Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Arkham Seal, Part Three

I'm still not done fiddling about with it, but here's the official seal of Arkham as it stands.

The reason for the various elements, and their source:

The latin border text marks the year of Arkham's incorporation. It's taken directly from the phrasing used in Salem's seal, the acknowledged inspiration for Lovecraft's fictional city. As far as I can tell there are no canon sources for the date of incorporation, so I added two years to Salem's. Given that Arkham was founded shortly after Salem I thought it appropriate that it's incorporation follow suit.

The crown in the top of the inner circle references Arkham's founding as a plantation during the era of royal land grants. The graphic is taken from the town seal of Haverhill.

The ribbon and shield design is a common heraldic device used by a multitude of Massachusetts towns. The shield with three segments is based on the four segment shield in the Plymouth town seal.

The plow and sheaf of wheat in the upper left of the shield signifies Arkham's origin as an agricultural colony. The graphic is a retouched version of the sheaf and plow found in the Dover town seal.

The three masted schooner in the upper right references Arkham's seafaring history, primarily trade with the Indies. The image is a retouched version of the ship found in the seal of Falmouth.

The building at the base of a hill in the lower shield is a depiction of the academy (created by the Orne bequest) that would eventually become Miskatonic University. The school became the town's major economic engine after the Revolutionary War, a fact I believe the town fathers would find worthy of commemoration in the seal. The building itself is a retouched version of the meeting house in the Dover seal.

The two branches of greenery on either side of the shield are cranberry sprigs, inspired by the ones in the Falmouth seal. The pristine river valley where Arkham was founded surely had bogs filled with native cranberries. The sprig on the left, with it's branches and leaves forming Lovecraft's Elder Sign, is the only "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" element in the design.

I welcome your comments and suggestions.


Joker said...

Excellent work! I like it.

James Floyd Kelly (Jim) said...

Not sure what else you wish to do with it, but this version is outstanding... it looks 100% authentic.

Propnomicon said...

@ Joker

Thank you for the kind words.

@ Jim

Other than some minor ornamental changes the only issue I want to work on is the regularity of the text. One of the things I love about the old town seals is that they have a wonderfully hand-drawn character to them. I'd like to rough up the lettering just a bit more to capture that.

Raven said...

The crest of a crown is, as you say, on the Haverhill seal, as the crest of a dove-of-peace is on the Salem seal (punning on Salem=shalom).

Why would that same crown crest appear on Arkham's seal as well? Is not distinction the point of armorial bearings?

The idea of Noah's Ark as a crest on Arkham's seal was to do the same sort of punning (what heralds call "canting") as the dove on Salem's seal. As the Puritans surely appreciated, in Christian heraldry Noah's Ark represented protection from an "engulfing sea of godlessness"; likely the reason for the city's name.

Rev. Marx said...

I think it looks fabulous!

I do detect a slight slant to the letters caused by justifying to the curved baseline that suggests to me that it is computer generated. I would expect the old authentic seals to be more square to the baseline of the curve, but admittedly, you have looked a lot more of thes4e seals than I have.

Propnomicon said...

@ Raven

You raise a good point about distinctiveness, but there's a definite history of repitition and imitation as well. There are a lot of symbolic images (Native Americans, wheat sheaves, industrial buildings, sailing ships, etc.) that crop up again and again in Massachusetts seals. Outright copying of styles and motifs isn't unheard of either, as in the case of New Bedford's seal being intentionally patterned after Boston's.

The crown isn't set in stone, of course, but it's a symbol that shows up repeatedly in the seals of towns that trace their history to the land grant period. I also liked the similarity to the sun and ribbon device of Lovecraft's beloved Brown University. I actually nicked that for the Arkham seal before deciding the crown was more appropriate.

@ Rev. Marx

I totally agree. Adjusting the alignment of the the individual characters will fix that, as well as providing an opportunity to introduce some mild mis-alignments to further the hand drawn look.

Andrew Leman said...

The HPLHS has been at work on an Arkham seal as well, and I've just updated our site with that addition and an update to the Arkham Library Card PDF, as previously promised. Although our seal looks different (and borrows from different sources), it contains many of the same concepts and the two are quite compatible. Both feature agriculture, shipping, and a nod to Miskatonic.