To know how it was to live in the neighboring country, or maybe even far far away, has always fascinated mankind.
Sometimes the reading of a geography book was out of pure curiosity, other times it was a much needed information before a long travel to the far away distant and unknown world.
Antiquarian geography books can even today tell the truth about a foreign country.
And maybe even, the old geography book still gives some valid information about the countries and the world geography.
But it can be even more interesting to read a 200 years old geography book, because today such a cultural geography book is at the same time a history book, telling the cultural and political story of old frontiers (as well telling the story about how the borders changed and made changes of who are allies and/or enemies).
I am the happy owner of a small antique geography book (it is even a rare first edition, printed in London 1817; few years after the Napoleonic Wars that changed several of the borders in Europe). The title of the book is:
A Geographical Present; being Descriptions of The Principal Countries of The World with Representations of the Various Inhabitants in their Respective Costumes, Beautifully Coloured. (London: Printed for Darton, Harvey and Darton, Gracechurch-Street. 1817).
And yes, it is beautifully colored with 60 colorful prints of the inhabitants of London, Paris, and many other cities around the world (in that respect the book is even a concise lecture in how the fashion of Europe was almost 200 years ago).
The natives of Africa, Asia, and America are also represented in their colorful exotic clothes and ornaments.
This book has obviously been an appropriate gift to the young gentleman, who maybe, being a younger son of the family, had to emigrate to the British colonies. The oldest son would inherit the family estate, whereas the younger sons quite often had to make careers as officers in the Army or Navy, or they settled in the colonies, such as India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), or Canada.
The copy I own might have traveled around the world, being a practical travel companion to a young gentleman; and yet it might not. Because about 80 years ago it was in possession of an English Baron, so maybe it has had a quiet existence in a library of a manor, being only read in by someone who wanted to travel in the dreams, inspired by the reading and looking at the colorful illustrations.
The author of the book had an obvious ethnocentric view on the world; England and Europe are the civilized and cultural fortress, and the rest of the world is exotic but its inhabitants are (at the most) noble savages. The important part of the world is Europe, of which some of the descriptions are:
On three sides it is washed by the sea; north it has the Frozen Ocean; west, the Atlantic; south, the Mediterranean and its gulfs; and on the eastern side, the countries of Asia forms its boundary.
Of the four grand divisions of the globe, Europe is the least extensive; but in science, in useful and ornamental arts, and in general civilization, mankind have made the most decisive advancement.