Help me interpret this school seal.
May 11, 2021 11:10 AM   Subscribe

The seal and logo for the school where I work has been in place for almost 100 years. Unfortunately, no historical narrative remains about its creation.

I would like to add something to our website that discusses the symbolism of the seal, but there is nothing official to draw from.

I do have a sense that the lamp is the Lamp of Knowledge, and one could make the case that the column (Doric?) could represent order/stability/trees/wisdom/strength/holding things up/etc.

But other than that I am at a loss. There are 22 flutes (11 to each side) and I do not think that number represents anything. I also do not know what the three stars and three dots could represent.

What does the hivemind think?

Link to image:
posted by to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My thought is that the circles represent planets, and together with the stars represent "the heavens".

This is probably a stretch, but the 11 flutes per side plus the column itself add up to the 23, the year (plus 1900, of course) of the school's founding.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2021

Is there an archive of school newspapers or yearbooks in the library? I would start by looking through the oldest issues for the first appearance of the seal to see if there's an explanation there. (Apologies if you've already tried this.)
posted by stopgap at 12:01 PM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

What is the school in question?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:14 PM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might try reaching out to The Rhode Island Historical Society, from a search of their holdings, they do have two sets of records from your school, and might possibly have more. They offer to any researcher "FREE to every researcher: Reference interview (via phone, e-mail, or video chat), up to 1 hour of research and up to 20 pages of scans (subject to approval if items are delicate)" If they can't help you, they will surely be able to point you to someone who can.
posted by momochan at 12:38 PM on May 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are 22 flutes (11 to each side)

There are 11 players to each side in cricket.
The school motto " Play the Game" comes from a poem by Sir Henry Newbolt
called Vita-Lampada
The first verse refers to the last inning of a cricket match.

Play Play up and play the game
posted by yyz at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

The Doric column bears a striking resemblance to a cricket pitch as well

The 3 balls and 3 stars may represent the 3 wickets at each end of the pitch

But I know nothing about cricket so...
posted by yyz at 1:44 PM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

A reverse Google image search can identify the school. I won't do so in this response in case the asker has a reason for keeping that information outside of the question.
posted by Aleyn at 4:01 PM on May 11, 2021

Best answer: I do have a sense that the lamp is the Lamp of Knowledge

I just realized that the poem Vitaï Lampada translates as Lamp of Life.

The second verse The sand of the desert is sodden red .
Lots of red in the seal
So the seal has many allusions to the poem
posted by yyz at 4:27 PM on May 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh God, the seal genuinely is based on that poem, isn't it. Amazing.

I think you're correct about the lamp of knowledge. In addition, it seems like "torch in the middle of a seal" was a popular motif for school seals at the time, so the column with the lamp on top could be a visual riff on the idea of a torch. Example 1 Example 2 Example 3 (which, as the text explains, is actually from the 1920s, not the 19th century as the image implies).

My intuition (based on nothing) is that the star/dot motif is decorative rather than symbolic, but who knows.
posted by phoenixy at 12:43 AM on May 12, 2021

Response by poster: This is wonderful! Thank you all for this feedback. I am really impressed that some of you were willing/able to figure out the school. Yes, I did not put the name of the school in the post on purpose: I did not want it to come up in google searches down the road.

Regarding Vitai Lampada: this is really interesting! I actually have the poem hanging up in my office, so I knew the connection to the motto. But I never thought about the connection to the logo. I am now going down that rabbit hole!

AND - great idea about contacting the historical society!

Thanks again, everyone!
posted by at 10:03 AM on May 13, 2021

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