Karl Baedeker  

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"I waited and waited, but the glacier did not move. Night was coming on, the darkness began to gather—still we did not budge. It occurred to me then, that there might be a time-table in Baedeker; it would be well to find out the hours of starting. I called for the book—it could not be found. Bradshaw would certainly contain a time-table; but no Bradshaw could be found." --A Tramp Abroad (1880) by Mark Twain

Kings and governments may err
But never Mr. Baedeker.

-- La Vie parisienne (1866) by Jacques Offenbach

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Karl Baedeker (3 November 1801 – 4 October 1859) was a German publisher whose company Baedeker set the standard for authoritative guidebooks for tourists.



The son of a book printer, Baedeker was born in Essen, then in the Kingdom of Prussia, and started his publishing company in 1827 in Koblenz. Baedeker's company in 1832 bought another Koblenz publisher (Friedrich Röhling) which had in 1828 published a handbook for travellers by J. A. Klein, under the title Rheinreise von Mainz bis Köln (travelling the Rhine from Mainz to Cologne). This provided the basis for the first of the Baedeker travel guides.

The red bindings and gilt lettering soon became the familiar hallmark of Baedeker's guides, and the content became famous for its detail and accuracy. While the travel guide was not a new form (Baedecker followed the model of English guide books instituted by John Murray), Baedeker's innovation was to include specific details of transportation, accommodations, prices, and so forth. Starting in 1844, he augmented this with star ratings for attractions. Baedeker was famous for his careful work; when visiting Milan Cathedral in 1847, he was observed to drop a pea at every twenty steps of the staircase to the roof, so as to be able to report the number of steps accurately. Eventually his guide books were issued in English and French as well as in German.

His cousin Friedrich Wilhelm Baedeker (1823-1906), who joined the Plymouth Brethren movement, was also well travelled. Early in his career he sailed to Australia following professional pursuits and after 1866 in Christian service travelled to Sweden, Russia and Siberia, preaching to prisoners and aristocracy.

Travel guides

From Baedeker: Ein Name wird zur Weltmarke

Karl Baedeker's list:

1828: Rheinreise von Mainz bis Cöln; Ein Handbuch für Schnellreisende

  • This was the travel guide written by Klein that Karl Baedeker inherited when he bought the firm of Röhling. Baedeker reissued the guide in 1832. In 1835 he published a revised edition but in 1839, he brought out a comprehensively revised and augmented edition, which bore little resemblance to Klein's original work. Many regard this to be the first true Baedeker which set the standards for what lay ahead.

1829: Extract from 'Rheinreise'.

1829: Voyage du Rhin de Mayence à Cologne

1829: Coblence; an extract from 'Le Rhin'.

1835: Holland

1835: Belgien

1839: Moselreise von Trier bis Koblenz mit geschichtlichen Bemerkungen

1842: Handbuch für Reisende durch Deutschland und den Oesterreichischen Kaiserstaat

1844: Schweiz

  • Despite being a virtual translation of John Murray III's 1838 "Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland", this edition was Baedeker's pièce de résistance and the turning point in his career as a publisher of travel guides. One of the most popular Baedeker handbooks, it ran into 39 revised editions until 1937. La Suisse, its French counterpart, appeared in 1852 and ran into 20 editions until 1928. The English edition (Switzerland) appeared, after Baedeker died, in 1863 under Karl Baedeker II and ran into 28 editions until 1938.The founding father's guides and handbooks are only in German and French.

1847: Bad Bertrich im Uesbachthale an der Mosel

1851: Handbuch für Reisende in Deutschland, Erster Theil: Oesterreich, Süd- und West-Deutschland

1852: La Suisse

1853: Handbuch für Reisende in Oesterreich

1855: Südbayern, Tirol und Salzburg, Oberitalien

1855: Paris und Umgebung. nebst Rouen, Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne und den Eisenbahn-Strassen vom Rhein bis Paris

  • Paris became another highly popular title.

1859: La Hollande et la Belgique


From the beginning, Baedeker realised the importance of including quality, reliable maps in his travel guides, which were black-and-white initially. To this end, he engaged the services of Eduard Wagner of Darmstadt, a specialist in cartography, and the maps he produced for Baedeker were way ahead of the times. An accurate cartography of Tripoli and El-Mina in 1906 under the Ottoman Empire can be found in French in the book edited by Leipzig and entitled Palestine et Syrie.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Karl Baedeker" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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