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Archives of Natural History (formerly the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History ) publishes peer-reviewed papers on the history and bibliography of natural history in its broadest sense, and in all periods and all cultures. This is taken to include botany, general biology, geology, palaeontology and zoology, the lives of naturalists, their publications, correspondence and collections, and the institutions and societies to which they belong. Bibliographical papers concerned with the study of rare books, manuscripts and illustrative material, and analytical and enumerative bibliographies are also published.

Archives of Natural History is published by Edinburgh University Press on behalf of the Society for the History of Natural History.

[The following text is a recommendation by E Charles Nelson to the Editorial Board for the inclusion of Prof Troelstra's magnum opus Bibliography of natural history travel narratives into the Archives of Natural History.

Note that Prof Troelstra (sadly deceased Mar 2019) had been an eminent mathematician at the University of Amsterdam, and despite his forename had been a him not a her.]

Publication Date: 1 June 2017
ISBN: 978-90-04-34378-8
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004343788

TROELSTRA, A. S. Bibliography of natural history travel narratives

Anne Sjerp Troelstra is Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics in the University of Amsterdam, so his research in that university's library towards his Bibliography of natural history travel narratives can only have been a labour of love. This is not a dusty listing of books, their editions and translations, for it is enlivened by summaries of most of the narratives derived from Troelstra's "autopsies" of the books he has read. So this substantial volume (the pages are close to A4) is an impressive compendium which invites browsing, and I have enjoyed doing so. While entries generally are for books, Troelstra occasionally includes "book-length" articles particularly when a series includes travel details. The works treated range from Conrad Gessner's De raris et admirandis herbis ... (1555) and Giovanni Pona's Plantae seu simplicia, ut vocant, quae in Baldo monte ... reperiuntur (1601), two of the earliest accounts of climbing mountains in search of plants, to much more recent narratives such as David Attenborough's Quest under Capricorn (1963), Redmond O'Hanlon's Trawler, a journey through the North Atlantic (2003) and Tom Hart Dyke's The cloud garden (2004). However, while this bibliography is written in English, it is not restricted to English texts and its great merit must be the quite broad linguistic scope of Troelstra's reading. Natural history is taken to include botany, zoology and geology. Hunting plants for horticultural purposes is the subject of numerous narratives, but books about hunting animals without any intention of producing specimens for scientific purposes are not included.

The entries are arranged alphabetically by author for each of whom Troelstra usually provides a biography based on published sources. In his introduction, he acknowledged that "for a first orientation [he] nearly always used Wikipedia", although evidently he also consulted autobiographies and peer-reviewed biographical resources. When an author published more than one narrative, the works are listed in order by the publication date of the original editions. Later editions and reprints follow in chronological sequence, with translations collected by language.

The inclusion of works subsequent to their publication determined as fiction – for example, Wanderings in the interior of New Guinea (1875) by J. A. Lawson, and Deux ans de navigation. Exploration de l'admiral Chérétoff ... [1868] by H. Marguérit (both names are probably pseudonyms) – and even a fictitious author (Quasdanovich) is helpful. Moreover, Troelstra is often pointed in his commentary, referring, for example, to one biography of Frank Kingdon Ward as "somewhat carelessly written", and to Ernest Henry Wilson's accounts of his journeys in China as "for the greater part ... dry reading."

A work of this kind is never going to please everyone especially with regard to the works included, yet the fact that it introduces a reader to items which otherwise would be unknown is invaluable. This prodigious tome also points the way to possible future research to fill in the "blanks" or resolve the confusions. A casual observation may illustrate this: why are the authors of several narratives about collecting orchids so obscure that biographical details could not be traced (using Wikipedia)? Of course, like Norman MacDonald, they might be deliberately misleading: "Do not try to follow the trail of the orchid hunters on the map. In keeping with the close-lipped tradition of the profession, the real names of the towns and rivers have been deliberately changed." Sailing to Hong Kong on the Glengarry in November 1930, Frederick Deane Burdett (1863–1940) gave his profession as "Novelist"; three years later destined for the Philippines, he was an "Orchid Hunter"!