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MALLET, Robert.


Great Neapolitan Earthquake of 1857. The First Principles of Observational Seismology as developed in the report to the Royal Society of London of the expedition made by command of the Society into the interior of the kingdom of Naples to investigate the circumstances of the great earthquake of December 1857. London: Chapman and Hall, 1862.

Price £ GBP 1800.00

2 volumes, 8vo, pp. xxiv, 431, folding tinted lithographed frontispiece and 36 plates (2 folding); pp. viii, 399, frontispiece, 20 plates (2 folding), 3 folding maps, 2 maps in pockets on front and rear endpapers, errata slip. Plus Chapman & Hall’s 8-page adverts dated 24th September 1862 inserted at the end. Some of the plates have two or three illustrations, also numerous text illustrations. Original green pebbled blind-stamped cloth (slight fading and slight wear to head of spine to volume 2, traces of a small label removed from spines), uncut. Library label of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society tipped in on half-titles and their small stamp on title-pages and the margin or edge of each plate, minor dampstain in lower corner of first few leaves of volume 2.

FIRST EDITION. The first book on seismology, a term coined by Mallet, who realised that among the “fractured walls and overthrown objects scattered in all directions” that resulted from an earthquake was “the most precious data for determining the velocities and directions of the shocks that produced them. The idea of applying number and measure to these never seems to have occurred to…[earlier reporters of earthquakes]. As this method of seismic observation, then, is novel, as I trust to show that it has proved fruitful in result, in this its very first application to nature…” (pp. 8–9). Mallet persuaded the Royal Society to sponsor him to investigate on the spot the great Neapolitan earthquake of 16th December 1857. His report would have occupied an entire volume of the Philosophical Transactions so it was published as the present book. It is extraordinarily detailed and richly illustrated with tinted lithographed plates, woodcuts, maps and diagrams. Mallet (1810–1881), an engineer from Dublin, began his work on seismology in 1845. “His classic paper to the Royal Irish Academy in 1846 on earthquake dynamics is regarded as one of the foundations of modern seismology. He investigated the great Neapolitan earthquake of December 1857 and established the first principles of observational seismology” (ODNB).

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