Thanks to a farsighted and generous donor gift, the Library has recently acquired one of the most beautiful and original books published in 18th century Britain, written by a leading scientific pioneer of the age. Sir William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei is the spectacular product of his decades-long study of Mount Vesuvius at a time of the volcano’s renewed activity in the 1760s and 1770s. Hamilton’s vivid letters from Naples describing his adventurous ascents of the flaming mountain launched Vesuvius into popular fame: it thereafter became a must-see on the European Grand Tour.
The richly-produced volume now in the library’s collection is a wonder worthy of the volcano itself, full of gorgeous plates depicting the Bay of Naples, the Italian countryside surrounding Vesuvius, and, of course, the volcano’s boiling summit in all its glory. But perhaps the coup de grâce of the book is the exquisite suite of drawings of volcanic rocks, which establish Hamilton, and the Campi Phlegraei volume, at the first frontier of modern geology and volcanology. The RBML lecture will tell the story of Sir William Hamilton’s brilliant and controversial life, and the remarkable constellation of talents that combined to produce the Campi Phlegraei.
This event is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served.