Folio album (ca. 32x25 cm). 30 card stock leaves. With thirty albumen photographs, including twenty-nine large ones, from ca. 23x31 cm (9 x 12 ¼ in) to ca. 16,5x23 cm (6 ½ x 9 in); one smaller photo is ca. 12x17,5 cm (4 ¾ x 7 in). Five photos numbered and signed “Wilhelm Hammerschmidt” in negative (two photos additionally mounted on the photographer’s card with printed captions in French and German on the mounts), one photo captioned in negative, twenty photos with period pencil and/or ink captions in English and/or French on the mounts (one most certainly done by Van Lennep). First leaf with a period ink inscription “Henry J. Van Lennep. 1869.”. Period maroon half morocco with cloth boards and gilt-lettered title “Palestine and Egypt” on the spine. A couple of images mildly faded, occasional foxing throughout, binding neatly repaired on the spine and corners, but overall a very good album of interesting photos.
Historically significant collection of excellent large early albumen photographs of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, dating back to the late 1860s. The album was compiled by noted Christian missionary, traveller, writer and artist Henry John Van Lennep, a graduate of Amherst College and Andover Theological Seminary (Mass.) He is well-known for the skillful drawings illustrating his travel accounts and historical researches, including the sumptuous chromolithographed “Oriental Album: Twenty Illustrations, in Oil Colors, of the People and Scenery of Turkey, with an Explanatory and Descriptive Text” (New York, 1862). A large collection of Van Lennep’s papers and artwork is now deposited in the Amherst College (https://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma191.html#list-ser2).
The first flyleaf of the album bears an ink inscription “Henry J. Van Lennep. 1869,” and a photo of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has Van Lennep’s handwritten note on the mount: “The so-called “Mosk of Omar,” erected by Emperor Constantine over our Savior’s tomb & called by him “Anastasis” (Eus. Vit. Const. III. 333)” (referring to Eusebius’ Vita Constantini). Most likely, Van Lennep bought or compiled the album at the end of his missionary work in the Middle East – he left for the United States in 1869 (the same year he signed the album) and stayed there till the end of his life.
The album contains a number of interesting well-taken views of the iconic sites of Levant and Egypt (with five signed by Wilhelm Hammerschmidt in negative), some taken from unusual angles. The photos show the harbour and cityscapes of Beirut, Narh al Kalb River with the Roman bridge, Jerusalem (the Dome of the Rock taken from the distance and close-up, the Damascus Gate), Damascus («St. Paul Gate»; the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque, captioned «Church of St. John, Damascus, changed to a Mosk”), Bethlehem, Nazareth, three views of the Baalbek temples, Pompey’s Pillar and Cleopatra’s Needle in Alexandria, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza, Heliopolis obelisk, Trajan’s kiosk on the Philae Island, sites of Karnak (the Gate and Pylon, obelisks) and Luxor (the column hall) temples, bas-reliefs of the Ramesseum, an elaborately carved entrance to a tomb, and others. Overall an attractive collection of large early photos of the Levant, Egypt and Palestine, related to a noted American missionary in the Middle East.
Van Lennep “served as a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for twenty-nine years beginning in 1840, in Smyrna (1840-44 and 1863-69), Constantinople (1844-54), and Tocat (1854-56). Van Lennep travelled extensively throughout the region of western Asia and Egypt. After losing his sight from cataract in 1869, he returned to the United States. He taught as a professor of natural sciences and languages at Ingham University, a women's college in Le Roy, New York (1876-78), and subsequently was co-principal, with his son E.J. Van Lennep, of the Sedgwick Institute, a small private boarding school in Great Barrington, Mass.
Van Lennep was proficient in numerous languages and was also a skillful artist, sketching (in pencil or pen and ink) scenes from his extensive travels. Many of his drawings appeared in published works, which include The Oriental Album: Twenty Illustrations, in Oil Colors, of the People and Scenery of Turkey, with an Explanatory and Descriptive Text (1862); Travels in Little-known Parts of Asia Minor: with Illustrations of Biblical Literature and Researches in Archaeology (1870); and Bible Lands: Their Modern Customs and Manners Illustrative of Scripture (1875). He also executed several drawings for Professor Edward Hitchcock, including his Geology of Massachusetts (1841) and Illustrations of Surface Geology (1860)” (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections).
Born in Berlin, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt was already a professional photographer when he settled in Cairo, Egypt, around 1860. There he established the Hammerschmidt shop, where he sold photographic materials to other early photographers such as Henry Cammas. Hammerschmidt exhibited ten views of Egypt at the Société Française de Photographie in 1861 before becoming a member the following year. He also made costume and ethnographic studies, exhibiting those at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. Hammerschmidt also made photographs in Syria and Nubia, now Sudan” (Wilhelm Hammerschmidt / J. Paul Getty Museum online). Hammerschmidt is considered one of the first photographers to produce high-quality detailed images of Egypt and his travels and photographs of Upper Egypt and Nubia predates popular tourism in Egypt. He appears to have collaborated with the pioneering photochemist Hermann Wilhelm Vogel (1834-1898) which would explain the high quality of Hammerschmidt's photographs.