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H. Goren
'The loss of a minute is just so much loss of life': Edward Robinson and Eli Smith in the Holy Land

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XX+339 p., 25 b/w ill. + 8 colour ill., 1 b/w tables, 156 x 234 mm, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-503-58913-8
Languages: English
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The different story of the travels and publication of Edward Robinson, ‘Father of Holy Land Research’ in the 19th century, as described in letters and documents.

Perhaps no other Palestine / Holy Land explorer has received as much attention as Edward Robinson, the American philologist, theologian, and historical geographer responsible for laying the foundations for the modern historic-geographical study of the Holy Land. Surprisingly, to date, almost no one has delved into Robinson’s archive to illuminate his Holy Land expeditions, the writing of his monumental Biblical Researches, and the compilation of his fine maps. Similarly, no one has conducted a detailed study of the archive of Eli Smith, American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions Beirut missionary and Robinson’s travel companion, for the same purposes. Fluent in Arabic and highly familiar with the region and its inhabitants, Smith’s contribution to the expedition and to the Biblical Researches was considerable as his archive reveals.

Investigating documents in both Robinson’s and Smith’s archives, the author of the present book became quickly convinced that much of the accepted narrative concerning Robinson's Holy Land studies should be re-evaluated and, consequently, rewritten. Several issues, for lack of relevant sources, have not yet been addressed by scholars. The story of Robinson and Smith’s expedition and writing of the Biblical Researches that emerges from their extensive correspondence underscores the difficulties they overcame, and the accuracy and magnitude of their scholarship in an age bereft of modern technology.

Haim Goren is Professor Emeritus of Historical Geography at Tel-Hai College, Upper Galilee, Israel. His fields of research are historical geography of Palestine / Eretz Israel and the Near East in the 19th century up until World War I. He recently published a narrative based upon research of archival letters and contemporary and modern studies, titled 'Edward Robinson, Eli Smith and the Cartography of Berghaus and Kiepert', in Mapping the Holy Land: The Origins of Cartography in Palestine (with Jutta Faehndrich and Bruno Schelhaas, London, 2017). The current book is, in many ways, a continuation of this study.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Edward Robinson 1794-1863: A Short Biography

1. Introduction: The Archives of Edward Robinson and Eli Smith
The introduction reviews the vast and different collections of archival materials consulted for this study.

2. The 1838 Expedition to the Holy Land: Origins and Preparations
2.1 Documenting the decision to embark and expedition preparations
Robinson’s decision-making process, beginning with his pivotal 1832 meeting with Smith in Andover, MA, until embarking on the expedition in Spring 1838.
2.2 Robinson’s German period: Seeds of the Holy Land expedition
Robinson’s desire to embark on a scholarly expedition to the Holy Land was influenced by the example of leading German scholars he met while studying in Halle and Berlin from 1826 to 1830.
2.3 Developing a historical-geographic approach to the Scriptures.
‘The father of Holy Land studies’ developed a unique and innovative method for scholarly investigation of the land of the Scriptures.
2.4 Organizational and technical matters

3. The 1838 Expedition: Itinerary and Development
3.1 Financing the expedition
3.2 Robinson and Smith’s descriptions and comments of events en route
Based upon archival material, the story of their everyday life, contact with locals and dignitaries.

4. In Berlin and Halle: Writing the Biblical Researches
4.1 The post-expedition journey: Robinson and Smith to Germany
Robinson’s and Smith’s travel decisions and their impact upon their subsequent research and the dramatic tale of Robinson’s recovery and his wife Talvj’s involvement.
4.2 Return to NY or stay in Berlin? Robinson and his UTS superiors
Robinson initially planned to return to New York and begin teaching at UTS in Autumn 1838, but he actually returned only two years later.
4.3 The Biblical Researches: Planning, writing, and distribution
4.3.1 The preface: Explaining the underlying scientific approach
4.3.2 Origin of the manuscript: From inception to format
4.3.3 The writing begins in earnest
4.3.4 Attention to detail: Arabic place names and orthography
4.3.5 Publishing the manuscript
The Biblical Researches, three volumes comprising more than 600 pages each, was published almost simultaneously in London and in Boston in English, and in Halle in German.
4.3.6 Biblical Researches 1841 – distribution
4.4  Robinson’s secondary sources
Robinson’s amazing use of diverse sources to construct his arguments and the historical-geographic picture of the land and its sites.

5. Co-travelers and Companions
5.1 Eli Smith, the underacknowledged partner
ABCFM missionary Eli Smith, responsible for construction of the Beirut Arabic printing press and the Arabic translation of the Bible, was Robinson’s student and companion on the expedition. 
5.1.1 Eli Smith and the German Orientalists
Smith’s contacts with some of the leading German Orientalists developed and strengthened during his nine months in Leipzig after the expedition.
5.2 Therese Albertine Luise von Jakob-Robinson, ‘Mediator of the Balkan Slavs’, and Holy Land Studies
Talvj, Robinson’s second wife whom he married in Halle in 1828, had, until his death, a crucial role not only in his personal and social, but in his academic life as well.
5.3 James Adger, the anonymous fellow traveler
Although he accompanied Robinson and Smith for almost the entire expedition, James Adger of Charleston, SC, is barely mentioned in publications.

6. Epilogue: Whose Arch is It?
Robinson and Smith’s epoch-making publication, the Biblical Researches, has been the source of many scientific debates. Perhaps the most vigorous debate concerns attributing the discovery of ‘Robinson’s Arch’ to its namesake. This chapter explores traveler Reverend Stephan Olin’s contention that it should not have been named for Robinson since others discovered it earlier, Robinson claimed that he was the first to connect the arch to the bridge reported by Flavius.

7. Concluding Remarks

Abbreviations for periodicals
Short titles bibliography

Places, Organizations and Events


" This book should be on the shelves of all who salute the names of Robinson and Smith, and should encourage those who have not read Biblical Researches to read them. (...) Much of this might have been put together from previously published sources, but this is where we must pay full tribute to Haim Goren. His book is based on the massive archives of the correspondence of Robinson, Smith, and others involved in the story. (...) We owe heartfelt thanks to him for revealing Robinson, Smith and Talvj as such fascinating people." (J. R. Bartlett, in Palestine Exploration Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/00310328.2021.1901378, 22 March 2021)

Interest Classification:
Sciences & Technology
History of Science
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : main subdisciplines
Cultural & intellectual history
Medieval European history (400-1500) : auxiliary sciences
Geography & cartography
Medieval European history (400-1500) : genres & specific topics
Historiography (historical writings in the period)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : local & regional history
Balkans & Near East
Modern History (1501 to the present)
Modern history (1801 to present) : main subdisciplines
Cultural & intellectual history
Modern history (1801 to present) : genres & specific topics
Historiography (contemporary accounts of the period)
Modern history (1801 to present ) : local & regional history
Balkans & Near East

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