Baedeker & Other Travel Guides from Shapero Rare Books

- by Michael Stillman


Baedeker & Other Travel Guides from Shapero Rare Books

Shapero Rare Books has published a catalogue of Baedeker & General Travel Guides. This is the fourth catalogue of Baedeker-plus guides Shapero has created, which we assume means these guides must be popular with collectors. Then again, so is travel, so it makes perfect sense.


Baedeker began publishing their guides in Germany, in the German language, for German travelers, early in the 19th century. They were successful so Baedeker expanded their offerings, both in terms of places reviewed and the national audiences whom they served. They began publishing guides in French and English so travelers speaking those tongues could use their guides. They expanded the locations covered from Continental Europe and England to the Near East, Russia, Asia, and the United States. Along with foreign travel, they targeted travelers looking to tour their own countries.


Baedeker continued to publish guides well into the 20th century but the magic had worn off. Being German in origin, they lost their overseas markets during the two wars, and Germans weren't touring those nations much in wartime anyway. They pulled through the First World War, but were never quite the same after the Second.


There is also a large section on Murray guidebooks. They were published during the 19th century in English for English speakers. They more heavily targeted home country travelers. Many guides covered very specific areas of Britain, something more likely to appeal to an in-home tourist than one looking to travel foreign lands. Finally, there is a selection of miscellaneous guides. Here are a few selections from the material found in this catalogue.


It took over half a century for Baedeker to finally publish a guide to America. It was the first Baedeker guide originally written in English. It was written by John Muirhead, a Scotsman, who became the English editor for Baedeker. He spent three years in America learning about the country before his guide was published. The title is United States with an Excursion into Mexico, a first edition published in 1893. Muirhead worked for Baedeker for over 35 years, but with the start of World War I, that was no longer possible. He took over the Murray guides and a short time later, began publishing his books under the name Blue Guides. They continue to this day although the firm has changed hands many times since Muirhead's day. Item 82. Priced at £400 (British pounds, or approximately $536 in U.S. dollars).


The Holy Land has always been a draw, but accommodations were not so great in the 19th century when Baedeker published this first edition of Palestine and Syria. That was in 1876 and they would not publish another until 1894. Shapero describes it as a “scarce travel guide to the Holy Land which splendidly describes the primitive conditions of life in the region nearly 150 years ago. Archaeology in the Holy Land was in its infancy. Communications were rudimentary.” The only roads were from Beirut to Damascus and Jerusalem to Jaffa. Even the influx of pilgrims was of a short duration. It contains 18 maps, 43 plans, and a panorama of Jerusalem. Item 69. £1,500 (US $2,009).


This is a special version of a German guide that was specifically produced for the German Automobile Club. Auto travel is not the focus of most Baedeker Guides, but this one was designed for Germans traveling in Germany. It came shortly after Germany's “Anschluss” when it combined with, or more accurately annexed Austria. The year was 1938 and it is likely Germans would feel better about traveling within the country than elsewhere in Europe with the threat of war now on the horizon. The title is Autofuhrer. Band 1. Deutsches Reich (Ohne Das Land Oesterreich) [Car driver. Volume 1. German Empire (excluding the country of Austria)]. A second volume was published the following year. There was also a version of the guide published for the general public but this copy has the German Automobile Club insignia on the title page. Item 124. £250 ($335). A copy of the standard, not automobile club copy, is also available. Item 125. £150 (US $201).


This is another unique Baedeker Guide. It's unusual in that it is a first and only edition. Most guides were published in multiple, often many, editions. It was also only ever published in German. We can guess that it wasn't a best seller. The timing wasn't great either. It was published in 1914, at the outbreak of the Great War. The title is Indien. It covers India, along with Burma, Java and Ceylon, and contains a panorama of the Himalayas. Item 192. £850 (US $1,138).


This next one is a Murray guide, from 1845. It is called Handbook for Travellers on the Continent. Murray's guides were in English and intended primarily for the British. It is a fifth edition. John Murray did a little cheating, or borrowing here, but at least he gave credit. It was the first of his guides to mention Baedeker. It notes that he “has also derived considerable benefit from a German translation of the handbooks executed by Mr. Baedeker, an intelligent bookseller of Coblenz.” Item 231. £300 (US $402).


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