Andrew Jamieson's book for Pitkin is an extremely colourful introduction to the art and science of heraldry. All of the book's twenty-eight pages are splashed with colour; as well they should be, given the need to distinguish gules from sable, azure from vert.
This is, of course, merely an introduction to a topic that can prove - and has proved - fascinating but also exacting to its practitioners. I am interested from the view of my own and other families' history and genealogy, rather than wishing to indulge in constructing a modern-day coat-of-arms for myself. Heraldry's continuation into the twenty-first century is, I fear, a sign of decadence and bad priorities: like the monarchy, its presence is just so much flummery, an expensive extravagance.
But, as Jamieson points out in his opening remarks, "From the dawn of civilization, people have adopted and used symbols to explain their existence, beliefs and culture ... As we begin the new millennium, heraldry still flourishes because of its ability to absorb the new, link it with the past and provide continuity with the present."
That's as maybe, but Jamieson certainly introduces the reader in a clear prose style to the basics of the subject and its ability to adopt innumerable permutations. Later he looks at royal heraldry before showing us illustrations of those adopted by modern institutions from cities to department stores. He ends by telling us anyone can aim to adopt a coat-of-arms, but this should only be done properly, of course, and having paid the appropriate fee!