ABSTRACT

The 1932 essay Erdbebengeographie (earthquake geography) of August Sieberg (1875–1945) has been widely used and quoted by earthquake catalog compilers all over the world. Sieberg’s intent to document a global earthquake distribution was accomplished by means of regional lists of earthquakes, complemented by seismic activity maps, and deals with about 2300 earthquakes from 2200 B.C.E. to 1931. The background, distinctive elements, sources, and style of presentation of earthquake data of Sieberg’s catalog are presented and commented on in this article in relation to their use in seismology in the last 80 yrs. Our critical analysis has allowed us to advance the most likely motives behind the long‐lasting success of Sieberg’s Erdbebengeographie in the compilation of the pre‐1930 sections of current regional and global catalogs. Sieberg’s earthquake lists turned out to be a paradigmatic example of an earthquake catalog that is a summary of dates, places, and effects from nonprimary sources of information, not cross checked nor checked versus their original records. However, Sieberg’s summaries have often been mistaken for reliable and ready‐to‐use earthquake data. Finally, the answer to the question posed in the title of this article is not a simple “big no,” but reasons are given to suggest that Sieberg’s work should today be “handled with great care.”

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