Posts Tagged ‘Guide book’
I am developing an obsession with guidebooks. I’m particularly fond of the little fold out maps. They contain opinions and advice on the nature of place and encounters with place.
The idea of sites for painting becoming sights for people to come and look at through the circulation and distribution of images is interesting. A site is somewhere artists come to paint, the site becomes a scene, tourists come to see the site of the scene, the scene becomes a picture postcard, more tourists come to see the sights/sites. This is something pointed out by Lubbren, that the art colony is a precursor to the holiday resort, where artists make a place known for its particular beauty, then the images of that place become known, which attracts people to visit. In turn also, the presence of the artists mean the development of facilities to meet their needs, which are developed further to accommodate the needs of tourists.
Thus that one scene, perhaps one moment, of local life, might be translated into a series of other moments, many of which would later be sent out into the world, to be hung in galleries, reproduced in books, and so on. And because of seeing those results, all kinds of people might be tempted to visit the place that inspired them.
Denys Val Baker, Britain’s Art Colony by the Sea 1959 p.22
So, back to the guidebooks. The images of Cornwall and St. Ives produced by artists which in turn attract other visitors are interesting, but a textual version of these images come in the form of the guidebook. The earliest one that I have stumbled across in a second-hand bookshop in London is Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Published in 1877, its tenth edition, it pre-dates the first ideas of art colony in the county. The theory that it is indeed the artists which establish place as tourist site/sight, endowing a place beauty, making it attractive/attraction, is perhaps best illustrated by the short piece on St. Ives from Black’s:
The position of St. Ives, [...] is one of picturesque and uncommon beauty,; and it is to be regretted that the favourable impression which at first the tourist necessarily forms should be dissipated on his entrance into the town by its accumulation of nastiness. The streets are narrow and crooked; the shops mean and squalid; and everywhere pervades a fishy smell, “most tolerable, and not to be endured”.
Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, 1877
As David Tovey points out in his survey of early guides in St Ives Art Pre-1890: The Dawn of the Colony, visitor accounts refer to St. Ives as being disorderly and putrid-smelling, and some even recommend avoiding the town completely. 1877 is the year that the branch line is completed, during a decade which sees the beginning of a decline in the fishing and mining industries.