About Guide Books - SANDRA SCHWAB | Historical Romance Author

Go to content

Main menu:

About Guide Books

Research > Travels on the Rhine

In the 1820s the tourist industry finally kicked in. The first touristy things that were published were panoramas of the Rhine. Those were folded maps of the river, usually with larger pictures of the the most important sights. The first one was created by Elisabeth von Adlerflycht after a journey on the Rhine in 1811, and was published in 1822 in Stuttgart. Three years later Friedrich Wilhelm Delkeskamp did another one for a publisher in Frankfurt. If you'd like to have a look at Delkeskamp's panorma or at his sights of the Rhine, you can find them all on the net at www.historic-maps.de. The explanations are given in both German and English. His panorama was sold together with a little booklet filled with explanations of the sights in German, English and French. But soon this didn't satisfy the tourists any longer -- and this was the birth of the modern guidebook for tourists. And the embodiment of the German guidebook is the Baedeker. Not surprisingly, one of his first guidebooks was Die Rheinreise ("Journey on the Rhine"), published in 1832, which had come out four years earlier at a different publishing house (on the right you can see part of the map of the Rhine included in the Baedeker guidebook; I found the picture on www.bdkr.com, a site run by collectors of old Baedekers). Baedeker's second guidebook was tailored more towards the needs of British tourists: The Traveller's Manual of Conversations was something like a English-German-French-Italian dictionary of important words and phrases.

Word soon got out that publishing guidebooks was a lucrative business. Thus, in the 1830s John Murray, one of the most influential British publishers with authors like Jane Austen or Sir Walter Scott, started to publish his famous "Red Books", the Handbooks for Travellers. And again, not surprisingly, the first of the series was the Handbook for Holland, Belgium and the Rhine. The guidebooks usually start with some introductory information about travelling in general, and about the country to be visited in particular. Then follows a list of different routes, complete with short explanations and descriptions of sights and towns as well as the distance between towns and the number of posts. In addition, there are recommendations of specific hotels or inns. At the beginning of the Handbook for Northern Germany from 1845 you find the following explanation about the setup of the guidebook:

"The names of Inns precede the description of every place . . . because the first information needed by a traveller is where to lodge. The best Inns,  as far as they can be determined, are placed first.

In order to avoid repetition, the Routes through the larger states of Europe are preceded by a chapter of preliminary information . . . .

Every Route has a number, corresponding with the figures attached to the Route on the Map, which . . . presents a tolerably exact view of the great high roads of Europe, and of the course of public conveyances.

The Map is to be placed at the end of the book."

Murray and Baedeker worked together by distributing each other's books. And Baedeker also started to publish his guidebooks with red covers. Baedeker's and Murray's guidebooks were all standardized, regularily updated and made to fit easily into hand  or pocket. It was John Murray who later on invented the star-based rating system which is now used by online booksellers and review sites as well. Murrays and Baedekers guidebooks became something like the "Bible for Travellers", and thus the English  libretto of Jacques Offenbach's La Vie Parisienne includes the following sentence: "Kings and governments may err, but never Mr. Baedeker." 

Back to content | Back to main menu