The Land of Israel is the holiest of Lands.
The Sages of Israel proclaimed:
The Land of Israel is the center of the world.
Jerusalem is the center of the Land of Israel.
A thirteenth -century crusader map places Jerusalem at
the center of the earth. Heinrich Bunting's world map in his Itinerarium
Sacrae Scripturae, Helmstadt, 1581, of which the Library has a copy,
depicts the earth as a three-leaf clover, each leaf being a continent:
Europe, Asia, and Africa. The three are drawn together by a ring encircling
a single city; that city is Jerusalem.
City and land are holy to the three great faiths of
western civilization-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Jew is bound to
the Land by God's promise to Abraham: "Unto thy seed will I give this
land" (Genesis 12:7)-this once and eternal homeland where Patriarchs
trod, where Prophets preached, where ancestors began the eternal quest to
know God's word and do God's will. For a millennium and more, the people
Israel lived in Zion; for two millennia Zion lived in this people. Thrice
daily the Jew turns in his devotions towards the Holy City. The Passover
seder ritual and the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) liturgy conclude with
the pledge and prayer, "Next year in Jerusalem."
For the Christian, the Land is the birthplace of his
Lord and the site of His ministry. Jerusalem is the scene of His passion
and resurrection, and when in the "end of days" He will rise
again, it will be in that city, in that Land. For the present, it is a land
for pilgrimage and prayer. To the Moslem, Jerusalem is holy, the city the
Prophet Mohammed chose for his ascent to heaven from the sacred spot now
enshrined in the Dome of the Rock.
Memory and holiness are joined in this land, where as
Disraeli said in Tancred, "not a spot is visible that is not heroic or
sacred"; where, as the Hebrew poet Micah Joseph Berdichevsky observed,
"every stone is a book and every rock a graven tablet." Jews and
Christians in every age were avid recipients of news of the Holy Land.
Pilgrims made the hazardous journey there and returned to tell their tales,
retold by word of mouth and often set in print. Whatever the
description-holy places in ruin, a new folk and a new faith resident in
sacred cities-it was the ancient land and city which continued to live in
the imagination of the faithful. The best known of early Christian pilgrims
was Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman
emperor. Late in her life, about the year 320, she journeyed to the Holy
Land to find the sacred sites. Her quest inspired the founding of churches
and became the subject of legend.
Fifteen centuries later, Lady Judith Montefiore
accompanied her husband Sir Moses on the second of his seven pilgrimages.
in her travel journal she describes her coming to Jerusalem:
Thursday, 6 June 1830. What the feelings of a
traveler are, when among the mountains on which the awful power of the
Almighty once visibly rested, and when approaching the city where he placed
his name; where the beauty of holiness shone in its morning splendor; and
to which, even in its sorrow and captivity, even in its desolation, the
very Gentiles, the people of all nations of the earth, as well as its own
children, look with profound awe and admiration.... As we drew
nearer to Jerusalem ... the Holy City itself rose full into view,
with all its cupolas and minarets reflecting the splendour of the heavens.
Dismounting from our horses, we sat down and poured forth sentiments which
so strongly animated our hearts in devout praises to him whose mercy and
providence alone had then brought us a second time, in health and safety,
to the city of our fathers.
Pilgrims were few. Most experienced pilgrimages only in
their imagination. Their imagination was informed, oft fired, by accounts
heard or read, by pictures seen and by maps and charts which were as much
history as geography. The armchair pilgrim could, in some measure,
vicariously experience the emotions of St. Helena and Lady Judith by
perusing maps of the Holy Land and charts of the Temple, twelve of which we
With the Rosenwald Collection came the first travel book
ever printed. Bernhard von Breydenbach's Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam (Journey
to the Holy Land), Mainz, 1486. In his Treasures of the Library of
Congress, Charles A. Goodrum notes that in that volume are "the
first travel pictures ever produced of a real scene drawn realistically,
and were also the first known foldout inserted in any publication."
One such foldout is a minutely drawn picture of Jerusalem and its
"environs," which extend to Tripoli and Alexandria.
Bernhard von Breydenbach, a member of the German
nobility and Dean of the Cathedral at Mainz, resolved in his later years
"to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in hope of obtaining the
salvation of [his] soul." Accompanied by Erhardus Revwich, a
recognized woodblock artist, he set out for Jerusalem on April 25, 1483.
When they returned to Mainz nine months later, the Dean and the artist
collaborated on a book describing and depicting their pilgrimage.
Breydenbach wrote the text while Revwich provided the illustrations, the
first ever made to accompany a text. The book became an instant success.
The original Latin text was translated into German four months after its
publication (1486), and later into French (1488), Dutch (1488), and Spanish
(1498). No less than eight editions made it the most popular travel book in
Europe up to the discovery of the New World.
The plate reproduced here is a schematic "tourist
map." A partially walled Jerusalem occupies half the space. Below it
is the land separating it from the Mediterranean. Pilgrims are debarking
from a galley and making their way towards the city. The modern tourist
will immediately recognize the Dome of the Rock. In the upper left is the
Sea of Galilee and Tiberias; in the lower right Alexandria, and high above,
Mount Sinai. It presents a charming and, all things considered, faithful
depiction of holy sites as Breydenbach's entourage found them.
"Every writer on geography," R. V. Tooley
states in his Maps and MapMakers (1949), "has paid tribute to
the work of Ptolemy. He stands like a colossus astride the ancient world,
and his influence is still felt today. Claudius Ptolemaeus (Alexandria 90-168), astronomer and geographer, achieved pre-eminence in both these branches
of human knowledge ... His Geographia dominated the whole of the
Christian and Moslem world for 1,500 years."
None of Ptolemy's maps has survived the classical
period. They were, however, reconstructed in manuscript and engraved on
copper or carved in wood for editions of the Ptolemy atlas. In 1482, the
first woodcut edition, containing the first map of the world to include
contemporary discoveries, was published in Ulm, Germany. It contains a
brightly handcolored map of the Holy Land, which can be seen in a
beautifully preserved copy in the vault of the Library's Geography and Map
Kenneth Nebenzahl, in his Maps of the Holy
Land (1986), informs us that the Ulm edition was based on a manuscript
version of a Ptolemaic atlas by a German Benedictine Donnus Nicholaus
Germanus, working in Florence, Italy. He, in turn, "copied
directly" from "the first modern map of Palestine," that of
Marino Sanuto and Petrus Vesconte, who produced it in Venice, c. 1320, a
map whose influence, Nebenzahi asserts "extended through three hundred
The Holy Land is oriented with east at the top ...
Mountains and rivers are carefully located ... Cities are placed close to
their correct positions.
From the mountains of Lebanon, the Jor and the Dan
descend to form the Jordan . . . Old Testament iconography is emphasized
and includes the location of the Ten Tribes, a depiction of the Tomb of
Job, and inscriptions marking where Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of
The above features, as we shall see, presage those
contained in the maps which followed.