The Extinct Volcanoes of the Rhine Valley: An Early Geological Account

December 18, 2019

This fantastic, hand-coloured map is from the first and only edition of a rare book on how volcanoes shaped the Rhine Valley, Samuel Hibbert Ware's History of the Extinct Volcanoes of the Basin of Neuwied on the Lower Rhine, published in 1832.

Ware (1782-1848) was an antiquarian and geologist who spent most of his life in Edinburgh, where he was a member of numerous learned societies and was friendly with notables such as Sir Walter Scott. He did much work on the geology of Scotland, and "he and his family also spent two or three years abroad, chiefly visiting the volcanic districts of France, Italy, and northern Germany, and he published a History of the Extinct Volcanoes of the Basin of Neuwied on the Lower Rhine on his return to Edinburgh” (ODNB).

Ware's book was well received by the scientific community. Geologist Edward Hull later described it as a work of “remarkable merit, if we consider the time at which it was written. For not only does it give a clear and detailed account of the volcanic phenomena of the Eifel and the Lower Rhine, but it anticipates the principles upon which modern writers account for the formation of river valleys and other physical features; and in working out the physical history of the Rhine Valley below Mainz, and its connection with the extinct volcanos which are found on both banks of that river, he has taken very much the same line of reasoning which was some years afterwards adopted by Sir A. Ramsay when dealing with the same subject. It does not appear that the latter writer was aware of Dr. Hibbert’s treatise” (Hull, Volcanos Past and Present, p. 7).

Copies of History of the Extinct Volcanoes are rare on the market, and only two have appeared at auction in the last decade, this copy at at Forum Auctions in 2017 and one in library cloth at Dominic Winter in 2013. WorldCat locates only three copies, at Berlin, Göttingen, and the University of Manchester. Our copy is particularly nice in that it remains in an attractive example of the original publisher's binding, a handsome silk morieé.