Once again absurd-sounding names in literature are derived from factual history. One never knows what to believe when reading Thomas Pynchon, especially not in The Crying of Lot 49. In this particular case, though, there is fairly good documentation.

In 1748, the Count of Thurn and Taxis, whose family was originally from Cornello in northern Italy near Bergamo was appointed official Postmaster General of the Holy Roman Empire. For three generations until 1806, the family, by then living in Regensburg, carried out this duty and profitted greatly from its monopoly on the postal service of southern Germany.
In 1806, when the Empire collapsed, the imperial office of Postmaster was left in limbo.
In 1808, the young kingdom of Bavaria asserted its right to control its postal service, paying the Counts of Thurn and Taxis for their financial losses, thereby ending a silly-sounding chapter of history.

(Source: http://www.thurnundtaxis.de)

Of course it's possible that the historical evidence of the Thurn and Taxis postal monopoly, including the website and the museum referred to in blue_enzian's writeup, was fabricated, and planted everywhere a Pynchon reader might look for it, by agents of Thomas Pynchon and/or Pierce Inverarity. It's even easier to pull off this kind of historical hoax on the web, where anyone can make an official-looking site. And is it coincidence that there wouldn't even be an internet without Yoyodyne technology?

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