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One little guide, a world of travel

September 10, 2006|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

IN a few weeks, we'll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Frommer travel guides. And as the proud papa of that series, I hope I may be permitted a few words.

It all began with a small book called "Europe on $5 a Day," published in 1957.

It was an ode to the joys of travel. It was young and naive, full of purple prose and overly awed by European pleasures. But in its excitement about the possibility of crossing the Atlantic to visit the Old World -- an activity limited until then to a tiny percentage of Americans -- it reflected a popular mood. And its first edition became an almost instant bestseller, the cornerstone of what would soon be a series of travel guides.

"Frommer's" is today among the biggest-selling series of guides in the United States.

We deal with travel seriously. Our guidebooks have never looked on travel as a mere recreation but as a far more important human function, a time of learning and introspection, an essential part of a civilized life.

We emphasize the culture, history, lifestyle and beliefs of the destinations we cover, and we urge our readers to seek out people and new ideas as the chief rewards of travel.

We have never shied from controversy. We have, from the beginning, encouraged our authors to be wholly independent and intensely judgmental and critical -- both pro and con -- in their comments.

Our only clients are our readers, and we have triggered the ire of countless prominent sorts, from a tourist newspaper we called "practically worthless" (it unsuccessfully sued us) to the many rip-offs we've condemned.

And because we believe that travel should be available to everyone, regardless of income, we have always been cost-conscious at every level of expenditure. We emphasize affordable travel and recommend upscale establishments only when they are sensibly priced.

I have high hopes for the future of Frommer's. May these guidebooks, in all the years ahead, continue to reflect the joy of travel and the freedom that travel represents.

May they always pursue a cost-conscious path so people of all incomes can enjoy the rewards of travel. And may they create, for both the traveler and the people among whom we travel, a community of friends, a warm and welcoming gathering place.

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