The Eran Laor Cartographic Collection is a physical and virtual collection of maps. The heart of the collection comprises ancient maps, atlases and travel books to the Holy Land and as such, it is the largest of its kind in the world. The collection also includes maps and atlases of other locations. In addition, the collection includes scientific literature on the Holy Land, studies about the historical geography of the Holy Land, Bible dictionaries, and copies of early Bibles that feature maps. The main part of the collection is the maps which were donated to the library by the late Eran Laor.
All of the map collection is available through the library website. As part of its undertaking to create a digitized resource for Holy Land maps, the National Library is now working to expand the digitized collection with the goal of bringing together many additional maps of the Holy Land that are not part of the collection but exist in other libraries and collections, thus creating a comprehensive collection of maps of the Holy Land.
The Physical Collection
Most of the items in the collection were donated by the late Eran Laor in 1975. Eran Laor was born in Slovakia, and was active in the Allied Intelligence Bureau, assisting in the Aliyah (immigration) of Jews to Israel. After the establishment of the State, he served as a representative of the Jewish national institutions in Europe. Laor authored books of poetry and philosophy, and also wrote an autobiography. He described the growth of his collection as “recalling the depiction of the world in the Middle Ages, with Jerusalem as the center.of the world. Around Jerusalem, in expanding concentric circles, we have maps of the Holy Land, of the Middle East...” Together with Shoshana Klein, Laor compiled a catalogue of the map collection entitled Maps of the Holy Land: Cartobibliography of Printed Maps, 1475-1900, published in New York in 1986.
The heart of the collection includes 1500 ancient maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, alongside ancient maps of other parts of the world. The collection also includes surveyor maps of Eretz Israel beginning in the mid-19th century, as well as modern maps of Israel, cities in Israel, and neighboring countries prior to the establishment of the State and to this day.
The maps in the collection are in various European languages, as well as in Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic. In addition, the collection includes companion works on the history of cartography, as well as academic journals and reference books.
All of the maps are catalogued on-line. In addition, the bibliographic entries for the ancient maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem, as well as for all of the other scanned maps, include a link that enables direct access to the map.
The collection serves as a leading resource for students and scholars in the disciplines of ancient and modern cartography, as well as in other realms, including historical geography, general history, art history, Jewish history, the history of Israel and the Diaspora, architecture, urban planning, and Jerusalem studies. Among those who make use of the collection are scholars, curators, students and visitors from Israel and around the world.
Collection and Acquisition
The National Library continues to enrich the collection with maps from various sources. In addition, the National Library also serves as a legal deposit library. Accordingly, contemporary maps published in Israel are sent to the library, and become part of the collection. Additionally, the collection includes maps published by the Palestinian Authority.
Maps Owned by the National Library
All of the ancient maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem can be accessed through the NLI website. The library updates the map site on an ongoing basis. Additional maps that are purchased by the library, and many of the surveryor maps as well as and other types of maps, have recently been scanned and posted on the website.
In the coming years, the scanning of all of the maps will be completed, and the Laor Cartographic Collection will be made available in its entirety through the website.
Maps Owned by Other Libraries and Collections
The library has initiated a project whose goal is to extend the map so that it will include additional maps of the Holy Land located in various collections around the world. To this end, the library has launched an international project. Thanks to the generosity of libraries and collectors around the world, the library receives – either gratis or for a fee – the rights to display maps of the Holy Land in manuscript or in print – and displays them on the library website.