Guidebooks are a staple for the modern traveller, either a trusty old hard copy of Lonely Planet or a downloaded app of which ever other guide you can get your hand on. Some travellers don’t leave home without one, glued every step of the way to the expert voice.

The books are set out in a fairly standard pattern, a brief history of the place, an overview of the layout, some info on places to stay, how to get around and a list of sights to see. While there has been an explosion in guide books over the past few decades as tourism has boomed, they are not a new phenomenon.

One of the first for Sydney was James Maclehose’s Picture of Sydney and Strangers Guide in New South Wales, published in 1839. Maclehose compiled his guide to ‘convey to strangers a correct view and description of the great outlines of this rising metropolis’.

His guide, written only 50 years after European settlement was aimed at newly arrived immigrants and included useful information about Sydney such as the seasons, when the mails arrived, when steamers sailed and where merchants (Maclehose being one of them) were located. Maclehose included hints to new arrivals, free and convict and gave detailed descriptions of the main public buildings, churches and the grand private mansions and country houses around Sydney. The guide included a map of the town and a series of 40 fine engravings illustrating the text throughout.

The Military Barracks from Maclehose's guide. One of the sites to see in Colonial Sydney

Like Maclehouse, Joseph Fowles also published an illustrated guide. Fowles’ Sydney in 1848, was aimed squarely at residents in Sydney who could send it back to England and show how far the town had come. An artist of some note, Fowles sketched the streets and buildings in perfect architectural detail to show London sceptics the progress of Sydney. His illustrations were so good the book is still used by architects and historians today as an accurate guide to colonial architecture.

In 1861 James Waugh published the Stranger’s Guide to Sydney, which included a series of walks designed to allow those with only a short time in the town to see as much of it as possible. A map accompanied the guide with principal buildings marked on it, while at the back were all the essentials such as ferry and boat timetables, omnibuses schedules and Hackney cab stands.

By 1882 when Gibbs and Shallard published their Illustrated Guide to Sydney, they included a specific section called Hints for Tourists, one of the earliest to acknowledge this new market.

What is interesting about these guides, apart from their ability to show Sydney as it wanted to be seen, is the number of attractions that are still on the tourist trail. Maclehose noted the churches including St James, St Mary’s and St Andrews, all still in business and in the Lonely Planet.

Waugh’s second walk took in the Botanic Gardens, the Hyde Park Barracks, the Mint, the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts (now the Arthouse Hotel) Sir Richard Bourke’s Statue and the Domain, while Gibbs and Shallard directed tourists to the Harbour, South Head lighthouse, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the harbour side bays, inlets and beaches.

Those with more time could take a train to Richmond, Windsor or up into the Blue Mountains.

Tourists have always loved Sydney.

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