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210 × 148 × 15 mm
208 pages
104 illustrations, 85 in colour
01 May 2012

Volcano Nature and Culture James Hamilton

Though today largely dormant, volcanoes continue to erupt across the world, reminding us of their sheer physical power. In Volcano, James Hamilton explores the cultural history generated by the violence and terrifying beauty of volcanoes. He describes the reverberations of early eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna in Greek and Roman myth. Volcanoes have long been subjects in art – the earliest known wall painting of an erupting volcano was painted in 6,200 BCE – and Hamilton shows that volcanoes continue to influence the artistic imagination, as seen, for example, in the distinctive colours of Andy Warhol and Michael Sandle’s exploding mountains.

Including works by famous artists, such as Salvator Rosa, Wright of Derby, Hokusai and Hiroshige, as well as previously little-known paintings, prints, drawings and photographs, this richly illustrated book will appeal to anyone interested in the science as well as the artistic impact of these spectacular natural phenomena.

‘A fascinating read, the text covers all types of volcanoes across the world, and relates them to the paintings, wood engravings and a fresco from Pompeii. The linking of history, mythology and geological fact is flawless, providing fascinating insights into different cultures, the progress of Christianity and also the technique of painting.’ — School Librarian journal

‘Examines the influence of volcanoes on art and culture throughout the world. With the help of 104 striking illustrations, the author describes artists' perceptions of volcanoes from early myths to the present, with particular emphasis on the eruptions of Vesuvius and Krakatoa. Examples of the impact of volcanoes on literature, poetry, and political cartoons are included. The humanities perspective provides a fresh look at a remarkable natural phenomenon. Recommended’ — Choice

‘Shales crafts a nuanced position . . . points towards how we should widen our perception of craft and where we look for it . . . [a] critical reading of a very vital cultural field.’ — Journal of Design History

‘An arresting collage of mythology, philosophy, literature and spectacular works of visual art inspired by nature's most exuberant phenomenon - Hamiltons unique and imaginative miscellany and cultural geography of volcanoes and volcanology is a veritable treasure trove.’ — Clive Oppenheimer, volcanologist and author of Eruptions That Shook the World

‘James Hamilton elegantly conjures up the imagery and impact of volcanic events around the world, through centuries and across continents, mastering this complex topic with an observant eye, an incisive mind and a fluent pen it's a book to read and then keep coming back to, again and again.’ — Gillian Darley, author of Vesuvius: The Most Famous Volcano in the World

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James Hamilton is an art historian and curator. His books include Turner A Life (1997); Turner and the Scientists (1998), Faraday The Life (2002) and London Lights The Minds that Moved the City that Shook the World 1805-51 (2007). He is University Curator and Honorary Reader at the University of Birmingham.


1. 'The Whole Sea Boiled and Blazed'
2. The Geography, Science and Allure of Volcanoes
3. 'A Horrid Inundation of Fire'
4. Sir William Hamilton and the Lure of Vesuvius
5. The First Days of Graham Island and the Last Days of Pompeii
6. Krakatoa Shakes the World
7. 'The Night had Vanished': Vorticism and the Volcano
8. The Shifting Furnace

Eruption Timeline
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Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements