Box icon Isabella Bird (1831-1904)

Intrepid travel writer and photographer

Portrait of Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird was one of the 19th century's most remarkable women travellers. Her intrepid global travels and her subsequent travel books made her famous at home and abroad.

Over coming poor health and the restrictions of a male dominated society, Bird travelled extensively into her old age. Countries she visited included America, Hawaii, India, Kurdistan, the Persian Gulf, Iran, Tibet, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and China.

These travels were full of danger and wonder. Bird climbed mountains and volcanoes, she saw palaces and slums. She made great friendships with the people she met – but was also occasionally attacked and chased. An accomplished rider, she rode thousands of miles on horseback – and even a few miles on a elephant.

Bird recorded these adventures in her popular books. Her later works were beautifully illustrated with her own photographs of the landscapes, buildings and people she encountered. Her letters to her sister Henrietta and John Murray IV are eloquent, insightful, detailed and long. One written from the Malay Peninsula is a remarkable 116 pages long.

Highlighted items from the archive

NRA name: Bishop, Isabella Lucy (1831-1904) née Bird, traveller and author.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.

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Other Murray authors in travel and exploration:

Still from Isabella Bird film
Watch our film 'Travels with Isabella Bird'.

'Not the least noteworthy among Miss Bird's gifts is a heaven-sent faculty for having adventures.'
– 'The Spectator'.

Map of one of the places Isabella Bird travelled to:
Map of Britain showing notable locations
View other notable JMA locations in Google Maps