Friday, 9 December 2011

Volcano: Nature and Culture


'An arresting collage of mythology, philosophy, literature and spectacular works of visual art inspired by nature's most exuberant phenomenon - Hamilton's 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

For years, tourists have trekked across cracked rock at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano to witness the awe-inspiring sight of creeping lava and its devastating effects on the landscape. In 2010, Eyjafjallaj√∂kull erupted in Iceland, stranding travellers as a cloud of ash covered western and northern Europe, causing the largest disruption of air travel since the Second World War. And just a few months later, Mount Merapi blew in Indonesia, killing over 350 people and displacing over 350,000 others, awakening people once more to the dangerous potential of these sleeping giants.

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.

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.

Waterfall: Nature and Culture


'An evocative, well-researched, beautifully illustrated and many-layered exploration of one of our planet's most compelling natural wonders.' – Margaret Drabble

'Waterfall is that rare book on nature, learned and beautifully illustrated, encyclopedic in detail and sweeping in historical, aesthetic, and applied coverage, a "must" not only on the shelf of every nature lover's library, but also – I might add – on his or her coffee table.'
– Yi-Fu Tuan, author of Space and Place

With their fountains of glistening spray, overwhelming roar and terrifying might, waterfalls are extraordinary features of the natural world. While many flock to sites such as Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls, until now the rich cultural background of these natural wonders has been neglected. The Beautiful, the Sublime and the Picturesque are among the ideas considered in relation to waterfalls, and in Waterfall: Nature and Culture, Brian J. Hudson portrays these natural wonders in an entirely new light.

Diverse cultures around the world, from Native American to Celtic and Indian, have their own myths and legends about tumbling water. Together with the history and ecology of waterfalls, the book explores their portrayal in art, literature, photography, film and music, and their influence on landscape design and architecture. Waterfalls are an important source of hydroelectric power, and can also often be tourist attractions, but these two often incompatible ways for humans to exploit waterfalls frequently cause conflict, since both have an impact on the environment.

Regardless of their role, waterfalls are a vital presence in an increasingly urban landscape. This beautifully illustrated book by an expert on the subject will be a superb addition to the library of anyone who loves the natural world.

Brian J. Hudson has published widely on the subject of waterfalls, including Waterfalls of Jamaica: Sublime and Beautiful Objects (2001).

Earth Announcement:






May 2012 sees the launch of Reaktion Books exciting new series, Earth. The Earth series illuminates the natural and cultural lives of natural phenomena.

The first two titles Volcano and Waterfall describe how these manifestations of power and beauty have inspired art through the centuries.