The New British Traveller by James Dugdale

Last fall, I posted an article here about the Internet Archive. Recently, while doing a search there for something completely different, I happened upon a four-volume travel guide of early nineteenth-century Britain which no Regency author will want to be without. And, since all four volumes are available for free download at the Internet Archive, there is no reason they cannot have their own copy.

Why you might want a copy of James Dugdale’s The New British Traveller

The full title of this book is The New British Traveller; or, a Modern Panorama of England and Wales; exhibiting at one complete View, an Ample, Accurate, and Popular Account, Historical, Topographical, and Statistical, Of this most Important Portion of the British Empire. Descriptive of Its Several Counties, Cities, Towns, and other Subdivisions; Their Situation, Extent, Climate, Soil, and Productions, Natural and Artificial: Improvement and Present State of The Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, Agriculture, Commerce, Population, and Society. Forming a complete Survey of South Britain; Comprising Authentic Information on Every Subject of a Local or General Nature, and Interspersed with Biographical Particulars of Eminent and Remarkable Persons. Little is known of the author, James Dugdale, beyond his name. However, the initials, L. L. D., which follow his name on the title page, indicate that he had attained the degree of Doctor of Laws. At the time, that degree ranked even above the Ph.D. It was typically only awarded to those who had completed an advanced course of research and study, though it was also occasionally awarded as an honorary degree to public figures, most often those associated with the law or politics.

Though the publication date on the Internet Archive edition of The New British Traveller is 1819, this detailed travel book was originally issued in weekly parts, beginning in 1783, by the London publisher, Alexander Hogg. In 1784, when all sixty of the weekly numbers had been published, a new title page was created for the publication of all the unsold weekly parts as a single volume. Though it was entitled The New British Traveller, this early edition was a topographical review of the counties within the boundaries of England and Wales, excluding Scotland. This first edition included numerous prints of local points of interest as well as maps of each of the counties and an overall map of England.

Sometime before 1811, another London publisher, John & James Cundee, of Ivy-Lane, Paternoster Row, decided to issue a new edition of The New British Traveller. While James Dugdale expanded and updated his text, he commissioned the engraver, Samuel M. Neele, to engrave a new set of county maps and an overall map of England for this new edition. Once again, The New British Traveller was issued in parts, between 1812 and 1814. Once the parts had all been published, in 1815, the unsold numbers were bound together, collected into four volumes, each with a new title page. Sometime between 1815 and 1818, it seems likely that James Robins took over the Cundee publishing house. In 1819, The New British Traveller was again published, in four volumes, by J. Robins & Co., Albion Press, at Ivy-Lane, Paternoster Row. The 1819 edition had a Preface and an Introduction, both presumably written by James Dugdale. The Preface explained the purpose of the work while the Introduction was a general survey of topography, history and politics of England and Wales, which Dugdale called "South Britain." This Introduction included information which updated the contents of the book through 1818. At the end of the fourth volume there is an "Agenda et Corrigenda" section which includes a number of corrections to the previous edition.

The New British Traveller is one in a long line of "road books" and road maps which had been published in England from the sixteenth century. Road books included detailed descriptions of areas for the benefit of travelers passing through them, sometimes with illustrations. Many also included tables of the existing roads and the stage distances to facilitate the planning of long trips. Road maps became more popular as the English road system was improved and expanded. These maps showed the routes through the country-side for the known main roads, which became increasingly valuable as more and more people began to travel further from their immediate local areas. By the late eighteenth century, road books often included quite thorough information on the regions which were included, and sets of detailed maps of those areas. The New British Traveller was certainly one of the most thorough and explicit of all these road books and was a valuable resource for those who traveled extensively in England and Wales.

In the four volumes of the 1819 edition of The New British Traveller, there is no Table of Contents. However, all the counties of England and Wales are listed alphabetically, so it is not difficult to locate the appropriate section. The first part of each county section begins with a "General Description of the County" which includes topographical information, main points of interest, local plants, mines and minerals, and a general history of the county. This is followed by any known antiquities of each county, as well as listings of civil and ecclesiastical divisions, and parliamentary representation. There is also a list of the market towns for each county. Next is an alphabetical list of all of the cities, towns, villages and major estates in each county, with detailed pertinent information provided for each locale. Following the towns section are the particulars on the soil and agriculture in the county which includes information on the livestock and crops which are cultivated there. Part of the agricultural information provided is a list of all the fairs held in the county, which includes the location, date and the main commodities which are sold at these fairs.

The last part of each county section includes transportation details which cover any canals which flow through the county, as well as all the major county roads. A "Table of Distances" is included in each county section, which provides the distances in British miles between each town and London, as well as between each other. Following the distances table is a series of tables on journeys on the principal turnpikes and cross roads with distances between the towns and cities of the county. These journey tables also include the names of the larger inns which provide lodging for travellers along the routes.

The New British Traveller includes a number of engraved maps. There is an overall map of Britain, but because the focus of the book is England and Wales, only those portions of the map are rendered in great detail. The Scotland portion of the map is merely an outline. A very detailed map of each county is included in that county’s section, sometimes at the beginning of the chapter on that county, sometimes a few pages in to the section. Each map shows all of the major roads and canals in the county, as well as the topography of the area. The locations of all the cities, towns and villages as well as the major estates and points of interest are all provided on each county map.

