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Collection of Norman F Ticehurst on swan marks

Reference code
Collection of Norman F Ticehurst on swan marks
17th-20th century
Level of description
Extent and format
Eighteen volumes. Mostly quarto.
Scope and content
TIC/015, TIC/016 and TIC/017 are original swan rolls purchased by Ticehurst and donated to the SAL in October 1960.

The MS notes and Ticehurst’s own facsimile drawings (TIC/014) contribute to N.F. Ticehurst, The Mute Swan in England. Its History, and the Ancient Custom of Swan Keeping, London 1957. The SAL archive material is significantly more extensive and detailed than that found in Ticehurst 1957, as is the information in articles from periodicals bound together as TIC/018.

Swan marks were cut into the beaks of the birds (and occasionally also the feet) to denote ownership, the records of these marks being kept in regional registers now usually referred to as swan rolls, although some are in the form of bound books rather than rolls. Rules governing swan ownership were set out in an Order for Swans, variations of which are detailed in TIC/001. Deputy Swan Masters were responsible for regulating the marking of birds and maintaining the registers. Standards and styles of draughtsmanship and penmanship vary greatly, the authors of some registers drawing the whole head of the bird, as if seen from above, with eyes and a suggestion of feathers, others simply recording the mark in a geometric form within a rectangular frame. Ticehurst identifies ‘families’ of registers that result from copying.

Ticehurst used two methods of recording the appearance of swan marks, the first a generalised system that portrays the marks in a simplified form, drawn in black only, recording the alignment, the page or roll layout, the shape of the mark and the lettering.

The second type he calls ‘sketch-facsimile’ drawings. His originals are contained in TIC/014 (MS 819/14) and appear to be same-size drawings closely copied from the manuscripts he saw, imitating the script and including any page decoration and (sometimes) added colour. The same size format results in many of the sketch facsimile illustrations being on folded sheets when copied and inserted into the smaller volumes TIC/001 to TIC/013. (The method of reproduction used to copy illustrations from TIC/014 to other volumes is unclear.)

The sketch facsimile drawings record the idiosyncrasies of the swan master or scribe who compiled or copied the named manuscript. Some of these drawings are not reproduced in any of Ticehurst’s publications. He appears to have made at least one sketch facsimile drawing from each original MS that he was able to examine in person.

Detailed information courtesy of Susan Sloman FSA, 2023.
Ticehurst, Norman Frederic (1873-1969), surgeon, ornithologist and historian of swan marks
Previous reference number(s)
MS 819
Archival history
Collection donated by Norman Frederick Ticehurst, OBE, MA, FRCS (1873-1969) 28 October 1960.