Roberts’ masterpiece (including his companion work on Egypt) was issued in forty-one parts over seven years and is the greatest lithographically-illustrated work of the nineteenth century. In the present example, the plates (and their accompanying text) are bound in a logical but unusual order and are all in particularly fine condition. The plates were prepared with great artistry and meticulous care by Louis Haghe, to whom Roberts paid tribute in glowing terms: “Haghe has not only surpassed himself, but all that has hitherto been done of a similar nature. He has rendered the views in a style clear, simple and unlaboured, with a masterly vigour and boldness which none but a painter like him could have transferred to stone.” J.R. Abbey regarded the work as “one of the most important and elaborate ventures of nineteenth-century publishing.”
In 1838, David Roberts (1796-1864) made plans for his journey to the Middle East, inspired by a love of artistic adventure. Departing in August 1839 for Alexandria, he spent the remaining part of the year in Cairo, visiting numerous tombs and sites. In February of the following year, he set out to cross the desert for the Holy Land by way of Suez, Mount Sinai, and Petra, arriving first in Gaza and then moving on to Jerusalem. He spent several months visiting the biblical sites of the Holy Land and finally returned to England at the end of 1839. The drawings of his tour were submitted in 1840 to F.G. Moon, who arranged to bring out a work illustrative of Scripture History, paying Roberts £3,000 for copyright to the sketches and for his labor in supervising Louis Haghe’s lithography. Both the exhibition of his original watercolors and the subsequent published work were an immediate success and confirmed his reputation as an architectural and landscape artist of the highest order.
Following the publication in parts, the work was sold as both three-volume and two-volume sets (as here), with the former including an additional title page, as well as a map of the region.
John Roland Abbey, Travel in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860: From the Library of J.R. Abbey: A Bibliographical Catalogue, vol. 2 (Storrs-Mansfield, CT: Maurizio Martino, 1995/1996), 385.
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