Traveling History Mysteries

Category: What on Earth!?

When I was younger, I loved to travel (still do...but it will be awhile before I sling on my backpack again.) China, Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Germany, Austria, France, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Italy. All magical, all memorable. No tours! Just a backpack, a guidebook, tiny bits of money and willingness to make friends with my fears.

To talk to ONLY natives to the country. To travel 2nd or 3rd class on the trains. (Except for China, we needed a BIG bed for Aaron. And it was still a couple of inches short.)

So when I found so many travel books in the house published in the early part of the 20th century, I was THRILLED. Especially over the photos.

"Italy without Sicily leaves no image in the soul--Sicily is the key to all." Goethe

This book, Picturesque Sicily, was written by William Agnew Paton and published in 1898. I couldn't find much about Paton online, apart from this account of his meeting President Lincoln. (You'll have to scroll down.) But it gives you a sense of Paton's era and why these travel books with photographs are so very fascinating. The first mass-marketed camera, the Brownie, wasn't introduced until 1900. So Paton's photographs are not the offhand photos of a casual traveler. I don't know if they were complex to set up and shoot.

Il Foro Italico. Palermo. Monte Pellegrino. (Links of 1989 photos via René Seindal Photo Website)

Around the World in 1000 Pictures is a different kind of book. Use of the camera was more common by the 1950's and the book displays like an extended retro travel brochure than a frank look into the spaces of the past. I cannot make out the inscription in the front of the book...any ideas?

(Double-click any picture to make it larger)

The most interesting pictures to me were taken of the places that have changed because of political issues or aggressive "progress." As interesting as what is included are the countries NOT included...such as the continental U.S. (as the audience for the book was in the U.S.--I suppose knowledge of such was assumed), China, much of the Middle East, and so forth.

Photos of Cuba...right before the Revolution.

And then there is this little mysterious tome. I always thought that steamship travel was steeped in an air of mystery and drama. Obviously, someone else thought so too...and was probably around to take advantage of it.


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The inscription looks like icelandic.

I've been lurking for a while, and love your page.. Strangely enough the inscription in your book is in Swedish. It goes something like this:

Congratulations (or Good luck wishes) from the heart
to a pleasant eighty year old.
Only pleasant(or lovely) memories

Maybe your traveler knew Swedish?


Well, we found Swedish dictionaries and language books in the house! And we live in a Swedish neighborhood...

But the previous owners weren't Swedish. I suspect this book belonged to someone else and was picked up at the yearly neighborhood Alley Walk/Garage sale...

Thanks for translating this for us! I had no idea!

Wonder if there are any books on early 20th-century Beirut or Baghdad lying around the house?

Sigh...those are two places I'll never get to see in my lifetime, I don't think...


Never say never! The book "Around the World in Photos" has a few amazing photos of some Middle Eastern and Far Asian countries. They have a few from Afghanistan but they weren't allowed to progress very far into the country at that time.

There is a gorgeous book of Palestine from around 1900 with amazing photos, too.

I'll keep my eyes open for you. In the meantime, there are some lovely maps and photos online, including some through these links:

Baghdad 1918

Mesopotamia photos

Tour of the Holy Land in Photos

I'll keep looking.


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