Tantner, Anton: House Numbers. Pictures of a Forgotten History. London: Reaktion Books, 2015.
200 Pages; £ 12.95; ISBN 9781780235189

 


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Short Description

House numbers are small things that appear quietly on the walls, gates and porches of our homes and places of work. They seem to have come from nowhere and are now taken for granted in everyday life. But house numbers have their own history - one that is retrieved, assembled and presented here, for the first time, in vivid images from around the world.
House numbers started their lives in a grey area between the military, the tax authorities and early police forces. Anton Tantnerís engaging, intriguingly quirky book is a chronicle of the house number, from its introduction in European towns in the eighteenth century through the spread of the numbering system in the nineteenth century to its global adoption today. It also reveals that there was often opposition to this convention - those living at their allotted addresses have not always been too happy about their houses being given numbers.
House Numbers is full of original research and is extensively illustrated, with photographs showing historic house numbers and addresses, from Nought, Strand-on-the-Green in London to 1819 Ruston, Louisiana. Its narrative will alter the way you walk around a city, as these seemingly minor, insignificant aspects of our houses and streets become links to a broad and fascinating history.

 

Table of Contents

A Footnote to History 7
The "Whole House" and the House Number 8
In Search of the Origin 10
The Triumph of House Numbers: A Gallop through the Eighteenth Century 16
Opposition and Equality 23
House Numbers and Discrimination against 'Jewish Houses' in the Habsburg Empire 30
The Use of House Numbers 32
Schramek; or, The Burden of Three Numbers 34
Chaos and Resilience: 'Conscription' Numbers under the Habsburg Monarchy 37
Mark Twain's Troubles with Berlin House Numbers 39
Odd and Even 41
Methods of Numbering 46
House Numbers and Colonialism at Home 50
Photographing House Numbers around 1900 53
Green and Golden House Numbers: The House Number as a Mark of Distinction 55
House Numbers and Superstition 58
The Right to an Address 60
Taking Over the World: House Numbers in the Twenty-first Century 61
 
Pictures 65
References 184
Further Reading 197
Photo Acknowledgements 199
Reviews:
  • Financial Times, 31 October 2015, Home, p. S6 (Edwin Heathcote): excellent new book
  • Methodist Recorder, Winter 2015 (Margaret Daniels): The word ďenthrallingĒ isnít one to use lightly when embarking on a book review and it has probably rarely been used in connection with the prosaic matter of the numbering of houses. However, Anton Tantnerís book, House Numbers: Pictures of a Forgotten History (...) fully earns the adjective.

Anton Tantner - Schrift & Wort