Thanks to roughly a century and a half of consistent technological development, travel photography is now one of the biggest parts of travel itself. Go to Instagram and you’ll find scores of photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Taj Mahal.
But people have been traveling far longer than photography has existed, and they’ve been documenting it along the way. Those documents include everything from ballads to scrolls to tapestries. The sacred texts of many religions are, at their core, tales of journeys. And of course there are sketches.
I’ve recently been going through the British Library‘s thousands of freely available images. What stands out to me about these images is how they are, essentially, travel photography for the pre- (mass market) photo world. They document places that are different, or exotic, or just important to the artist. Few have much accompanying information, but what I love about them is how they capture as much the mood of a place. They’re romantic.
The romantic-looking Hohenzollern Castle is located about 160 miles from Franfurt, Germany. The Hohenzollern family originated in the Middle Ages and eventually became rulers of Germany. The family still exists today.
Lambeth Palace is the located on the Thames and is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London residence. If you’ve ever looked at the Houses of Parliament from across the river, you probably walked right by this building.
This appears to be the Alhambra, a Moorish palace and fortress in Granada, Spain.
Unidentified Swiss Castle:
“Der Alte Zurichkrieg” means “the old Zurich War,” which was a conflict that took place in the mid 1400s.
West Gate in Canturbury:
Canterbury’s West Gate was finished in 1380 and later served as a town prison. Canterbury is a big pilgrimage site, so centuries of devout travelers have passed beneath the stones depicted in the drawing above. Today it houses a small museum.
Micklegate in York:
“Micklegate” actually means “great street” and the castle-like structure in the image above is actually the 12th Century gate known as Micklegate Bar. At one time traitors heads were displayed on this structure.
Unidentified Austrian Castle:
The caption for this one translates to “The Austrian Empire … with many artistic offerings.” It appears to be a fairly old structure based on its architecture, and also seems to have been in a state of decay when it was sketched.
Thirlwall Castle is located in the north of England, about 90 miles south of Edinburgh. Some of the stones used to build it actually came from Hadrian’s Wall. Today, it appears to be much more of a ruin than it did in 1836 when this sketch was apparently made.
— Jim Dalrymple II