The silver prints depict the destroyed buildings, torn up streets, contorted rails, plumes of smoke and teetering homes left after the quake.
The collection of photographs was consigned by a dealer who found them as a group. They were probably compiled shortly after the earthquake, said a spokeswoman for Swann Auction Galleries.
The 40 prints are by multiple photographers. Some are captioned in the film negative and others were written on with pen or pencil.