A title from The Old School Press 

Tonge's Travels

The diary of an Oxford undergraduate: the Mediterranean by cargo steamer in 1857

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About the book

In print; and sheets available for binders

I have always enjoyed travel writing, especially when it shows travel in its true light: general awfulness punctuated by moments of great pleasure. Some years ago I acquired a manuscript diary which, a recent handwritten slip inside suggests, was written by George Tonge who went up to Lincoln College, Oxford in 1856, and subsequently entered the Church.

According to his diary, George Tonge (if indeed it was he) had decided that the Long Vacation at the end of his first year would be spent on some form of voyage, and, in the event, on 15 July 1857 he boarded the screw steamer Avon which was headed for the Mediterranean in search of a cargo of currants. The 282 manuscript pages of his diary take us on a ten-week journey to Gibraltar, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Vesuvius (avoiding falling debris), Pompeii, a detour on foot and horse to Corinth, Athens (which clearly made a deep impression on him), Vastitza ('began loading early and shipped about 80 tons of currants', 'had a bathe close to the vessel with a man looking out for sharks'), and back via Algiers. Stowaways are put back on land, the rigging breaks, the engineer blows himself up, and bandits are avoided. For a flavour of the diarist's writing, click on the 'excerpt' button to the left.

American binder Nancy Bloch of the Lemon Tree Press has done a fine binding of Tonge's Travels which featured in a major exhibition - Women in Letters - at the Clark Library at UCLA in 2007.

One of John Watts's watercolours from the book

About the edition

There is a single edition of 290 bound copies plus forty sets of sheets reserved for binders. The book is in a generous landscape format (230mm high by 300mm wide) to allow the text to run in double columns and provide the right shape for twenty-four watercolours and sketches by John Watts, much as a traveller of the day might have committed sights and thoughts to paper where today we would use video and digital images. John's illustrations have been reproduced by off-set litho. Printing a diary also gives us another excuse for using the written as well as the printed word in the book: snippets of Tonge's account have been hand-written by calligrapher Patricia Gidney and printed letterpress.

The text has been printed letterpress in 12/14pt Monotype Centaur on Mohawk Superfine eggshell finish paper, and copies are bound in full cloth with a dust-jacket bearing one of John Watts's line drawings. 114pp. A four-page announcement, with two of the watercolours and a sample text page, is available on request: just send your name and postal address via our contact form using the 'contact' button on the left.

The price is 80 for bound copies, and £50 for sheets.

Find out more about the book

View the title page of the book:

Read an excerpt from the book:

What others have said about the book

'a perfectly delightful book'

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via the homepage of our catalogue website
and you can buy online at our shop.


Copyright Martyn Ould 2023