During your visit to Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more, you may have noticed the red palm-sized books with fold-out maps and wondered, why are these here? These fascinating travel guide books provided a reference point for artists and tourists travelling during the mid-to-late 19th century – much like modern-day Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books.
To learn more about the travel guide books, we spoke with Larry Pfaff, AGO’s Head of Reader Services, Library & Archives, who donated a few of his own to the E.P. Taylor Library & Archives. “If you wanted to understand architecture, art and travel in the 19th century, you would need a guide book because it’s a great resource for cultural histories,” he told us, adding “the AGO has 3,000 guide books in its Library & Archives Collection, making it the largest in Canada.”
Here are some images and text found inside the travel guides from the exhibition.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, many European guide books were printed and published by publishers Baedeker and Murray and were updated frequently to accommodate the expanding cities and railways. A fantastic resource to tourists, artists and writers, the guides provided information about routes, transportation, accommodation, restaurants, sights to visits and of course, art.
Baedeker’s guides eventually offered a rating system using one to four stars, four being the best. The ratings helped form and influence traveller’s tastes, much like Yelp ratings today.
Visit Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more on view until May 5 and see some of the AGO’s travel guides for yourself.
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