Saturday, July 7, 2007

General Heraldry & Vexillography Links

Heraldry on the Internet by James P. Wolf.

Heraldica by François Velde.

Heraldry by Countries by François Velde.

International Civic Heraldry, by Ralf Hartemink.

Baronage Press

Buthlaw's Armorial

Heraldry (Helm's Genealogy Toolbox), by Matthew L. Helm

Armorial Gold Heraldry Services: Heraldry Clipart.

Heraldry Today

H้raldique europ้enne by Arnaud Bunel.

Behind the Shield - the Story of Heraldry a thematic philatelic exhibit by Nahum Shereshevsky.

Rec.Heraldry FAQ

Entente Cordiale for Chivalric and Heraldic Traditions.

Heraldic Clipart links compiled by James P. Wolf.

Heraldry: A Selected List of References (Library of Congress)

European Heraldic Handcrafts

History & Heraldry, by Helen Scott.

Little Heraldry Book, by Tempus Peregrinator.

Family Crest Vintners (personalised wine labels)

Vexillography: the Design of Flags, by Dave Martucci.

Heraldry and Coat of Arms Web Ring.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Maritime Flags

Flags are particularly important at sea, where they can mean the difference between life and death, and consequently where the rules and regulations for the flying of flags are strictly enforced. A national flag flown at sea is known as an ensign. A courteous, peaceable merchant ship or yacht customarily flies its ensign (in the usual ensign position), together with the flag of whatever nation it is currently visiting at the mast (known as a courtesy flag). To fly one's ensign alone in foreign waters, a foreign port or in the face of a foreign warship traditionally indicates a willingness to fight, with cannon, for the right to do so. As of 2006, this custom is still taken seriously by many naval and port authorities and is readily enforced in many parts of the world by boarding, confiscation and other civil penalties.

In some countries yacht ensigns are different from merchant ensigns in order to signal that the yacht is not carrying cargo that requires a customs declaration. Carrying commercial cargo on a boat with a yacht ensign is deemed to be smuggling in many jurisdictions.
There is a system of international maritime signal flags for numerals and letters of the alphabet. Each flag or pennant has a specific meaning when flown individually.

As well, semaphore flags can be used to communicate on an ad hoc basis ship to ship over short distances.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


A flagpole or flagstaff can be a simple support made of wood or metal. If it is taller than can be easily reached to raise the flag, a cord is used, looping around a pulley at the top of the pole with the ends tied at the bottom. The flag is fixed to one lower end of the cord, and is then raised by pulling on the other end. The cord is then tightened and tied to the pole at the bottom. The pole is usually topped by a flat plate called a "truck" (originally meant to keep a wooden pole from splitting) or by a ball or a finial in a more complex shape.

Very high flagpoles may require more complex support structures than a simple pole, such as guy wires, or need be built as a mast. The highest flagpole in the world, at 160 metres (525 feet), is that at Gijeong-dong in North Korea, the flag weighing about 270 kilograms (600 pounds) when dry. The world's biggest regularly hoisted flag, however, is the Brazilian national flag flown in the Square of the Three Powers in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. This flag weighs about 600 kilograms (1300 pounds) when dry and measures 70×100 metres (230x330 feet). It can be seen from all parts of Brasilia and its flagpole is the tallest structure in the city.

The tallest free-standing flagpole in the world is the Aqaba Flagpole in Aqaba, Jordan, with a total height of 132 meters (430 feet). The Raghadan Flagpole, also in Jordan, is the second tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. It reaches a height of 126 meters (410 feet) and hoists a flag that measures 60×40 meters (200x130 feet); it is illuminated at night and can be seen from 25 km (16 miles) away.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Principles of flag design

Flag designs exhibit a number of regularities, arising from a variety of practical concerns, historical circumstances, and cultural prescriptions that have shaped and continue to shape their evolution.

First among the practical issues confronting a vexillographer is the necessity for the design to be manufactured (and often mass produced) into or onto a piece of cloth, which will subsequently be hoisted aloft in the outdoors to represent an organization, individual, or idea. In this respect, flag design departs considerably from logo design: whereas logos are predominantly still images to be read off a page, screen, or billboard, flags are alternately draped and fluttering images to be seen from a variety of distances and angles. The prevalence of simple bold colors and shapes in flag design attests to these practical issues.

Flag design is also a historical process in which current designs often refer back to previous designs, effectively quoting, elaborating, or commenting upon them. Families of current flags may derive from a few common ancestors as in the cases of the Pan-African colors, the Pan-Arab colors, the Pan-Slavic colors, and the national flags inspired by the flag of Turkey.

Certain cultures prescribe the proper design of flags, through heraldic or other authoritative systems. In certain cases, prescription may be based on religious principles; see, for example, Islamic flags. As a discipline, vexillology is beginning to promote design principles based on a body of research on flag history and design. Prominent examples are Ted Kaye's five Good Flag Bad Flag principles published and endorsed by the North American Vexillological Association:
Keep It Simple: The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.

Use Meaningful Symbolism: The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.

Use 2–3 Basic Colors: Limit the number of colors on the flag to three, which contrast well and come from the standard color set.

No Lettering or Seals: Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
Be Distinctive or Be Related: Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags. The term was coined in 1957 by the American scholar Whitney Smith, the author of many books and articles on the subject. It was originally considered a sub-discipline of heraldry, and is still occasionally seen as such. It is also sometimes considered a branch of semiotics. It is formally defined in the FIAV (Fédération internationale des associations vexillologiques) constitution as "the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge." A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, and by extension, a person who designs flags is a vexillographer.

The word "vexillology" is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum and the suffix –ology meaning "study of". The vexillum was a particular type of flag used by Roman legions during the classical era. Unlike most modern flags which are suspended from a pole or mast along a vertical side, the square vexillum was suspended from a horizontal crossbar along its top side, which was attached to a spear.

Vexillologists are active in dozens of national associations under the umbrella of FIAV (Fédération internationale des associations vexillologiques). Every second year, FIAV organizes the International Congress of Vexillology (ICV 2005 was in Buenos Aires, Argentina; ICV 2007 will be in Berlin, Germany. Internet activity of vexillologists is centered on the Flags of the World website and mailing list.