About the exhibition
The exhibition uses a spectacular selection of eye witness accounts, scientific observations and artwork to chart how our understanding of volcanoes has evolved over the past two millennia.
The exhibition examines some of the world's most spectacular volcanoes including the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, one of the most catastrophic eruptions in European history, and the 19th century eruptions of Krakatoa and Santorini, two of the first volcanic eruptions to be intensely studied by modern scientists.
Today, satellites monitor volcanic activity and anyone with internet access can watch volcanic eruptions live in real time. In the past, volcanic eruptions were described in letters, manuscript accounts and early printed books, and illustrated through sketches, woodcuts and engravings. Many of these fascinating accounts are preserved in the Bodleian's historic collections and will be on display in Volcanoes at the Weston Library.
Highlights of Volcanoes include:
- Fragments of 'burnt' papyrus scrolls from the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum, which were buried during the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius
- The earliest known manuscript illustration of a volcano, found in the margin of a 14th century account of the voyage of St Brendan, an Irish monk who travelled across the north Atlantic in the 6th century
- A stunning illustration of the Earth's subterranean fires from Athanasius Kircher's Mundus Subterraneus, an influential 17th century work which proposed that volcanoes were created where the Earth's internal fires escaped at the surface
- Spectacular 18th century studies of Vesuvius, by Scottish diplomat and early volcanologist William Hamilton who wrote one of the first descriptive monographs of an active volcano
- 18th and 19th century weather diaries and paintings, that capture the distant effects and freak weather conditions caused by major volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Indonesia
- 'Infographics' from 19th century natural historians Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Daubeny whose work has contributed greatly to our current understanding of volcanoes
- Lava and rock samples, maps, lecture notes and scientific equipment from 19th century volcanologists and explorers
Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG
The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible
This exhibition is now closed