This very old and famous surname, equally popular in Scotland and England, has at least two possible origins, the first being a nickname given by the invading Angles and Saxons to the native Celts and Britons who were darker-haired and darker-skinned than themselves. There is an ancient fable that Wulfricus Niger, otherwise known as Wulfric the Black circa 980, received his name after blackening his face in order to pass undetected through his enemies. The second possible origin is as a shortened form of Black-Smith, a worker in cold metals, as distinct from a White (Smith), one who worked in hot metals. The surname was popular in Scotland from the 15th Century. Adam Black of Edinburgh (1784 - 1874), a publisher, acquired the rights to the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1827. No less than ten Coats of Arms were granted to families of this name. Those borne by Gilbert Black, Dean of the Guild of Aberdeen (1672), depict a black saltire between a red mullet in chief and a red crescent in base, on a silver shield with a black chief. A demi lion proper is on the Crest, and the Motto, "Non Crux, sed lux", translates as, "Not the cross, but its light". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Wulfhun des Blaca which was dated circa 901, in the "Old English Bynames Register", during the reign of King Edward, known as "The Elder", 899 - 924 A.D. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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