A city that tops lists of the most attractive destinations in the world, Rio has been inspiring tourist guide books for a century. Since the 1870s, foreigners already relied on publications to orient themselves, but the information revolved around travel for work-related reasons. It was in England, in 1914, that the (450-page) book The Beautiful Rio de Janeiro came out, considered the first guide to “sell” the city (now 449 years old) as an unparelleled metropolis.
Put out by the London publishing company William Heinemann, the book, illustrated and quite descriptive, was the idea of a guy who was in love with the city. The Englishman Alured Gray Bell, got to know Rio in 1909 and later returned for two years. At the start of the book he says: “I’ve already traveled to five continents, but I never saw anything like Guanabara Bay”. The book was discovered by the city government during literary research on Rio motivated by the city’s 450th anniversary, next year.
Bell was subsidized by the Hermes da Fonseca government (1910-1914) and, perhaps due to this, he was prolific in his compliments to the “magnificent Brazilian metropolis”. Upon speaking of the recently-opened Avenida Beira-Mar, between downtown and Flamengo, he says that “there’s nothing equal to it in the world”. The Cariocas are presented as “courteous, generous and kind”. New buildings and with French architecture, like the Teatro Municipal (from 1909) and the Biblioteca Nacional (from 1910), are compared to those in Paris.
The content tells the story of a 14-day trip by ship from Southampton, in the south of England, to Brazil, and talks of history, from the times of discovery, continuing with the foundation of the city, the Imperial period and the advent of the Republic. Demographic and economic aspects are referenced: he says that Paris already has 20 million inhabitants (Rio, 1 million) and that the city’s debt with England and France was more than 81 million pounds and 299 million francs. – Source (PT)