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You may wonder why a coat of arms needs a written description when so many images of them may exist. If a person was important enough that their coat of arms or crest was on many doc**ents or other items, it may seem totally unnecessary to have a written description of it. This is especially true if, like so many written descriptions or blazons, the description is complicated and lengthy.
The fact is that written descriptions serve an important role in heraldry. Part of the duties of a herald was to act as an official record keeper of sorts. Therefore, the information that they had regarding a coat of arms or crest needed to be standardized and easy to replicate again and again.
Why images are not enough
It may seem like enough to simply have a picture of a coat of arms. However, each person may draw an item differently and, over time, this may mean that a coat of arms would begin to look very different than it did originally. All it would take was for an incorrect color to be added or for an animal or bird to face a different way and the entire meaning of the coat of arms could change.
Some coats of arms were very complex and hard to replicate perfectly. Different artists would have different ways of drawing some of the elements and depending on the materials used to create the colored areas it may have been difficult to reproduce the proper colors. This may have been true of crests or coats of arms that had metallic elements. Unless an artist or herald had gold or silver paint to work with it would have been very difficult to copy an image with one hundred percent accuracy.
This could cause a significant problem especially since many coats of arms looked quite similar to one another. On a field of battle, it may not have been as important but in a doc**ent that was being created as a historical record this could end up causing problems for those individuals who were involved.
Crests had legal standing
In the past, crests or coats of arms had legal standing. It was actually illegal to use a coat of arms that was not yours or to bear a coat of arms that you were not entitled to. Because there were so many regulations connected to coats of arms, it was no wonder that seals were created that included a shield in their design. This seal could be pressed into hot wax and was used to verify a person identity. If a coat of arms was recorded incorrectly it would make it impossible to then verify whether a person was using the right crest or not.
It is not unusual to find both an image and a description in a roll of arms or other heraldic record. The images are still important as it can give a basic idea of what a coat of arms would look like. Because many descriptions are written in French and use archaic language, having a visual reference can be very helpful in modern times.