A book, a day: London Street Signs by Alistair Hall
London, the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom is a metropolis filled with tales. Even the city’s street nameplates are story-tellers and this book explores many of them, from the curious to the ornate thanks to a man dedicated to capture the beauty of it all ever since 2016.
“In August of 2016 I picked up my camera and wandered out onto the streets of London. I had an idea that it might be useful and interesting to document the incredible variety of the city’s street nameplates –the signs which detail the name of each road” writes Alistair Hall.
Eventually almost four years and over four thousand photographs later, Hall authored a visual feast of a book, published by Batsford aka London Street Signs: a visual history of London’s street nameplates.
London’s street name stories are featured in 192 pages with over 30,000 words, and more than 350 photographs to capture the reader’s attention. For the book, Hall selected the most significant nameplates of all, from the curious to the ornate.
“All around London, you can find a remarkable public archive of lettering in the city’s street nameplates. A unique collection of styles and forms that stretches back to the 17th century, these little labels hide in plain sight – we use their information daily, but too often fail to really notice them” notes Hall, co-founder and art director of children’s literacy charity Ministry of Stories and its fantastical shop, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies and author of a visual striking book for the Londoner in all of us.
According to award-winning graphic designer Hall, founder of design studio We Made This who manages to find time to teach at Central Saint Martins and The School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University as well “these signs are a remarkable archive of lettering, a unique collection of styles and forms that stretches right back to the seventeenth century. They hide in plain sight, these modest labels; we use their information daily, but too often fail to really notice them. They are visual anchors, telling us where we are, but temporal anchors too, telling us where we’ve come from.”
His expertly curated collection documents the most visual striking nameplates of the city -from enamel plates to incised lettering, the simplest cast iron signs to gloriously ornamental architectural plaques.
The publication is a visual and typographical journey through the history of a great metropolis in which the reader uncovers fascinating stories behind these unassuming treasures, tales revealing “where they came from before being affixed to brick or stone for decades to come.”
Through the pages of the book, his first ever, we are introduced to the iconic nameplates of the City of Westminster, the stunning tiled signs of Hampstead and the revival nameplates of Lambeth, as well as the ghost signs of the no-longer existent NE postal district.
London Street Signs: A visual history of London’s street nameplates is “a striking visual record of our collective history that will appeal to design and history enthusiasts alike” reads the introduction to Typeroom’s favorite book of the day.
Hailed as “unexpectedly fascinating” by the Times Literary Supplement the book is obviously an absolute must for type fans. Visit the book’s dedicated site, follow Hall’s typographic adventure on Instagram and buy your own copy of London’s typographic history here.