Monday, August 23, 2010

Campi Phlegraei

Since my return to this country, in January 1773, I have continued with aſſiduity my obſervations upon Mount Veſuvius, and the many ancient Volcanick productions in this Neighborhood.

Every freſh remark confirms me in the opinion, which I have already communicated to the Royal Society, and which has been honor'd with a place in the Philoſophical tranſactions.

If the circuit I have deſcribed, can be fairly proved to owe it's very existence to Volcanick exploſions, at various, and in ſome parts at very remote periods, and be not meerly a country torn to pieces by ſubterraneous fires, as has been hitherto the generally received opinion, I flatter myself, I ſhall have open'd a new field for obſervation in this curious ſubject.

There is no doubt, but that the Neighborhood of an active Volcano, must ſuffer from time to time the most dire calamities, the natural attendants of earthquakes, and eruptions; Whole cities, with their inhabitants, are either buried under ſhowers of pumice ſtones and aſhes, or overwhelmed by rivers of liquid fire; others again are ſwept off in an inſtant, by torrents of hot water iſſuing from the mouth of the ſame Volcano, of which, in the very little we know of the History of Mount Veſuvius and Etna (the preſent active Vocanos of theſe Kingdoms) there are many examples; and the ruins of Herculaneum, Pompeii, Stabia, and Catania relate their ſad cataſtrophes in the most pathetick terms.

{Sir William Hamilton in the opening letter (May 1776) to the President of the Royal Society of London IN Vol. I of 'Campi Phlegraei : Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies as they have been Communicated to the Royal Society of London / by William Hamilton K.B. F.R.S., His Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the Court of Naples'

"The area around Naples was known locally as the Campi Phlegraei,
or ‘flaming fields’, owing to the frequent and violent eruptions of Mount Vesuvius."

Map of Tyrrhenian Sea (Vol. 1)
Map of Tyrrhenian Sea
[large version] [extra large version]

Plate 3, view of Naples from Pausilipo
View of Naples from Pausilipo

Plate 4, view of Naples from sea shore
View of Naples from sea shore

Plate 7, Mt. Vesuvius
Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 5, lava eruption on Mt. Vesuvius
Lava eruption on Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 6, eruption on Mt. Vesuvius 1767 October 20
Eruption on Mt. Vesuvius 1767 October 20

Plate 38, night view of eruption of Mt. Vesuvius
Night view of eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

"A aa lava flow (recognised by the broken surface texture) passes the observer's location on 11. May 1771 and reaches the sea at Resina. Note the steep, slowly advancing front of the flow. Pietro Fabris is amongst the spectators (below left) as is William Hamilton, who explains the view to other onlookers." [source]

Plate 3, eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 1779 August 9 (supplement)
Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 1779 August 9

Plate 2, top of Mt. Vesuvius
Top of Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 2, eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 1779 August 8 (supplement)
Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 1779 August 8

Plate 1, sailing ships in the Lipari Islands (Vol. 1)
Sailing ships in the Lipari Islands

Plate 9, crater of Mt. Vesuvius
Crater of Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 10, crater of Mt. Vesuvius
Crater of Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 12, Mt. Vesuvius eruption 1760 December 23
Mt. Vesuvius eruption 1760 December 23

Plate 8, stratum of lava
Stratum of Lava

Plate 30, island of Ischia
Island of Ischia

Plate 34, island of Ventotene
Island of Ventotene

Plate 37, eruption on island of Stromboli
Eruption on island of Stromboli

Plate 50, rock and marble from Mt. Vesuvius
Rock and marble from Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 44, specimens from the crater of Mt. Vesuvius
Specimens from the crater of Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 49, specimens of lava from Mt. Vesuvius
Specimens of lava from Mt. Vesuvius

Plate 53, volcanic rock from Solfatara
Volcanic rock from Solfatara

[click through to large and very large versions of the images]

"Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), perhaps best-known today as the husband of Emma Hamilton, mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson, was in his own right a skilled diplomatist, a celebrated connoisseur and collector, and a respected natural historian. In his own time he was honoured in particular for his contributions to the study of volcanoes, acquiring the title ‘the modern Pliny’ for his studies of Vesuvius.

