The guestbook as historical source

James K. J. , Vincent P.

JOURNAL OF TOURISM HISTORY, vol.8, no.2, pp.147-166, 2016 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 8 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/1755182x.2016.1199602
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.147-166


The hotel guest book, often overlooked as a source for the study of travel, can offer rich insight into literary practices and travel culture in the nineteenth century. Much valuable work has extracted nominal and geographic details for guests from these books; a more extended research programme treating the sources as a form of travel writing can highlight their utility in exploring the representation of self and landscape, as well as providing a critical framework for exploring the legal regimes within which systems of inscription and reading operated. A research agenda exploring British and Swiss books must find ways of rigorously, systematically, and comparatively engaging with books, aligning questions that interrogate the textual and material properties of manuscript and printed materials. Far from being a collection of names, a record of last resort for historians seeking a substitute for more systematic sources, or a form of ephemera, the visitors' books are tools to reconstruct tourist markets, and also records of commercial evolution, intercultural encounter, discursive practice, cultural evaluation, literary cultures, and book history.