Written in a Tropical Glow

Books, Prints and Manuscripts Describing the Biological Exploration of the New World Tropics

by JAMIE HALE • October 18, 2018

Book Reviews, New Book Announcements

Written in a Tropical Glow

New Arrival: Written in a Tropical Glow


Books, Prints and Manuscripts Describing the Biological Exploration of the New World Tropics. An Exhibit Catalogue accompanying an exhibit at The DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. Illustrated with 32 plates. A limited edition of 390 copies, printed letterpress, with 32 pages of color illustrations, bound in two contrasting Japanese fabrics. A beautiful piece of bookmaking.

Where were you, what were you doing, on your 23rd birthday? Charles Darwin was crossing the Atlantic, on H.M.S. Beagle, so eager to explore the New World tropics that he declared himself filled with 'a tropical glow.' When he arrived, in 1832, he was but the latest in a long line of young naturalists who had come to South America seeking adventure and discovery and such renown as science had to offer. More came soon after. Written in a Tropical Glow tells their stories, from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the West Indies to the intrepid English biologist who wandered alone across South America in the 1840s. Between them came botanists and zoologists from Germany, Spain, Holland, France, and Austria, most of them constellated around the remarkable scientist/explorer Alexander von Humboldt.

Organized in two parts: the first a narrative history of the biological exploration of the Neotropics, not only examining the written accounts of the explorers themselves, but also placing them in context, scientifically, socially and politically. Extended extracts from the original sources help pull the reader back into the world experienced by the explorers.

The second part describes and investigates the books as physical objects, with background on their production and distribution gleaned from the author's forty years experience in the world of books.

Their stories are told in books they wrote describing their adventures and discoveries, ranging from modest volumes to impressive folios filled with color plates of the highest quality.

A beautifully produced book, not only a limited edition with a beautiful binding but also a fascinating survey of the explorers who braved the New World Tropics in search of scientific enlightenment.

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