Henry John Van Lennep (AC 1837), a noted 19th-century Christian minister, missionary, writer and educator, was born in Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) in 1815. In 1830 he was sent to the United States for his education. After graduating from Amherst College in 1837, he was ordained a Congregational minister in 1839.
He served as a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for twenty-nine years beginning in 1840, in Smyrna (1840-44 and 1863-69), Constantinople (1844-54), and Tocat (1854-56). Van Lennep traveled extensively throughout the region of western Asia and Egypt.
After losing his sight from cataract in 1869, he returned to the United States. Van Lennep was proficient in numerous languages and was also a skillful artist, sketching (in pencil or pen and ink) scenes from his extensive travels.
Many of his drawings appeared in published works, which include The Oriental Album: Twenty Illustrations, in Oil Colors, of the People and Scenery of Turkey, with an Explanatory and Descriptive Text (1862); Travels in Little-known Parts of Asia Minor: with Illustrations of Biblical Literature and Researches in Archaeology (1870); and Bible Lands: their Modern Customs and Manners Illustrative of Scripture (1875). He also executed several drawings for Professor Edward Hitchcock, including his Geology of Massachusetts (1841) and Illustrations of Surface Geology (1860).
The bulk of the collection of the Henry J. Van Lennep (AC 1837) Sketches and Papers consists of pencil sketches and watercolors of scenery, people and artifacts, chiefly Turkish but also some American. In addition, a small amount of personal papers include passports related to his travel as a missionary in Turkey, a notebook of sermons written by Van Lennep in Armenian, and portrait photographs.
Through collaboration between the Archives & Special Collections, Digital Programs, and Metadata the entire collection of Henry J. Van Lennep (AC 1837) Sketches and Papers has been digitized and is accessible through the Amherst College Digital Collections.