Exhibition view in the KunstbibliothekKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


In the 21st century, travelling has become part of everyday life. It’s the subject of communication everywhere: on blogs and through photos shared online, in travel literature, documentaries and commercial media. But when and how did travel become such a central topic? To mark its 150th anniversary, in 2018 the Kunstbibliothek Berlin investigated this question in an exhibition. It set out on a voyage of discovery through its many different collections and gathered together works from all areas – architecture, book art, photography, graphic design and fashion design – to create an ABC of Travel. The panorama spans from mediaeval pilgrimages to expeditions in the age of colonialism and humanistic Grand Tours, through to the jet-setting and flashy advertising of the mass tourism of the 20th century.

Trip to California. Diary of the mathematician Oskar Bolza (1913) by Oskar BolzaKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

A > Album

An album is the most personal form of documenting a trip. The maker decides what will fill the empty pages and be remembered: sketches or drawings, photographs, written recollections, or found objects. An album shows what inspired the travellers: places, things, people, experiences, encounters. At the same time, it acts as a kind of narrated picture-book diary. For many, the greatest pleasure is in sharing memories. Today, social media, blogs and travelling aps often take the place of the classic album.

Scrapbook and collector’s album (1860s) by Wilhelm (?) GrohmannKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scrapbooks came into fashion: personal collaged volumes with collectible images, engravings, sketches and other memorabilia.

Gedenkweerdige Brasiliaense Zee-en-Lant-Reize (1682) by Johan NieuhofKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

B > Bericht (Travelogue)

Travelling was long reserved to explorers, researchers, merchants and the nobility. It was their reports which, to the masses, provided insights into foreign countries, people and customs. They shaped the conception of the world. At the same time, today’s knowledge about the history of travelling is informed by this “literary cartography”, which began in antiquity and reached a high-point in the seventeenth century. The drive to explore the world during the European Renaissance, which was also the time of the invention of the letterpress, led to a veritable explosion of travelling literature. The white spots of the real and the mental world map filled with images, and the resulting world view was undeniably Eurocentric. Travelogues of those days occupy the narrow ground between adventurous discovery and the colonial conquest of “new” continents.

Lepsius Expedition to Egypt: Raising of the Prussian flag on the Great Pyramid of Giza, (1845) by Johann Jakob FreyKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Prussian expedition to Egypt lead by Richard Lepsius was documented in extensive reports.

Clear, reliable. Continental Maps (1920/1940) by Paul SachseKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

C > Cartographia

Can you imagine travelling without a map? City maps and road maps help us plan our routes and find our destination. The development of cartography is closely related to travelling. Even in the Middle Ages, cosmographers made use of knowledge from expeditions. The age of sail and the “discovery of America” gave rise to modern cartography: In the sixteenth century, the first globes and atlases were developed and new maps were published in collections of travelogues.

Americae / Pars Sexta sive historiae ab Hieronymo Bezono Mediolanese scriptae (vol. 6 of 6) (1596) by Theodor de BryKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In 1596, Theodor de Bry was one of the first European cartographers to capture the recently “discovered” America. In his depiction, the world map is presented by Christopher Columbus and other explorers.

Die Weite Welt (1900) by Edmund EdelKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

D > Dampfschiff (Steamship) | E > Eisenbahn (Train) | F > Flugzeug (Airplane)

The nature of a journey is profoundly influenced by the means of transport. Not only does it determine the efficiency and comfort of travelling on a given route but it will often define the route itself. Until around 1800, travellers going long distances relied on horses, carriages and sailing ships. In the nineteenth century, not only was industrialization revolutionary, but transportation underwent dramatic changes as well: Motorized ships allowed for sea voyages that did not rely on the wind, while steam-powered trains greatly increased both comfort and speed. The steamship and the railroad signalled the advent of mass transportation. The new transocean lines and the development of the rail network in many countries around the world led to a rapid increase in the number of travellers. Going on a journey was now affordable even for the less well-heeled, and it was losing some of its prestige. As a counter-movement to this democratization, luxury steamers such as the Imperator and luxury trains like the Orient Express took up operations. In the twentieth century, air travel gained significance for passenger transport. While the excitement surrounding the zeppelin in the 1930s did not last long, the airplane soon became the most popular mode of travel for long distances.

