One of the exciting things about the digital age is finding ephemeral historical items online. A recent discovery via Internet Archive is the catalogue for “Underground Jerusalem”, an exhibition of drawings by celebrated Illustrated London News artist William “Crimea” Simpson (so called because of his famous sketches of the Crimean war).
“Underground Jerusalem” opened at the Pall Mall Gallery in London on 6 April 1872. A leaflet advertisement for the exhibition, inserted into the Palestine Exploration Fund’s Quarterly Statement, noted that the display was open from 10 am to 6 pm daily. The admission price of one shilling included the catalogue in which Simpson’s 40 sketches on display, made during a trip to Jerusalem in the spring of 1869, are listed and described.
Simpson journeyed to Jerusalem from Egypt, where he was busily engaged in documenting the Prince and Princess of Wales’ trip to the country and illustrating the not-yet-opened Suez Canal – “the new route to India” – for the Illustrated London News. He left Egypt at Port Said on the Red Sea coast and sailed for Jaffa, travelling to Jerusalem by cart. Once there he contacted Palestine Exploration Fund explorer Charles Warren, then excavating in Jerusalem near the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount. Warren’s deep shafts at the edges of the enclosure, sunk in the face of considerable opposition from local political and religious authorities, had been made in order to understand the development of the city through time.
Like a number of tourists to Jerusalem at the time of Warren’s excavations, Simpson accompanied Warren down some of his shafts, obtaining a glimpse at the early layers of the Old City. Unlike the average tourist, though, once below the surface Simpson recorded what he saw with his pen and paper. Lit magnesium, which emits a bright white light, was the only source of illumination. He later recorded in his autobiography
...it was a rare chance to have such glimpses of underground Jerusalem".
Eyre-Todd, G. (ed.). 1903. The autobiography of William "Crimea" Simpson, R. I. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
Pall Mall Gallery. 1872. Underground Jerusalem. Descriptive Catalogue of the Above Collection of Water-Colour Drawings by William Simpson… London: W. M. Thompson.
Warren, C. 1876. Underground Jerusalem: an account of some of the principal difficulties encountered in its exploration and the results obtained. London: R. Bentley and Son.