Heraldry is many things: a fascinating and colourful art with special rules and methods; a system of symbols denoting prominent families and institutions; a display of pageantry; and an invaluable aid to historians. And, quite apart from its relevance to genealogical and historical studies, even an slight knowledge of heraldry can make all the difference in tracing family histories, and in looking at old houses, churches, and monuments. This lavishly illustrated guide to the history and significance of heraldic symbols is the first to have been written by Officers of Arms with full access to the records and manuscript collection of the College of Arms, the heraldic authority for the UK. It is both an excellent and informative introduction to the fascinating subject of heraldry, and and authoritative up-to-date record for experts. Subjects covered in this comprehensive book include the origins of heraldry, the composition and appearance of arms, how and why they were, and still are, granted, their evolution as families grow and intermarry, and their use as decoration. While most attention is paid to Britain, there are also separate chapters on American and European heraldry, the latter covering France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The book is illustrated with coats of arms and heraldic devices drawn from manuscripts in the College of Arms Library, the most important collection of heraldic manuscripts in the world.