Lloyd Express. Fastest Service in the World (1929) by Lois GaiggKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Norddeutscher Lloyd was one of the most important international shipping companies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The company advertised journeys with their steamers: the Bremen, the Columbus and the Europa. Until 1933, the Europa was the fastest ship on the transatlantic route between Europe and New York. The letters “S.S.” used in conjunction with the ships’ names stand for “steam ship”.

Luggage label from Lufthansa (1950s)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Colosseum Rome (c.1740) by Antonio Canal, known as CanalettoKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

G > Grand Tour

With the boom in travel literature, a new travel phenomenon began to spread in Europe in the late seventeenth century: the Grand Tour, also referred to as the “cavalier’s tour” or the “educational journey”. To conclude their education, sons of noble or bourgeois families were sent on long journeys to countries in central Europe and as far as the Holy Land to learn languages and get to know different cultures. The Grand Tour marked the beginning of modern cultural tourism. Above all, educational travellers sought out picturesque landscapes and cultural sites, and Italy was considered absolutely central and mandatory. Rome, with its abundance of ancient architecture, proved the strongest magnet, but Naples, Venice and Florence had many visitors as well. Older, often less well-to-do grand tourists were mostly authors, artists and intellectuals. To architects, painters, musicians and literati, travelling was a source of inspiration. Drawing on the ancients, these eighteenth-century travellers to Italy contributed significantly to the breakthrough of classicism in England and Germany.

Venice, Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande (1853) by Robert WimmerKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Robert Wimmer, who was a student of Gottfried Semper and later became the city architect of Chemnitz, travelled in Italy several times between 1846 and 1858, completing a Grand Tour in the truest sense. From Verona he went to Rome via Milan and Perugia, and also visited Fossanova, Naples, Messina and Palermo, returning via Pompeii, Siena and Florence. For some of the way he was in the company of the building historian Oskar Mothes. A 160-page-long album featuring 406 drawings documents his journeys.

Detail Peregrinatio in terram sanctam (1486) by Bernhard von BreydenbachKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

H > Heiliges Land (Holy Land)

One of the earliest forms of travelling is the pilgrimage, a religiously motivated journey, whose central aim is the salvation of the pilgrim’s soul. Jews, Christians and Muslims have been going on pilgrimages since antiquity, and in Buddhism, Shintō and Hinduism, this tradition has also been practiced for centuries. The Holy Land, which, according to the Old Testament, was promised to the People of Israel, occupied a central position on the pilgrim’s map. For around a thousand years, the temple in Jerusalem (erected in 950 B.C.) was the main destination of Jewish pilgrims from around the world who came to the city in droves for the pilgrim festivals. When the Islamic Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century, Jerusalem became one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Muslims apart from Mecca. Numerous Europeans came to the Holy Land as Christian crusaders captured the region in the Middle Ages. Illustrated accounts of pilgrimage, such as the famous volume by Bernhard von Breydenbach, constitute the beginnings of travel literature.

Peregrinatio in terram sanctam (1486) by Bernhard von BreydenbachKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

With his book about his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bernhard von Breydenbach created one of the earliest printed travelogues.

Argo (Trial proof of Argo. Album for art and poetry) (1859) by Theodor HosemannKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

I > Imagination

Travel stories and novels have always been among the popular bestsellers. Readers follow the narrator on an imaginary journey, through various experiences and observations. A journey in one’s imagination, that is, into an author’s fantasy, may also serve as a satirical counter-image to one’s world, as in Gulliver’s Travels. Fictional adventures, conceived in the imagination of the author, inspire illustrators to this day – whether in Gulliver’s Travels, Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, or the quests of the Baron Munchausen. Their images in turn give wings to the readers’ imaginations, creating new destinations of longing.

Come fly with me (1958) by Frank SinatraKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

J > Jetset

In his album Come Fly With Me of 1958, Frank Sinatra sings about travel destinations like New York, London, Paris, Capri and Hawaii. The cover image shows him in front of an airplane, the status symbol of a new generation of wealthy globetrotters who would party-jet to the most attractive and trendy places around the world. In the 1950s, the lifestyle of the rich and beautiful, known as the “international jet set”, entered the visual vocabulary of the time: airports and jet aircrafts were inspirational in filmmaking, photography and advertising, and stars on gangways became icons of chic.

