Treasure trove of maps

Jewish National and Givat Ram's University Library uploads antique maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

map 88 (photo credit: )
map 88
(photo credit: )
In a case of the 15th century meeting the 21st, the Jewish National and University Library at Givat Ram recently completed posting its extensive collection of antique maps of Jerusalem, the Holy Land and historic cities on the Internet. More than 250 rare maps and antique prints of Jerusalem can now be viewed at while the library's collection illustrating the land of Israel and surrounding areas is at A third collection of 1,000 historic maps of cities ranging from Aden to Zurich can be viewed at The priceless collection, ranging from 1462 to the present, has been digitized in high resolution so that viewers can zoom in on the maps to see details. Each map comes with a bibliographic description as well. The collection, which was uploaded as part of the David and Fela Shapell Family Digitization Project at the Hebrew University, can be searched by criteria such as the mapmaker, locale or year. The collection of antique maps of Israel, the Middle East and historic cities, early printed atlases and itineraria (travel books) was donated to the library in 1975 by Eran Laor. Laor, author of the seminal 1986 work Maps of the Holy Land, started his collection in 1947. In pre-modern times maps were mostly drawn looking east, hence the words to orient oneself and orientation, said Ayelet Rubin, librarian of the collection. It's only since the Renaissance that the convention has been to draw maps to the north. Rubin, who wears latex gloves when handling the centuries-old documents, notes the actual collection on the building's 2nd floor is open to the public without charge. The maps, all treated by the library's conservation lab, may not be touched, she adds. Also of interest nearby in the building are the Albert Einstein exhibit on the same level as map collection, and the triptych of stained glass windows created by Mordechai Ardon in 1984 illustrating Isaiah 11:2-44 - where the nations shall come to Jerusalem and swords shall be made into plowshares. While the Hebrew University and National Library currently share a joint facility on the Givat Ram campus, plans are under way to build a separate National Library in the Government Precinct funded by the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv, the same foundation which created the Knesset in 1966 and the Supreme Court a quarter century later.