Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Sir Francis Ronalds' Grand Tour

Sir Francis Ronalds' Grand Tour 1818-20. Modified from the David Rumsey Map Collection

Sir Francis Ronalds embarked on an extensive overseas tour on 1 September 1818 and was away until just before Christmas in 1820. His route passed across France to Italy, then down through Sicily and Malta to Egypt and the Holy Land. Turning for home, he travelled via Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and the Balkan coast to Northern Italy and then through Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.

Reproduced here, with the kind permission of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Archives, are Sir Francis' sketches from his "Grand Tour" and a compilation of his detailed diaries and letters.

Unfortunately the narrative does not build to the satisfying conclusion expected in story-telling, but peters out just a little before he reaches home. The rest of the journal is intact and paints a colourful picture of his character as well as his tour.

Sir Francis' writings reflect his wide interests. The scientific thread is exemplified by his fascination with an "extraordinary phenomenon" he saw for the first time in Egypt - a mirage. He also enjoyed observing people and customs and documented numerous quirky events - he saw much that appalled him but even more that amused.

He met many people along the way, including those who brought the bust of Ramesses II and the Elgin Marbles to England, and who helped unravel the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics. His own activities included climbing both Mounts Vesuvius and Etna during volcanic eruptions.

A top-down description and interpretation of the trip, encompassing his motivations, itinerary and achievements, is provided in the biography Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph.

Further Information

Sir Francis Ronalds' 1818-20 Grand Tour (2016)
- published by the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East, Bulletin No. 67

Editing Notes

A few editorial changes have been made to Sir Francis' writing to assist reading. The 'long s' in use at that time has been replaced with today's 'short s'. Spelling of certain specific or unusual words like proper nouns or those in another language have been adjusted, although alternative spellings used reasonably consistently through the document are retained. All abbreviations, capitalisation and underlining are also retained. Some supplementary punctuation has been included: for example, the closing parenthesis which was frequently omitted. Editorial entries are as follows:

text Description shown when cursor hovering over text (not clicked)
[text] Editor's comment


[blank] Space left in original text for later insertion or to retain anonymity
[missing] Original text no longer visible
[?] Word(s) not deciphered
Word[?] Word not known with certainty
[sic] Alternative spelling retained - first use of word only

Start the Grand Tour here.