Guide book  

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"I waited and waited, but the glacier did not move. Night was coming on, the darkness began to gather—still we did not budge. It occurred to me then, that there might be a time-table in Baedeker; it would be well to find out the hours of starting. I called for the book—it could not be found. Bradshaw would certainly contain a time-table; but no Bradshaw could be found." --A Tramp Abroad (1880) by Mark Twain

"The favourable reception given to the fifth Edition of her Information and Directions for Travellers on the Continent, leads her to hope that the ensuing pages may, in some degree, answer the purpose for which they were written ; and exonerate Travellers from the necessity of encumbering themselves, in every metropolis of the Continent, with books published to serve as Guides. At Paris, Strangers are in the habit of purchasing the Post-book, the List of Pictures in the Musée Royal, and the List of Sculptures in the same Museum, added to Galignani's excellent Paris Guide, and equally excellent Guide through France. At Florence Molini's accurate description of the Royal Gallery, and Gargiolli's account of the City, are usually purchased. At Rome Vasi's Itinerary, (two volumes) and the description of the Museum of the Capitol, besides Nibby's highly and justly estimated publications, are deemed almost indispensable ; as are from ten to twelve Guides at Naples, for the City and its Environs." --Information and Directions for Travellers on the Continent by Mariana Starke

Guidebooks constituted an essential aid for the traveler. It has been calculated that over the course of the 18th century at least two new ones were printed every year (among the best known, those of Misson, Lassels, Nugent, De Lalande), while in the following century the points of reference were Forsyth, Mariana Starke and Lady Morgan.


The radical change in the travel book that resulted from stripping it of the customary encyclopedic range of observations can be traced back to the first Murray guidebook (Handbook of Holland, 1836), an impeccable manual that marked the birth of modern mass tourism by setting out to meet the detailed needs of the new middle-class traveler in a hurry. It would be followed by the publication of the first of Baedeker’s major guides in 1839 and the Continental Railway Guide(( in 1847.

In the golden age of the tour, however, the traveler’s bag also had to contain books by two more writers, one to prepare the mind and the other to prepare the body: Misson and Miselli, author of Il Burattino veridico, overo istruttione generale per chi viaggia. Con la descrizzione dell'Europa (“The True Burattin, or General Instruction for Travelers. With the Description of Europe,” 1688).

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A guide book is a book for tourists or travelers that provides details about a geographic location, tourist destination, or itinerary. It is the written equivalent of a tour guide. It will usually include details, such as phone numbers, addresses, prices, and reviews of hotels and other lodgings, restaurants, and activities. Maps of varying detail are often included. Sometimes historical and cultural information is also provided. Different guide books may focus on different aspects of travel, from adventure travel to relaxation, or be aimed at travellers with larger or smaller travel budgets, or focus on the particular interests and concerns of certain groups, such as lesbian and gay singles or couples. Guide books are generally intended to be used in conjunction with actual travel, although simply enjoying a guide book with no intention of visiting may be referred to as "armchair tourism".




A forerunner of the guidebook was the periplus, an itinerary from landmark to landmark of the ports along a coast. A periplus such as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea was a manuscript document that listed, in order, the ports and coastal landmarks, with approximate intervening distances, that the captain of a vessel could expect to find along a shore. This work was possibly written in the middle of the 1st century CE. It served the same purpose as the later Roman itinerarium of road stops.

The periegesis, or "progress around" was an established literary genre during the Hellenistic age. A lost work by Agaclytus describing Olympia (Template:Lang) is referred to by the Suda and Photius. Dionysius Periegetes (literally, Dionysius the Traveller) was the author of a description of the habitable world in Greek hexameter verse written in a terse and elegant style, intended for the klismos traveller rather than the actual tourist on the ground; he is believed to have worked in Alexandria and to have flourished around the time of Hadrian. An early "remarkably well-informed and interesting guidebook" was the Hellados Periegesis (Descriptions of Greece) of Pausanias of the 2nd century A.D. This most famous work is a guide to the interesting places, works of architecture, sculpture, and curious customs of Ancient Greece, and is still useful to Classicists today. With the advent of Christianity, the guide for the European religious pilgrim became a useful guidebook. An early account is that of the pilgrim Egeria, who visited the Holy Land in the 4th century CE and left a detailed itinerary.

In the medieval Arab world, guide books for travelers in search of artifacts and treasures were written by Arabic treasure hunters, magicians, and alchemists. This was particularly the case in Arab Egypt, where treasure hunters were eager to find valuable ancient Egyptian antiquities. Some of the books claimed to be imbued with magic that could dispel the magical barriers believed to be protecting the artifacts.


