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Guide to the Bonfils Studio Photograph Albums of Palestine, circa 1881

Summary

Collection consists of two large cloth-bound photograph albums dating from circa 1881, housing 56 large albumen photographs taken by noted 19th century French photographer Félix Bonfils, who owned the Bonfils studio, and his Syrian assistant Georges Saboungi. The images were sold as souvenirs, and portray cities and towns, landscapes, ruins, monuments, tombs, and other religious and historic sites of Palestine, in areas now occupied by Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Locations named in the captions include Beirut, Bethlehem, Cana, Damascus, Galilee, the Holy Sepulchre shrine, Jaffa, Jerusalem, the Mosque of Omar at the Dome of Rock, the Mount of Olives, Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Samaria, the Tomb of David, the Wailing Wall, the interior of the house of the English Consul in Damascus, a "crusader's tower" in the village of Ramleh, and various other sites.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.00126
Title
Bonfils studio photograph albums of Palestine
Date
circa 1881
Creator
Bonfils, Félix, 1831-1885
Extent
3 Linear Feet, 2 volumes
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Material in English

Collection Overview

These two large photograph albums were owned by Wilbur E. Hagans, who toured the area of Palestine known as the Holy Lands around 1881. He purchased dozens of souvenir albumen prints from the studio, then upon his return had the cloth-bound albums assembled in New York. The 56 images date from about 1881 and were taken by noted 19th-century French photographer Félix Bonfils, who owned the Bonfils studio, and his Syrian assistant Georges Saboungi. They portray cities and towns, landscapes, ruins, monuments, tombs, and other religious and historic sites of Palestine, in areas now occupied by Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Locations named in the captions include Beirut, Bethlehem, Cana, Damascus, Galilee, the Holy Sepulchre shrine, Jaffa, Jerusalem, the Mosque of Omar at the Dome of Rock, the Mount of Olives, Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Samaria, the Tomb of David, the Wailing Wall, the interior of the house of the English Consul in Damascus, a "crusader's tower" in the village of Ramleh, and various other sites. In some cases there are small figures visible among the landscapes, but these are the only individuals present in the images.

The two albums measure 14 x 18 inches (37 x 47.5 centimeters); Volume I holds 30 albumen prints, while Volume II holds 26 prints. The prints all measure 9 x 11 inches (22 x 28 centimeters) and are affixed to card mounts, one per print. Some show signs of fading, but most are in good condition. Each print bears the name of one of two photographers: Félix Bonfils (18 prints), or Georges Saboungi (38 prints); some prints are also marked with an identification number assigned by the studio, and these have been included in the inventory.

More Biographical / Historical Info

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Bonfils studio photograph albums of Palestine, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Bonfils studio photograph albums of Palestine, circa 1881

2 boxes

The photographer's name appears following the title for each print. All titles are taken from the original captions; original French captions have not been transcribed but appear with each print. When known, the image negative numbers assigned by the studio have been included in the description; all of these were taken by Félix Bonfils. Box 1 contains information on the collection, including photocopied articles on the history of the Bonfils photography studio.

Information Folder
Box 1
Beyrout from the Sea, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of Beyrout toward the Sea, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of Beyrout, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
Bridge Across the Dog River, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
The Cedars of Lebanon, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
Ruins of Ba'albek, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of the Cyclopean Wall, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of the Temple of the Sun, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of the Portal, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of the Six Columns of the Temple of Jupiter, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
The Celebrated Stone in the Quarry, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
View of the City of Damascus, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 251
The Court of a Damascus House of a Constantinople Jew, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 273
Interior of the House of the English Consul at Damascus, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 276
The Street Which is called Straight, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 256
View of Mount Hermon, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Cave of Pan or Banais, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 453
View of Capernaum, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 446
Tiberias, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 215
Cana of Galilee, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 448
Nazareth, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 219
Mount Tabor, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 213
Samaria, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 442
View of Shechem or Nabulus, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 211
Jacob's Well, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 440
View of the Jordan, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
In the Valley of the Jordan - Mount of Temptation, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
Dead Sea, Félix Bonfils
Box 1
Image 205
Hebron, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
Pools of Solomon, Georges Saboungi
Box 1
General view of Bethlehem, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Church of the Nativity, or, of St. Mary, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Latin Entrance to Grotto of the Nativity, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Greek Entrance to Grotto of the Nativity, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Tomb of Rachel, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Tomb of the Kings, Félix Bonfils
Box 2
Image 198
Church of the Ascension, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Mount of Olives, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Garden of Gethsemane, Félix Bonfils
Box 2
Image 185
Garden of Gethsemane, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Valley of Jehoshaphat, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
View of the Holy City - Jerusalem, Félix Bonfils
Box 2
Damascus Gate, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Facade Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Shrine Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Jew's Wailing Place - Jerusalem, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Mosque of Omar - Dome of the Rock, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Nave of the Dome of the Rock, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
The Holy Rock and Prayer Niche, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Mosque El-Aksa, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Via Dolorosa and Ecce-Homo Arch, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Tower of David, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Tomb of David, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Village of Ramleh, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Crusader's Tower - Ramleh, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
Jaffa, Georges Saboungi
Box 2
 

Historical Note

Félix Bonfils (1831-1885) was a French-born photographer who migrated to Beirut, Lebanon around 1867, where he opened a studio named "Maison Bonfils" together with his wife, Lydie Bonfils (1837-1918), who was also a photographer. They changed the name to Bonfils et Cie in 1878. Studio assistants included the Bonfils's son Adrien (1860-1929), who in 1878 took over the photographic work while his parents ran the studios, and the Syrian brothers Georges and Louis Saboungi.

The studio produced photographic views of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, totaling an estimated 15,000 single prints; they were also sold as stereographic views and in albums. They became much sought after by tourists and publishers, and in the wake of this success, other Bonfils studios opened in Alexandria, Cairo, and in Alés, France, where Félix Bonfils died in 1885. His son Adrien and wife Lydie continued to operate the studios; Adrien quit the business sometime around 1900, but Lydie continued to manage it until World War I forced her to flee Beirut in 1916, taking many of the Bonfils plates and prints with her.

Related Material

  • Harvard Semitic Museum Photographic Archives [many Bonfils images](Harvard University Libraries)
  • Brünnow Papers [about 800 Bonfils images](Princeton University Library)


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The Bonfils studio photograph albums of Palestine were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 1965.

Processing Information

Processed by Sara Reams, May 2014

Encoded by Paula Jeannet and Sara Reams, May 2014

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 7-28-65