Article by Michael Prokopow

IVEN THAT EVERY HUMAN-MADE OBJECT is a text born of context, the challenge of getting at the meaning of a thing necessarily becomes an exercise in history and analysis. Made in England during the reign of King George IV for official use in the colony of New Brunswick in British North America, the two-sided, paper-covered wax bas-relief seal-with its royal coat of arms on one side and its depiction of a ship at anchor-functions as both a compact tangible and visual encapsulation of the story of the Loyalist migrations to the western reaches of Nova Scotia in 1783 and a prosthetic exercise of sorts in sovereignty.

Customarily affixed by monarchs and their representatives to proclamations, writs, commissions, and other state documents-a practice dating back to Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century-such royal seals, with their depictions of sovereigns and other symbols of the realm, embodied royal and constitutional governance. Granted in 1785, the New Brunswick seal is significant because of the specificity of the pictorial image.

Excerpted from Fall/Winter 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Michael J. Prokopow, Ph. D., is a cultural historian, curator, and critic. He holds the rank of Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies at OCAD University in Toronto where he serves as the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

Royal Seal of the Colony of New Brunswick England
Hard wax and paper Circa 1825
Photograph: Michael Prokopow