Books & Manuscripts

A Historic Holy Land: Vintage Photographs Shed Light on Sacred Soil

By Sotheby's
A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides and Collection of photographs of Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and Egypt are highlights of the Fine Books and Manuscripts Online auction (7–21 June 2019, New York).

I n 1881, an American couple, Anna and Horatio Spafford, chose to leave Chicago and settle in Jerusalem. Their desire? To establish a Christian community at the heart of the Holy Land.

Their aspirations were granted – the colony endured until 1940 – and was of great importance during WWI when the pair provided aid to those displaced by the conflict. A few years subsequent to the Spafford’s arrival in Jerusalem, three Americans, Elijah Meyers, Eric Matson and Lewis Larrson heard of their venture and decided to join them abroad.

PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.

Soon after, the three began to photograph the architecture, ruins and rich mix of cultures in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The culture in Egypt, Damascus, Lebanon, Tripoli, Jericho, Jordan and Bedouin was a particular focus and their depictions of mosques, ruined synagogues and ancient ruins were prized by archaeologists for their documentary detail.

Such was the interest and success of their photography, that the American Colony turned it into a lucrative business venture, providing a wealth of imagery for those in America and Europe that wished to see not only the landmarks, but also the so-called exotic portraits of occupations, market scenes and daily life in the Holy Land. Preview the historic images here.

PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
PALESTINE AND HOLY LAND, A collection of approximately 800 glass photographic slides illustrating Bible Lands, as issued by the American Colony, Jerusalem. Estimate $4,000–6,000.

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