In the 19th and early 20th centuries Western Christian education placed a high priority upon Biblical Geography, essentially trying to correctly locate the places mentioned in scripture on the map. Vast efforts and sums were dedicated to sending archaeological and reconnaissance missions the Holy Land to uncover the locations of lost cities and temples, resulting in some amazing discoveries, as well as some ‘creative’ assertions. Commercial publishers, especially in in Britain, the United States and Germany, came to produce maps and atlases which showcased Biblical Geography, and these works were highly valued at home by Sunday School teachers, as well as by overseas missionaries. A favoured format of this field was large, colourful, and clearly legible walls maps, either printed on paper and mounted on cloth with rollers, or, printed directly printed on cloth. They were ideal for the pedagogy of Sunday School classrooms, as well as being easily transported and stored.
The present work is a very large format map printed directly on moisture-resistant muslin that depicts Biblical Palestine with an emphasis on labelling all the places mentioned in the New Testament whose locations were known. With beautiful outline hand colouring and bold, clear typography, the map is easy to read from some distance, and shows the Holy Land divided into the ancient regions of Judea, Samaria, Perea, the lands of the Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, Phenicia and the lands of the Tetrarchy of Philip. Jerusalem is located dead centre, with concentric circles noting the distance outwards in 10-mile intervals, with the scope extending from Beersheba (Israel), in the south, up to Sidon (Lebanon), in the north, and from the ‘Great Sea’ (the Mediterranean), in the west, over east to Philadelphia (modern Amman, Jordan). Many New Testament places are confidently located, while those whose placement is conjectural are followed by a ‘?’. Import biblical topographical landmarks are aslo noted, such as Mount Hermon, Mount Tabor and the ‘Wilderness of Judea’.
The map is augmented by the inclusion of four cartographic insets showing aspects of Old Testament history, to provide context. These include a ‘Map of Canaan Showing the Route of the Israelites into the Promised Land’; ‘Jerusalem and its Environs’; ‘Bible Lands of the Old Testament’ and a map of the ‘Exodus showing the Route of the Israelites in Egypt’, with an inset of the ‘Vicinity of Mt. Sinai’.
The right-hand side of the map includes a ‘Reference List’, being a gazetteer of the names on the map, as well as charts detailing the ancient and current populations of major cities and towns, plus, the heights of key mountains.
The map was made by A.H. Eilers & Co. of St. Louis, Missouri (fl. 1873 – c. 1910), a firm the specialized in Biblical educational cartography, notably large ‘Sunday School’ maps. They published numerous different maps, often in various editions. The present work, labelled as ‘Eilers Sunday School Map, No, 1’, was issued in multiple editions, but due to its large size very few examples are thought to survive; today the map is very rare. We can trace the current whereabouts of only 2 examples, in any edition, held by Gettysburg College (Musselman Library) and the Amir Cahanovitc Collection, a private Israeli collection that has been digitized by the National Library of Israel. The Gettysburg example seems to be like the present offering, while the Cahanovitc example is of an earlier edition with a slightly different format and content.
References: Cf. Amir Cahanovitc Collection: Israel. ACC 461; OCLC: 1045070396.