A History of Travel Guidebooks

Posted by Chika On 10:24 AM

Tony and Maureen 1973

PublishersWeekly.com has just posted a long article about the history of travel guidebook publishing, starting with Murray in 1836, Baedeker in 1839, along with the founding of both Moon Publications and Lonely Planet in Australia in 1973. Apparently, Bill Dalton beat Tony Wheeler by about six months, a curious fact I didn't know anything about, and I've known Bill for almost 30 years.

The PublishersWeekly.com links at the bottom also work, so you might want to check the travel guidebook publications schedules for 2006, if only to keep track of what's going on with Avalon and LP.

As Hofer was getting Insight off the ground, other adventurous travelers were making tracks off ever more lightly beaten paths. The year was 1973, and both Bill Dalton, whose Moon Publications was soon to launch, and Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the inspiration behind Lonely Planet, were traipsing through their respective territories in Asia.

There may be some confusion about which made its appearance first, but the record is clear: Dalton's A Traveller's Notes: Indonesia appeared in April 1973 as a six-page typed and mimeographed pamphlet distributed as a "gypsy guide" during a 10-day arts festival in southeastern Australia. Tony Wheeler's Across Asia on the Cheap, the first Lonely Planet guide, appeared in October under somewhat similar circumstances, with a reference to Dalton's book in it ("…A Traveller's Notes should be available in most big bookshops for 50 cents," he writes).

The last edition of the Indonesia book, 1,350 pages, was published in 1995. "Bill Dalton was a writer who became a publisher, Tony Wheeler was an MBA who briefly became a writer," says Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel, Moon's current owner and himself a onetime travel writer. "Bill did a wonderful job of establishing the template that we've continued to develop over the past 15 years."

It's no accident, Newlin says, that Southeast Asia was the locale Dalton and his colleagues at Lonely Planet focused on. "It was a new frontier, a countercultural phenomenon, an updating of the Grand Tour, as Europe became more common." Dalton sold his majority interest in 1989 and stayed on as publisher until 1990. He lives in Bali and stays in touch with the company on an occasional basis.

Publishers Weekly Link

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