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Murray's Guide to India for 1859 for Madras and Bombay Presidencies

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Murray's Guide to Madras and Bombay Presidencies for 1859 is in many ways the first modern guide book to India. However, it describes a very different India from that seen in the last quarter of the 19th century. It also has numerous features which distinguish it from later travel guides, such as advice on arriving in Madras where is says the best thing to do is "to get into a palankeen and be carried to the club, if a bachelor; or, if travelling with ladies, to some friend's house. There are, indeed, hotels which may be repaired to as a dernier ressort." (p. 21.) It was followed later by handbooks for Bengal (1882) and Punjab and the North West Frontier Provinces (1883) and then the first Handbook for the whole of India (1892). The forerunners of this work were Captain Williamson's East India Vade Mecum (1810) and a revised edition of that work by John Gilchrist (1825).

Bibliographic Details
Author: Edward Eastwick
Publisher: John Murray
Place: London
Date: 1859

Author: Edward Eastwick
Publisher: John Murray
Place: London
Date: 1859

About the book: an Introduction by Anita C. Ray

The Handbook falls into four main sections, a lengthy but fascinating general introduction of 120 pages, followed by discrete accounts of the Presidencies of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. The inscription leaves us in no doubt as to the author’s aim: “this [is an] attempt to make India better known to Englishmen.” The work thus encompasses a vast and fascinating range of topics, including a recommended reading list for intending travellers, a comprehensive account of the journey from Southampton to Bombay, meticulous descriptions of acceptable dress codes for European males and females and an exposition on “the Manners of the Natives!” The volume also provides glowing descriptions of Indian scenery and architecture, a somewhat amusing perspective on bathing, exercise, essential medications and the consumption of alcohol in the tropics, maps and plans of important towns, helpful tips on Indian overland routes, the pronunciation and spelling of Indian names, and a useful inventory of crucial Indian words. Such a mine of information on every conceivable subject pertaining to India ensured the Handbook a wide readership in 19th century England, where it was rapidly acclaimed an indispensable reference guide for all travellers and army personnel. Today, the chief scholarly value of the book lies in its construction of Indian history, politics and culture from a 19th century European frame of reference.

About the author

Although the book is widely referred to as Murray’s Handbook, in fact the author was Edward Backhouse Eastwick, a distinguished British diplomat and scholar. Born in Berkshire in 1814 of Anglo-Indian parentage, Eastwick’s family enjoyed close connections with the East India Company. Indeed his brother, Captain William Joseph Eastwick, to whom Edward dedicates the volume, was one of the Company’s respected directors. However, it was Edward’s educational background, work, life experiences, extensive travels and conspicuous linguistic skills, as much as his home environment, that equipped him admirably for the task of writing the guide.

Immediately he completed his education at Charterhouse and Merton College, Oxford, Edward joined the Bombay infantry as a cadet (1836). His proficiency in Indian languages rapidly propelled him out of military service and into the political arena in Kathiawar and Sindh. Unfortunately, ill health eventually  forced him to return to England, where he accepted the position of Professor of Hindustani at the East India Company’s College in Haileybury (1845). Several years later, he became Assistant Political Secretary at the India Office (1859), and the following year agreed to become Secretary of Legation to the Court of Persia (1860-63). Other highlights of his celebrated career include his work as private secretary to Lord Cranbourne, Marquis of Salisbury (1866), and his appointment to the House of Commons as conservative member for Penryn and Falmouth (1868-74). Eastwick died at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, in 1883.

Edward Eastwick translated a significant number of German, Urdu, Hindustani and Persian books and wrote several original works. Arguably, his most acclaimed publications include his translation from Persian of the Gulistan (‘Rose Garden’) of Sa’di (1852), a translation from German of Bopp’s Comparative Grammar (1856) and Shiller’s Revolt of the Netherlands (1844), his Concise Grammar of Hindustani (1847 and 1858), and A Handbook for India (1859). He ultimately published separate Handbooks for Madras (2nd ed., 1879), Bombay (2nd ed., 1881), Bengal (1882), and Panjab (1883).

Design issues

Wherever possible, we have retained the original format of the book, reproducing each page of the original document as a single HTML page. Similarly, we have preserved Murray’s headings, page numbers, bold or italic type and 19th century English spelling, such as ‘shew’ for ‘show.’ However, in a few instances, where the 1859 format was beyond the capability of our software, we made certain adjustments.

  • We did not perpetuate diacritical marks, as these were difficult to recognize during the OCR process. Those wishing to view original diacritics can refer to the image files.
  • In the HTML format, we revised the layout of certain lists and tables.
  • Whereas Murray employs several different print types and sizes, we restricted our Word document to a single font type and size, namely, Times New Roman, size 12 .

    Credits and Acknowledgements


    This work was selected by Peter Friedlander of La Trobe University and the OCR work on the text was undertaken by Anita C. Ray, Adam Bowles, Lisa Smith and Perry Avdi. It proved difficult to OCR. The reasons for this were three fold. First, there were problems due to the ink not printing clearly on the mid 19th century wood pulp paper. Second the fonts were very unclear in the orginal and many of the characters poorly distinguished, from the viewpoint of an OCR program. Third, the scanned images were made with an overhead document scanner which was not focused as sharply as perhaps it could have been. These factors made it hard for the OCR program to decipher the text, so a lot of it had to be very carefully proof read. There were also lots of problems in laying out the tables in it in HTML which posed interesting challenges.


    The originals of the documents are in the La Trobe Collection of The State Library of Victoria who have given permission for the images of its pages to be reproduced on this site.


Page maintained by: Project Officer
Last Updated: 25 July, 2006

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