24 Apr /14

Guide book

The first real onslaught of tourists was of the British aristocracy to Europe. After having gone to the appropriate schools and universities (then only Oxford and Cambridge), it was time to see the world – or rather Europe – on the so-called Grand Tour. There they could see the remains of Greek and Roman antiquity as well as get an idea of what Europe looked like back then.

When tourists come, they often need to be shown what they are seeing. There were some travelogues and instructions on how best to travel, but it was the larger influx of the British upper class that required relatively broad-based instructions. Guide books were needed.

The first time the term appears in English is in the appropriately titled The journal of John Mayne during a tour of the continent upon its reopening after the fall of Napoleon, which came out in 1814. The writer, who in his travels also gave English the word confetti, was neither a nobleman nor had he gone to university, but he was travelling in Europe nevertheless. However, he needed a guide book and had a choice when he was buying. The phrase was already in use because there are numerous references from around this time.

This was the start of an industry that spawned thousands of books, but one that is dying now. Over the last five years, world sales have dropped by almost 40%. After all, thanks to the Internet, access to travel information is immediate, up to date and crowd-sourced. Why buy a paper guide book?

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