Help us identify some mysterious seals

Posted May 24, 2016 4:03 pm by Rosie Weetch under Collections

This is a cast of a pointed-oval-shaped seal with a patriarchal cross in the centre surrounded by an illegible legend. LDOSJ 2297.

This is a cast of a pointed-oval-shaped seal with a patriarchal cross in the centre surrounded by an illegible legend. LDOSJ 2297. Museum of the Order of St John and University of Birmingham 2016.

This is a cast of a pointed-oval-shaped seal. In the centre is a church or building with three pointed arches, and a steep gable topped with a cross. LDOSJ 2298.

This is a cast of a pointed-oval-shaped seal. In the centre is a church or building with three pointed arches, and a steep gable topped with a cross. LDOSJ 2298. Museum of the Order of St John and University of Birmingham 2016.

As we have been going through all the medieval objects at the Museum of the Order of St John we have been able to identify some wonderful things, but a small number of artefacts have us stumped! These are items that we cannot identify or find parallels for, so we are going to post a few examples every now and again on the blog in the hope that some of you knowledgeable people out there can help us.

To start us off here are two plaster and wax casts of medieval seal impressions. Many of the seal casts in the collection of the Museum of the Order of St John can be traced to the original examples that are often still attached to their original documents in various libraries in England and France. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to trace where these particular casts were made. This, combined with their poor condition means we cannot identify who owned and used these seals nor at what date. We have multiple casts of each seal that were given to the Museum between 1876 and 1898 by Lieut.-Colonel Gould Hunter-Weston, but we do not know where he got them from or who made the casts.  As all the seals in the collection relate to the Order of St John that gives us a bit of a starting point, and we would really appreciate it if you could help us identify these intriguing objects. (click for a larger images).

So, can you help us?

Perhaps in your research you have stumbled across the original seal, maybe in the British Library or the Archives Nationales in Paris? Perhaps your keen eyes can read parts of the inscriptions to shed light on the institution or individual who may have used it? or perhaps you can date them stylistically or based on their iconography? Any and all information will be gratefully received, so please leave a comment below!

2 Comments

Rosie Weetch

Thanks Rob! Yes, very helpful and led me to being able to track it down in Birch’s “Catalogue of seals in the Department of manuscripts in the British museum” (https://archive.org/stream/cataloguesealsi09bircgoog#page/n856/mode/2up pg 848).

Not a St John seal, which is probably why we were not able to track it down! Interesting that the British Museum/Library one is also a cast, so perhaps ours is a cast of a cast hence the poor quality? Wonder where the original is or if it still exists.

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