Collecting Baedeker Travel Guides
Baedeker’s travel guides were the premium travel guides of the second half of the 19th and the first part of the 20th century, giving rise to the verse: “Kings and governments may err – but never Mr. Baedeker.” They are keenly collected, and some of them are extremely rare, like the famous and seldom seen “Athen” Baedeker from 1896, which was not sold outside Greece. “Weimar”, “Egypt”, “Madeira” or the very first Baedeker “Die Rheinlande”, which was printed in “Coblenz” with a lithographed cover, are also much sought-after – and quite expensive, although the prices have been going down to a reasonable level.
Some collectors want a complete set of Baedekers – nearly impossible to achieve. Others buy every edition of a particular title, or a certain city. Still others collect only copies that have the little errata and other slips which were sometimes inserted. The list of possibilities is long. The “bible” is Hinrichsen’s "Baedeker's Reisehandbücher 1832-1944". The bibliography contains all editions, variants, errata slips and other gadgets which were added. Disadvantage: The price ranges given by Hinrichsen are absolutely unrealistic. As a rule, collectors prefer good, clean and complete copies. They are always on the lookout for the unique, unknown or exceptional.
Baedeker imitations are a collector’s field in themselves. Well-known is the series “Was nicht im Baedeker steht”, published in Munich during the 20s and often written by famous authors like Erika and Klaus Mann. Many of these imitations, especially in German, are humorous and were given away as gifts at balls. Like the “Schlaraffenland” Baedeker: a “travel guide” to “Cockaigne”, the land of milk and honey where the rivers flow with wine and honey, houses are built out of cakes, and the laziest man is king. The red box looks exactly like a Baedeker, down to the details of the gilt lettering. It was made by the chocolate factory “Jordan & Timaeus”, 1880 or earlier. It can be more or less dated because the factory closed in the early 1880s and Baedeker started using a different font for the lettering of its bindings at that time. Instead of train connections and sight-seeing tips the box contains 5 original bars of chocolate carefully wrapped in fine paper. It is unlikely that these are still edible. The surprising thing is that they still exist!
The article by Frank Werner (Brockhaus/Antiquarium) is published here by permission of the author. Thank you very much.
Hinrichsen, "Baedeker's Reisehandbücher 1832-1944" online