In addition to the engraved maps, there are a number of engravings of notable buildings, architectural wonders, important cityscapes and fine vistas situated in many of the counties. Based on the clothing worn by the figures in some of these engravings, it is likely that many of them were the same engravings which were made for the 1783 – 1784 edition of The New British Traveller. However, the focus of these engravings is the points of interest which they depict, and those were not likely to have changed that much since the original engravings were made. But quite a number of the engravings are more in the style of the early nineteenth century, suggesting they may have been produced for the 1812 – 1815 edition of the book. Regardless of when they were made, the majority of these engravings are crisp, clean and very charming.

Though there is no Table of Contents for The New British Traveller, there is a substantial "General Index of the Names of Places and Persons" to be found at the end of the fourth volume. This index lists the name of the person or place, followed by the county with which they are associated, and the volume and page number where the pertinent information can be found. Following the index is a list of all the plates, both maps and engravings of points of interest. These are listed by name, with the volume and page number where they are located.

For a Regency author, The New British Traveller is a wonderful resource for detailed information on even the smallest towns and villages in any county of England or Wales. Here can be found descriptions of the area, its antiquities, the types of crops and livestock which were raised, the regional fairs where the produce was traded and pertinent historical information for that locale. The tables of distances and journeys will make it much easier to plot any trips which an author has planned for their story. The maps will enable an author to readily determine which towns or villages might be in the vicinity of a great estate, while the topographical symbols will show the land features, such as hills, rivers, or even open meadows in an area which is intended as a setting for a novel. The New British Traveller can be mined for a wide range of local county details which can be used to embellish a story with accurate historical particulars.

When using The New British Traveller edition at the Internet Archive, one should remember that despite the publication date of 1819, that edition is a compilation and update of other editions which came before, particularly that of 1815. Therefore, not all details and certainly none of the maps will be current to the year 1819. Most of the maps and many of the images where engraved between 1811 and 1812, so any changes which took place in any area of England or Wales after that time will not be reflected on those maps. However, they may be mentioned in the text, which was updated in 1818, prior to publication in 1819. But that can be an advantage to an author of books set during the Regency, since this edition was published in the last full year of the Prince of Wales’ reign as Regent of Great Britain. Thus, it is much less likely that in using this reference an author will introduce any anachronisms of place or travel into their stories.

At can be found the links to all four volumes of The New British Traveller at the Internet Archive. Each volume is available for free download in several different formats. There is also a full set of the four volumes at the Hathi Trust. However, this set was scanned by Google, so the scanning is of a much poorer quality than that done by the Internet Archive. Though the copy of The New British Traveller at the Internet Archive has some foxing, it does not interfere with the legibility of the text. The Internet Archive copy also preserves the actual color of the pages, which gives one a much better sense of reading a book published during the Regency, not to mention having been read by actual travellers of that time. If you are interested in England and Wales during the Regency, you will want to download a copy of the four volumes of The New British Traveller for your own research collection.


About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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10 Responses to The New British Traveller by James Dugdale

  1. I had to check on these books immediately – wow, what a treasure trove! Thanks Kathryn!
    It’s funny to see which information was considered to be important for travelers: The number of marriages and baptisms in Cumberland, the typical flora by its Latin name and the profit of mines in an area. Today, travelers want to know about hotels and restaurant. Ah, what has this world come to… !?
    Seeing that the volumes sum up to more than 3000 pages, I started to wonder who would buy this not too handy travel guide. Maybe it wasn’t really meant to be for active travelling but for arm-chair travelling. In any case, it makes a good read for long winter nights.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      With so little information available about most places during the Regency, I think travelers were eager to know as much as possible about the place to which they were traveling. Not to mention that there were mostly only inns along the main routes and travelers usually had to take what they could get in terms of meals and accommodation.

      I, too, wondered about such a massive “travel” book, and one thing which occurred to me was the initials of L.L.D. after the author’s name. That was often an honorary degree conferred upon politicians and lawyers. Perhaps Dugdale was one or the other. I can see where such a reference book would be tremendously useful both to those running for office, and those who might have legal or other business in a particular area. Then again, for folks who could not afford to travel, The New British Traveller could be a wonderful way to travel in one’s imagination, learning lots of details about their imaginary destination.

      I was delighted to have found The New British Traveller, and I hope it will be of use to many authors of stories set during the Regency.



  2. Suzanne says:

    Dear Kat:
    This is one more immensely valuable resource from a blog that is so rich in helpful information for writers.
    Thank you for sharing, and Happy New Year!

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource.

  4. Ann Ferland says:

    There was a James Dugdale who was an Oxford academic – Master of University College, Oxford, for a short time. He refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy to Elizabeth I so lost his Mastership and an archdeaconry he also held, then disappeared from history.

    There was also a family of the landed gentry named Dugdale, seated at Great Harwood, Clitheroe, Lancashire for several traceable centuries. A junior branch moved to Crathorne, Yorkshire, and became the ancestors of the current Baron Crathorne.

    I would guess that this James Dugdale was a member of one of these families, if they are not indeed the same.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      That makes sense to me. It is definitely not a common name. Based on my own research, family names in England do seem to become attached to places for many generations. Since this James Dugdale had the knowledge and time to compile this travel guide, it seems obvious he must have come from a family with money, who educated him and provided him an income.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your knowledge.



  5. seamustheone says:

    Years ago I acquired volumes 1 thru 3 of the “The New British Traveller”. We recently needed volume 4 for information on Wiltshire and we fortunate to find the version. The series is unusual – for its period – for the depth of information provided. I found this blog hunting around! Glad to see it getting publicized. You can buy facsimile versions – one done by the British Library.

    All the best ….. seamustheone

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      It is a wonderful resource, and I was delighted to happen upon it. Thanks very much for sharing the information that facsimile editions are available! As a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile, I would much prefer a real book to an electronic version!



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