Rare geology book: Milne, John; Burton, W. K; The Great Earthquake in Japan, 1891

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Milne, John; Burton, W. K; The Great Earthquake in Japan, 1891. 2nd Edition, Lane, Crawford & Co, Yokahama, Japan, 1892.  Oblong folio, pp. 70, 30 black and white plates with a total of 38 images from photos by K. Ogawa, one lithograph map by K. Ogawa.
This scarce work is complete and in the original olive green cloth with beveled edges and gilt cover titles. The binding is tight and clean, corners lightly bumped, light wrinkling to spine. The inner hinges are nicely re-enforced, plates and text are very clean, free of creases with tissue guards present. Story of the devastating Japanese earthquake of 1891, with photos by K. Ogawa.


The first edition of this work was published in early 1892 and was followed the same year by the second edition. The study is a scholarly report on the devastating earthquake that hit the Gifu/Aichi area of Japan at 6 o'clock in the morning of October 28, 1891. The first five pages describe the general earthquake situation in Japan. The next five pages deal with the 1891 earthquake. The plates follow with a page of text describing each plate.

This earthquake had a magnitude of 8.4, and is often referred to as the Nobi Earthquake. and was the largest earthquake is still considered to be the largest earthquake on land in the modern history of Japan and caused damage over a 4200 square mile area. It would be August 1, 1923 before Japan would again experience such wide spread devastation from an earthquake and loss of life (140,000 killed) in the 8.3 magnitude Kanto quake. The 2011 earthquake struck just offshore. The quake killed over 7000 people and left surface fault line ruptures which were easily traced for a distance of 50~80 meters and created, in places, vertical uplifts of as much as 20 ft.  Most photographs in this book show the resulting devastation, with a few showing the fault line and the displacement of the earth.

The authors of the work were both geologists. John Milne (1850-1913), was British geologist who became a Professor of Geology and Mining at the Imperial University of Japan, Tokyo in 1877. It was the seismic history of Japan which attracted him to a career in seismology and he was a founding member of the Seismological Society of Japan. He is considered one of the founding fathers of modern seismology and the invention of the continuous recording seismograph.  Milne had a particular interest in the relationship of earthquakes and volcanoes and he eventually concluded that earthquakes were not caused by volcanoes but rather they were primarily the result of a build up of energy in rocks caused by deformation of the earth's crust.  In February of 1895 an earthquake destroyed most of Milne's instruments, books and possessions. Disheartened by this situation, he left Japan after a 20 year stay and returned to England where he lived on the Isle of Wright. While in Japan, Milne co-authored with Burton, The Great Earthquake of Japan, 1891 (1892) and The Volcanoes of Japan, Part 1, Fuji-san ( 1892).

William Kinninmond Burton (1856-1899), a Scottish geologist and engineer. He was a Professor of Sanitary Engineering at Imperial University of Japan, Tokyo, and helped design the modern water and sewage systems in cities throughout Japan. Burton was also an avid photographer and noted expert in the technical aspects of photography. He published several technical works on photography. It was through his interest in photography that Burton developed  a close association with Kazumasa Ogawa, the noted Japanese photographer and collotype printer. Ogawa is responsible for all of the photographs and plates found in the Great Earthquake in Japan, 1891.  Burton left Japan in 1896 and went to Taiwan but returned to Japan in 1899 where he died at the age of 43.