Early Orientalists—Untraveled Lands
A fold out table of geographic distances from: Adriaan Reland, Palaestina ex Monumentis veteribus Illustrata, Utrecht, 1714
Reland (1676-1718) was a Dutch Orientalist who was the first to extensively use rabbinic sources as well as ancient sources in this geographic study of Palestine. He was an early scholar of Comparative Semitics—the study of how Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopic, and other Semitic languages are related.
By the 18th century, Christian Orientalists began to attempt more objective studies of Islam and Judaism as religions. Reland’s De religione Mohammedica (Utrecht, 1705) is considered the first objective study of Islam, and it quickly became the reference work in England on Islam.
Scholars dispute whether Reland ever visited the Near East. Many early European Orientalists never visited the regions of their study. One later Queens’ Orientalist, A.E. Bevan (1859-1933), was unusual for having never visited the Middle East, but was still an accomplished linguist in Arabic and Persian.