Basic Heraldry Books

Fox-Davies, Arthur C., A Complete Guide to Heraldry, New York: Bonanza Books, 1978.

A general introduction to modern English heraldry. It contains many illustrations of charges, with detailed discussion of terms of blazon. It is a good introduction to the subject, and is highly recommended for the beginner, with the caveat that much of it is not applicable to medieval heraldry.

Franklyn, Julian, Shield and Crest, London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1960.

Similar in content to Fox-Davies Complete Guide, but I find it far more readable. It is illustrated with emblazons of complete devices, rather than just individual charges, many of which are in color. It includes an appendix in which every illustration is blazoned; I consider this a strong plus.

Monceiffe, Ian, and Don Pottinger, Simple Heraldry, Cheerfully Illustrated, London: 1953.

A delightful introduction to heraldry as an art.

Neubecker, Ottfried, Heraldry: Source, Symbols, and Meanings, Maidenhead, UK: McGraw-Hill Co., 1976.

A fine examination of all aspects of heraldry. Also published in French as Le Grand Livre de l'Heraldique, by Bordas, 1981. Very heavily illustrated in color, largely with photographs of period items. Very highly recommended.

Scott-Giles, C.W., The Romance of Heraldry, revised ed., London: 1967.

Mistress Alisoun wrote: "An introduction to heraldry for the educated non-specialist. The author was one of the great historical reseharchers in the College of Arms and here approaches heraldry as a tool for illuminating history... It is an excellent window into the symbolism and role of heraldry in period life."

Von Volborth, Carl-Alexander, Heraldry: Customs, Rules and Styles, Poole: Blandford Press, 1981.

A general introduction to heraldry. It is useful in that it discusses heraldry from all parts of Europe, contains a good bibliography, and has many drawings which are reproduced from period examples. Most of these are dated, but not attributed.

Wagner, Sir Anthony Richard, Garter Principal King of Arms, Heralds and Ancestors, London: Colonnade Books, British Museum Publications Ltd., 1978.

A cute little book notable for its many, high-quality illustrations from items in the British Museum. The text is a nice general introduction to the history of heraldry. I would recommend this as a first book for a beginner; I keep it around for the pictures.

Wise, Terence, Medieval Heraldry, Men-at-Arms Series, London: Osprey Publishing, 1980.

Not a scholarly work, but a nice introduction to the subject, with lots of color pictures.

Woodcock, Thomas, Somerset Herald, and John Martin Robinson, Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

One of the finest general introductions to heraldry, concentrating mostly on English armory, but with material on continental armory as well. It contains a great deal of detailed and well-referenced information, excellent illustrations, many in color, a brief glossary of terms of blazon, and a good bibliography. Highly recommended.

Woodward, John George Burnett, A Treatise on Heraldry British and Foreign, Charles E. Tuttle.

A monumental work, and like many monuments, many people prefer to look at it from a distance. Actually, that's not fair: It contains a great deal of useful information, but it is incredibly dense, and impossible to read. As a reference, it can be helpful, but it contains relatively few dated examples. Many illustrations, but all of them are modern drawings.


Neubecker, Ottfried, A Guide to Heraldry, London: Cassel Ltd., 1979.

An abridgement of his larger work. It contains some of the good material, but most of it was omitted. Not recommended.