Armchair Journeys: Reading the World

Courtesy of Palace Green Library

An itinerary written by Fynes Moryson (1617).

Although it’s impossible for us to take trips at the moment, the Palace Green Library in Durham, England, has put together a treat for armchair travelers using its special collections of books, archives and manuscripts from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The online-only exhibition Journeys: Reading the World looks at why people travel, the value of trips abroad, half a dozen key dos and don’ts, and finishes with a focus on the Grand Tour.

So Fynes Moryson in his An itinerary written by Fynes Moryson Gent (1617, pictured) wisely advises that the wise traveler "Being at Rome, the Roman manners use, And otherwhere, each places custome chuse.”

To help these travelers/tourists far from home, a whole new genre in publishing sprang up and the exhibition looks at the origins of the guidebook, especially those focusing on Paris and Italy, and the varying objectivity of their authors. Among them is Richard Lassels’ The voyage of Italy (1670) – Lassels was the first writer to coin the phrase the Grand Tour in print – and Margaret Cavendish. In her Oration concerning the foreign travels of young gentlemen (1663), Cavendish even questions exactly what the young Grand Tourists really get from the experience.

The exhibition has only just opened but as well as the website there are plans to extend it via the library’s social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to cover subjects such as travelers vs. tourists, the earliest female travelers, and famous journeys to and from Durham.

The library has also put together a special playlist on Spotify to accompany the exhibition.