When the first manuscript was written documenting a merchant’s travels and trade on the Indian Ocean no-one could have guessed the impact the humble travel guide would have on travellers of the future. From this simple beginning has sprung a huge business intent on publishing every fact and figure available on every destination, and our infographic charts the rise of these books.
For hundreds of years most travellers were merely traders, but by the 1660’s the Grand Tour became the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means as travel was thought necessary to develop the mind and expand knowledge of the world. Published accounts of personal experiences on the Grand Tour provided illuminating detail and a first-hand perspective of the experience and helped spawn a plethora of travel accounts and guides.
By the 1820’s publishing houses eventually realised the potential of these books, with ‘Baedekers’ becoming the first comprehensive guides. In 1900 the first Michelin guide was published, originally to encourage the development of the automobile industry in France but later becoming a series of general guides to other countries.
The early part of the 20th century saw more publishers adding guidebooks to their stocks, and in 1974 Lonely Planet launched its first book, going on to become the largest travel book publisher in the world. Today there are websites and forums dedicated to travel information and with instant, up-to-date access.
As sales of guidebooks begins to decline we have to wonder what the future holds for those wonderful paperbacks we used to throw into our suitcases.