The oldest-known travel guide was written 500 years ago, in Latin, by German politician Bernhard von Breydenbach. Titled “Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam” (or “A pilgrimage to the Holy Land”), the book provided the first authentic descriptions and portrayals of the Near East for Western audiences. It also included detailed illustrations of Venice and Jerusalem by von Breydenbach’s travel companion, Dutch artist Erhard Reuwich.
Beginning tomorrow, October 10, the British Museum will put “Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam” on display as part of an exhibition called “Inspired by the east: How the Islamic world influenced western art.” It will be available for viewing until January 26, 2020.
Only a few first edition copies of “Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam” remain in the world today. The one at the British Museum will display the page on which Reuwich’s unfolding map of Jerusalem is drawn. According to the Guardian, Reuwich’s was the first-ever printed map of the hallowed city.
Giulia Bartrum is curator of German prints at the British Museum. She spoke about the book’s significance.
“The large panoramas of famous cities are what make this book so remarkable, and are what made it a 15th-century ‘bestseller,’” she said. “Before it, most of the depictions of places such as Jerusalem or Venice were totally made up. Very few people in Europe had ever visited these places, so they had no realistic idea of what they looked like until this wonderfully detailed guidebook came along.”
Von Breydenbach would later write travel guidebooks for Corfu, Rhodes and Cairo. He was born in 1440 and died in 1497.