The Complete Book of Heraldry: An International History of Heraldry and Its Contemporary Uses
Heraldry emerged at a time when fighting men became unrecognizable to both friend and enemy, hidden as they were in protective armour. The solution to the problem of identity lay in the shield, which could be decorated with a design that was completely unique, and visible from a distance. As these armorial badges of individuality were handed down from one generation to the next, they came to indicate descent as well as identity. At first, heraldry was an intrinsic part of the pageantry of medieval European royalty, but it was gradually adapted to serve nations, cities, the church and guilds. In the age of exploration that followed, the fashion for arms was carried around the world, and in time, distinct national styles arose. It is the wider use that makes modern heraldry so fascinating, and there is a wealth of information and images in this book describing the heraldry of people from Napoleon to Emperor Montezuma II of the Aztecs, and from medieval monks to Canadian Inuits, Through its ability to adapt to changing times and new uses, heraldry remains alive and well, and more arms have been granted in the last century than in any previous age. With a refreshing and sometimes irreverent style, The Complete Book of Heraldry celebrates this success, noting the more bizarre manifestations of heraldic art around the world, as well as conventional applications.