Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jerusalem - A Major 19th Century Photo Collection Rescued and Digitized by the British Library's Endangered Archives Program

Jerusalem - A Major 19th Century Photo Collection Rescued and Digitized by the British Library's Endangered Archives Program

A preview of Bonfils' photographs

Three thousand pictures taken by the Maison Bonfils photographers of Beirut from 1867 to the 1910s are part of the private Fouad Debbas collection in Beirut. Last year, the collection was digitized and posted online by the British Library's Endangered Archives Program.  

We have posted several Bonfils' photographs in the past from the Library of CongressGetty, and New York Public Library collections. But nowhere in the world has such an extensive collection of Bonfils' photographs been collected and made public.  We thank the Debbas family and Ms. Jody Butterworth, the curator of the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme, for their efforts. 

We present here just a preview of this very important collection:

Jews praying at the "Wailing Wall" (Debbas Collection, British Library)
Rachel's Tomb on the way to Bethlehem (Debbas Collection, British Library)

Rachel's Tomb, not the village of Sanur

Elsewhere in the Debbas Collection this picture is captioned "Village of Sanur in the modern-day Judea and Samaria aka West Bank."

Obviously, it is another Bonfils photo of Rachel's Tomb.

The bustling Jaffa Gate outside of Jerusalem's Old City. The Hotel Fast was built in 1891. The photo was
taken prior to 1898 when a breach was made in the wall for the German Emperor's carriages.
(Debbas Collection, British Library)

We plan to present more of the collection in coming weeks accompanied by our historical essays.

Zionist Message Hidden within Antique Pictures of the Holy Land

by Lenny Ben-David

Published in the Jewish Political Studies Review

[Abstract] A 110-year-old trove of pictures taken by the Christian photographers of the American Colony in Jerusalem provides dramatic proof of thriving Jewish communities in 
Palestine. Hundreds of pictures show the ancient Jewish community of Jerusalem’s 
Old City and the Jewish pioneers and builders of new towns and settlements in the Galilee and along the Mediterranean coastline.

The collection, housed in the U.S. Library of Congress, also contains photographs 
from the 1850s and 1860s, the first years of photography. These photographs provide a window 
rarely opened by historians to view the life of the 
Jews in the Holy Land.

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