Hamilton arrived in Naples as British envoy to the Neapolitan royal court in 1764, and became fascinated by Vesuvius. Shortly after his arrival the volcano went into an eruptive phase that lasted until 1767, giving Hamilton ample opportunity to observe and report upon its behaviour.

Hamilton believed passionately in the importance of careful, direct observation of natural phenomena, and Campi Phlegraei is intended to make the various aspects of Vesuvius’s activity available to those unable to see the volcano directly themselves.

He ensured that Fabri’s illustrations were as accurate and detailed as possible, reflecting his aim of offering ’accurate and faithfull obſervations on the operations of nature, related with ſimplicity and truth’. The desire to view phenomena directly for oneself, and to form one’s own opinion on the basis of the evidence, can be seen as a central principle of the Enlightenment."
[The Volcanism Blog]

'Campi Phlegraei' was first published in 1776 with a supplementary volume released three years later covering the 1779 Vesuvius eruption. The first volume consists mainly of letters sent by Hamilton to the Royal Society with the majority of plates appearing in volume two. The sketches by Pietro Fabris were reproduced as sixty two engravings for the publication and were assiduously hand-coloured in gouache.


Anonymous said...

This is an amazing set of images – a real window into the past. Thank you.

I wondered, after studying plate 38 (Night view), whether the artist in the bottom corner was the same artist who painted the picture. The men in plate 9 (Crate) are foolishly close. Might they have been imaginatively inserted?

peacay said...

(Stan, I wonder if you saw that image before I edited, adding a snatch of commentary below it? You may have seen an earlier version.)

The artist - Pietro Fabris - has indeed rendered himself in the scene. And yes, fools do gather around danger (no different to today I imagine).

Anonymous said...

peacay: Your text answered a question that had just arisen. I ought to have added: "and before I saw your note", since wondered instead of wonder left the ambiguity intact.

Another thing that struck me was the style of lightning bolts in plate 2 (Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius); they're remarkably cartoonish in what's otherwise a fairly realistic work.

Mr. Kimberly said...

Interesting, how in the tenth image, he illustrates lightning in the eruption. If it was anything like this Chilean blast it must have been an even more awesome experience...

Chaiten Volcano Triggers Lightning Storms | Universe Today

Lango Aurelian said...

Nice Post.

I have some First Edition prints from Sir William Hamilton's collaboration with d'Hancarville... misnamed Etruscan Antiquities. Hamilton looted, borrowed diplomatically, Pompeii until Lord Nelson looted Sir William's marital bed. Churchill's favorite film was "That Hamilton Woman."

Susan Sontag used a few of these in her astonishing novel " The Volcano Lover."

Nice post, indeed. Sir William Hamilton was a Dilettante before the word took on its, current, pejorative, connotation. He deserves lionization as a leading luminary in archeology, geology, volcanology and Living Well. He was a childhood friend of George III and a Knight of the Bath.

Would that Great Britain could still produce Noble Gentlemen like Sir William Hamilton.

peacay said...

Thanks Mr. Kimberly that's pretty amazing:
--"Lightning can happen as a result of a volcanic eruption. As the hot ash rises through the cooler atmosphere, transfer of charge occurs. This excess of electrons within the cloud makes it act like a capacitor, and should the conditions be correct, huge electrical discharges may be observed as bolts of lightning during volcanic eruptions."--

Lango Aurelian, one other reference I was aware of for Hamilton was as dedicatee for a suite of outlandish prints HERE: ‘A Collection of the most notable things seen by Sir Wilde Scull, and by M. de la Hire, in their famous voyage from the Earth to the Moon.’

Colin Campbell said...

My daughter recently did a project on Vesuvius. These will be interesting to her. Fantastic collection.

Far de la Banya said...

Great photos! I remember my visit to Vesuvius. Best wishes from Catalonia.

bcteam said...

could you post something about Fossili di Bolca? Thanks

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