Woman in evening ensemble by Uli Richter in front of Pan Am airplane (1966) by Rico PuhlmannKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Women in travelling clothes (1926) by Petra FiedlerKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

K > Koffer (Suitcase) | L > Luxus (Luxury) | M > Mode (Fashion)

You need to be well equipped to travel well, and so the question of what clothing and luggage to bring along is as old as travelling itself. How do practical considerations and fashion go together? How much style can a suitcase hold, and how can you stay elegant while en route? Where does “needs must” end and extravagance and luxury begin? The motto when it comes to luggage is “Travel light, or pack it tight”. In clothing, special cuts and materials help optimize wearing comfort and a non-creased appearance in even the most adverse travelling conditions.

Travelling tea-set (c. 1600) by Jakob Mores (d. Ä.)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Jacob Mores the Elder (ca. 1540–1612) was the founding father of a Hamburg dynasty of merchants and goldsmiths. The Mores family produced high-quality tableware from metal, as well as chalices, jewellery and centrepieces for a great number of European royal and princely houses. One of the studio’s successful items was a travelling tea-set. According to an inscription, these mobile “chests”, holding a pitcher, six plates, a bowl, a candle holder and a silver cloth, were produced for the Prince Elector of Saxony, the Duke of Holstein, the Bishop of Bremen and the Count of Schowenburg.

Turkish costumes (1581) by Jean Jacques BoissardKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

N > Nationen (Nations)

The expeditions undertaken during the Renaissance were born of curiosity, not only about unknown lands but also about their inhabitants. Studying foreign people, what they looked like and how they lived, became a science unto itself. From this emerged a new book genre in sixteenth-century Europe: the costume book. Sometimes described as “galleries of nations”, these volumes complemented topographical knowledge with pictures of types of people. Costume books served as sources of inspiration and pattern book for artists and designers. They established a classification of the world that still has an influence today in spite of the fact that it is largely no longer relevant, drawing on stereotypes or even caricature.

Line-crossing ceremony on the Condor (1907/1909) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The SMS Condor was put to military use in the German colonies of East Africa and in the South Pacific between 1903 and 1913. The prints show daily life and leisure activities on the ship, including a “line-crossing ceremony”. With Neptune as the christener, the novices crossing the equator for the first time are coloured black, a crude ritual that was at the same time portentous: In 1908, the Condor was involved in the violent quashing of riots on the Marshall Islands and in 1911 was used in fighting the uprising of the Sokeh on Ponape (Pohnpei) in the western Pacific.

Earth. Your Oasis in Space (2015) by Joby HarrisOriginal Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Caltech

O > Oase (Oasis)

Relaxation and exoticism: these are the two characteristics that define the stereotypical dream journey. It is symbolized by the “oasis”, a romantically transfigured place of longing with sunshine, palm trees, sand and a blue sea. There is hardly an image that is put to use more in the tourism industry than this one. But why in our imagination does the oasis of regenerative peace always exist in an exotic land far away? A NASA poster from 2016 questions this with a tongue-in-cheek allusion to early tourism ads: An astronaut couple, taking in the view of a lush green mountain landscape, enjoys the Earth as an oasis in space.

Constantinople, Eyüp, Muslim cemetery with a view of the Golden Horn (c. 1890) by Johannes (Jean) Pascal SebahKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

P > Panorama

The term “panorama” comes from Greek, meaning “to see everything”. And many travellers, when exploring a place, wish to see as much as possible (or even “everything”). Lookout towers, hilltops and mountain peaks are points of interest sought out for their view of the topography. What is unique about a panoramic image is that without turning your head you see more than you normally would: A view comprising 180 to 360 degrees is now presented in a single image, commonly in a long horizontal format.

Inside the Bavaria. Greetings from Munich (c. 1900) by Lorenz Fränzl & Co. (Publisher)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Verona – Panorama (c. 1913) by Ed. O. Onestinghel (Publisher)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Saving makes the holiday trip possible (1954) by Anton StankowskiKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Q > Quanta Costa?

