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During the Victorian era, the increasing prosperity of the British upper middle class led to a growth in travel and a corresponding demand for reliable travel information. In 1836 John Murray III of London wrote and published the first modern guidebook, initiating a wide ranging and comprehensive series that dispensed accurate information and advice for the sophisticated and affluent traveler's journeys in "the season" and winter sojourns in warmer climates. Carefully researched and written by well-educated Britons (or local experts writing in English) who were often prominent or destined to become so, Murray's Handbooks were the most popular guidebooks for British travelers in the 19th century. In addition to practical information, advice, and itineraries set forth in abundant detail, the guides contain vivid accounts of abandoned ruins, tortuous journeys along primitive roads, and scenic marvels. The volumes also feature summaries of the nation's history, geography, demographics, culture, and climate, along with maps and plans. Within individual countries there are sometimes separate series for different areas. For instance, there is a series for northern Germany and one for southern Germany. Similarly, there is a separate series on Paris and many series on the counties of Britain. Some 400 Murray's have been printed, but many of them published as separate editions are identical, or nearly identical, to earlier editions. The microfiche collection contains every unique and important Murray's, approximately 270 in all, published from 1836 to 1913. In addition to coverage of Great Britain and the countries of Europe, there are volumes on Egypt, Palestine, India, Japan, and New Zealand.
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