Posted by: travelrat | February 27, 2020

Second Thought on Guide Books

I have written before about guide books. I have to admit to being attracted to very old guide books. But, just out-of-date guide books? I did once say they aren’t very useful … but recently, I’ve changed my mind somewhat.

Often we use them at the stage where we’re deciding where we want to go. The ones from the Library, although they can be ten or even twenty years old are sufficient for this purpose. Then, when we’ve chosen, it’s time to buy the book. Not from the bookshop, though … Amazon usually have a range of used volumes, at a fraction of the price. They may be a little out of date, but you don’t have to do too deep a dive on the Internet to determine whether or not a certain attraction is still open, or what the entrance fee is nowadays.

With the last one we bought, came a bonus! The previous owner had written in marginal notes.

(A practice I deplore, normally, especially in library books. If you do it, and have recently been afflicted by pox or a plague, or you have had the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits, you know who to blame,)

But, here, they’re useful, although it remains to be seen that, when we visit Mierda del Toros (names changed to protect the innocent) we will agree that the Museum of Mildly Interesting Artefacts is ‘a little bit rubbish’. Or, that the Schitti Palace is ‘A bit pricey, but worth it’

Bottom line is … don’t take anything a guide book says as set-in-concrete gospel, even though it’s just come off the bookseller’s shelves. One writer of guide books once told me:

‘It takes about eighteen months between me submitting the final manuscript and actual production. So, really, my books are out of date by the time they hit the streets’


  1. I love travel guides and never travel without one but I don’t even bother to check any of their pricing and fees – even if its the latest edition….I assume its not accurate.
    I do the exact same thing as you … when thinking about a new destination, I head for the library and when I’ve settled on a trip, I buy the book…

  2. I think most travellers do as you do, the library, then buy the latest edition of the book. I also collect old guide books and one of my favourites is an old London Guide from the late 18th century in which visits to The Clink, Newgate Prison and Clerkenwell Prisons were high on the list of places to visit (to view the inmates). Very pre-Dickensian.

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