Fair highlight from Erasmushaus


HAMILTON, William, Sir (1730-1803). Campi Phlegraei. Observations on the volcanos of the Two Sicilies as they have been communicated to the Royal Society of London. - Observations sur les volcans des Deux Siciles. 3 parts (ncluding Supplement) in one volume folio (433x307 mm). Text in English and French. 90 pp., 1 un. leaf (avertissement); supplement with 29 pp., 1 un. leaf (dedication). Double-page hand-colored engraved map by Giuseppe Guerra after Fabris and 59 hand-coloured etched plates (numbered 1-54 and 1-5) after Fabris. Contemporary red morocco (Austrian?), covers with gilt border, spine gilt with raised bands, gilt edges. Naples, [Pietro Fabris], 1776-1779.                                                                                                                                                   

First edition of Hamilton's "Magnificent publication" (Jenkins and Sloan).

Although Hamilton's Observations on Mount Vesuvius (published by the Royal Society in 1772) was well-received at the time and ran to three editions, the Campi Phlegraei is the best known of Hamilton's four works on volcanic activity, and "provided a clearer, more precise and useful explanation of volcanic activity than ever published before, which underlined Hamilton's own theories about volcanoes being creative forces and enabled him to answer in one publication the lists of questions about volcanoes and rocks he had been receiving from correspondents all over Europe. Its publication in French and English provided it with a market not only in his own country but throughout Europe as well, and an international audience for a British discovery" (Jenkins and Sloan). Pietro Fabris (fl.1756-1784), an English artist living in Naples, was commissioned and trained by Hamilton to sketch the volcanoes of southern Italy. In four years Hamilton climbed Vesuvius at least twenty-two times, sometimes at great risk, since both he and Fabris wished to make sketches at every stage of the eruptions (the figures of Hamilton, often wearing a red coat, and Fabris, in blue, appear in the plates). Fabris' drawings were then transferred onto copper by the landscape painter and cartographer Paul Sandby, who was known for his unparalleled mastery of the then-new aquatint process. Sandby was also commissioned to colour the plates, which were so well gouached that Hamilton himself describes them as "executed with such delicacy and perfection, as scarcely to be distinguished from the original drawings themselves" (part I, p. 6).

Fabris was the editor and sole distributor of the work, which was originally published at 60 Neapolitan ducats for Part I and Part II; the price of the Supplement is not recorded.

A magnificent, crisp and clean copy, beautifully bound at the time in red morocco.

Bibliographie: Lewine p. 232; Brunet III, 31("Ouvrage curieux et bien exécuté"); ESTC T71231 and T71232; I. Jenkins and K. Sloan, Vases and Volcanoes (London: 1996), catalogue, 43; Lowndes II, p.989.

Erasmushaus, Bäumleingasse 18, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
www.erasmushaus.ch hdb@erasmushaus.ch