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The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utan and the Bird of Paradise (Oxford paperbacks) Paperback – 1 Oct 1989

3.1 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Oct 1989
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Product details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Australia and New Zealand; New edition edition (1 Oct. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019588955X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195889550
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,630,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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

Book Description

This is one the first and most important books about 18th century Malaysia and covers a wide array of topics from Malaysian culture and history to nature and wildlife. it is essential reading for anyone interested in Malaysia.

A century and a half after it was first published, this book remains one of the great classics of natural history and travel—perhaps the greatest. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) deserves equal billing with Charles Darwin for his independently drawn but parallel conclusions on the theory of evolution. Darwin himself called Wallace "generous and noble" and referred favorably to his work in later editions of The Origin of Species.

The Malay Archipelago is an extraordinarily accessible book. There is a wealth of detail about pre–modern life in the indonesian archipelago which Wallace accumulated on over 60 separate journeys spanning 14,000 miles. He was equally fascinated by the exotic peoples, flora and fauna he encountered in his epic travels. A mark of his achievement lies in the size of the collections he bequeathed to british museums—some 125,000 specimens ranging from large mammals to tiny insects, exotic butterflies and splendid birds of paradise.

His basic thesis stands to this day: that two separate biological zones border these islands, separated by the deep–water channel now known as the Wallace line, running between bali and Lombok, which only a relative handful of species have crossed. The islands east of bali in effect form a transitional zone where some of the world's strangest creatures are found. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A chronicle of the travels of an under-rated Scientist/Explorer, Alfred Russel Wallace who did much to make the origin of species from his viewpoint and with discussions with Darwin, the great 'discovery' of the our time. A must read for all who have an interest in great travel exploits and all those who have an interest in natural history and evolution.
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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 scintific history - would that I could have met him!
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Format: Paperback
This is the most gorgeous and incredible book. Wallace is becoming more and more famous as the man who shares credit with Darwin for the theory of natural selection, although that might be a bit strong. Certainly, Darwin's ideas were more developed, and he seems to have appreciated the idea of natural selection and evolution a bit more than Wallace, who was something of a spiritualist. But never mind that.

Wallace should be more famous, but so should this entire part of the world. Wallace travelled through island South-East Asian, excepting a number of islands including the whole of the Philippines, in several trips in an effort to find new species of bird and animal. He stayed in Maluku. He stayed on the west of New Guinea. He spent a great deal of time in Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and Timor. He collected innumerable specimens, and saw innumerable wonders. And in this book, with an illustrator, he logged and wrote about them all. Birds of paradise, Papuan tobacco pipes, the cuscus, Dayak rope bridges, Javanese mountains - it's all here.

That alone should be enough to entice any reader. What you will find is a compassionate, knowledgeable man, talking about beautiful islands, different groups of people, and colonialism, as well as flora and fauna, and hopefully your appreciation for the diversity and beauty of these islands should increase. I actually don't know how to sum up the book, not really. It's rather large, and brilliantly written. It's wonderful to sit and read with a cup of tea. And it has the capacity to make you want to book a ticket to Jakarta, so you can travel about just as he did.

Anyway, a note on this edition: the paper is of fantastic quality, and the bindings are great. The type and images are perfect.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm sure the content that Wallace wrote in his travel book is excellent, but the copy I received was unreadable. It had incomplete sentences, chapters started half way through a sentence, printers' notes were within the text, captions stuck in the middle of sentences - and no images - and the dedication plate by Wallace was missing. The book was riddled with this the whole way through. I wonder if I was just unlucky and this was a one off complete missprint? I returned this copy via Amazon's returns policy (very easy) and have ordered another version of this excellent travel book.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this book, this is definitely my favorite book about insular South-East Asia. A.R. Wallace traveled the Malay archipelago and the Malay peninsula in his naturalist quest of finding, hunting, catching and describing all species of mammals, birds, insects, seashells etc. Along the way he describes as well the ecology, geology, ethnology, sociology, (colonial) administration and the persons he meets. All these subjects are accounted for in minute detail. The best thing is that it's all written down clearly and it is very accessible. However, this book is celebrated most for the impulse it gave to the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, which is made famous by Wallace's time companion and fellow scientist Charles Darwin. There is debate about who had the main idea of the theory of evolution first, nonetheless, we can say that Wallace clearly contributed a great deal in synthesizing this paradigm. Above all, he already noted the distinction between the biogeographic realms of SE Asia and Australia. Let's not forget that this man was already thinking about something like plate tectonics, something only scientifically accepted in the 1960's. Next to his contributions to the evolutionary theory and biogeography, and put aside the little amount of Victorian 'zeitgeist', Wallace's views on ethnology and colonial administration gives a clear idea how it must have been to live and travel in this corner of the world from 1854 to 1862. Some (many) of his ideas still stand, others are strengthened by current science. One should really think about his words on the last pages. I think this book is a milestone in science but a very exciting and amusing travel book at the same time. It is great for understanding evolutionary theory and it's perfect to carry it along when traveling through Indonesia, especially when you get to the places where Wallace has been as well.

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