From the 1780s, Gilpin encouraged picturesque tourism and the associated appreciation of landscape by middle-class travellers. There was a ready market for such guidebooks. The new generation of middle-class people were relatively untutored in the visual arts and had the time to spare to view the scenery of Wales, the Lake District or Peak District, but wanted to know what to look at and how to see in much the same way that present-day travellers to exotic locations use Lonely Planet and Rough Guides guidebooks. Picturesque tourism in Britain produced an explosion of descriptive travel literature in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, following the publication in 1782 of Gilpin’s tour of the Wye Valley. Although it was very different in character from the sublime, the picturesque’s visual codes relied very heavily on the concept of the sublime and its apparent opposite, the beautiful. As the sublime stressed disorder and intense experience, so the picturesque stressed calculated and measured composition. It set spectators at a distance from the landscape enabling them to turn the landscape in front of them into pictures governed by an explicit set of rules. These were published in the guidebooks written by theorists such as Gilpin, who noted in the introduction to his Observations On The River Wye (1770):
Some theorists thought that nature itself held picturesque qualities. Others, including Gilpin, considered that the observer makes nature into a picture by the
rigorous application of picturesque principles. Either way, all agreed that the picturesque could be found in a combination of the sublime and the beautiful – a mix of roughness and smoothness, awe, grandeur and submissive tranquillity (see Table 5.2).