The costs associated with travelling have always played an important role in planning for a trip. Early expedition leaders, for example, had to draw up a budget, and young travelling students had to report to their rich fathers about all expenditures. And those travelling privately also needed to keep an eye on their finances – whether luxuriously endowed or with limited resources. Here, things that could be planned for often met with the unexpected. It was not unusual for a nobleman’s Grand Tour to end in financial distress after he had an accident, was attacked or fell ill and aborted his journey. In the early twentieth century, travel insurance was invented, which protected against damage due to lost luggage or medical conditions. Trying to prepare for all foreseeable situations has always been an essential part of financial planning in the lead-up to a trip.

Newes Itinerarium Italiae (1627) by Josef Furttenbach (the Elder)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

R > Reiseführer (Travel Guides)

Where do I need to go, where should I spend the night and how must I behave? Travelling in unknown territory, you find yourself looking for both practical instruction on how to travel well as well as a code to guide you in your dealings with lifestyles that are foreign to you. As early as ancient times and then in the Middles Ages, the first instructions on how to travel appeared, later called ars apodemica. In addition to presenting maps as well as different modes and approaches, they offered information on the history, economy and physical features of a country (for example flora or geology) as well as on the types of people who lived there and the social system. These subjects still echo in modern travel guides. At the peak of the Grand Tour, countless travel handbooks entered the market. They shone a spotlight on cultural monuments and defined a canon of must-sees that is still largely valid today. To take an example, the romantic Rhine valley is one such indispensable attraction for those travelling in Germany. In the nineteenth century, John Murray (Red Guides) and Karl Baedeker established their classic travel guides.

Paris 1937. Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques. 10 Véritables Photograpies (1937) by H. Chipault (Publisher)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

S > Souvenir

Derived from the French word for “remember”, the souvenir is an object that helps us not to forget. With it, travellers take home something that they found especially impressive on their journey: a testament of a place or event, an artefact typical of a country, something that documents their experience. Among the most popular souvenirs are photographs. When cameras were not widely available, photographers sold souvenir images. Their postcards, album photos, sets of photographic miniatures and other mass products were marketed as collective recollections of journeys. And international large-scale events (such as world exhibitions) and luxury programmes (such as cruises) were – and still are today – accompanied by a copious production of souvenirs.

The New Ventilating Hat. Souvenir and advertising print of a hat maker, from the trades exhibition in London (1851) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

This wafer-thin piece of printed cork paper is part souvenir, part material sample and part advertisement. The Great Exhibition of Works of Industry in London in 1851 – represented by Joseph Paxton’s famous Crystal Palace – could boast the participation of 17,000 exhibitors from twenty-eight countries. One of them was the hat maker Gaimes, Sanders & Nicol, inventor of a light cork hat that was designed to be an export product for British colonies. A German-speaking visitor took the curious advert from the Great Exhibition home with him as a souvenir.

Diorama af den Nordiske industri-, landbrugs og kunstudstillung i Kjobenhavn (1888) by S. W. GüllichKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The folding diorama (or teleorama), which was popular in the nineteenth century, was also produced as a souvenir. This specimen commemorates the Nordic exhibition of Industry, Agriculture, and Art of 1888, which was held in Copenhagen. If you pulled the teleorama open, you could look through a peep-hole at a series of images like stage scenery that are connected by paper strips. The result is a three-dimensional image, a transportable perspectival theatre that recreates the experience of visiting the exhibition.

View through the Diorama af den Nordiske industri-, landbrugs og kunstudstillung i Kjobenhavn (1888) by S. W. GüllichKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

A foldable teleorama – also called “peep show” – simulaties spatial vision. Looking through the peephole here, you get an insight into the Nordic exhibition in Copenhagen of 1888. The perfect souvenir!

Venice, St Mark’s Square with a tourist (likely Käthe Kerkhof) (c. 1905) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Around 1880, private individuals began to practice photography in growing numbers. Some used it professionally, others with artistic intentions. Still others practiced it as a hobby, taking “snapshots”. Their pictures served to preserve memories and life stories that were significant on a personal level – like feeding pigeons on St. Mark’s Square during a trip to Venice. Yet in those years it was mainly the wealthy from noble or bourgeois classes who could afford the pleasures of travelling and photography.

