Several years ago, in my job as a librarian, I got to catalog a really unusual item: a patent of nobility. Patents of nobility were issued when a person was granted a title, and usually include a coat of arms to go with the title.
The patent I cataloged had been almost forgotten some time before I came to the library, and stored among other old items that had been set aside for careful treatment or further research. In this case the patent was a large “quarto” sized book (each page is a quarter of full sized sheet, in this case that makes the book 37 cm tall), bound in red velvet and with black and yellow ribbons tying it closed. A wooden disc was attached by a gold cord, and when I looked more closely at the disc I realized it had a lid and opened. Inside I found this:
It’s a little hard to make out but it is a coat of arms. In fact it is
the Great Seal of Austria, the great seal of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, impressed on red wax. This sort of wax is very hard and somewhat brittle — sealing wax.
Here’s the book’s cover and the seal:
Here we see his full title: Franz Carl Maydan von Dannenthal. He was apparently an artillery commander of some kind. The text, I assume, explains his genealogy and what he did to earn his title, but the German was beyond me to scan and I could not take the time to try to decipher it all. He had a short entry in a reference book, which I consulted while creating an authority record for his name. Otherwise he is basically forgotten, except perhaps by his descendants.
The coolest part of the book is the coat of arms — rendered in full color, with gold foil decorations. This was painted directly on the page, and the colors were quite brilliant despite the age:
It is signed by Joseph II of Austria and a variety of others (I could not make out their names). It is dated 1781. You can take a look at it in the flesh if you come to Cleveland. (There are many, many more treasures in the Special Collections of Cleveland Public Library too.)