1840–41 Royal Engineers maps of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1840–41 Royal Engineers maps of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria
The Aldrich and Symonds map of Jerusalem
LocationThe National Archives (United Kingdom)
Author(s)Royal Engineers

The 1840–41 Royal Engineers maps of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria was an early scientific mapping of Palestine (including a detailed mapping of Jerusalem), Lebanon and Syria.

It represented the second modern, triangulation-based attempt at surveying Palestine, following the French Carte de l'Égypte.[1]

It has occasionally been mislabeled as an Ordnance Survey map; in fact none of the officers worked for the Ordnance Survey, which was a separate organization.[2] The Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, carried out almost 25 years later, was a separate and materially more detailed endeavor.

Jerusalem map[edit]

The Jerusalem map was printed privately for the Board of Ordnance in August 1841. It was published in a reduced form in Alderson's ‘’Professional Papers of the Royal Engineers’’ in 1845,[3] and subsequently as a supplement to the 1849 second edition of Reverend George Williams' The Holy City: Historical, Topographical, and Antiquarian Notices of Jerusalem together with a 130-page memoir on the plan.[4][5] The memoir contained a three-page appendix defending the plan from criticism received from Edward Robinson.[4]

The map may have been the source of the modern tradition of dividing Jerusalem into four "quarters". Matthew Teller writes that this convention may have originated in the 1841 map,[6] or at least George Williams' subsequent labelling of it.[7]

Regional maps[edit]

The regional maps were never published in their entirety.[1] A private printing for the British Foreign Office was produced in 1846.[8] The only published map, Map 2, was published in Charles Henry Churchill's book on Mount Lebanon.[8] Map 3 was used in the creation of Van de Velde's map.[1]

Charles Wilson later explained that the data "was in too fragmentary a state for publication". [9]


The survey contained a number of flaws. The theodolite was often operated by Symonds alone, miscalculations were made around heights (e.g. on the Sea of Galilee), and the outlines of the Haram es-Sharif in Jerusalem were known to have been miscalculated. As such, scholars such as Edward Robinson and August Petermann chose not to trust the work.[10]

List of officers involved in the survey[edit]


Regional maps[edit]

City maps[edit]


Primary sources[edit]

  • Alderson, Ralph Carr (1843). "Notes on Acre and Some of the Coast Defences of Syria". Papers on subjects connected with the duties of the corps of Royal Engineers. Vol. 6.

Secondary sources[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Goren, Faehndrich & Schelhaas 2017, p. 66.
  2. ^ Jones 1973, p. 30.
  3. ^ Addition to ‘Notes on Acre’”, Papers on Subjects connected with the Duties of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VII, 1845, 46-47
  4. ^ a b Williams, George (1849). "Supplement: Memoir on the Plan of Jerusalem". The Holy City: Historical, Topographical, and Antiquarian Notices of Jerusalem. J.W. Parker. pp. 1–130.
  5. ^ Jones 1973, p. 32.
  6. ^ Teller, Matthew (2022). Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City. Profile Books. p. Chapter 1. ISBN 978-1-78283-904-0. Retrieved 2023-05-30. What wasn't corrected, though - and what, in retrospect, should have raised much more controversy than it did (it seems to have passed completely unremarked for the last 170-odd years) - was [Aldrich and Symonds's] map's labelling. Because here, newly arcing across the familiar quadrilateral of Jerusalem, are four double labels in bold capitals. At top left Haret En-Nassara and, beneath it, Christian Quarter; at bottom left Haret El-Arman and Armenian Quarter; at bottom centre Haret El-Yehud and Jews' Quarter; and at top right - the big innovation, covering perhaps half the city - Haret El-Muslimin and Mohammedan Quarter. No map had shown this before. Every map has shown it since. The idea, in 1841, of a Mohammedan (that is, Muslim) quarter of Jerusalem is bizarre. It's like a Catholic quarter of Rome. A Hindu quarter of Delhi. Nobody living there would conceive of the city in such a way. At that time, and for centuries before and decades after, Jerusalem was, if the term means anything at all, a Muslim city. Many people identified in other ways, but large numbers of Jerusalemites were Muslim and they lived all over the city. A Muslim quarter could only have been dreamt up by outsiders, searching for a handle on a place they barely understood, intent on asserting their own legitimacy among a hostile population, seeing what they wanted to see. Its only purpose could be to draw attention to what it excludes.
  7. ^ Teller, Matthew (2022). Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City. Profile Books. p. Chapter 1. ISBN 978-1-78283-904-0. Retrieved 2023-05-30. But it may not have been Aldrich and Symonds. Below the frame of their map, printed in italic script, a single line notes that 'The Writing' had been added by 'the Revd. G. Williams' and 'the Revd. Robert Willis'… Some sources suggest [Williams] arrived before [Michael] Alexander, in 1841. If so, did he meet Aldrich and Symonds? We don't know. But Williams became their champion, defending them when the Haram inaccuracy came up and then publishing their work. The survey the two Royal Engineers did was not intended for commercial release (Aldrich had originally been sent to Syria under 'secret service'), and it was several years before their military plan of Jerusalem came to public attention, published first in 1845 by their senior officer Alderson in plain form, without most of the detail and labelling, and then in full in 1849, in the second edition of Williams's book The Holy City. Did Aldrich and/or Symonds invent the idea of four quarters in Jerusalem? It's possible, but they were military surveyors, not scholars. It seems more likely they spent their very short stay producing a usable street-plan for their superior officers, without necessarily getting wrapped up in details of names and places. The 1845 publication, shorn of street names, quarter labels and other detail, suggests that… Compounding his anachronisms, and perhaps with an urge to reproduce Roman urban design in this new context, Williams writes how two main streets, north-south and east-west, 'divide Jerusalem into four quarters.' Then the crucial line: 'The subdivisions of the streets and quarters are numerous, but unimportant.' Historians will, I hope, be able to delve more deeply into Williams's work, but for me, this is evidence enough. For almost two hundred years, virtually the entire world has accepted the ill-informed, dismissive judgementalism of a jejune Old Etonian missionary as representing enduring fact about the social make-up of Jerusalem. It's shameful… With Britain's increased standing in Palestine after 1840, and the growth of interest in biblical archaeology that was to become an obsession a few decades later, it was vital for the Protestant missionaries to establish boundaries in Jerusalem… Williams spread his ideas around. Ernst Gustav Schultz, who came to Jerusalem in 1842 as Prussian vice-consul, writes in his 1845 book Jerusalem: Eine Vorlesung ('A Lecture'): 'It is with sincere gratitude I must mention that, on my arrival in Jerusalem, Mr Williams ... willingly alerted me to the important information that he [and] another young Anglican clergyman, Mr Rolands, had discovered about the topography of [Jerusalem].' Later come the lines: 'Let us now divide the city into quarters,' and, after mentioning Jews and Christians, 'All the rest of the city is the Mohammedan Quarter.' Included was a map, drawn by Heinrich Kiepert, that labelled the four quarters, mirroring Williams's treatment in The Holy City.
  8. ^ a b Jones 1973, p. 37.
  9. ^ Goren 2002, p. 90.
  10. ^ Goren, Faehndrich & Schelhaas 2017, p. 102-103.
  11. ^ Note that Yolande Jones' 1973 publication mislabels Lt. Symonds as "John", a mistake repeated by other authors.