Books

The Malay Archipelago

Alfred Russel Wallace

'I slept very comfortably with half a dozen smoke-dried human skulls suspended over my head'

The great Victorian scientist's heroic adventures across South-East Asia, from Singapore to the wilds of New Guinea, encountering head-hunters, jungles, birds of paradise and new discoveries that would change the world.

A new series of twenty distinctive, unforgettable Penguin Classics in a beautiful new design and pocket-sized format, with coloured jackets echoing Penguin's original covers.

The Malay Archipelago

Alfred Russel Wallace (and others)

Of all the extraordinary Victorian travelogues, The Malay Archipelago has a fair claim to be the greatest - both as a beautiful, alarming, vivid and gripping account of some eight years' travel across the entire Malay world - from Singapore to the western edges of New Guinea - and as the record of a great mind. As Wallace, often under conditions of terrible hardship and sickness, battles through jungles, lives with headhunters, and collects beetles, butterflies and birds-of-paradise, he makes discoveries about the workings of biology that have shaped our view of the world ever since.

Borneo, Celebes, Aru

Alfred Russel Wallace

Racked with fever, virtually broke and earning a precarious living through sending back to London the plumes of beautiful birds, Wallace (1823-1913) ultimately became one of the most heroic and admirable of all scientist-explorers. Whether living with Hill Dyaks or hunting Orang-Utans or sailing on a junk to the unbelievably remote Aru islands, Wallace opens our eyes to a now long vanished world.

Great Journeys allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries – but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: Great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.

Biography

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was one of the most important and likeable British scientists of the 19th century. A field researcher of genius, he spent many years in Brazil and southeast Asia, identifying many new species and, independently of Darwin, before developing - in parallel to Darwin - the theory of evolution through natural selection. He effectively created the whole field of 'bio-geography', with the great split between Eurasian and Australasian flora and fauna, which runs through the Malay archipelago, now named the Wallace Line. His research on warning colouration and speciation continues to shape modern research.