Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent: Abridged Edition (Penguin Classics)

Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent: Abridged Edition (Penguin Classics)

Alexander von Humboldt

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0140445536

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


One of the greatest nineteenth-century scientist-explorers, Alexander von Humboldt traversed the tropical Spanish Americas between 1799 and 1804. By the time of his death in 1859, he had won international fame for his scientific discoveries, his observations of Native American peoples and his detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna of the 'new continent'. The first to draw and speculate on Aztec art, to observe reverse polarity in magnetism and to discover why America is called America, his writings profoundly influenced the course of Victorian culture, causing Darwin to reflect: 'He alone gives any notion of the feelings which are raised in the mind on first entering the Tropics.'

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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caution because water snakes teem in the marshes. Indians pointed out tracks in the wet clay left by the small black bears that are so common on the Temi banks. They are different in size from the Ursus americanus: missionaries call them oso carnicero to differentiate them from the oso palmero or tamanoir (Myrmecophaga jubata) and the oso hormiguero or tamandua ant-eater. Two of these animals, which are good to eat, defend themselves by rising up on to their hind legs. Buffon’s tamanoir is called

leaned either on papal authority or on astronomy. As they have generally been keener to prolong this dispute rather than solve it, only nautical science and geography have gained anything. When the affairs of Paraguay and the possession of the Sacramento colony became important for the two Courts of Madrid and Lisbon, commissioners were sent out to study the boundaries of the Orinoco, Amazon and River Plate. Besides the idle, who filled archives with their complaints and lawsuits, there were a

the Orinoco and Amazon are identical or from the same plant. In the Orinoco the curare made from the raíz (root) is differentiated from that made from the bejuco (the liana or bark from branches). We saw only the latter prepared; the former is weaker and less sought after. On the Amazon we learned to identify poisons made by the Tikuna, Yagua, Pevas and Jibaros tribes, which, coming from the same plant, differ only due to more or less care spent in their elaboration. The Tikuna poison, made

to dissuade them and said the baskets contained crocodile and manatee skeletons. They insisted that they smelled the resin that covered the bones ‘of their old relations’. One of the skulls we brought from the Ataruipe cavern has been painted by my old master Blumenbach.125 But the skeletons of the Indians have been lost with much of our collection in a storm off Africa, where our travelling companion and friend the Franciscan monk Juan Gonzalez also drowned. We left the burial-ground of this

Edinburgh. He has also worked in the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and the Wellcome Institute, London, and is an honorary member of the Department of Science and Technology Dynamics, University of Amsterdam. His main research interest is currently the development of diagnostic practice but he continues to work on the history of ecology and environmental thought. ALEXANDER, VON HUMBOLDT Personal Narrative Abridged and Translated with an Introduction by JASON

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