Heraldry is many things: a fascinating and colorful art, a system of symbols denoting prominent families and institutions, a display of pageantry, and an invaluable aid to historians. This lavishly illustrated guide to the history and significance of heraldic symbols is the first comprehensive book written by Officers of Arms with full access to the records and manuscript collection of the College of Arms, the heraldic authority for the United Kingdom. At once an excellent introduction to heraldry and an authoritative up-to-date record for experts, this all-encompassing volume covers the origins of heraldry, the composition and appearance of arms, how they were and are granted, their evolution as families intermarry, and their decorative use. While Britain figures most prominently, the guide also includes separate chapters on American and European heraldry. Most important, the coats of arms and heraldic devices that illustrate this colorful book are drawn from manuscripts in the College of Arms Library, the most important collection of heraldic manuscripts in the world.