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To begin, it is evident that the book was written for visitors, not residents, as indicated by the book’s subtitle, “Handbook for Travellers”.However, it is very likely that the book was read by London-dwellers and armchair travellers as well, for as Vaughan comments, “Many authors of guides and travel books knew that their work was for the entertainment and instruction of those who had no intention of deserting their own hearths.” Travellers would most likely have been British, American, or colonial citizens such as Canadians and Australians, or Europeans who could read English (although less likely French visitors, as they had their own French-language version of Baedeker’s London guide).
Considering the great breadth and depth of information provided, such a team of authors, under one editor, was necessary if the guide was to be kept successfully updated.
However, was this information useful to travellers?
Maybe so, as the figures included are not as random as they may seem.
In his extensive survey, Such guidebooks were coincident with the development of detailed maps of the city following the Great Fire of 1666, such as Ogilby and Morgan’s published in 1676. Forster’s (1908) recounts the experiences of a young repressed English woman, Lucy Honeychurch, visiting Florence while chaperoned by her straight-laced cousin, Miss Bartlett. He does but touch the surface of things.” Forster sets up a dichotomy between the “respectable” characters, like Lucy and Miss Bartlett, who rely entirely on their Baedekers for knowledge, and the more free-thinking ones, like Miss Lavish, who shun received wisdom (and in the end lead more rewarding lives).
The popularity of Baedeker guides in general in the early twentieth century and contemporary attitudes toward their use are both exemplified in a novel published (conveniently) in the same year as our guidebook. A new acquaintance, intrepid older English traveller Miss Lavish, is critical of Lucy’s over-reliance on information in her guidebook, saying, “Tut, tut! Evidently enough visitors thought Baedeker’s guide to London useful enough to keep the volume updated and in print until the last edition in 1930, by which time the requirements of travellers, and indeed the cultural geography of London, had changed.