Sir William Hamilton FRS (1731-1803) arrived in Naples in 1764, intent on a systematic study of modern volcanic eruptions. He employed a monk, Antonio Piaggi, to keep daily written observations and pencil sketches of activity at Vesuvius. Piaggi began during the eruption of 1779 and continued for the next 15 years.
Work stopped in 1794 after Hamilton suffered a series of personal setbacks, including his wife Emma’s famous affair with Lord Nelson. In 1801, Hamilton entrusted Piaggi’s eight volumes to the care of Sir Joseph Banks, as “he finds himself too old & indolent to set about making an Extract”.