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Fine Books and Manuscripts

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Roberts, David

The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia. [With:] Egypt and Nubia. London: F. G. Moon, 1842–1849

6 volumes, folio (23 3/4 x 16 3/4 in.; 605 x 425 mm). Lithographed portrait of Roberts, 1 map, 6 pictorial titles, 240 lithographed plates all hand-colored and mounted on card, by Louis Haghe after David Roberts, the plates in "Holy Land" all guarded; occasional light marginal soiling, plates in "Egypt and Nubia" with some offset on facing text pages. Publisher's green (vols. 1–3) or red (vols. 4–6) morocco, with gold-tooled floral frames, spines richly gilt with gold-stamped titles, edges gilt.; edges and corners worn, some scuff-marks and scratches on covers, upper hinge of vol. 3 detached.

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William Graves Perry (bookplate dated 1931)


Abbey, Travel 272 & 385

Catalogue Note

First edition, the colored version.

In the 1830s tourism in the Holy Land was increasing as the Pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, consolidated his authority and promoted the research into and adoption of European culture. Travel books describing and illustrating the holy sites proliferated, and the scientific investigations of Edward Robinson were published in 1841. David Roberts (1796–1864), a scene-painter for the Pantheon Theatre in Edinburgh, who had established a reputation as a painter of topographical and architectural views, took advantage of the trend to organize a painting expedition to the Holy Land in 1838.

Arriving in Cairo in September 1838, he crossed the desert by way of Suez, Mount Sinai, and Petra, to Gaza and Jerusalem accompanied by tribes of Bedouins, friends and guides. He later visited the Dead Sea, the Lake of Tiberias, Lebanon, and the ruins of Baalbac.

Returning to England in late 1839, he sought a publisher willing to produce a lavish edition of his views. Rejected by the Finden Brothers and by John Murray, he signed a contract with Francis Graham Moon in 1840. He and Moon shrewdly promoted their project by organizing a private viewing of Roberts' watercolors and drawings for Queen Victoria, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other influential people who immediately subscribed. They mounted public exhibition of some travel sketches in many British cities, and the favorable press notices attracted additional subscriptions, amounting to nearly double what the project required.

The six folios were issued to subscribers, as they were completed, with the option of a hand-colored or uncolored edition, beginning in 1842. The first folio of Egypt and Nubia is dated 1846, and the whole project was completed in 1849. His work brought tremendous fame, and historians praise the accuracy of his rendering of architectonic details and sculptures.

William Graves Perry was the architect who worked on the restoration of Williamsburg, VA, and designed many Harvard buildings, including the Houghton Rare Book Library.

Fine Books and Manuscripts

New York