Collecting Baedekers

The books themselves - Bindings and dustjackets - The contents - What to look for - BDKR condition - Pricing

The books themselves

The Baedeker guidebooks were designed to be carried around in a coat pocket and be available for handy reference by the tourist while walking about the streets of a foreign city, or hiking up a mountain to see a mountain panorama. Therefore, the books had to be small, robust and yet easy to carry. The formula the Baedeker house came up with meets all these requirements and is a major reason why the books became so popular.

The binding

The very earliest books appeared in various bindings, as we understand it. But from the early 1840's, they were bound in yellow board covers with intricate black graphics, representing in some way the region described in the book. These are known as Biedermeier bindings - the period 1815-1848 is often (in German-speaking countries) referred to as the Biedermeier period in art and especially with reference to a style of furniture. These bindings are particularly sought after - where an edition is known to have been issued in Biedermeier boards, a note appears on the edition's page on this site.

From the late 1850's, the book covers became red with gilded text - the easily recognised format for Baedeker guidebooks. However, the typefaces on the cover varied and it wasn't until the 1870's that the typical capitals with their deep "daggers" on the initials became standard.

marbled edges

With the exception of some paperback editions in the 1930's, as well as some editions issued in a cassette with several individually bound sections, all bindings from the 1870's onward are in the typical red bookbinder's cloth, impregnated to resist the wetter perils of travel, and with a special not-quite-hardback feel to them, which makes them pliable enough to carry around in a pocket all day. Sometimes, English-speaking bookdealers refer to these as "limp" covers - which doesn't sound very attractive, though it is rather descriptive and also the correct bookbinder's term.

In 1889, Baedekers used, as an experiment, a consignment of pink or salmon-pink cloth, instead of the normal red. It wasn't appreciated by the public and the red soon came back. However, if you find a book from 1889 in an unusually pale colour, it isn't necessary badly faded - it could be one of these.

The page edges are marbled and two silk bookmarks, one red, one green, are attached to the inner spine.

See special page on bindings and dustjackets (lots of pictures - about 160kB).

The format

The books are in octavo format, meaning that each printed sheet is folded three times to make a gathering of 8 leaves, or 16 pages. You can easily verify this by looking at the bottom of right hand pages numbered 17, 33, 49 and so on - they will each have the number of the gathering printed in the bottom margin.

However, Baedekers are quite small for octavos - the sheets were cut down to make for a smaller book that would easily fit in a coat pocket. This sometimes causes mistaken identification - but ignore anybody suggesting the books are duodecimos or even sextodecimos - they are small octavos.


At some point, probably in the 1890's, the books started to be sold in dustjackets (dust wrappers). Or at least, we have never seen Baedekers older than that with surviving dustjackets. Before 1914, these were of a buff colour with plain black printing on them. After the war, dustjackets were printed in colour with an illustration on the front, either a simple map of the geographical area covered by the volume, or some stylized graphic drawing typical of the area.

Dustjackets are quite rare - most buyers probably removed them as the covers of the book itself are rather more hard-wearing than the flimsy paper dustjacket. A surviving dustjacket therefore does tend to add something to the value of the book, though they are often scruffy.

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