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Murray's 'Handbooks for Travellers' were begun by John Murray III. In 1836, after his own experience of travelling on the continent, he started producing innovative travel guides. At a time when domestic and foreign travel was opening up, the guides came to cover all of Britain, the continent and further afield.

Writers and contributors to these guides included known and unknown correspondents, including Thomas Cook correcting details about the Nile steamer, John Ruskin on Italian hotels and Felix Mendelssohn who recommended a hotel where he lived 'with a party of several ladies'.

Detailed and scholarly guides

It was a genre in which John Murray had perhaps their greatest success, publishing the works of travellers and explorers. 'Handbooks for Travellers' provided detailed and scholarly guides to Britain and parts of Europe. There were also guides produced for India, Japan and New Zealand. These were greatly admired for their comprehensive coverage and detailed information, for which many revised editions had to be published to keep up to date.

The handbooks with their red covers and gold lettering became recognised and famous throughout the world. A wide range of authors and contributors were involved in producing the handbooks, including Richard Ford, whose 'Handbook for Spain' (1845) is widely considered one of the classics of the genre. By the end of the century when they sold the business on they had produced over 400 titles and editions.

National Library of Scotland holdings: 212 titles (1836-1952). NLS shelfmarks vary.

Lister, W B C. 'A bibliography of Murray's handbooks for travellers and biographies of authors, editors, revisers and principal contributors'. Introduction by John R Gretton. NLS shelfmark: Map.Ref.6.3(B1)6 L.

You can consult these in the National Library of Scotland manuscripts reading room.

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