This curious little book is one of those wonderful little gems that has entered my collection via the thrift and I say wonderful gems as the book is well distributed with fantastic engravings from photographs taken by the author on his journey through the Holy land.
Reverend Isaacs starts the narrative of his journey of the Holy land on the 9th of November 1856 after having left Alexandria for Jaffa on board the steamer "the Cheliffe", a boat crowded with Mohammedans, Syrians, Jews and Christians amongst others. Among the aims of Reverend Isaacs is the obtainment of land for the establishment of an agricultural settlement for Jewish converts, this aim was accomplished satisfactorily and the Reverend and his party make for Jerusalem.
The author says "The rest of the plain country being traversed, we entered on the mountains of Judea. Here we were obliged to ride singly along the rough and rocky bridle paths." and goes on to say "Approaching Jerusalem, we passed Colonia, the ancient Emmaus, very pleasantly situated in a valley surrounded with vineyards, and some orange groves."
A vantage point has been chosen to view the city and of it Reverend Isaacs say's "ascending a gentle eminence, we looked down upon the Holy City." "We gazed for some moments in solemn silence on the scene before us. In the background was the Mount of Olives, In the foreground was the dome of the church of the Holy Sepulcher".
Reverend Isaacs goes on to say " I had been looking down on Jerusalem in her widow-hood and her desolation. I had seen the spot where once incense rose up before God, and the sacrifices were offered in his name, now occupied by the mosque and followers of the false prophet."
Reverend Isaacs goes on to describe the sites he sees in and around Jerusalem including the valley of Jehoshaphat and its tombs including high up in the valley those of Zechariah, James and Jehoshaphat and the Pillar of Absalom. Opposite this page is an excellent etching of the valley and its tombs.
Perhaps my favorite etching in the book is from a photograph taken by the author of men and women, covered in long white shawls in front of the wailing wall. The Reverend also finds here a Rabbi who is relating some foolish legend to some idlers.
From the wailing wall the author sees a doorway which he enters to find "a most remarkable stone sarcophagus, which had been taken from the tombs of the Kings.". "but at present it answers the ignoble office of a water trough." The Reverend becomes desirous to collect it saying "It would be a great acquisition to the British Museum; but however useless may be such a thing to the Turks, nothing would induce them to part with it.".
The author walks into another room occupied by three handsome Mohammedans after the author courteously greets the three men he spends time looking out the window at the view of the pilgrims in front of the Wailing wall. Only later would the author discover that he had entered into the Mohammedan court and the three men were its three judges.
Reverend Isaacs often refers to a visit of the Prince of Wales some years earlier but which Prince of Wales and which journey remains unknown, at least to me. The author is very concerned with taking photographs on his journey and has a servant carry his camera and it must be said the authors images indicate a man of much talent.
Our friend Reverend Isaacs is thankfully not preachy and the tour around Jerusalem include an exhaustive number of monuments, some real, others fantasy. Soon the author is off on the road to Bethlehem, the Jordan river and the Dead sea, the travels being pleasant while the horse traveling party camps out at night in the open air.
Along the road the authors party encounters thieves and sellers of Roman coins of which the first are avoided and the later acquired to add to Reverend Isaacs growing collection including specimens of bats, and sticks gathered from around the Jordan river of which the author baths in its shallows. Yet another beautiful etching from the authors photograph of his bathing spot on the Jordan river.
The party explore the country side including its villages and various valleys lined with tombs and ruins while the author speaks of the influence of various peoples on the Holy lands its monuments and in particular Jerusalem.
On New years day 1857 the party is back in Jerusalem but now they must leave for Beyrout via the Jaffa gate to catch their steamer. Along the road the Reverend arrives along the sea of Galilee on the Lords day which brings great inspiration to the party and a divine service is held on its shore in the morning and again in the evening.
At Tiberious the author asks to see the chief Rabbi and is soon in the presence of seven handsome men one of whom the Reverend considers to be the handsomest man he had ever seen. Reverend Isaacs is soon following the men back to their Synagogue and Rabbinical school where he is shown ancient manuscripts.
After dinner the author is lying on a divan where he soon falls asleep "I awoke. The lamp had burned out, and all was in darkness. The rain was coming down in torrents, and the wind howled,". In the morning the Reverend says "The tempest spent its force during the night, and when we rose, the morning light was tinging the eastern sky, and all was calm and serene."
Reverend Isaacs party continues on to Acre and Tyre where he gathers some pieces of "tessellated" pavement and a small tortoise he puts in a tin for its journey to England where the author informs us that it arrived alive. Finally on the 16th of January 1857 the Reverend boards a fine Turkish steamer for his Journey back to England.
A Pictorial Tour in the Holy Land was a fine read the author though a man of the cloth was never preachy but instead came across as a well educated traveller from the middle of the nineteenth century.