Rhine trip August 1937. Bus with tour group in front of the Cologne Cathedral (1937) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

T > Tourismus (Tourism)

When the term “tourism” was first coined in the nineteenth century, it was already connected to an image of crowds. The new network of railroads allowed even working-class people to travel for pleasure and relaxation, which resulted in crowds, especially at seaside resorts and in mountainous regions. In response to the great demand, people like Thomas Cook in England and Albert Ballin in Hamburg founded travel companies which offered package holidays and luxury boat tours, marking the dawn of modern tourism. With the development of air travel later in the twentieth century, more and more destinations could be reached and the volume of travel saw a continual increase. In Germany, where people spoke of “foreign traffic” well into the 1960s, mass tourism was encouraged from 1933 on: The National Socialist “Strength through Joy” programme made use of organized travel to spread propaganda. In the post-war years, the right to a holiday was an important political issue. 

Germany Wants to See You (1929) by Jupp WiertzKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Zermatt / Matterhorn (1908) by Emil CardinauxKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Hotel Massimo D'Azeglio, Rome (early 1930s) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

U > Unterkunft (Accomodation)

As you make your bed, so you will travel: This could be the traveller’s version of the saying. But people’s standards vary widely when it comes to accommodation: While the camper only needs a tent and the backpacker only a dormitory, the cosmopolitan globetrotter has a penchant for the luxury hotel. With the nineteenth-century travel boom, the hotel became a building type of its own everywhere in the world. Still today, hotel buildings often shape the architectural appearance of a place, be it a city’s five-star hotel or a spa hotel at the seaside. Hotels are also symbols of being on the road: They are places of transit, of encounters with strangers, of things happening by chance. Names like the Ritz, the Astoria and the Kempinski are the stuff of legends, and it is with good reason that countless films are set in hotels.

Kaiserpanorama in the Lindenpassage (1920) by Willy RömerKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

V > Virtuell (Virtual Travel)

Virtual travel is a popular form of virtual reality: The VR glasses of the twenty-first century allow for worldwide travel through digital simulation. But the desire to see and experience distant places without physically travelling to them is a much older phenomenon, and it has always been associated with the development of devices and spaces that create optical illusion. Before photography was invented, peep boxes were en vogue, which carried viewers off to sights worth seeing in foreign lands around the globe. And nineteenth-century circumferential panoramas, which visitors could enter and walk around in, also allowed them to dive into foreign worlds. Beginning in 1850, new photographic techniques extended the spectrum of virtual travel options. Diascopic projections and stereoscopic photography created fascinating three-dimensional spaces that also served to educate about geography and sociology. In the twentieth century, film and television took the illusion of travel to a new level. The documentary became intermingled with fiction, leading to a new genre of travel narrative.

School Room Travel. Tours of all Lands. History Art - Travel. Complete Series (2 vols.) (1903/1904) by Underwood & Underwood (Publisher)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Stereoscopes, which became popular around 1900, enabled 3-D vision of images. This set was used in school lessons to explain foreign countries.

Looking through the stereoscope. Exhibition viewKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Interkosmos 79. Joint Space Travel Sojus 33 (1979) by UnknownKunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

W > Weltraum (Space) | XYZ > Ziel (Destination)

We live in a time in which the sky is more or less the limit when it comes to our travel planning. The gates to far-off lands have opened to more and more people and if a traveller’s wallet is sufficiently padded, almost any destination can be reached. And as going to nearby destinations no longer cures the travel bug for many people, it is no wonder that the long-distance travel industry is booming. Considering the abundance of possibilities, which destinations do we still dream of? With Earth thoroughly explored, now its orbit is becoming the field for expeditions. At the beginning of the new millennium, approximately forty years since the first manned moon landing in 1969, the first space tourists left the Earth’s atmosphere. The demand for private trips into space is on the rise and the construction of space tourism infrastructure is well underway. The universe is the limit …

Trailer (2018/2019)Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Credits: Story

Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Concept / Editorial / A-Z Texts: Christina Thomson

Object texts: Elke Blauert, Britta Bommert, Joachim Brand, Christine Kühn, Michael Lailach, Christina Thomson

Realisation: Justine Tutmann

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Photo: Dietmar Katz, Marion Lammersen

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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