First edition of the AMC’s Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains (1907)

GUIDE TO THE PATHS AND CAMPS IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS / PART I. Boston: Department of Improvements of the Appalachian Mountain Club, 1907.
5 ½”h x 3 5/8”w. ix,blank,206,[16 blank for “Memoranda”]. Map in text plus two blueprint maps laid in. Green pebbled cloth with title and AMC logo stamped in gilt on front cover. Front hinge cracks and front flyleaf beginning to separate. Penciled notes dated 1907 on first “Memoranda” page. Still, a beautiful copy.

The first edition of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s first comprehensive guide to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a landmark in American mountaineering. Rare, and in very nice condition for a book intended for hard use in the field.

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) was founded in 1876 with the mission of exploring the White Mountains, advancing scientific inquiry, issuing maps and other publications, and fostering recreational use of the region while advancing its preservation. Over the years it has expanded throughout the Northeast and now has some 275,000 members (myself included) in twelve chapters from Maine to Washington, D.C.

In line with its mission, the AMC issued its first map of the White Mountains in 1887. Two decades later it set its sights higher and published the Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains. Said to have been printed in a run of only 600, most examples must have been used to pieces in the field and/or discarded when the second edition appeared in 1916, and today it is rare on the market.

The Introduction explains the AMC’s rationale for issuing the Guide:

“The need of a comprehensive guide book of the White Mountains, to replace Sweetser’s [aka Chisholm’s White Mountain Guide Book], now out of print, has long been felt by the camping public and to meet this demand Part I, the present Guide, appears, covering the section of the mountains in which the need seems to be the greatest, it being the only large territory not covered by local guide books.


“Constant changes are occurring in the trails owing to depredations of the lumberman and forest fire, and the modest form in which the Guide Book is issued readily allows frequent revisions tending to keep the work up to date, as well as the addition of new trails as they may be created.” (p. 1)

The Guide is broken down into 11 geographical sections, beginning with “Mt. Washington” and ending with “Jackson and Vicinity.” The text provides detailed information for hiking each section’s various trails, often leavened by historical notes, descriptions of viewpoints &c. Neither Franconia Notch nor the Mount Moosilauke region are included, though the intention was to address them in a Part II, which was never published.

The Guide includes two topographical maps, folded and placed in a pocket inside the front cover: Louis Cutter’s “Map of Northern Slopes of Madison Adams and Jefferson” and Robert Blakeslee’s “Contour Map of the Southern Peaks and Vicinity.” Cutter (1864-1945) was a particularly important figure,

“the dean of White Mountain cartographers…. His first effort was an 1885 contour map of Mt. Adams, including its ridges and ravines, and his first map published by the AMC appeared in 1898. He created nearly all the AMC’s hiking maps during the first half of the twentieth century, and his remained the models for the AMC’s maps during the second half of the century.” (Apt, Maps of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, p. 16)

Indeed, aside from the blueprint method of printing, Cutter’s minimalist design, with roads, railroads and trails highlighted against the topography of the mountains and little distracting detail, is strikingly similar to contemporary AMC maps.

The Guide proved useful, and a second, expanded edition appeared in 1916 with a third hard on its heels in 1917. Indeed, the Guide has been a smashing success, and a 30th edition was published in 2017. Modern editions are much larger (and heavier) than the first, and the maps are made of waterproof Tyvek, but the content and format remain largely true to the original.

Bent, Bibliography of the White Mountains, p. 10. As of June 2022, OCLC 8429343 and 78632029 identify 11 institutional holdings.