The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise

Alfred Russel Wallace

Introduced by George Beccaloni
Preface by Steve Jones

A milestone in the theory of evolution and one of the greatest books of 19th-century historic travel, this lavish two-volume edition brings together a wealth of illustrative material.

Published price: US$ 160.00

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The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise

‘The book is magnificent – very many congratulations to you and your team! It is undoubtedly the finest edition of MA ever produced and I really can't see how it could have been bettered… I am truly honoured to have been involved in its production!’
George Beccaloni

Alfred Russel Wallace was, with Charles Darwin, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution through natural selection, and The Malay Archipelago is celebrated for the impulse it gave to the formulation and first publication of the theory in 1858. Wallace spent eight years in South East Asia, travelling from Singapore to the western edges of New Guinea, collecting beetles, birds and butterflies. The undertaking was phenomenal (14,000 miles of travel, 110,000 insects, 8,000 birds, 500 mammals and reptiles, 5,000 species new to science and the first living birds of paradise), and as Wallace battled through jungles, rivers and mountains, sickness, near-starvation and encounters with headhunters, he made discoveries about the workings of biology that have shaped our view of the world ever since. This edition brings together all the illustrative materials connected with Wallace and his Malay trip, including Wallace’s own watercolours and many rarely seen pieces only previously published in 19th-century zoological journals.

‘There is no more admirable character in the history of science’
Sir David Attenborough

Production Details

The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise book
  • Bound in printed and blocked cloth
  • Set in Dante
  • Volume one: 392 pages; volume two: 352 pages
  • Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates in each volume. Maps and over 60 integrated black & white illustrations in total
  • Blocked slipcase
  • 9½˝ x 6¼"

A lavish two-volume edition

The Malay Archipelago is not just a fascinating scientific account, it is also a thrilling story of great adventure and peril. Fever, near-starvation, encounters with headhunters – Wallace’s extraordinary travels in search of elusive creatures and unusual habitats leave the reader in no doubt that he was, as David Attenborough puts it, ‘a great scientist, a great man and a tough traveller beyond compare’.

Wallace’s fieldwork and experiences in the Malay Archipelago led him to formulate a theory of evolution through natural selection, and during his travels he shared this with Charles Darwin, who was surprised to find his own thoughts so closely mirrored. While he was still exploring the islands, Wallace’s writings would be published alongside Darwin’s – much to his delight – in the 1858 paper presented to the Linnean Society in London, the first time the theory was presented to the public. The paper is included as an appendix.

This Folio edition brings together a wealth of pictorial material associated with Wallace and the Malay trip: Wallace’s own watercolours and drawings from his notebooks and journals, beautiful natural history paintings of birds, insects, butterflies and plants (many only previously published in 19th-century zoological journals), original photographs, paintings and colour lithographs of local scenes. The text also includes over 60 integrated black and white engravings.

Wallace expert George Beccaloni has contributed an introduction that provides a detailed overview of the great scientist’s unusual beginnings and his significance as a pioneer of evolutionary theory, while geneticist and science writer Steve Jones has written a preface celebrating Wallace’s passion for biology.

‘As I sat taking my coffee at six in the morning, rare birds would often be seen on some tree close by, when I would hastily sally out in my slippers, and perhaps secure a prize I had been seeking after for weeks … At night herds of wild pigs roamed about the house, devouring refuse’

About Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was, with Charles Darwin, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. He was also the pre-eminent tropical biologist of his day, with many years of field experience in the Amazon Basin (with the naturalist Henry Bates) and the islands of South East Asia. The Malay Archipelago (1869), his account of an eight-year collecting expedition (1854–62) around Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and East Timor, is the most celebrated of all travel writings on this region, and ranks as one of the best scientific travel books of the 19th century. On this expedition, in addition to collecting more than 5,000 species new to science, Wallace formulated his ideas on the theory of natural selection, jointly publishing a paper with Charles Darwin on the subject in 1858, one of the most significant scientific papers in the history of biology. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published fifteen months later. He is regarded today as the founder of evolutionary biogeography. Honours awarded for the many important contributions he made to biology, geography, geology and anthropology include: the Gold Medal (Société de Géographie); the Founder’s Medal (Royal Geographical Society); the Darwin-Wallace and Linnean Gold Medals (Linnean Society); the Copley, Darwin and Royal Medals (Royal Society); and the Order of Merit (the greatest honour that can be given to a civilian by the ruling British monarch).

About Steve Jones

Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London and the author of several popular science books, including The Language of the Genes (1993), which won the Rhône-Poulenc Science Book Prize, In the Blood (1996), Almost like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated (1999), winner of the BP Natural World Book Prize, Y: The Descent of Men (2002) and, most recently, No Need for Geniuses: Revolutionary Science in the Age of the Guillotine (2016). In 1997 he was awarded the Royal Society Faraday Medal for his contribution to the public understanding of science in areas such as human evolution and variation, race, sex, inherited disease and genetic manipulation through his many broadcasts on radio and television, his lectures and publications.

About Dr George Beccaloni

Dr George Beccaloni is a zoologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science, who worked at London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) as an entomologist for more than twenty years. Beccaloni has studied Wallace’s life and work for nearly two decades and is the founder and director of the Wallace Correspondence Project. In 1999 he set up the Wallace Memorial Fund, which restored Wallace’s grave in Dorset and paid for several memorials to him, including a bronze statue now in the NHM. In 2002 he played a key role in helping the NHM acquire the world’s largest and most important collection of Wallace’s manuscripts and books from Wallace’s grandsons. Beccaloni has published a number of articles about Wallace and co-edited the book Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace. He was the historical consultant for Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero, an award-winning two-part BBC series about Wallace.

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