Books about Switzerland : early travellers tales
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When the first Murray’s Handbook to Switzerland appeared in 1838, there had already been a couple of centuries or more of travelogues telling of adventures had while on long crossings of the Alps; throughout the nineteenth century, the trickle of memoirs became a flood. Most of these venerable tomes are now long out of print, and the list below is a small selection of more widely available works.

Peter Arengo-Jones, Queen Victoria in Switzerland (Robert Hale). Absorbing transcript of Victoria’s diaries from her incognito stay in Luzern in August 1868, along with a commentary weaving events into the context of historical and political events of the day.

Mavis Coulson, Southwards to Geneva (Alan Sutton). Well-researched survey of two centuries of English travellers’ musings on Geneva and the Swiss, including excerpts from the writings of Boswell, Maria Edgeworth, Byron, Shelley and more, along with plenty of pictures, engravings and sketches.

Elma Dangerfield, Byron & the Romantics in Switzerland 1816 (Thomas Lyster). Slim account of the travels, passions and writings of Byron, Shelley et al on their famous visit to Lake Geneva.

Alexandre Dumas, Travels in Switzerland (Owen o/p). Entertaining tales of Dumas’s journeyings around Switzerland in 1832, at the age of 25.

Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider (Flamingo). Classic mountaineer’s tale of the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in July 1938 by a four-man team from Germany. Full of thrills, spills and remarkably evocative writing.

Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (Oxford UP) and Climbing the Rigi (Hürlimann). Wry, witty and hugely enjoyable tales of mountain climbing and exploration in the Alps when such a thing was the height of fashion.

Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps (Dover). Modern reprint of the nineteenth-century mountaineer’s original account of the conquest of the Matterhorn, amongst many other epic tales of adventure.

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