We have just taken delivery of the two volumes of Richard Ford’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain, and Readers at Home. The person who recommended that we reissue it said that it was one of the best of the famous Murray’s Guides, and still of very great interest today. First published in 1845, it contains two maps, the second of which is so enormous that we had to have it scanned out of house: it can be seen at higher magnification online at http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item6633819/?site_locale=en_GB, if you click on ‘Resources available’, as can all our large maps and colour images (that is, if I and my gallant team of one can keep up with loading them on to the web).
The Hand-book is an astonishing read, not least for the cheerful exhibition of the author’s prejudices (or, more kindly, his hard-won knowledge from bitter experience…). I opened Volume 2 at random, to read that ‘The Castellano is less addicted to murder and treachery than the irritable native of the south and south-east provinces…’. Ford does however seem to know whereof he speaks: according to the ODNB, he was of independent means, and spent four years living in Spain, where he travelled widely and began to compile superb collections of both Spanish painting and books. He was an authority on Velasquez, and is ‘credited with “rediscovering” in 1851 the whereabouts in England of the Rokeby Venus’ – I didn’t know she had gone missing after J.B.S. Morritt’s death in 1843.
(A complete sideline: Ford was ‘the eldest of the three legitimate children of Sir Richard Ford (1758–1806), police magistrate’, which of course makes one click through immediately to his father and see who the illegitimate ones were: and blow me down, Ford senior’s mistress, by whom he had three children, was the actress Dorothy Jordan, who moved on from him in 1790 to the duke of Clarence, and bore him ten little Fitzclarences before the duke’s urgent need for (a) money, and/or (b) a legitimate heir who might become king/queen of England caused him to part with her in 1811 – a breach which, interestingly, made him very unpopular with the great British public. She died in 1816, in poverty and in France. His eventual wife, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, produced not much money, and sadly lost several babies, but seems to have been a good influence on ‘Sailor Bill’. When, in 1830, he became William IV, he commissioned a statue of Dorothy with two of their children, which is apparently in Buckingham Palace to this very day.)
Anyway, leaving aside Ford’s exhaustive and fascinating commentary on 1840s Spain, the extraordinary ‘Notice to This Edition’, at the front of Volume 1, is worth reproducing in full:
‘The Publisher of the “Hand-book for Travellers in Spain” requests that travellers who may, in the use of the Work, detect any faults or omissions which they can correct from personal knowledge, will have the kindness to mark them down on the spot and communicate to him a notice of the same, favouring him at the same time with their names – addressed to the care of Mr. Murray, Albemarle Street. They may be reminded that by such communications they are not merely furnishing the means of improving the Hand-book, but are contributing to the benefit, information, and comfort of future travellers in general; and particularly in regard to Spain, which just now is in a state of transition, change, and progress.
*** No attention can be paid to letters from innkeepers in praise of their own houses; and the postage of them is so onerous that they cannot be received.
Caution to Travellers – By a recent Act of Parliament the introduction into England of foreign pirated Editions of the works of British authors, in which the copyright subsists, is totally prohibited. Travellers will therefore bear in mind that even a single copy is contraband, and is liable to seizure at the English Custom-house.
Caution to Innkeepers and Others – The Editor of the Hand-books has learnt from various quarters that a person or persons have of late been extorting money from innkeepers, tradespeople, artists, and others, on the Continent, under pretext of procuring recommendations and favourable notices of them and their establishments in the Hand-books for Travellers. The Editor, therefore, thinks proper to warn all whom it may concern, that recommendations in the Hand-books are not to be obtained by purchase, and that the persons alluded to are not only unauthorized by him, but are totally unknown to him. All those, therefore, who put confidence in such promises may rest assured that they will be defrauded of their money without obtaining their object.’
Those following the current ‘TripAdvisor’ furore are hereby advised that there is nothing new under the sun.