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The Annotated Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (1823 -1913) was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin’s writings in 1858.


NUS Press (First Printing, 2014)
836 pages including Bibliography and Index


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The Annotated Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace is a product of the larger work of its editor, John van Wyhe, which explains, updates and corrects the original text The Malay Archipelago with a historical introduction and hundreds of explanatory notes. By correcting the text of The Malay Archipelago against Wallace’s letters and notebooks and other contemporary sources and by enriching it with modern identifications, this edition reveals Wallace’s work as never before. Van Wyhe begins the hefty tome—it was originally a two-volume work—with a 43-page introduction, which outlines Wallace’s background and lays out the details surrounding his travels in Southeast Asia, as well as the publication and reception of The Malay Archipelago. He even provides a detailed itinerary of Wallace’s travels. This introduction and accompanying footnotes in the text are more than simply additional notes, however. Van Wyhe provides the context that an informed reader needs to better appreciate the work, thus enhancing our understanding of the journey and its ultimate impact on science, imperialism and society.

After this introduction, the remaining 700 pages of the book contain Wallace’s original text. Van Wyhe provides numerous footnotes that further supplement the text, particularly for a twenty-first-century audience. These notes include contextualization for nineteenth-century quotes, backgrounds of individuals mentioned in anecdotes and even the historic context of events described. These footnotes also provide the modern names of species of animals and plants mentioned in the text as well as their updated scientific names, many of which have been changed since Wallace observed them. The book ends with a bibliography to this edition, which allows the modern reader to explore other considerations of Wallace and his impact on science and society.

The Malay Archipelago is a book by Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist which chronicles his scientific exploration, during the eight-year period 1854 to 1862, of the southern portion of the Malay Archipelago including Malaysia, Singapore, the islands of Indonesia, then known as the Dutch East Indies, and the island of New Guinea. It was published in two volumes in 1869, delayed by Wallace’s ill health and the work needed to describe the many specimens he brought home. The book went through ten editions in the nineteenth century; it has been reprinted many times since and has been translated into at least eight languages.

The book describes each island that he visited in turn, giving a detailed account of its physical and human geography, its volcanoes, and the variety of animals and plants that he found and collected. At the same time, he describes his experiences, the difficulties of travel, and the help he received from the different peoples that he met. The preface notes that he traveled over 14,000 miles and collected 125,660 natural history specimens, mostly of insects though also thousands of molluscs, birds, mammals, and reptiles. The work was illustrated with engravings, based on Wallace’s observations and collection, by the leading illustrators Thomas Baines, Walter Hood Fitch, John Gerrard Keulemans, E. W. Robinson, Joseph Wolf, and T.W. Wood.

The Malay Archipelago attracted many reviews, with interest from scientific, geographic, church and general periodicals. Reviewers noted and sometimes disagreed with various of his theories, especially the division of fauna and flora along what soon became known as the Wallace line, natural selection, and uniformitarianism. Nearly all agreed that he had provided an interesting and comprehensive account of the geography, natural history, and peoples of the archipelago, which was little known to their readers at the time, and that he had collected an astonishing number of specimens. The book is much cited and is Wallace’s most successful, both commercially and as a piece of literature.

List of Illustrations
A note on this edition

Introduction by John van Wyhe
The Malay Archipelago, vol. 1
Illustrations to this edition
The Malay Archipelago, vol. 2

Bibliography to this edition

Weight1.07 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.2 × 2 cm





Year Published

  1. Kawah Buku (store manager)

    “…van Wyhe’s annotated edition offers both interesting materials for the general reader and a valuable research aid that will serve Wallace scholars for decades to come.” — Will Abberley

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  2. Kawah Buku (store manager)

    “The book is beautifully produced with a mid-section of color drawings that depict animals, birds, insects, and flowers. Dotted through the chapters are new charcoal sketches of exotic birds, animals, indigenous people, and significant places. As well as an updated itinerary and wonderful maps that bring Wallace’s epic journey even more to life, the original illustrations are also included.” — Stephen Joyce

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  3. Kawah Buku (store manager)

    “… a compelling volume for naturalists and historians of science… Highly recommended.” — Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

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