Mr. Guillim, of course, did not exist to refer to. This instance occurs in the arms of the late Lord Leighton, which were: “Quarterly per fesse raguly or and gules, in the second and third quarters a wyvern of the first.” It is curious that Guillim, even in the edition of 1724, does not mention any of the remaining terms. Dovetailed in modern armory is even yet but seldom made use of, though I can quote two instances of coats of arms in which it is to be found, namely, the arms of Kirk, which are: “Gules, a chevron dovetailed ermine, on a chief argent, three dragons’ heads couped of the field;” and Ambrose: “Azure, two lions passant in pale argent, on a chief dovetailed of the last, a fleur-de-lis between two annulets of the first.” Other instances of dovetailed used as a line of partition will be found in the case of the arms of Farmer, which are: “Per chevron dovetailed gules and argent, in chief two lions’ heads erased of the last, and in base a salamander in flames proper;” and in the arms of Fenton namely: “Per pale argent and sable, a cross dovetailed, in the first and fourth quarters a fleur-de-lis, and in the second and third a trefoil slipped all countercharged.” There are, of course, many others. The term potenté, as will be seen from a reference to Fig. 47, is used to indicate a line which follows the form of the division lines in the fur potent. As one of the partition lines potenté is very rare.

As to the term urdy, which is given in Woodward and Burnett and also in Berry, I can only say I personally have never come across an instance of its use as a partition line. A cross or a billet urdy one knows, but urdy as a partition line I have yet to find. It is significant that it is omitted in Parker except as a term applicable to a cross, and the instances and variations given by Berry, “urdy in point paleways” and “contrary urdy,” I should be much more inclined to consider as variations of vair; and, though it is always well to settle points which can be settled, I think urdy and its use as a partition line may be well left for further consideration when examples of it come to hand.

There is one term, however, which is to be met with at the present time, but which I have never seen quoted in any text-book under the heading of a partition line; that is, “flory counter-flory,” which is of course formed by a succession of fleurs-de-lis alternately reversed and counterchanged. They might of course be blazoned after the quotation of the field as “per bend” or “per chevron” as the case might be, simply as so many fleurs-de-lis counterchanged, and alternately reversed in a specified position; but this never appears to be the case, and consequently the fleurs-de-lis would appear to be essentially parts of the field and not charges. I have sometimes thought whether it would not be more correct to depict “per something” flory and counter-flory without completing the fleurs-de-lis, simply leaving the alternate tops of the fleurs-de-lis to show. In the cases of the illustrations which have come under my notice, however, the whole fleur-de-lis is depicted, and as an instance of the use of the term may be mentioned the arms of Dumas, which are: “Per chevron flory and counter-flory or and azure, in chief two lions’ gambs erased, and in base a garb counterchanged.” But when the term flory and counter-flory is used in conjunction with an ordinary, e.g. a fess flory and counter-flory, the half fleurs-de-lis, only alternately reversed, are represented on the outer edges of the ordinary.

I think also that the word “arched” should now be included as a partition line. I confess that the only form in which I know of it is that it is frequently used by the present Garter King of Arms in designing coats of arms with chiefs arched. Recently Garter has granted a coat with a chief double arched. But if a chief can be arched I see no reason why a fesse or a bar cannot equally be so altered, and in that case it undoubtedly becomes a recognised line of partition. Perhaps it should be stated that a chief arched is a chief with its base line one arc of a large circle. The diameter of the circle and the consequent acuteness of the arch do not appear to be fixed by any definite rule, and here again artistic requirements must be the controlling factor in any decision. Elvin in his “Dictionary of Heraldic Terms” gives a curious assortment of lines, the most curious of all, perhaps, being indented embowed, or hacked and hewed. Where such a term originated or in what coat of arms it is to be found I am ignorant, but the appearance is exactly what would be presented by a piece of wood hacked with an axe at regular intervals. Elvin again makes a difference between bretessed and embattled-counter-embattled, making the embattlement on either side of an ordinary identical in the former and alternated in the latter. He also makes a difference between raguly, which is the conventional form universally adopted, and raguled and trunked, where the ordinary takes the representation of the trunk of a tree with the branches lopped; but these and many others that he gives are refinements of idea which personally I should never expect to find in actual use, and of the instances of which I am unaware. I think, however, the term “rayonné,” which is found in both the arms of O’Hara and the arms of Colman, and which is formed by the addition of rays to the ordinary, should take a place amongst lines of partition, though I admit I know of no instance in which it is employed to divide the field.

Originally posted 2015-01-25 13:30:21.

Bend (Bande)

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