Mumbai Guidebooks: A Tactile Exhibition of Rare Books

16 May 2018

The collection opens with James Maclean’s Guide to Bombay: Historical, Statistical, and Descriptive (1880). Featuring a hard cover binding finished in red leather with gilt lettering, the physical construct reflects an investment of artistic craft and a plethora of intellectual knowledge, critical to attract the discerning (and also well heeled) 19th Century European world traveler.

Maclean’s Guide to Bombay: Historical, Statistical, and Descriptive
James Mackenzie Maclean
1880 (Fifth Edition)
Bookplate: The Fogg Memorial Library, Berwick Academy, Maine
Folding Map: Good condition
Cost: Rs. 5

Photograph by Tina Nandi

The outbreak of global conflict in the first half of the 20th Century, and specifically World War II in the 1940’s, brought a new type of foreign visitor to the island city – the Allied Soldier. Freely issued guidebooks for the young visitors (primarily male) were pocket sized, limited in the use of colour, and printed on exceptionally thin paper. As expressions of economic efficiency, the guides were intended to provide a functional service in an age of frugality.

The collection is a chronological urban welcome through varied historical contexts.

From the 1950’s onwards, a new type of guidebook begins to emerge, one generically intended for a diverse array of visitors – both foreign and Indian. Simultaneous to this expanded readership is the physical expansion of the city – and the discovery of the suburbs as spaces rich in historical and tourist interest. While all guidebooks generally featured maps of South Bombay, it is in this era of mass paperback production that Suburban Bombay finds its own space – in double sided maps and extended fold-outs.

Pocket Guide to Bombay: A Visitor’s Companion
Harish S. Booch
1957 (Revised Edition)
Dust Jacket: Good Condition
Folding Map: Very Good condition
Cost: Rs. 3

Mumbai Guidebooks : A Tactile Exhibition of Rare Books 
opens at ARTISANS’ on 18 May 2018 and will continue through 27 May 2018. 

The Mumbai Guidebooks Reading Room, a selection of sixteen rare books from 1880 – 1980, features a Century of introductions to the Maximum City.



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Urbs Indis is an urban aerial photography studio and archival library founded by Mumbai based architect and artist Robert D Stephens (RMA Architects). Since 2007 he has been documenting urban India from 10,000 feet above sea level, in black and white as well as colour photography.

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