On September 21, 1898, Baron Edmund de Rothschild gave a book titled Le Temple de Jerusalem et la Maison de Bois-Liban (“The Temple of Jerusalem and the House of Lebanon Wood”) to the agricultural community of Rosh Pinah, one of the original Zionist settlements in the Land of Israel. He also gave a copy to Zikhron Ya’akov, a farming community whose establishment he had helped to fund. Only a handful of copies of the book are still extant today, one of which is in the Louvre and another in the Rothschild family’s vault. Amit Naor explains how the book captured the baron’s interest:
The book was written by two French scholars: Charles Chipiez and Georges Perrot. Chipiez was an architect and architectural historian and Perrot an archaeologist. They wrote a number of books together [on] the history of the ancient world: Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and of course Judea and its surroundings. Most of their findings regarding the Jewish Temple—which they saw as an architectural milestone in the history of the world—were published in [this book].
Rothschild, who took a special interest in Jerusalem and the Temple, discovered the book when it was put on display at an exhibition in Paris, and immediately purchased a number of copies which made their way to the farming colonies in the Land of Israel which were so dear to him.
The highlight of the book is its appendix—large, magnificent illustrations of the Temple and the “House of Lebanon Wood,” [i.e., cedar], built by King Solomon, according to the first book of Kings. In the first chapter, Chipiez and Perrot describe the history of the Temple, the structures that surrounded it, and the local topography. In the second chapter, they explain which sources were used to reproduce the appearance of the Temple. The third chapter describes the Temple itself according to verses found in the book of Ezekiel, and the fourth and final chapter describes what the authors believed to be the palace of the kings of ancient Judea. The authors also included sketches of architectural elements such as pillars, domes, and capitals.
Baron Rothschild had a special and understandable interest in Jerusalem and the Temple [that] stemmed from his traditional Jewish education, as well as from the growing interest in the scientific study of the Bible during the late 19th century. Other evidence suggests that the Baron sought to build a “hall” on the ruins of the Temple and even obtained plans from architects to integrate modern and ancient elements in the construction of a grand new building. The Ottoman sultan refused, for obvious reasons, to authorize the ambitious project.
The book can be viewed in digital form, complete with its lavish illustrated plates, here.