A very fine and extremely rare hand-coloured copy of the six-volume The Holy Land by David Roberts is for auction at Bonhams
sale of Printed Books and Manuscripts in London on 22 March. It is estimated at £70,000- 90,000.
The volumes date from 18421849 and were owned by Sir Eldon Gorst, one of Britains most controversial diplomats. In 1907, Gorst was appointed Consul General in Egypt which had been under British occupation since 1882. At first, he pursued a policy of liberalisation and bolstered Egyptian political institutions at the expense of the colonial administrators, much to their resentment. His aim was to weaken the influence of the Egyptian National Party which was campaigning for the British to leave.
In 1908, Gorst heavily influenced the appointment as Egyptian Prime Minister of the unpopular Boutros Ghali, (whose grandson was General Secretary of the United Nations in the 1990s). After Ghalis assassination in 1910, the Consul General reversed his liberal approach, clamped down on press freedoms and used the law to restrict the movement of the Nationalists. Having earned the enmity of the Egyptians and the British colonial administrators alike, Gorst fell mortally ill with cancer and was forced to return to the United Kingdom a year later leaving Lord Kitchener to pick up the pieces.
The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia is one of David Roberts most appealing collection of lithographs made from drawing done on the spot in The Levant. This copy is in very good condition and the plates are, unusually, not mounted on card which has contributed to their fresh and undamaged state. The books have been in the family ever since acquired by Sir Eldon at an unknown date.