Friday, March 26, 2010

A hallmark in Honfleur

This monogram is on a pilaster capital found in Honfleur, a coastal town, in Normandy, France. It’s perhaps a builders’ mark and dates to around the fifteenth century. On the other hand, perhaps it suggests an IHS: a monogram for the name of Christ Jesus.

A monogram is a design made by overlapping two or more letters to form a mark. Combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos, often makes monograms. Traditionally, artists and craftsmen on their pieces have used monograms as signatures especially when guilds imposed actions against unofficial involvement in the trade.

Just as today artisans and townspeople of the medieval era to identify themselves and authenticate their goods used merchants’ marks. They were the forerunners of hallmarks, printers’ marks and modern-day trademarks.

Peter Wildbur states in his handbook, International Trademark Design:
The marks were nearly always constructed around a vertical stem with the main elements at the top and base, and other elements flanking or crossing the center.

The reason for this particular form and for its continuing use over several centuries is not clear but it has been suggested that the early marks were derived from the Runic alphabet.
—Wildbur, Peter. International Trademark Design. first ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1979. 36. Print.

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