Isabella Bird and her travels

Intrepid travel writer and photographer

Isabella Bird (1831-1904) was one of the 19th century’s most remarkable women travellers. Her intrepid global travels and her subsequent travel books made her famous at home and abroad.

Over coming poor health and the restrictions of a male dominated society, Bird travelled extensively into her old age. Countries she visited included America, Hawaii, India, Kurdistan, the Persian Gulf, Iran, Tibet, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and China.

These travels were full of danger and wonder. Bird climbed mountains and volcanoes, she saw palaces and slums. She made great friendships with the people she met – but was also occasionally attacked and chased. An accomplished rider, she rode thousands of miles on horseback – and even a few miles on a elephant.

Bird recorded these adventures in her popular books. Her later works were beautifully illustrated with her own photographs of the landscapes, buildings and people she encountered. Her letters to her sister Henrietta and John Murray IV are eloquent, insightful, detailed and long. One written from the Malay Peninsula is a remarkable 116 pages long.

Isabella Bird Bishop’s Korean passport c.1894

Travelling in different countries often required Bird Bishop to have various passports and official travel documents. These were particularly necessary in Korea where there was a lot of civil unrest during the time Isabella travelled there. Read more about Isabella at

Korean passport 1894-r100

Source: The John Murray Archive, National Library of Scotland

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