THERE are already any number of York A-Zs out there. So what on earth do we need another one for, you might think?

This latest book is no street plan of the city, however. Instead it is an alphabetical guide to York’s history and culture – one written at the end of York 800, the year of celebrations in 2013 to mark the 800th anniversary of the city being granted its charter.

The author, Paul Chrystal, has made a name for himself by penning a series of local history books.

An inveterate collector of old photographs, Paul always makes sure his books are richly illustrated with images from his own private collection. That is equally true here, with the illustrations including sketches and drawings of York in times past to old sepia photographs.

So where do you start with an historical A-Z of York?

In Paul’s case, with Alcuin: the great Anglo-Saxon scholar who established in York a great (and sadly long-lost) library. The details you get about the great scholar are sketchy: his “extensive library was one of the best and biggest in the world and helped York become one of the premier seats of learning in the eighth century”, Paul writes. “Unfortunately, the Vikings destroyed much of the collection in 867.”

But this isn’t supposed to be a scholarly book: more the kind you flip through to find interesting or unusual facts about York that you didn’t know already. At that, it succeeds very well.

There are well over a dozen entries in the As alone – ranging from the Ancient Society of York Florists (“the world’s oldest horticultural society”) to the explorer and volcanologist Tempest Anderson and Alexander II, King of the Scots, who in 1251 got married in York Minster to Margaret, the second daughter of King Henry III.

His bride was aged just 11. Despite this Alexander, Paul writes, ‘went on to rule the Scots through a golden age of Scottish history’.

The joy of this kind of book is dipping in and out of it. Did you know, for example, about Botteril’s repository for horses – a kind of ‘multi-storey horse car park’ built in 1884 next to Lendal Bridge which had ramps inside up which horses were led to their stalls?

And what about ‘Mutton’ Curry? In 1802 Curry was sentenced to death for stealing sheep (an offence for which he earned his nickname: his given name was William).

He was sentenced to hang, until a vacancy came up for a hangman at York Castle, and Curry was offered the job. By 1810 he had performed 25 executions – including a number of convicted Luddites. A notorious drunk, he once fell down the ‘drop’ with five prisoners he was trying to hang.

The big challenge for any A-Z book is always finding an entry for Z. No problem in York – Z, of course, is for Zeppelin raids: the raids on the night of May 2, 1916, when 18 bombs were dropped on York from German zeppelins.

Following the raids, a York Patrols Committee was established (a kind of forerunner of air raid wardens) which advised people to remain indoors during raids.

Panic about the danger of death from the skies reached such an extent, Paul writes, that a doctor at The Retreat circulated a letter on worrying levels of a new psychological condition: Zeppelinophobia.

Now that’s the kind of thing you just need to know.

York A-Z by Paul Chrystal is published by Fonthill, priced £14.99