Touching on everything from seismic activity to subterranean life, Dr. Hartwig’s account of the world beneath our feet was popular enough to warrant publication of several editions. Who, indeed, could resist his inspiring prose? “There lie concealed the mysterious laboratories of fire,” the author writes of the underground, intending “to describe the wonders of this hidden world in their various relations to man, now raising him to wealth, and now dooming him to destruction.” For those seeking a sometimes sensational account of the subterranean world—and for those who couldn’t afford the hefty £7.00 price tag of Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, published in London the year before—this book must have been just the ticket.
Our copy came to the MIT Libraries by way of Theodore Newton Vail, who in 1912 purchased the library of George Edward Dering, a prolific (and eccentric) British inventor and electrical engineer. Vail had been president of AT&T and was a member of the MIT Corporation, and he donated the entire collection to the Institute. Thanks to a generous gift from Thomas F. Peterson (‘57), a project is currently underway to create online catalog records for the thousands of items that comprise what is now known as the Vail Collection.