1847 guidebook

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The title page of the guidebook

They don't write guidebooks today like they used to!

In 1847 (or perhaps earlier - see below), the year before he died at the age of 66, the Rev Edward Durell wrote The Picturesque and Historical Guide to the Island of Jersey, illustrated with lithographs by Philip Ouless, who also published the book.

This little-known but extremely important book is, in effect, the history of Jersey which many believe one of the island's foremost historians never wrote.

Falle's history revised

It was Durell who in 1837 edited a revised version of Philippe Falle's An Account of the Island of Jersey, which for nearly 150 years had been looked on as the definitive history of the island. However, by the mid-19th century the accuracy of key elements in the book was being called into question, leading J Bertrand Payne, the author of the Armorial of Jersey to comment: "It is much to be regretted that the design did not occur to him of entirely rewriting a history of Jersey, instead of merely commentating upon Falle's feeble and meagre work; for with his talents and the opportunities he possessed for the task, there is no room left for doubt but that such a work from his pen would have been a most valuable contribution to the literature of his native island."

That comment was penned in 1859, so was the writer aware of the 1847 publication, or did he not consider it to be the new history of Jersey by Edward Durell he was calling for? The title page describes Durell as the compiler, but it is clear from the preface that he is the author of the work, and is acknowledging that he has drawn on whe work of earlier historians. But any history draws on previously published work, so the Picturesque and Historical Guide would appear to be just what Payne was calling for - Durell's own history of Jersey and commentary on its position at a highly important time in Jersey's history.

That said, it must also be acknowledged that the writing style differs markedly from section to section, and one is forced to the conclusion that Durell copied substantial sections of his history from earlier publications.

The island was, in 1847, nearing the end of a 30-year period during which its population would nearly double to over 57,000, and at the dawn of a half century of unprecedented affluence. The Picturesque and Historical Guide is both a history of Jersey, a critical review of the state of the island at the beginning of the Victorian era, and a guide to the town and countryside. The book has been digitised and can be read in full online, but it paints such a fascinating picture of the island that we have decided to reproduce it in full in a series of Jerripedia articles illustrated with the Ouless lithographs and other contemporary images.

The 1847 edition is described in the Jersey Public Library catalogue as a 2nd edition, with a further edition, the 3rd, published in 1852 also in the Library collection. But there is nothing in the online edition to confirm its status as a 2nd edition, nor when an earlier edition might have been published, so we will refer to it as the '1847 guide'.

Style

Edward Durell writes in a very idiosyncratic style, and his original writings have been left largely untouched in our pages, save for corrections to obvious typographical errors and adjustments to the somewhat bizarre punctuation common in the Victorian era, to improve readability.

The author adopts the practice also common in Jersey at this time of anglicising the French spelling of placenames. So Mont Orgueil Castle becomes Mount Orgueil; Mont St Michel in nearby France becomes Mount St Michael, though thankfully not St Michael's Mount, which might occasion confusion with the edifice of this name in Cornwall.

Durell's historical details have largely stood the test of time. He is one of the first writers of major histories to challenge the long-held view that the name Jersey is a derivation of Caesarea, and that the island was so-named in honour of Julius Caesar, or another Roman Emperor. Yet, strangely, he also subscribes to the view that the Romans did settle in Jersey and create an early fortification where Mont Orgueil now stands.

Taken in the round, however, this 'guidebook' must be viewed as a significant history of the island. It is strange that it has been virtually unknown; until now.

Preface and introduction

History

St Helier in the mid-18th century

Island tour

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