Books from Singapore at the Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Birds Of Singapore Island.
The Birds Of Singapore Island.PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

THE MALAY ARCHIPELAGO: THE LAND OF THE ORANGUTAN AND THE BIRD OF PARADISE

Wander through the forests of the Malay archipelago with naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in this book, and see the region - now Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor Leste - through his eyes. Hot and moist the climate may be, but the region also "teems with natural productions which are elsewhere unknown", notes the famed British explorer in the 19th century book.

The 1874 tome chronicling his adventures in the Malay archipelago is considered one of the most celebrated travel writings on this region, and is ranked one of the best scientific travel books of the 19th century, according to the Wallace Fund, a website run by Wallace scholar George Beccaloni from London's Natural History Museum.


PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

MALAY POISONS AND CHARM CURES

This book, written almost a century ago by Dr John Gimlette, a surgeon of the Federated Malay States, looks at the relationship between health, culture and nature in old Malaya.

For example, coconut water, now used by athletes to rehydrate after a workout, was previously used in spiritual rites as a remedy for poisoning. It was not just plants that were used in rituals back then - human blood was also used in charms in the belief it would bring good fortune in love and gambling.


PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

THE BIRDS OF SINGAPORE ISLAND

"(This book) is written not so much for the ornithologist who makes a business of seeking birds as for him who is content to meet them," wrote English zoologist C. Boden Kloss, former director of the Raffles Museum, in the preface. It is an apt introduction to the 1927 book, which contains colourful pictures and descriptions of birds, including the changeable hawk eagle and the Singapore stork-billed kingfisher. These birds can still be found in Singapore today.

The book was written by Sir John Bucknill, chairman of the Raffles Museum and Library Committee, and zoologist Frederick Chasen, who worked at the Raffles Museum first as a curator and later as its director.

Audrey Tan

• View other books from Singapore at http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/browse/collection/bhlsg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline 'Books from Singapore at the Biodiversity Heritage Library'. Print Edition | Subscribe