Extremely rare: 20 original photographs of Makkah by the "earliest Arabian photographer"

Snouck Hurgronje, Christian. Bilder aus Mekka.

Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1889.

Folio (282 x 372 mm). 20 collotype prints mounted on 18 sheets loose in red gilt cloth portfolio as issued, complete with half-title, list of plates, title and preface.


One of the earliest photographic documents of Mecca and the Hajj, preceded only by the photographs of Muhammed Sadiq Bey published in 1881 (Sotheby's, 4 June 1998: £1,250,000). Much rarer than the author's similarly titled "Bilder-Atlas zu Mekka", a portfolio of lithographs to accompany the "Mekka" books which Snouck had published after his return from the Arabian Peninsula.

"Following the publication of 'Bilder-Atlas zu Mekka', Hurgronje received a letter from his doctor in Makkah, whom he had taught the art of photography. The letter contained new photographs of the hajj which were of such great interest that he decided in 1889 to publish his 'Bilder aus Mekka' [...] The photographs provide an insight into the world of Makkah's inhabitants, pilgrims from all over the Islamic world, in addition to the sharif of Makkah, the Turkish governor, and various religious and secular figures" (Badr el-Hage, p. 46f.).

"In 1981 F. H. S. Allen and C. Gavin first identified the earliest Arabian photographer by deciphering his elaborately calligraphed signatures, which without exception had been erased from the plates reproduced by Snouck Hurgronje: 'Futugrafiyat al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Ghaffar, tabib Makka' (The Photography of the Sayyid Abd al-Ghaffar, physican of Mecca). This princely eye surgeon had been host to the young Snouck in Mecca immediately after the Dutchman's conversion to Islam. Snouck claimed to have taught his host how to use a camera and attributes to him (without ever mentioning his name) the pictures reproduced in 'Bilder aus Mekka'".

Light spotting, title and text leaves frayed at inner edge (not affecting text), occasional minor stains or wear to edges of mounts, covers rather marked and stained. Very rare: only two copies at auctions internationally during the past decades (the last, at Sotheby's in 2006, was incomplete, lacking all the text leaves).


Macro 1233. Badr el-Hage. Saudi Arabia Caught in Time. Reading, 1997. F. E. Peters. The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Place. Princeton University Press 1996.