As the sons of one of the Chief Engravers of Her Majesty's Seals, and the grandsons of another Chief Engraver, my late brother Alfred and I were acquainted with many of the most important Seals of State from our very earliest years. Accustomed as we were to see proof impressions, not only of the Seals of Her present Majesty, but also of those of several of her Royal predecessors, we early formed an acquaintance with the Seals themselves, and acquired the habit of observing the differences between these emblems of Royal authority of successive Sovereigns. Amongst the very numerous Seals of each Monarch, our attention was early called to the Great Seals, on account of their larger size, the greater importance of the purposes for which they are used, the greater elaborateness of their design, and the higher finish in their execution.
Our father too had made a collection not only of the Seals executed by our family, but also of casts of all the Great Seals which in his day were known to exist, from Edward the Confessor's time down to that of George III. Since the decease of our father in 1858, many other Great Seals have come to light. On receiving these, my late brother Alfred took considerable pains carefully to note all points of difference between such Seals, and to acquire all information procurable with respect to the time at which they were brought into and passed out of use, to enable him to arrange them with the utmost accuracy. A mass of information was thus slowly but widely acquired, when an incident occurred, which showed the benefit that might accrue from such information concerning the Great Seals being made public. One day (in July, 1877) my brother and I received a visit from a distinguished American lawyer, the Hon. Theodore Runyon, Chancellor of New Jersey,--a State which was originally founded as one of the British Colonies more than two hundred years ago. He informed us that the State of which he was a citizen was at litigation, in the Supreme Court of the United States, with the adjoining State of Delaware respecting certain riparian rights in and jurisdiction over part of the River Delaware. Both States produced their original Charters, and it was found that exclusive rights had been granted to both. The question then turned upon which Charter had been granted first. Both had been granted by King Charles II., but the date in the attestation clause of one had become obliterated. The date might perhaps be approximately fixed by the fragments of the Seal found with it. The Attorney-General of New Jersey was consequently desirous of obtaining evidence as to the authenticity and probable date of this Charter purporting to have been granted by King Charles II. To that end it was necessary to have evidence respecting the Seal. The Chancellor was sent to England with drawings of the fragments of the Great Seal, and desired to ascertain, if recognizable, of which Seal they could have formed part, and the period during which the particular Seal was in use.
From the information we possessed, we were able at once to furnish satisfactory answers to both questions. But such questions having been asked, my brother determined to make public the knowledge and information which he possessed concerning all the Great Seals. To render such work of the highest possible value he again most carefully examined all the sources of his previous information, making large additions thereto, and commenced a series of extended examinations of original Charters to which the Great Seals of England are appended. To this work he gave such time as he could spare from his more pressing professional duties, and worked on with great diligence for some years, when in June, 1884, his labours were terminated by untimely death. At the request of his widow I undertook the completion of the book. My brother had fully written the work up to page 73, and had partially written the remainder as far as page 85--but as we had frequently discussed the various subjects treated upon in the earlier part of the book, I felt that there was no one but myself who could so readily finish it in the manner in which he purposed. I have personally examined many of the Seals written upon by my brother, completing the extended survey which he had intended to make. I have not hesitated to alter any of his remarks when fresh facts have come to light, but as a matter of fact, there has been very little requiring alteration or addition.
In the following work, reference is made throughout to " examples of use " of the particular Seals. Each of these examples has been seen and carefully examined either by my brother or by myself. In all, upwards of two thousand original Charters have thus been personally examined in London, in Paris, and in various parts of England.
Of course no such extended examination could have been made without the kind
permission of the owners of the Charters. For the permission to examine them,
and for the assistance courteously rendered whilst so doing, I desire to express
my very sincere thanks. Amongst those who have thus given assistance I should
mention :-His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury ; His Grace the Duke of Westminster,
K.G. ; the Most Hon. the Marquis of Abergavenny ; the Right Hon. Earl Morley
; the Right Hon. Lord Sherborne. The Deans and Chapters of the following Cathedrals,
Abbey, etc.: Canterbury Cathedral (especially J. Brigstoke Sheppard, Esq., LL.D.,
Librarian) ; Chichester Cathedral (especially the Very Rev. l. AV .Bur on, B.D.,
Dean, and Sir Robert G. Raper, Chapter Clerk) ; Christ Church, Oxford (especially
the Rev. Canon Bright, D.D.) ; Durham Cathedral (especially the Rev. Canon Greenwell,
M.A., F.R.S., F.S.A.) ; Ely Cathedral (especially the Very Rev-. C. Merivalc,
D.D., Dean) ; Exeter Cathedral ; Gloucester Cathedral (especially the Rev. B.
