DeGolyer Library


Written in a Tropical Glow: Books, Prints and Manuscripts Describing the Biological Exploration of the New World Tropics

September 27 - December 14, 2018

Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, Fondren Library West, open Monday - Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm, except University holidays 

Parking information

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.

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. These books, along with related prints and manuscripts, will be exhibited at the DeGolyer Library, from September 27 to December 14, 2018. The items exhibited are drawn both from the DeGolyer collections and from the personal collection of the guest curator, Tom Taylor.


Montezuma's aviary. Detail from the map of Tenochtitlán printed with Hernán Cortés's second letter from the New World, published in 1524.
En tierra firme ay tan grandes arboles. From Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, De la natural hystoria de las Indias, Toleo, 1526. 
Christoforus Colon Oceane classis Prefectus. Christopher Columbus signs himself Admiral of the Ocean Fleet in a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, Rome, 1493. 
Title page for Nicolás Monrades's Joyfullnewes Out of the New-found Worlde, London, 1596. 
Horti Medici Amstelodamensis Rariorum Plantarum Historia. Title page that sums the colonial enterprise. 1697.
Georg Marcgrave and Willem Piso, Historia Naturalis Brasiliae, title page. Amsterdam, 1648.

Pineapple, maize, and chili peppers, three of the New World's gifts to the Old. Francisco Hernández, Rerum medicarum novae Hispaniae... Rome, 1646

Dutch map showing the fabled Lake Parime and the long-sought golden city of El Dorado (Amsterdam, 1630)
Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensum, engraving (Amsterdam, 1705).
Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensum... Engraving *Amsterdam, 1705).
Scarlet Ibis. Mark Catesby, Natural History of of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. 3rd edition (London, 1771).
Red-headed woodpecker showing coloring differences between the first (left) and the third (right) editions of Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.
Lane-snapper and tobaccopipe fish. Mark Catesby, Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. 3rd edition (London, 1771)

Cases used to transport living plants from South America to Spain.
Casimiro Ortega, Instrucción sobre el modo mas seguro y económico de transportar plantas vivas por mar y tierra de los paises mas distantes (Madrid, 1779)

Cinchona hirsuta, one of eight species of the Cinchona genus listed by Ruiz and Pavon in Flora Peruviana, et Chilensis... (Madrid, 1798-1802)
Palm. Griffith Hughes, The Natural History of Barbados (London, 1750)

Humboldt walks toward the volcano of Jorulla in central Mexico.

Alexander von Humboldt, Vues des cordillères et monuments des peoples indigènes de l'Amérique (Paris, 1810[-13])

"Prince Max" (Alexander Philipp Maximilian) travels up the Rio Doce in Brazil. Reise nach Brasilien in den Jahren 1815 bis 1817 (Frankfurt, 1820-21)
Snake from the zoological atlas Abbildungen zur Naturgeschichte Brasiliens (Weimar, 1822-31)
Monkey from the zoological atlas Abbildungen zur Naturgeschichte Brasiliens (Weimar, 1822-31)
Ocean fish. Comte de Castelnau, Poissons (Paris, 1855)
Freshwater fish from the order Siluriformes (catfishes). Comte de Castelnau, Poissons (Paris, 1855)

Detailed survey map of South America, including Rio de la Plata, where Charles Darwin made his discoveries of fossils.

Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, between the Years 1826 and 1836... (London, 1839)

Mylodon robustus, a giant ground sloth endemic to South America. Plate from Richard Owen's monograph on the species. 
Amerindians fishing with bows and arrows at the junction of two rivers. Robert Schomburgk, Twelve Views in the Interior of Guiana (London, 1841)
Setting up camp. Robert Schomburghk, Twelve Views in the Interior of Guiana (London, 1841)
Rodents. Hermann Burmeister, Erläuterungen zur Fauna Brasiliens (Berlin, 1856)
Another example of rodents. Herman Burmeister, Erläuterungen zur Fauna Brasiliens (Berlin, 1856)
Scary creatures. Henry Walter Bates, Naturalist on the River Amazons (London, 1863)
More exotic creatures. Henry Walter Bates, Naturalist on the River Amazons (London, 1863)
Various species of Euphonia. Jean-Théodore Descourtilz, Ornithologie brésilienne... (London, 1854-56)
Curl-crested Aracaris. Henry Walter Bates, Naturalist on the River Amazons (London, 1863)
Three Makuna boys above a waterfall on the lower Apaporis River in Columbia. Photograph by botanist Richard Evans Schultes, 1952.