Nineteenth-century timetables and the history of reading

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Around the turn of the twentieth century, Punch reprinted, in book form, some of the thoughts offered in its pages over the preceding sixty years on the subject of railway travel. This included the “Tourist’s Alphabet,” in which “B is the Bradshaw that leads you to swear.” George Bradshaw’s surname became a synonym for “timetable,” such was the success of his publication, which gave the times of trains to and from all stations in Britain. Bradshaw’s first timetable was issued in 1838, taking on its recognizable format in the 1840s. It was widely imitated, to the extent that after the 1840s “Bradshaw” would have needed no explanation to most people, to whom the word meant not only “timetable,” but also fiendish complexity. The nineteenth century was viewed by contemporaries as “an age of timetables,” though they were not the only informational print items that pervaded daily life: people could also expect to come into contact with forms, trade catalogs, route maps, invoices, product advertising, and distance charts.4 But these ephemera had at least two things in common: though they were all nonliterary documents, they were all intended to be read.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-185
Number of pages30
JournalBook History
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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