Travels on the Amazon.

By Alfred Russel Wallace

Printed: 1860

Publisher: Ward Lock & Co. London

Dimensions 14 × 20 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 14 x 20 x 4

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Maroon cloth binding with gilt title and decoration on the spine and front board.

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A crisp copy of an early rendition of Wallace’s most famous work. Wallace’s account of the famous expedition to the Amazon basin jointly undertaken with Henry Walter Bates. There were 750 copies of the first edition printed, of which 250 were reissued in a remainder binding of green cloth. This book is believed to be part of the 500 batch issued in 1860? Inspired by William Henry Edwards’s Voyage up the River Amazon (1847), Wallace and Bates set off for the Amazon in 1848. “Apart from meeting their immediate goal of earning a living through natural history collecting, Wallace and Bates had a broader purpose for travelling to the Amazon: solving the mystery of the causes of organic evolution. [Wallace] had not been a convert to biological evolution until he read Robert Chambers’s controversial, anonymously published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation about 1845, the year it was published. That one might demonstrate the fact of evolution through a detailed tracing out of individual phylogenies over time and space was apparent to him early on, and the Amazon was to afford a natural laboratory to this end” (ODNB). Wallace published the present work and Bates The Naturalist on the River Amazons (1863). Wallace followed this expedition with a trip to the Malay Archipelago. Written while collecting in Sarawak, his 1855 paper “On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species” was noticed by Charles Lyell, who in turn drew it to Charles Darwin’s attention. The result was the landmark joint presentation of Wallace’s and Darwin’s findings on natural selection at the Linnean Society in 1858.

The Amazon basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries. The Amazon drainage basin covers an area of about 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), or about 35.5 percent of the South American continent. It is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, as well as the territory of French Guiana. Most of the basin is covered by the Amazon rainforest, also known as Amazonia. With a 5.5 million km (2.1 million sq mi) area of dense tropical forest, it is the largest rainforest in the world.


Alfred Russel Wallace OM FRS (8 January 1823 – 7 November 1913) was an English naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator. He independently conceived the theory of evolution through natural selection; his 1858 paper on the subject was published that year alongside extracts from Charles Darwin’s earlier writings on the topic. It spurred Darwin to set aside the “big species book” he was drafting and quickly write an abstract of it, which was published in 1859 as “On the Origin of Species’.

Wallace did extensive fieldwork, starting in the Amazon River basin. He then did fieldwork in the Malay Archipelago, where he identified the faunal divide now termed the Wallace Line, which separates the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts: a western portion in which the animals are largely of Asian origin, and an eastern portion where the fauna reflect Australasia. He was considered the 19th century’s leading expert on the geographical distribution of animal species, and is sometimes called the “father of biogeography”, or more specifically of zoogeography.

Wallace was one of the leading evolutionary thinkers of the 19th century, working on warning coloration in animals and reinforcement (sometimes known as the Wallace effect), a way that natural selection could contribute to speciation by encouraging the development of barriers against hybridisation. Wallace’s 1904 book Man’s Place in the Universe was the first serious attempt by a biologist to evaluate the likelihood of life on other planets. He was one of the first scientists to write a serious exploration of whether there was life on Mars.

Aside from scientific work, he was a social activist, critical of what he considered to be an unjust social and economic system in 19th-century Britain. His advocacy of spiritualism and his belief in a non-material origin for the higher mental faculties of humans strained his relationship with other scientists. He was one of the first prominent scientists to raise concerns over the environmental impact of human activity. He wrote prolifically on both scientific and social issues; his account of his adventures and observations during his explorations in Southeast Asia, The Malay Archipelago, was first published in 1869. It continues to be both popular and highly regarded.

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