How to use this Database

This database allows you to search for a range of key information about the documents and seals the project team encountered. It is not an exhaustive list of each document contained within the repositories we visited, but rather those documents which we found to include seals with visible prints during our time in the archives.

Quick Search

The search box in the top right-hand corner can be used to search for anything within the database. Be aware that it is a catch-all search box yet relies on the specific term, so, for example, searching for ‘bishop’ will return anything in which a bishop is mentioned in the calendar or in the seal description, but if the seal is described as depicting a ‘man in ecclesiastical robes wearing a mitre’, it will not be returned under ‘bishop’.

Standard Search

The Standard Search page allows you to search for a particular word in the database. If you type the word ‘squirrel’ for example, the search will bring up every instance where the word ‘squirrel’ has been included in either the impression or matrix descriptions, or indeed the document summary. These results can be refined by selecting a specific Repository (i.e. Hereford Cathedral Archives) and by date range. The vast majority of items will fall into the period 1150-1350. If you wish to quickly locate a specific document you already have an archival reference number for, you can search for that document directly in the Document Reference box. Only put the alphanumerical reference number in the Document Reference box, not the short code for the repository.

Advanced Search

Click 'advanced search' within the search box for more options.

The Advanced Search allows you to refine your results by the number of seals attached to a document or by the number of impressions. You can further refine your search according to Wax and Impression, i.e. by colour, dimensions and shape. Drop down menus will show you the available options. Here you can also refine by print, by using the tick boxes to limit the search to ‘Matching’, ‘Good’ or ‘Partial’ prints.


The Browse page provides an alternate way of exploring the database, primarily by allowing you to refine by motif keyword or by Repository.

Every seal impression and matrix in the database has been attached to a motif. Every impression contains a central motif, even if there are other items or things going on in the background, and it is this which assigns the motif keyword. A full description of the impression/matrix can be found in the Description box of each entry. The motif keywords are based on existing terms used in Art History and form part of a hierarchical chain. For example, an impression which contained an unidentified human figure would be attached to the keyword ‘Human’. An impression containing a woman standing as its central motif, however, would be labelled ‘Human_female_womanstanding’.

It is worth noting that due to this system some searches might not yield results. For example, we use the term ‘Hound’ rather than ‘Dog’. If at first your searches do not yield any results, please use the search by Keyword feature.


The visualisation tool maps out the complex ways in which documents are related through their seals. Each coloured dot represents an item within the network, as follows:

Black: Document
Green: Wax (an individual piece of wax containing an impression attached to the document)
Blue: Impression (the mark impressed upon the wax by a seal matrix)
Red: Matrix (the object impressed into the wax)
Purple: Print (the forensic data left by the human who impressed the matrix into the wax)

Please note: for the sake of clarity, we have only included matching prints within the visualisation tool.

The visualisation tool allows us to see networks that may not be readily apparent until viewed as part of the bigger picture. More information can then be found by searching for the individual documents within the database.


This visualisation shows three Exeter documents related to each other by their seals. ECA 1578 and ECA 1577 each have two seals. The seal impressions on both documents are identical. ECA 1576 has one seal, which matches one of the two impressions on each of ECA 1578 and 1577.

This visualisation depicts how seals are related within one document. HCA 938 has three seals. Two of the seals contain handprints from one individual. The third does not.