Bird, D.S.; Alexander, G.H.G. [Manuscript] Diary of a Bicycle Tour in Denmark
4to. 52pp. on heavy card. Bound in contemporary half calf over pebble grained green cloth boards, titled in gilt to front board and spine. Front end-paper has been replaced at some point. Benson label to pastedown.160 images ranging from several formats of original photographs (4x3 being the largest), chromolithograph collage work, a hand drawn and coloured map of Denmark, and images obviously clipped from postcards and elsewhere. The manuscript is very carefully composed, text written around the images, incorporating them into a rather intricately designed graphic format. Very attractive indeed. A gloriously produced and decorated manuscript account of two intrepid chaps in plus-fours and peak Victorian man whiskerage, clambering aboard their carefully customised long distance machines and rampage around Jutland, Fyen and Zealand for the summer of 1898. Undeterred by forgetting “swimming drawers” (Bird ran off to find some around Liverpool St. whilst Alexander guarded the luggage), the duo set off from Cheam on July 30th and return, tanned and with calves of iron, on August 14th. They record leaving their luggage at Parkeston, taking “our bicycle bags, containing extra flannel shirt, flannel trousers, spare collars, handkerchiefs, stockings, socks, tie, brush and comb etc. (just in case!)” and caught the night boat to Denmark (”one other man in our cabin, fairly inoffensive luckily.”). They seem to have been covering about 50 miles a day, taking in Skanderborg, Roskilde, Fredensborg etc. on their way to the torrid wonders of Copenhagen. Before making a beeline for Tivoli Gardens, it appears Bird had a mishap with his machine and was forced to wheel it along, attempting to hail a cab he seems to have found himself in one of those situations that give all Englishmen chills of terror; not being able to speak a foreign language and being unable to make oneself understood by shouting English slowly and loudly. Fortunately “at last and attractive female, who spoke a little English, came to his rescue and got him what he wanted, and then he drove off in triumph.” The trip continues through Hildborg, Kolding and Odense before the intrepid pair get back aboard a ship and begin their journey home. In between is a veritable storm of detail; urban and rural, wandering through woodlandss. observations on the habits of the locals, meals, lodgings and the rather bemused yet amiable responses of the populace as two moustachioed british gents careen through their lives on what appear to be monstrously overloaded bicycles. Repair mishaps occur, fishing is considered, “queer meals” are had (Brits abroad!), Bird seems to bear the brunt of the mishaps (illness, losing his camera, his machine needing repairs) possibly because Alexander is our narrator and thus presents himself made of sterner stuff, other tourists are encountered “We saw the foul mouthed Roger Orton again, and he attempted to be as familiar as ever.” At the end, immediately before a sequence of large format photographs there is a detailed summary and accounting of the tour, miles travelled, days spent, mishaps and methods and finally the expenses of the tour which cost the princely sum of twelve pounds and seven pence each, which is actually quite the amount, suggesting our travellers were gentlemen of comfortable means. A fascinating, entertaining and beautifully presented tour diary; substantial and handsome, much like Bird and Alexander.