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The Malay Archipelago

by Alfred Russel Wallace
Singapore: Periplus, 2008. 512 pages.

Not only the codiscoverer of evolution through natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace was also the father of the discipline of biogeography, discovering the Wallace Line separating the ecozones of Asia and (what is now called) Wallacea. The Malay Archipelago, published originally in 1869, was one of the most popular journals of scientific exploration of the nineteenth century, praised by Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell, and even the novelist Joseph Conrad (who called it his “favorite bedside companion”). In his introduction to the Periplus reprint, Tony Whitten notes, “[Wallace’s] sections on the distribution of animals and plants among the islands are a continuous theme through the book.”