Baedeker, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides – The Secret behind Their Names



It is not by accident that the tourist guidebooks are called “Bedeker”. It is the name of Karl Baedeker, who founded this publishing house in 1827 with the focus on military and historical publications. He was a soulful traveler as well. After he had bought a rival company some years later, he published the book Rheinlauf von Mainz to Cöln by Johann August Klein, but he also added the information that every tourist needs (accommodation, inns, sights) and with that actually created a template that is used until today. Even after more than 150 years, the Baedekers are still Nr 1 among the guidebooks.


Although the first handbook for travelers by DuMont came out in 1968, the history of the publishing house goes back to the 17th century. In 1805, the son of tobacco producer Marcus DuMont married Maria Katharina Jacobina Schauberg from a family of publishers and founded the newspaper Kölnische Zeitung (initially with 250 copies only). It was published until April 1945 and after a brief pause, when the British administration failed to issue a print license, they changed to Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. They produce not only newspapers but have several radio and TV stations as well. They are also strong in fiction and own the rights to publish major foreign authors such as Haruki Murakami and Michel Houellebecq. DuMont offers not only guidebooks but also a monthly magazine and wall calendars for tourists.

Marco Polo

The German bestselling guide owes its name to the famous traveler only partially. The publisher Mairs Geographischer Verlag was based in Stuttgart on Marco Polo’s street. The first handbook came out in 1991 and cost 10 DM (around 5 €). The rectangular format with approximately 150 pages, maps and insider tips became very popular with tourists very quickly. The small, useful book could not only help them to find attractive places but also give them advice on how to avoid trouble. The latest editions have an almost obligatory “app” for those who prefer to get the hottest pieces of information at hand and find a printed guide a relic.
marco polo

Lonely Planet

The world’s largest tourist guidebooks publisher is settled in Australia which could be surprising for somebody. The first title Across Asia on The Cheap by Tony and Maureen Wheeler was published in 1973. The name of the publisher was de facto a mistake. Tony Wheeler was listening to Joe Cocker’s song Space Captain and understood “lonely planet” instead of “lovely planet”. He found it an excellent title for a guidebook. The rest is history… The LP books also offer the best selection of sights, shopping, entertainment and restaurant tips which can be found under Top Picks.
Lonely planet

Rough Guides

Did you visit a country and didn’t find any suitable guidebook? Then write your own one! This was exactly the idea of the student Mark Ellingham in 1982. After returning from Greece, he wrote tips for low-cost tourists and published his 200-page-handwriting with the support of the publishing company Routledge. Rough Guides, as their name suggests, roughly describe the pluses and minuses of a visited place. Until now, there are already 120 destinations. At the beginning, they benefited from the fact that their direct competitor, the Lonely Planet, had been more orientated at Asia, which is closer to the Australians, and that similar guidebooks about Europe had not existed.
Rough Guides

Dorling Kindersley Vis-à-Vis

The richly illustrated publications on the glossy paper are named after the company’s founders – Christopher Dorling and Peter Kindersley. The first book, published under the name of DK, was the First Aid Manual for British Voluntary Health Services. The publishing house has a very wide range of different areas, so you can go to Paris with a beautifully illustrated guidebook in one hand and with a book about the philosophical schools in the other one.
Dorling Kindersley


Finally, I would like to mention the German publishing house whose name comes from the engraver Matthaus Merian (1593-1650). He had his workroom in Frankfurt and became famous with his graphics of different European cities. Although they publish similar manuals like the already-mentioned competitors, their flagship is the Merian monthly magazine existing since 1993. In addition to the traditional travel bits of advice, there are articles from many excellent authors. From those articles, books about cities like Paris and Berlin were created.

This article was written in the cooperation with the internet magazine Sieťovka

Text: © Copyright Robert, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Robert, Travelpotpourri

A note to Robert’s article from Ingrid: my most favourite guidebooks are the ones from the edition DUMONT VISUELL. When I plan a trip I also get some more inspiration from German books from REISE KNOW HOW. And what about you? Do you use any guidebooks? Which ones do you prefer?


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