Saturday, January 07, 2006

The History of Geology in Rare Books

The above images come from the amazing Jesuit polymath,
Athanasius Kircher. He was moved to produce a sort of
pre-geological treatise, Mundus Subterraneus (1665), after having witnessed
the eruption of Mount Etna (2nd image) and visiting the dynamic
summits of both Etna and Vesuvius. The top image shows Kircher's
understanding of the origin of volcano eruptions.

Priest and naturalist Lazzaro Spallanzani spent time in the
Aeolian islands off Italy where he descended into the craters
of both Vulcano and Stromboli to collect specimens. His later laboratory
testing introduced an experimental dimension to vulcanological
studies. The engraving Stromboli comes from his multi-volume
Travels series, published 1792-1799.

Although unattributed, an engraving of Susanna Drury's
gouache drawing of the Giant's Causeway in Northern
Ireland from 1740 was included in Volume 12 of Diderot's
famous Encyclopédie, published in 1765.

A view of a castle in Stolpen, Germany, built on
columnar basalt in Institutiones géologiques by
noted geologist, Scipione Breislak in 1818.

Sir Joseph Banks made Staffa (Fingal's cave) island in the Scottish Hebrides
known to the outside world and used some engravings
made by Thomas Pennant when he published
Tour in Scotland, and Voyage to the Hebrides in 1772.
Pennant also wrote the section of text about the island's
hexagonally-jointed basalt formations.

Vulcan’s Forge and Fingal’s Cave - Volcanoes, Basalt, and the Discovery of Geological Time is a 70 webpage exhibition at the Linda Hall Library of Science Engineering and Technology which displays illustrations from rare texts published between 1565 and 1835.

The eruption of Ecuador's Cotopaxi in 1742 is (vaguely) shown at the far left from
Journal du voyage fait par ordre du roi, a l'équateur
by mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine, 1751.

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