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The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names: Based on the Collections of the English Place-Name Society Hardcover – 15 Jan 2004
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Review of the hardback: '… a captivating resource for those of us simply curious about the oddities of English place-names … This catalogue of place-names will make an essential tool for anyone seriously involved in the cartography or topography of the British Isles … It is a project that is dizzying in scale, and manages the rare trick of being a useful commercial resource, an unimpeachable scholarly reference and a source of great pleasure for the curious.' Rare Book Review
Review of the hardback: 'This is the first comprehensive, scholarly, single volume dictionary of English place-names … impressive … very unlikely that it will be superseded very soon … essential for all medium-sized libraries.' Reference Reviews
Review of the hardback: 'The Dictionary is a reliable and comprehensive fund of place-name data and there is much here to provide the interested reader not only with information but with many stimulating ideas.' Landscape History
Originally published in 2004, this is a major reference work, containing around 20,000 entries with historical and etymological commentaries on the names of cities, towns, villages, hamlets, rivers, streams, hills and other geographical locations in England. It also uses maps and illustrations to demonstrate the significance of the names.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It's a great compendium of over 700 pages of English place name meanings and their historical derivations, essentially replacing Eckwall's dictionary which was the last authoritative book on the same subject, and which was last updated in 1960.
There's very little, if any, new research into primary sources here; rather it's a trawl through all the English Place Name Society's (EPNS) County volumes, plus that Society's unpublished material, and, in the case of some counties that EPNS hasn't yet studied, other sources (eg 'popular' one volume county works).
For each place name listed, the dictionary states which county it's in and gives a National Grid reference, a translation (ie its meaning), a list of historical spellings, an etymology and where the information has come from (eg which EPNS volume). And in some cases an explanatory comment is included and even how it's pronounced locally now (or, rather, was when the original quoted source was published).
If one goes straight into the dictionary, ignoring the introductory section, it does look somewhat daunting, as the entries are very condensed and contain a lot of abbreviations. So I guess it is important to check out that introductory material first, in order to understand how the entries are laid out. That doesn't take too long.
Its only weakness for me is the very brief 'Glossary of frequently used elements'. It's only 8 pages long, and covers only a very few elements (ie parts of place names,such as 'ton' or 'ley'). For me, those pages could have listed far more elements, far more briefly. Or they could have been omitted. Maybe I've missed the point of this section.
But that's a minor point. This is a tremendous piece of work (it took 15 years to prepare apparently) and it's one which will no doubt be the standard reference book on English place names of the whole country for years to come.
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