When I heard that a young American writer had published a book about traveling to Europe based on a battered 1963 copy of Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a day “, I figured it was time to take a look at the shelves of vintage guidebooks and travel literature I have collected over the past 50 years.
For travel writers and historians, there is nothing as interesting as old guides and travel books. Here are some of the gems in my collection. Most were paid only a few dollars ( or lire, or euro) but their values today may range up to several hundred dollars.
|signed by author Lina Waterfield, (Duff Gordon) 1914|
One of the most intriguing is this one, by the same author who wrote “To Catch a Thief”. The guide published in 1953 contains such gems as “a banquet for four can be had for $2.67 in Spain” and “a bicyclist can tour Europe on $1.40 a day”.
It was a clever way to encourage Americans to travel abroad just as the Marshall Plan was helping Europe get back on its feet.
For the beginning collector, there are many opportunities to pick up bargains in the strangest places, especially when travelling.
Older books in English are generally less valued in non-English speaking countries.
I picked up this 1951 travelogue in its original dust wrapper at an open air stall in Naples for 10 euro. A Canadian book seller lists the same book, without dust wrapper, at 128 euro!
|from UK dealer Peter M. Daly for 17£|
Thanks to the Gutenberg project many vintage guides can be downloaded for free and read on your iPad or Kindle device.
An example is a travelogue by Edward Wigran “Northern Spain” (1906), full of interesting facts about Asturian villages with colorful illustrations.
A copy of the original will put you back $195, if you can find it.
To discover the value of your vintage guides and travel books, make a search on the websites such as abebooks, alibris, biblio and addall.
Other sources for finding old and vintage travel books and guides are these websites: oldguidebooks, manybooks.net. as well as the thousands of Italian booksellers who list on the mega site maremagnum.
The study of travel literature, Hodoeporics, is fast becoming a specialized branch of Italian language and literature studies.
Check out the website of the CIRVI, Centro Interuniversitario di Ricerche sul Viaggio in Italia which is based in Moncalieri , near Torino for more information about travel writing and literature .
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