The study of place-names can tell you a lot about local history and biography; likewise street-names, though their origins – even the recent ones – are often hard to track down. This gazetteer of 300 streets in Reading (UK) includes much lore, gossip and urban myth, along with a necessary dose of pure speculation. The book is illustrated with Peter Hay’s distinctive rubber-stamp vignettes and lettering by designer Sally Castle. We humans all have names, and almost everyone’s once meant something. Surnames can be derived from physical attributes place of origin or occupation forenames often originated with a hopeful suggestion of beauty or power or fame. But personal names hardly ever tell us anything about the current bearer. There is, however, rather more in a name when it’s attached to a place. Standard reference works show that a great deal of history can be learnt from the names of villages, towns, cities and counties. When we focus down to street level, however, the sheer numbers of names mean that only a minority – including most of the older ones – have a meaningful local meaning.
Adam Sowan. Paperback, 200 x 200 mm, 84 pages, January 2004.