Palmyra 1885

The Wolfe Expedition and the Photographs of John Henry Haynes

By Benjamin Anderson and Robert G Ousterhout

Photographs by John Henry Haynes (1849–1910)
Published by Cornucopia Books
ISBN 978-0-9565948-7-7
UK £19.95 USA & Canada $30


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£15.95 / $20.19 / 123.13 TL
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Soft cover, first published 2016, 128 pages
Book Description

Published in October 2016, this is a sequel to Robert G. Ousterhout’s landmark study on the photographer John Henry Haynes in 2011, which has also now been reprinted in a new edition with additional unpublished photographs. Lavishly illustrated with 85 colour plates, including some 80 images that have never before been published, this extraordinary portrait of Palmyra is co-authored by Robert Ousterhout and Benjamin Anderson.

Home to the legendary Queen Zenobia, the Syrian oasis of Palmyra – known as ‘the Pearl of the Desert’ – was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. A key stop on the Silk Road, it was a vital link between the East and the West, and a prize fought over by successive conquering armies.

European adventurers began exploring Palmyra’s priceless Roman ruins in the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the advent of photography in the 19th century that the public became aware of its scale and majesty. In 1885, the sight of Palmyra astounded members of the Wolfe Expedition as they journeyed home from Mesopotamia. The group’s photographer, John Henry Haynes, documented the monumental temples, tombs and colonnades in more than a hundred invaluable images.

Since then, Haynes and his work have largely been forgotten, and the forces of the self-styled Islamic State have destroyed the key monuments of this world-renowned site, including the glorious Temple of Bel. Haynes’s images of Palmyra – published here for the first time – are all the more poignant.

PALMYRA 1885, by Benjamin Anderson and Robert G. Ousterhout, is the first published record of the five fruitful days that Haynes spent in Syria’s ancient desert city.

CORNUCOPIA READER’S COMMENT ‘[Palmyra 1885] nearly made me weep – for the stamina of those older archaeologists (even if they were young people) – for the beauty of the site, for the grandeur of the ancient city, and of course for the loss of the monuments. I wondered if it would include a photo of the site today, but in fact am glad it did not. It made the book more a beautiful and nostalgic record, and less a polemic tract, however discreetly presented. The publication is worthy of the subject. Bravo to Cornucopia, and to the authors for the witty but never flippant text. I hope they printed a lot of copies, as this belongs in any library with anything about the ancient world.’ – Nancy P. Sevcenko, President, International Center of Medieval Art, New York

Reviews for Palmyra 1885


…As in the case of Ousterhout’s earlier volume on Haynes, the images are beautifully reproduced on high-quality paper, but a hardbound version of both texts would have been welcome. This reviewer might have preferred a larger plan of the site on the inner flap of the front cover in place of Haynes’s 1876 yearbook photograph, but that is a minor quibble. In sum, by calling attention to John Henry Haynes’s sojourn at Palmyra in April of 1885, the authors have done a real service to those interested in the past and future of this important site, as well as to students of the history of American archaeology and archaeological photography. – Pau Kimball, Bilkent University, on the BMCR blog: BMCR 2017.07.25


This fine book chronicles the five days the Wolfe Expedition spent in the fascinating Syrian Desert city of Palmyra. It includes a splendid assortment of photographs by John Henry Haynes. Because the book is printed on high-quality paper and in a large format (approximately 10” x 9”), the antique photographs of the ruins are remarkably clear and quite beautiful. The book is well-organized and the text is both detailed and interesting to read. Amazon Customer Review


This October, Benjamin Anderson, assistant professor in history of art, published his new book “PALMYRA 1885: The Wolfe Expedition and the Photographs of John Henry Haynes” with colleague Robert Ousterhout, professor in history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. The co-authored volume features 80 never-before-published images of Palmyra captured by John Henry Haynes, an archaeological photographer who was a member of the Wolfe Expedition.

That expedition, which journeyed across the Ottoman Empire to Mesopotamia, caught sight of Palmyra while returning home in 1885, giving Haynes the opportunity to capture the cultural center’s majestic temples, tombs and colonnades. “Haynes’s photographs, taken long before Palmyra became a tourist destination, are priceless records of the relationship between a small Syrian community and the remains of the ancient city,” Anderson said. “Many of the views are unexpectedly intimate: for example we see women doing the wash beneath the enclosure of the Temple of Bel, or the expedition settling down for lunch beside the Temple of Baalshamin.”

The book is the first published record of Haynes’ time spent in the ancient city, and the images included were digitized by Anderson in a project funded by the 2015 Arts & Sciences Grants Program for Digital Collections.

Agnes Shin, A&S Communications, October 28, 2016 (see full news item)

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