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Preface [to "Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon"]
(S667: 1908)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Wallace's Preface to his edited tribute to the life and work of his friend Richard Spruce (S731). Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S667.htm

     [[p. v]] It was Dr. Spruce's intention to leave all his manuscripts and notes to Mr. Daniel Hanbury, as stated in one of his letters to that gentleman; but the unexpected death of his friend, and his own occupations together with his continuous ill-health, led him, apparently, to give up all expectation of his Journals being published. He knew that I was fully occupied with work of my own, and probably did not like to ask me to undertake so great a task; especially as he was quite aware that much of his writings were of a fragmentary nature, and so full of contractions as to be sometimes, in his own words, "hieroglyphic," and that it would be impossible for any one but himself to properly combine and fully utilise them.

     Shortly after Spruce's death, I offered to do what I could to put together a narrative of his travels from his Journals and letters, if, on examination of the materials, it seemed possible to do so. His executor, Mr. M. B. Slater, was anxious that I should undertake the duties of a literary executor; but, partly owing to both of us being fully occupied with our own affairs, it was only after a delay of eleven years that I was able to begin the preparation of the present volumes.

     The first eight chapters of Spruce's proposed [[p. vi]] Notes of a Botanist, etc. (as given on the title-page), had been carefully written out (in a large account-book) during his last years in South America, and were apparently ready for publication after being copied and finally corrected. With considerable condensation, this constitutes the first six chapters of the present work.

     I have omitted the first chapter--a mere journal of the voyage from Liverpool to Pará--with the exception of two short introductory paragraphs, and have combined the two following chapters, which deal with the district of Pará. The journals of the voyages to Santarem, to the Trombetas river, and to Manáos, have been condensed by large omissions, and a number of historical and geographical notes of little general interest have also been omitted. With these exceptions, the whole narrative is exactly as Spruce left it; and I have been careful to preserve his frequent north-country or archaic words and expressions (though these have often been "queried" by the printer's reader) in order that his individuality of style may be preserved.

     Wherever I have found it necessary to insert connecting phrases or paragraphs, or to make any explanatory interpolations, these are indicated by being enclosed in square brackets, while the omissions are shown by rows of small dots so as not to disfigure the pages, and this rule is followed throughout the entire work.

     The remainder of the two volumes is of a very composite nature, and the materials I had to put in order are sufficiently stated in the introductory notes to the various chapters. I may add here that of the whole quantity of material--Journals, Letters, [[p. vii]] printed or written Articles, and scattered Notes--that I have had to examine, only about one-third have been found suitable for a work of combined general and botanical interest and of moderate bulk.

     It has been my endeavour to bring together whatever might be useful to botanists, and also to include all matters of interest to general readers. This task has been to me a labour of love; and I have myself so high an opinion of my friend's work, both literary and scientific, that I venture to think the present volumes will take their place among the most interesting and instructive books of travel of the nineteenth century.

     I have to thank Sir Clements Markham and Sir Joseph Hooker for their interest in obtaining a grant of £10 from the Royal Society towards the expense of copying Spruce's letters preserved at Kew and some of the less legible of the Journals. The Pharmaceutical Society has also allowed me to copy such as were suitable among the great mass of letters which Spruce wrote to Mr. Daniel Hanbury; while Messrs. John Teasdale and George Stabler have lent me others of great interest.

     In order to render the work as useful as possible to botanists, the generic and specific names of every plant mentioned by Spruce have been carefully indexed, the species alone being in italics; and to avoid errors they have been compared in all doubtful cases with the copious Index in Lindley's Vegetable Kingdom, which was nearly contemporary with Spruce's travels.

     For the convenience of non-botanical readers, most of the longer passages which are wholly [[p. viii]] botanical, as well as some others of purely anthropological or historical value, have been printed in smaller type, so that they may be readily skipped by those who are chiefly interested in the actual narrative of Spruce's travels as told by himself.

     I have endeavoured to make the Biographical Introduction as complete as possible, within the limits suitable to such a work as the present. I think it will be acceptable to all who knew Spruce either personally or through his writings; while to those who here make his acquaintance for the first time, it will reveal something of the life of a very enthusiastic student of Nature, under difficult conditions, as well as of a refined and attractive personality.

     The illustrations are mostly from Spruce's own pencil sketches and drawings. Most of the larger of these were in very delicate outline, but a few were highly finished; and from these, as indicating the type of scenery, the outlines have been shaded by a skilled artist under my directions, so as to produce very lifelike and attractive views in districts quite beyond the sphere of the travelling photographer.

     For the photographs of forest-scenery I am indebted to Dr. J. Huber of the Pará Museum, who has kindly sent me the issues of his Arboretum Amazonicum, from which I have selected for reproduction such as illustrate plants or scenes referred to by Spruce. The remaining illustrations are from the works of recent travellers on the Orinoco and in the Andes, the use of which has been obtained by the publishers.

     The beautiful portrait of Spruce forming the [[p. ix]] frontispiece was taken by a friend of Spruce's four years before his death. The photo-plate (made to illustrate Dr. Balfour's obituary notice in the Annals of Botany) has been kindly lent for the present work by the Clarendon Press, Oxford.

     I also have to thank the Royal Geographical and Linnean Societies for permission to make use of Articles and Maps which were first published in their Journals.


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