Culture and heritage


How brightly you shine

Blazon: Motto: Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites (Newly risen, how brightly you shine). This drawing is from Gullick's original sketch design for the NSW Arms.

The motto was first devised by Dr. Badham, Dean of Arts at Sydney University in the 1870s, and was chosen by Gullick as the NSW motto for being representative of our rising position in the rank of nations. He stated, we are but as yesterday inscribed on the roll of nations, and may sincerely hope that most of our history has yet to be written.

The choice of this motto was a conscious rejection of the motto Sic fortis Etruria crevit which had been inscribed on the Seals of NSW prior to 1838. Several writers of letters-to-the-editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1906 strongly argued for the use of the old convict-era motto, but Gullick firmly rejected their arguments (Astley and GLM). Three years later he wrote to the Australian Historical Society:

...the Motto was absolutely dropped, and the whole connection with it was so objectionable in the "currency" days that our local Premier ... practically asked for the abolition of the old emblems which still reminded us of the first Seal. (letter, Gullick to Burfitt).
The only similarity with the discarded motto was the use of the Latin language. Gullick was determined that the new motto alone would be used, and it clearly reinforced the imagery and allusions in the Arms he designed.

The ribbon that Gullick drew (as shown above) has been redrawn on several occasions. The motto ribbon is rarely referred to in a blazon, and its depiction is a matter of artistic interpretation. Typically, it will be white (Argent), with pale pink shading on the curves of the ribbon face to give a 3-dimensional effect, with lettering in black (Sable). The style of the lettering is usually fairly plain and easy to read, and the back of ribbon (where exposed to the viewer) may be either pink or the main colour used in the shield. Another fairly common colour scheme is blue (Azure) ribbon, face and reverse, with gold (Or) lettering and edging (Fox-Davies: 452; von Volborth: 66-67).

Some questions to research:

  1. For what purpose did Dr Badham originally develop the motto?
  2. Latin is the language traditionally used to express heraldic mottos in English-speaking countries - what is the symbolism of using Latin?

Image source: 'Coat of Arms for New South Wales: new design approved', Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March 1906

Page last updated: 01 September 2012