London and Its Environs by Baedeker

April 9, 2014 | Gutenberg Gems | By: Mark VandeWettering

The other day I was watching the 1939 movie The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a rather fun film staring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Early in the film, the maniacal Professor Moriarty (played with great zest by George Zucco) is menacing his butler Dawes for allowing one of his prize orchids to wither while he was in jail awaiting trial for murder. He laments the injustice of him serving six weeks in jail for murdering a man, while a more suitable punishment for murdering one of his flowers would be to be “flogged, broken on the wheel, drawn and quartered and boiled in oil”.

Great stuff.

londonImmediately after, he takes on of his orchids and presses it meaningfully into a copy of Baedeker’s London and Its Environs. I love old books, so I looked i up on archive.org. And, of course, they have digitized it, at least the 1901 version. It’s a traveler’s guide, carefully documenting all the kinds of things you might want to know about when visiting London at the turn of the last century. Neat! What’s also cool is that Moriarty puts the orchid at a place where there is a map or diagram on the left side of the book. A few minutes of perusing reveals that it’s a map of the Tower of London, which plays a key role in the story. Nice bit of foreshadowing! thetower Digging around, it kind of makes me wish that I had a copy, and as luck would have it you can get a digital version of the 1899 edition for your kindle. It also appears you can get facimiles of original Bradshaw railway guides for about the same. If I ever return to working on my Sherlock Holmes story, I’ll have some useful references.

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