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The Malay Archipelago

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-9625936451
ISBN-10: 9625936459
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"One of the great classics of travel literature. It is indeed good news that Oxford University Press has now made available a handsome new edition of the book . . . . Natural scientists and anthropologists, in addition to being entertained, will find a vast store of scientific facts, many of which can no longer be observed firsthand." --Science Books and Films


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Much as Charles Darwin's name is inextricably associated with the Galapagos, Alfred Russel Wallace's is deeply associated with Indonesia. A British biologist and explorer--and a contemporary of Darwin who developed his own theory of evolution in parallel--Wallace spent eight years in the region, covering 14,000 square miles in his expeditions, amassing an unparalleled collection of 125,000 specimens of local insects and animals, and becoming the first European to set foot in many of the exotic places in which he tarried to study.

Considered one of the 19th century's greatest scientific and travel books, this classic volume details his journeys and intellectual endeavors, from his friendships with the natives to his startlement at the strange creatures who lived there.

This replica of the 1890 tenth edition, complete with all the beautiful original line drawings and maps, will thrill students of natural history, armchair travelers, and anyone fascinated by the human urge to explore. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Indies
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Periplus Editions (July 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9625936459
  • ISBN-13: 978-9625936451
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,788,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Nelson on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
First off, the content is terrific. It's the definitive story of Wallace's time in Indonesia. There is a lot of fascinating material, about the science, the culture, and the view of those things from the perspective of an English scientist. Much of it is just riveting, but some parts drag a bit.

In many ways, I found the descriptions of the process more interesting than the descriptions of the items and specimens he collected. Late in the book, the descriptions of sailing small boats through difficult waters are quite compelling, as are descriptions of the process of collecting itself. (For example, he really wanted to learn about orangutans in Borneo, so they went out and shot a bunch of them.)

A couple of editorial comments about the narrative thread are needed:

Wallace arranges the material geographically, not temporally. That is, he takes the islands and regions more-or-less West-to-East, which is *not* the order in which he visited them. As such, the narrative flow is quite odd at times, causing him to refer back and forward in the text, and also requiring him to repeat some material.

I should also mention that Wallace often refers to plants and animals only by their "scientific" names, sometimes because he's discussing the classifications, but often just because. That really interrupts the flow for a reader unfamiliar with the names. I didn't have a problem with it, but sometimes the lists do go on a bit.

Now, some comments about this particular edition:

1. It appears to be a reprint of a previous edition. Instead of resetting the text in a newer typeface and format (with corrections and such), it's just a reprint. That might not be too back, except for the fact that the typeface is Very Small, making it a bit difficult to read.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Tony Watson on July 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Although the author himself says he is no writer, he is patently wrong - this book is full of wonderful descriptive, poetic passages, which underline this charming man's love of nature and dedication to the truth of scientific study, as opposed to the accepted 'truths' of the day.
An interesting insight into the groundwork that helped to develop the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, it also compares the British and the Dutch methods of colonisation, and controversially comes out on the side of the Dutch - against all current (and our received) perceptions of the Dutch as ruthless, money-grubbing opportunists.
Wallace was also unusual in using geographic and geological features combined with population spreads (human & biological) to support the new theories of continental drift and a world older than the Biblical model.
I'm lost in adsmiration for the way he managed to survive depravation, lack of company, housing, support, money and produce the finest collection of birds and insects that the world had ever seen; make comparative studies of the linguistic traits of all the major tribes; keep a detailed diary of all his travels ... all this in a known area of cannibals and head-hunters with only 3 or 4 assistants and he the only white person for hundreds of miles. Compare this to other explorers like Richard Burton who needed an entourage of several hundred for all their 'essentials'.
This book is a very readable profile of an enignatic Victorian naturalist at a crucial period in scientific history - would that I could have met him!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. H Smith on October 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Malay Archipelago" is Wallace's most celebrated book. It went through fifteen editions during his own life alone, and has been translated into every major language (and a number of minor ones). It is clearly one of the greatest scientific travel books ever written, both for its well-constructed survey description of the region in question, and for its scientific value to the professional naturalist. Wallace spent eight years in Indonesia as a natural history collector; during this period he collected an incredible 125,000 specimens, carried out the first important field studies on the orangutan and paradise birds, clarified the ethnology of the region, discovered the faunal discontinuity known now as 'Wallace's Line,' was one of the first Europeans to take up residence for an extended period on the island of New Guinea, founded the modern approach to biogeographical analysis, and last but not least arrived upon the theory of natural selection. Today's casual reader will be troubled a little here and there by lists of Latin names of plants and animals, but this is a minor distraction from the telling of one of history's greatest feats of natural history investigation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tony Watson on May 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although the author himself says he is no writer, he is patently wrong - this book is full of wonderful descriptive, poetic passages, which underline this charming man's love of nature and dedication to the truth of scientific study, as opposed to the accepted 'truths' of the day.
An interesting insight into the groundwork that helped to develop the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, it also compares the British and the Dutch methods of colonisation, and controversially comes out on the side of the Dutch - against all current (and our received) perceptions of the Dutch as ruthless, money-grubbing opportunists.
Wallace was also unusual in using geographic and geological features combined with population spreads (human & biological) to support the new theories of continental drift and a world older than the Biblical model.
I'm lost in adsmiration for the way he managed to survive deprivation, lack of company, housing, support, money and produce the finest collection of birds and insects that the world had ever seen; make comparative studies of the linguistic traits of all the major tribes; keep a detailed diary of all his travels ... all this in a known area of cannibals and head-hunters with only 3 or 4 assistants and he the only white person for hundreds of miles.
Compare this to other explorers like Richard Burton who needed an entourage of several hundred for all their 'essentials'.
This book is a very readable profile of an enigmatic Victorian naturalist at a crucial period in scintific history - would that I could have met him!
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