R. Foster, ALA., Precentor and Librarian) ; Hereford Cathedral ; Norwich Cathedral
(especially W. T. Bensly, Esq., LL.D., Chapter Clerk) ; Peterborough Cathedral
; Westminster Abbey ; St. George's Chapel, Windsor (especially R. Cope, Esq.,
Chapter Clerk) ; Winchester Cathedral (especially the Very Rev. G. W. Kitchen,
D.D., Dean) ; Salisbury Cathedral (especially the Hon. and Rev. Canon Gordon,
M.A., Treasurer) ; Worcester Cathedral (especially J. II. Hooper, Esq., M.A.,
Chapter Clerk); York Minster (especially the Rev. Prebendary Raine, D.C.L.).
The Heads of Houses and Fellows of the following Colleges in the University
of Oxford : Magdalen College (especially the Vice-Provost and the Rev. H. R.
Bramley, ALA., Tutor) ; Merton College (especially the Hon. G. C. Brodrick,
D.C.L., F.R.G.S., Warden) ; Queen's College (especially the Rev. J. R. Magrath,
D.D., Provost) ; University College ; New College (especially the Rev. J. E.
Sewell, D.D., Warden) ; in the University of Cambridge, Gonville and Cams College,
Corpus Christi College (especially R. S. Caldwell, Esq., ALA., Bursar) ; King's
College ; Pembroke College (especially the Rev. C. E. Searle, D.D., Master)
; Peterhouse (especially the Rev. James Porter, D. D., Master) ; St. John's
College (especially R. F. Scott, Esq., M.A., Bursar) ; Sidney Sussex College
(especially the Rev. R. Phelps, D.D., Master) ; Trinity College (especially
J. WV. Clark, Esq., ALA.). Eton College, Windsor (especially the late Rev. C.
O. Goodford, D.D., Provost). The Senate of the University of London (especially
Arthur Milman, Esq., M.A., Registrar). The Mayors and Corporations of the following
Cities and Boroughs : London (especially Sir John B. Monckton, F.S.A., Town
Clerk, and R. R. Sharpe, Esq., D.C.L., Records Clerk); Bristol; Dover (especially),
E. Wollaston Knocker, Esq., Town Clerk) ; Exeter ; Gloucester (especially G.
Sheffield Blakeway, Esq., Town Clerk) ; Hereford (especially Joseph Carless,
Jun., Esq., Town Clerk) ; Hythe (especially George Wilks, Esq., Town Clerk)
; Norwich Rochester (especially R. Prall, Esq., Town Clerk) ; Salisbury; Totnes
; Worcester (especially Samuel Southall, Esq., Town Clerk). The Society of Antiquaries
of London; H. C. Beddoe, Esq., Diocesan Registrar, Hereford ; II. P. Gates,
Esq., J.P., Diocesan Registrar, Peterborough ; F. C. Danvers, Esq., Registrar
and Keeper of Records at the India Office. The Masters and Courts of Assistants
of the following' Worshipful Companies of the City of London :-Carpenters' Company,
Drapers' Company, Merchant Taylors' Company.
Amongst others who have afforded facility for obtaining information or who
have given information themselves or rendered other assistance, I would mention
the late Sir William Hardy, F.S.A., Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record
Office, London ; C. Lennox Peel, Esq., C.B., Clerk of the Council, Privy Council
Office ; E. H. Bayfield, Esq., of Norwich ; Edward Preston, Esq., Clerk of the
Chamber, the Lord Chancellor's Office ; Mons. Maury and Mons. Demay, both of
the Archives Nationales, Paris ; Walter de Grey Birch, Esq., F.S.A,, of the
British Museum; Henry Spalding, Esq., F.R.I.B.A., and Alexander Clark, Esq.,
The casts from which the illustrations have been made were specially taken
for this book by Mr. Robert Ready, of the British Museum.
Besides these, I feel it only right to state that this book is immeasurably
indebted to one who through sixteen years of a singularly happy married life
amply shared my brother's literary tastes and artistic interests. It is indeed
(as I have already stated) by her wish that I have ventured to continue and
to complete this work commenced by my late dear brother.
2, LANGHAM CHAMBERS,