The Annotated Malay Archipelago

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John van Wyhe (editor)
2015. NUS Press
Soft cover. 22.9cm x 15.2cm, 801 pages
ISBN: 9789971698201


Alfred Russel Wallace’s Malay Archipelago is a classic account of the travels of a Victorian naturalist, beloved by readers ever since its publication in 1869. Despite several editions in his lifetime and numerous modern reprints with appreciative introductions, there has never been an annotated edition in English. This book is long overdue. It provides hundreds of annotations to help the modern reader. Wallace left many people, places, publications and species unidentified. The content of the book had never been thoroughly compared against other contemporary sources. Doing so reveals that there are a number of mistakes in the book that have gone unnoticed.  This includes not only many dates and place names but some of its most memorable stories.

Despite numerous modern reprints with appreciative introductions, this edition is the first – long overdue – fully annotated version to appear in English. The treasure trove of new information it contains illuminates The Malay Archipelago like never before.

Through an examination of the historical context, the editor reveals new aspects of Wallace’s life, his sources and the original meanings of this famous book. Following conventions of the time, Wallace often left people, places and publications unidentified, and he referred to most species only by the scientific names current in the 19th century, terms that are unintelligible to most readers today. Iohn van Wyhe’s explanatory notes, running into the hundreds, provide the common names for species and update their scientific names. People, places and other details that Wallace mentions have been tracked down and identified.

The book famously raises provocative questions, but did tigers actually “kill on an average a Chinaman every day” in Singapore during the 1850s? Did a Dutch Governor General really commit suicide by leaping from a waterfall in Celebes? Iohn van Wyhe deals with these and many other matters by comparing the text of The Malay Archipelago with Wallace’s letters, notebooks and a wealth of other contemporary sources. Greatly enriched by an extensive introduction, explanations that make the book accessible to modern readers, a detailed itinerary of Wallace’s voyage and a full bibliography of related materials, this is the definitive edition of Wallace’s great work.

About the author: John van Wyhe (editor) is a historian of science and one of the world’s leading experts on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He is a Senior Lecturer in thet Department of Biological Sciences and a Fellow of Tembusu College, National University of Singapore. This is his tenth book.

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Weight 1200 g

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