In the West, the guidebook developed from the published personal experiences of aristocrats who traveled through Europe on the Grand Tour. As the appreciation of art, architecture and antiquity became ever-more essential ingredients of the noble upbringing so they predominated in the guidebooks, particularly those devoted to the Italian peninsula. Richard Lassels (1603-1668) wrote a series of manuscript guides which were eventually published posthumously in Paris and London (1670) as The Voyage of Italy. Grand Tour guidebooks poured off the presses throughout the eighteenth century, those such as Patrick Brydone's A Tour Through Sicily and Malta being read by many who never left England.

An important transitional figure from the idiosyncratic style of the Grand Tour travelogues to the more informative and impersonal guidebook was Mariana Starke. Her 1824 guide to travel in France and Italy served as an essential companion for British travelers to the Continent in the early 19th century. She recognized that with the growing numbers of Britons traveling abroad after 1815 the majority of her readers would now be in family groups and on a budget. She therefore included for the first time a wealth of advice on luggage, obtaining passports, the precise cost of food and accommodation in each city and even advice on the care of invalid family members. She also devised a system of !!! exclamation mark ratings, a forerunner of today's star ratings. Her books, published by John Murray, served as a template for later guides.

In the United States, the first published guidebook was Gideon Minor Davison's The Fashionable Tour, published in 1822, and Theodore Dwight's The Northern Traveller and Henry Gilpin's The Northern Tour, both from 1825.

Modern guidebook

Misson, Lassels, Nugent, De Lalande

The modern guidebook emerged in the 1830s, with the burgeoning market for long distance tourism. The publisher John Murray began printing the Murray's Handbooks for Travellers in London from 1836. The series covered tourist destinations in Europe, Asia and northern Africa, and he introduced the concept of "sights" which he rated in terms of their significance using stars for Starke's exclamation points. According to scholar James Buzard, the Murray style "exemplified the exhaustive rational planning that was as much an ideal of the emerging tourist industry as it was of British commercial and industrial organization generally."

In Germany, Karl Baedeker acquired the publishing house of Franz Friedrich Röhling in Koblenz, which in 1828 had published a handbook for travellers by Professor Johannes August Klein entitled Rheinreise von Mainz bis Cöln; ein Handbuch für Schnellreisende (A Rhine Journey from Mainz to Cologne; A Handbook for Travellers on the Move). He published this book with little changes for the next ten years, which provided the seeds for Baedeker's new approach to travel guides. After Klein died, he decided to publish a new edition in 1839, to which he added many of his own ideas on what he thought a travel guide should offer the traveller. Baedeker's ultimate aim was to free the traveller from having to look for information anywhere outside the travel guide; whether about routes, transport, accommodation, restaurants, tipping, sights, walks or prices. Baedeker emulated the style of John Murray's guidebooks, but included unprecedented detailed information.

In 1846, Baedeker introduced his star ratings for sights, attractions and lodgings, following Mrs. Starke's and Murray's. This edition was also his first 'experimental' red guide. He also decided to call his travel guides 'handbooks', following the example of John Murray III. Baedeker's early guides had tan covers, but from 1856 onwards, Murray's red bindings and gilt lettering became the familiar hallmark of all Baedeker guides as well, and the content became famous for its clarity, detail and accuracy.

Baedeker and Murray produced impersonal, objective guides; works prior to this combined factual information and personal sentimental reflection. The availability of the books by Baedeker and Murray helped sharpen and formalize the complementary genre of the personal travelogue, which was freed from the burden of serving as a guide book. The Baedeker and Murray guide books were hugely popular and were standard resources for travelers well into the 20th century. As William Wetmore Story said in the 1860s, "Every Englishman abroad carries a Murray for information, and a Byron for sentiment, and finds out by them what he is to know and feel by every step." During World War I the two editors of Baedeker's English-language titles left the company and acquired the rights to Murray's Handbooks; the resulting guide books, called the Blue Guides to distinguish them from the red-covered Baedekers, constituted one of the major guide book series for much of the 20th century and are still published today.


Following World War II, two new names emerged which combined European and American perspectives on international travel. Eugene Fodor, a Hungarian-born author of travel articles, who had emigrated to the United States before the war, wrote guidebooks which introduced English-reading audiences to continental Europe. Arthur Frommer, an American soldier stationed in Europe during the Korean War, used his experience traveling around the Continent as the basis for Europe on $5 a Day (1957), which introduced readers to options for budget travel in Europe. Both authors' guidebooks became the foundations for extensive series, eventually covering destinations around the world, including the United States. In the decades that followed, Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Insight Guides, Rough Guides, and a wide variety of similar travel guides were developed, with varying focuses.

Guide book publishers

This list is a select sample of the full range of English language guide book publishers - either contemporary or historical.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Guide book" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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