Translator's Notes

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Notes on Formatting

In this document, items in square brackets are the translator’s annotations and do not appear in the original text.

Footnotes are those from the original text.

An Approach to Translating Blazons

In translating the example blazons provided by Rietstap I have taken the following approach:

  1. If a phrase has a direct English equivalent then I have used that. For example, Ecartelé is clearly the equivalent of “quarterly”, so that will be used.
  2. If there is no direct equivalent, I consider whether I can adapt some English terminology to convey the same sense. For example, there appears to be no direct equivalent for Tranché crenelé à plomb but I think that “Per bend embattled palewise” conveys a similar meaning so will use that.
  3. Finally, if there does not seem to be any meaningful English heraldic terminology that I can use, I simply translate the French into English. For example, with mouvante I simply use the literal translation of “coming from”(*).

(*) It could be argued that I should use “Issuant” here but I consider that this has a very specific meaning in English heraldry, I.e. a demi-charge rising from the top edge of a fess, or the lower edge of a chief. I find mouvante to be used much more generally in Rietstap, charges can be found “coming from” almost anything, at any angle. In addition, issuant is also found with the same specific usage in French heraldry."

Original Sources

This translation is based on the downloadable PDF version of J.B. Rietstap’s “ Armorial General, précédé d’un Dictionnaire des Termes du Blason”  from, primarily the versions named armorialgnra01rietuoft and armorialgnra02rietuoft, originally digitised by the University of Toronto. The original scanned images were downloaded and processed by Abbyy Software's PDF Transformer+ to extract the text, which was then corrected by hand. Where the preferred sources were unreadable they were compared against a completely separate scan of a different book digitised by Google, armorialgnralpr00rollgoog.pdf

Reference Works

In translating the original volumes, the following sources were referenced extensively.

  • The Collins-Robert French Dictionary (2015 OS X App Store version
  • The Larousse French / English Dictionary (2014 IOS Edition)
  • “A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry” by James Parker (
  • And when all else failed,

Errors and Mis-translations

This is my first significant translation of a work from French into English. I find languages do not come easy to me and the level of French knowledge demonstrated here has taken me some years of study. There are sure to be numerous errors, both outright mis-translations and examples of inappropriate emphasis or nuance. The responsibility for these errors is of course mine, and I will gladly rectify any that are pointed out to me by e-mail to but please do not be too harsh in your criticism this is my first attempt and I am fully aware that I still have much to learn!

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