Artefact of the month - June 2007
The naturalist on the river Amazons, a record of the adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel / by Henry Walter Bates. In two volumes. London : John Murray, 1863
This fascinating, lucidly written book is widely regarded as one of the greatest reports of natural history travels.
In 1848 Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace went on an expedition to the Brazilian Amazon. Wallace returned in 1852 but lost his collection in a shipwreck, Bates remained in the Amazon for a total of 11 years returning home in 1859. During his time in the Amazon he sent back nearly 15,000 specimens of mainly insects, 8,000 of these were species new to science, a hugely significant contribution to zoological discovery. Bates spent three years writing the account of this journey which was published in 1863 as The naturalist on the river Amazons, with some accompanying illustrations by the noted zoological artist, Joseph Wolf (see artefact of the month for December 2006). The book is an eloquently written compendium of curious natural facts and observations on Amazon life before the rubber boom, revealing the amazing zoological and botanical richness of the region.
Anecdotes include Bates confirmation Maria Sybilla Merian's disturbing report of large spiders which can eat small birds. He also mentions sloths and marmoset monkeys both of which can now be seen in the newly opened ZSL Clore Rainforest Lookout.
Bates' work on Amazonian butterflies led him to develop a theory of mimicry which is now named after him : Batesian mimicry. Bates believed that Batesian mimicry provided evidence for natural selection.
Related books in ZSL Library:
Alfred Russel Wallace : a life / Peter Raby. London : Chatto & Windus, 2001.
Henry Walter Bates naturalist of the Amazons / by George Woodcock. London : Faber and Faber, 1969.
The naturalist on the River Amazons … / by Henry Walter Bates with a memoir of the author by Edward Clodd. London : John Murray, 1892.
The naturalist on the river Amazons … Volume I – 2nd ed / by Henry Walter Bates. London : John Murray, 1864
A narrative of travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, … / by Alfred Russel Wallace. London : Reeve and Co.. 1853.
All the above books are listed in ZSL Library's online catalogue
The Michael Marks Trust provided funding for the cataloguing of the artworks in ZSL's collections. An online catalogue to the artworks can be searched from the above link, Use the `Search artworks’ button on the sidebar. Please note that some artworks are catalogued as collections, not individually.
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