History of the Blue Guides

blue guide london 1953

 

 

 

The Blue Guides have been setting the standard for travel guides since 1918, when the first Blue Guide "London and its Environs" was published by the Scottish brothers James and Findlay Muirhead.  The Muirheads had for many years been the English-language editors of the German Baedeker series; when they also acquired the rights to John Murray's famous travel "handbooks" they established the Blue Guides as heir to the great 19th century guide book tradition.

 

(SEE the Preface to London and its Environs here »)


1828

Karl Baedeker (1801-59) publishes his first guidebook, Rheinreise von Mainz bis Köln.

1836

John Murray III's (1808-92) first Handbook published: a Handbook for Travellers on the Continent. These handbooks become the standard for English travellers for the next 75 years.

1861

First Baedeker in English, The Rhine, published jointly by Baedeker and John Murray.

1878

James Muirhead (1853-1934) works for Baedeker in preparing a handbook for travellers to London

1887

Findlay Muirhead (1860-1935), graduate of Edinburgh University, leaves his studies at Leipzig to join his brother James at Baedeker. For almost the next thirty years the Muirhead brothers are responsible for all English language Baedekers, including compiling guides to Britain, the US and Canada.

1914

Following the outbreak of the Great War, the Muirhead brothers find themselves out of a job.

1915

Findlay and James Muirhead acquire the rights to John Murray's Handbooks from the cartographical publisher Edward Stanford, who had bought them 14 years previously from John Murray IV. In the same year they establish their company, Muirhead's Guidebooks Limited.

1917

Agreement with French publisher, Hachette, to co-publish English and French language guidebooks under the names Blue Guides and Guides Bleus respectively. Hachette's existing Guides Joannes had blue covers, while Baedeker's guides had red covers.

1918

First Blue Guide London and its Environs published.

1920

Hachette publishes Guide Bleu Londres et ses Environs.

1931

Blue Guides acquired by Ernest Benn Limited.

1933

Co-operation with Hachette ends.

1934

(Litellus) Russell Muirhead (1896-1976), Findlay's son, becomes series editor. He retires in 1963, remaining a consulting editor until 1965 when the Muirhead family's connection with the series ends.

1963

Stuart Rossiter (1923-82) appointed editor.

1967

Blue Guide Greece, compiled by Rossiter, published. This was the first of Rossiter's "scrupulously edited guides, compiled for the independent educated traveller wanting to avoid the monotony of international uniformity."

1971

Blue Guide Rome and Environs by Alta Macadam published. Macadam's Italy titles thereafter become some of the best selling Blue Guides and include Sicily (1975), Northern Italy (1978), Florence (1982), Venice (1980), Tuscany (1993), Umbria (1993), Central Italy (2008), all frequently updated and re-issued (Macadam's latest new edition of Tuscany will be published in 2009). Other key Blue Guide authors are, and have been, Ian Robertson (Spain, Portugal, Switzerland), John Tomes (Scotland, Wales), Ian Ousby (England), Paul Blanchard (Italy), Delia Gray-Durant (France), Ellen Grady (Italy).

1982

WW Norton and Co of New York, established 1928, becomes US co-publisher, selling all Blue Guides in the US.

1984

The Blue Guides acquired by A&C Black (Publishers) Limited, themselves later acquired by Bloomsbury Plc, publishers of the Harry Potter books among others.

2004

Somerset Books acquires the Blue Guides, and a year later, 2005, relaunches the series with the first "new" Blue Guide, Blue Guide Northern Italy.