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Volcanoes: Encounters through the Ages

by David Pyle Bodleian Library
Pub Date:
Pbk 224 pages
AU$53.99 NZ$56.51
Product Status: In Stock Now
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For centuries, volcanic eruptions have captured our imaginations. Whether as signposts to an underworld, beacons to ancient mariners, or as an extraordinary manifestation of the natural world, volcanoes have intrigued many people, who have left records of their encounters in letters, reports and diaries and through sketches and illustrations. This book tells the stories of volcanic eruptions around the world, using original illustrations and first-hand accounts to explore how our understanding of volcanoes has evolved through time.


Written accounts include Pliny’s description of the 79ce eruption of Vesuvius, stories recounted by seventeenth-century sea-farers, and reports of expeditions made by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century natural historians, including Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin.


Illustrations range from fragments of scrolls, buried in the great eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, to Athanasius Kircher’s extraordinarily detailed sketches, made in the seventeenth century, to the spectacular London sunsets caused by Krakatoa’s eruption in 1883. They also include the first photograph of a volcanic eruption and twenty-first-century imaging of Santorini.


These varied and compelling accounts enrich our perspective on current studies of volcanoes and challenge us to think about how we might use our contemporary understanding of volcanology to prepare for the next big eruption.


Volcanoes and the heat of the Earth
Plate tectonics
Oceanic Ridges and Continental Rifts
A Volcanic Arc: Chile
Measuring Volcanoes

Chapter 1 – Volcanoes in Early Manuscripts
Volcanoes of the Atlantic Ocean
The Mediterranean
The Sixteenth Century
Athanasius Kircher

Chapter 2 – Vesuvius awakes
December 1631
Etna 1669
William Hamilton
1817 eruption
1834 eruption
1906 eruption
Vesuvius and Popular Culture
The first volcanic photograph

Chapter 3 – The origins of lava
Polygonal rocks.
Melting Rocks
Field Examples
Chapter 4 – Europeans explore the world's volcanoes
Pirates and Burning Islands
Eighteenth-century Explorers
Nineteenth-century Natural Historians

Chapter 5 – World-changing eruptions
Appearing and Disappearing Islands
Jorullo and Parícutin
Laki 1783
Tambora, 1815
Krakatoa, 1883

Chapter 6 – Living with Volcanoes
St Vincent
May 1902
The destruction of St Pierre, Martinique

Chapter 7 – Detecting the next volcanic eruption
Santorini, Greece
Why can't we predict volcanic eruptions?
What if.. there was a supervolcanic eruption?

Gazetteer of eruptions

'A journey into the volcanic sublime.'
David M Pyle is a volcanologist and Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford.