Distant Views of the Holy Land is a noteworthy volume of early photographs, paintings and drawings of the Holy Land (including maps and color plates) from the archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF). It is a fitting publication for 2015, as the year marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the PEF. This society is the oldest in the world for the study and exploration of the Levant, in particular the areas associated with the Bible. At the Fund’s inaugural meeting in 1865, the archbishop of York noted, “Our society is strictly an inductive inquiry. We are not a religious society; we are not about to launch into any controversy.”
In the extensive introduction to the book, Felicity Cobbing, PEF executive secretary and curator, and David Jacobson, editor of the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, describe the PEF’s history and vast picture archive and include a section titled, “Pilgrims and Other Visitors to the Holy Land.” The images that follow are divided into geographic areas: Galilee, Samaria, Judaea and Philistia, and Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Topographical maps precede thevisual material; surveys of the sites and historical outlines appear at the beginning of each section, while longer texts are interspersed with images. Detailed captions provide information about each site or landscape and cite relevant chapter and verse in the Scriptures.