In March 2011, a collection of David Roberts’ prints, many from the “Royal Subscription Edition” of the British artist’s famous lithograph series Sketches in the Holy Land and Syria, was acquired for the Faculty Conference Room in the Divinity School’s Langford Building.
The acquisition was made possible by a gift from Marion and Wensell Grabarek of Durham, N.C.
Many of the works were produced during the 1840s based on sketches Roberts made during a lengthy tour through Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, the Holy Land, Jordan, and Lebanon. When he returned to Britain, Roberts worked with acclaimed lithographer Louis Haghe Roberts to produce the Sketches in the Holy Land and Syria and the Egypt & Nubia series.
Among the prints from the “Royal Subscription Edition” of the Holy Land folio are “Jerusalem from the South” and “Shrine of the Holy Sepulchre.” These works were printed on India paper and colored under the artist’s supervision to resemble watercolor paintings.
The folio collections became extremely popular in the United States and England, where they provided a first glimpse of biblical sites previously known to the public only by name. The enterprise was funded through direct subscriptions and included subscribers Queen Victoria (Subscriber 1, to whom the work is dedicated), Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, and Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
In 1996, Duke University Press published Jerusalem and the Holy Land Rediscovered: The Prints of David Roberts (1796–1864). The book, with a preface by Dennis Campbell, Divinity School dean from 1982 to 1997, and commentary by the late W.D. Davies, the George Washington Ivey Professor Emeritus at the Divinity School, reproduces in full color all 123 of Roberts’s lithographs along with the unabridged text from 1842 by the Rev. George Croly LL.D. The book was printed from a set of lithographs acquired by the Duke University Museum of Art from a private collection dating to the 1850s.