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The Naturalist on the River Amazons. A Record of Adventures, Habits of Animals, Sketches of Brazilian and Indian Life, and Aspects of Nature under the Equator.

by Henry W Bates.

London: John Murray, 1879
Fifth edition.
195 x 130 mm.
x, 389 pages.
numerous illustrations.
original embossed cloth with gilt design on cover still bright, contents clean, binding firm, a nice copy.
light foxing, some spotting, to prelims.

Bates was a wonderful self-taught naturalist with a particular passion for butterflies but he was interested in everything and everyone. Bates originally traveled to the Amazons (he always referred to the river in the plural in recognition of its many tributaries and branches) with Alfred Russell Wallace. The two naturalists’ originally planned to collect together, but they soon parted company, focusing on different taxa and different areas for Natural History investigations. Bates immediately threw himself into the culture of the Amazons, painting a largely sympathetic portrait of the locals who assisted him in his travels. He delights in the odd and the interesting, but also does not hesitate to give us details on the more mundane aspects of travel in tropical regions and recounts his many adventures in a modest yet engaging style. The scale of Bates’ contribution to tropical Natural History can perhaps be appreciated when one realizes that he collected over 8 thousand previously undescribed species during his travels. In The Naturalist one gets the real flavor of how this was done: the discomfort of narrow canoes, the encounters with alligators and giant spiders, drinking burning rum around a campfire while waiting for jaguars, and above all else the sheer fun and intense joy of seeing new things in new places through eyes of a keen observer and master storyteller.
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