From the mid-eighteenth century onwards, people from Britain and Ireland began to visit Greece, mainly with a view to investigating the material remains of the ancient Greek past. Long before he gained eminence as Provost of Trinity College Dublin, and as a Classicist, John Pentland Mahaffy had been hired to accompany a Cambridge undergraduate, William Goulding, around Greece and his account of those travels was published as Rambles and Studies in Greece in 1876. In it Mahaffy describes a world wildly different from that which greets the modern visitor - at least in the methods of transport and ease (or lack of it) of getting from one place to another and the questions of where to stay. It was almost as alien to visitors from the British Isles then as it would be for visitors of this century visiting the Ireland of the 19th.
Ancient Greece was the same as now: the beauty of the landscape endures, but then rivalries between local museums ensured that there were inadequate records of the country's antiquities, and no central record of what had actually been discovered, so travellers were often embarking on a journey of discovery, finding unrecorded inscriptions, and more importantly entire buildings, while occasional meetings with local brigands in certain parts of the country added a sense of danger and adventure. Mahaffy's work was therefore an eye-opener for the armchair traveller, and in Britain it went through five editions by 1907, each enlarged and revised, as well as being published in the USA in 1892, and in 1913 Macmillan New York published what they described as the seventh edition. The first American edition, published by Henry Coates in 1900, contained a number of contemporary photographs that had not appeared in earlier editions, and a number of these are reproduced here, with engravings that appeared in the first edition.
As the editor of the present edition, Professor Brian Arkins, notes: 'This new edition of Mahaffy's Rambles and Studies in Greece reprints the text of the first edition of 1876, in which the author states that 'It is to me a cherished object to make English-speaking people intimate with the life of the old Greeks'. Mahaffy achieves that object with great eclat, so that his book functioned at the time - and still functions - as an excellent introduction to the history, archaeology, landscape, literature, visual art and music of ancient Greece. So although Mahaffy's book went into seven editions - the first edition of 1876 has a freshness and vividness that the material added in later editions serves only to obscure; for that reason, the first edition is here reprinted, and provided with a full Commentary.' It is as interesting now to the modern reader as it was to those reading it over 130 years ago.