The Grand Tour – Young Lords Travelling Abroad

The Grand Tour Abroad

The term ‘Grand Tour’ was instituted by the Catholic cleric and travel essayist Richard Lassels (c.1603-68), who utilized it in his compelling manual “The Voyage of Italy” (distributed 1670) to depict youthful wealthy men going abroad to find out about workmanship, design, and vestige.


During the eighteenth century specifically, the tour turned into a profoundly attractive route for aristocrats and upper class across Europe, and particularly Britain, to finish their training. Youngsters were presented to Greek and Roman history, language, and writing all through school and college. When they traveled to another country – as a rule, escorted by a paid mentor, known as a ‘cicerone’ – this old-style instruction has inventively happened directly in front of them.

The development of the British Grand Tour was particularly remarkable in the years 1764 to 1796 – a brilliant age as far as the number of voyagers, traveler painters, unearthings, and send out licenses discharged from Rome to British residents – harmonizing with an extensive stretch of harmony and success in Europe.

Increasing wealth, stability, and political importance enabled more and more people to travel so. At the same time, a typical Grand Tourist was likely to be a young British milord completing his education; extended trips were also undertaken by artists, designers, collectors, agents of the art trade, and large numbers of the educated public, including many women.

The Route

The customary course of the Grand Tour included showing up in Paris where sightseers would bring or purchase transport, and they would then cross the Alps conveyed by a seat at Mont Cenis before proceeding onward to Turin. Vacationers would focus on popular celebrations, for example, the Carnival in Venice or Holy Week in Rome. They would then advance gradually through Lucca, Florence, Siena, and Rome to Naples and afterward return north by returning to Rome before going to Venice through Loreto, Ancona, and Ravenna. Sightseers would leave Italy through Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Milan, Turin, and Mont Cenis.

The Grand Tour Abroad British passport 1815 Berlin

Can a collector find a Grand Tour passport? Maybe, but it will be challenging to identify such a document as there are no precise distinguishing characteristics from other travel documents. Just because someone traveled to Italy, France and Germany doesn’t mean he made the Grand Tour. One indicator might be a prominent or noble name and a traveler of a young age, etc.

The following passport even describes “a traveling bachelor,” at age 32! Life expectancy at the end of the 18th century was only 40 years, according to this source. It surely was different for wealthy/noble families. John Fiott, the bearer of this passport, could have made the Grand Tour, he died at age 83 in 1866.

A passport, issued in Berlin just two days after the Battle of Waterloo. Issued in French (the diplomatic language at the time) to Monsieur Fiott ‘gentilhomme anglais’, and is signed by British diplomat George Jackson. The recto is printed with an engraved coat of arms, above printed details with manuscript insertions. Both the bottom part of the recto of the passport and the entire verso side is filled with stamps and official manuscript border notes, as well as three official red seals.

John Fiott, who later changed his name to John Lee, studied at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and then traveled extensively on the Continent between 1811-1815. He spent three months in the company of Lord Byron in Athens and also collected antiquities. He witnessed Napoleon’s arrival on Elba in 1814. In 1815, he returned home to England on the news that his uncle and guardian, William Lee Antoine, was in ill health. To receive his uncle’s inheritance, he was obliged to change his surname to Lee. He later became a well-known astronomer.

9 Books and Films Inspired by the Grand Tour


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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...