Unlike other literary genres - fiction, fantasy, creative non-fiction etc – guide books as a rule enjoy a much shorter lifespan, with some already getting out of date by the time of their publication. The notable exception here are the classic ‘handbooks’ - Baedekers, Murrays, Blue Guides, Warlocks, and others - whose readability and informative value, curiously enough, tend to increase with time, alongside their retail prices. Some rare vintage Baedekers, for example, will easily set you back several thousand pounds. And, believe me, they are well worth the price; there’s no greater delight for a knowledge-hungry traveller than to criss-cross the globe with a hundred-year-old Baedeker or Murray which provide the wanderer with a truly unique perspective not only in space, but also in time.

During the gruesome periods in history, or in a traveller’s life, when physical journeys have to be stopped or heavily curtailed, those guidebooks become invaluable...

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