litterae armales

Coat of arms of the Dálnoki Székely family
Coat of arms of the Karomi Bornemisza family
A letter of donation of nobility, containing a coat of arms. Those rather poor noblemen who had no land, only such a donation of nobility - called "dogskin" in popular language - were called "nobles with armales." The "dogskin" was in fact a parchment made from goat-, sheep- or calfskin. These documents always contained the donated coat of arms. In Hungary, it was placed at the beginning of the document, that is, in the upper left (heraldic right) corner, in contrast to the letters issued by the imperial chancellery which had the coat of arms in the centre. The painted decoration of the litterae armales was paid by the addressee, thus these often very high quality miniatures reflect their taste. The text of the document usually describes the coat of arms and the crest only. All the rest of the decoration is the result of individual inventiveness.