Views of Nature

Views of Nature Image

The German naturalist and explorer chronicles his 1799 expedition to Central and South America in this classic work of natural history.

While the influence of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) looms large over the natural sciences, his legacy reaches far beyond the field notebooks of naturalists. Humboldt’s 1799–1804 research expedition to Central and South America with botanist Aimé Bonpland not only set the course for the great scientific surveys of the nineteenth century, but also served as the raw material for his many volumes—works of both scientific rigor and aesthetic beauty that inspired such essayists and artists as Emerson, Goethe, Thoreau, Poe, and Frederic Edwin Church.

Views of Nature, or Ansichten der Natur, was Humboldt’s best-known and most influential work—and his personal favorite. While the essays that comprise it are themselves remarkable as innovative, early pieces of nature writing—they were cited by Thoreau as a model for his own work—the book’s extensive endnotes incorporate some of Humboldt’s most beautiful prose and mature thinking on vegetation structure, its origins in climate patterns, and its implications for the arts. Written for both a literary and a scientific audience, Views of Nature was translated into English (twice), Spanish, and French in the nineteenth century, and it was read widely in Europe and the Americas. But in contrast to many of Humboldt’s more technical works, Views of Nature has been unavailable in English for more than one hundred years. Largely neglected in the United States during the twentieth century, Humboldt’s contributions to the humanities and the sciences are now undergoing a revival to which this new translation will be a critical contribution.

Praise for Views of Nature

“Alexander von Humboldt’s wide-ranging Views of Nature is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century natural history, at once science and art. Mark W. Person’s stunning new translation makes the wonders of this classic accessible to the English-language world of the present.” —Daniel Walker Howe, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning What Hath God Wrought

“From the plains of Venezuela to volcanoes and waterfalls, von Humboldt combines observations with travel narratives and philosophical musings. Annotations really help provide a context to the essays; this work also includes an index, conversions for von Humboldt’s various measurement units, an introduction, and preface. This excellent translation of one of von Humboldt’s most important works should introduce this great naturalist to an entirely new audience.” —Edward J. Valauskas, curator of Rare Books, Library, Chicago Botanic Garden, Current Books on Gardening and Botany

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Readers' opinions about Views of Nature by Alexander von Humboldt

What a rollercoaster of emotions! I laughed, cried, and everything in between. The author's ability to evoke such raw feelings is truly commendable. It's a story that will stay with me forever.

The themes of resilience and hope resonated deeply with me. This book taught me valuable life lessons that I'll carry with me for years to come.

The plot was incredibly well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me hooked until the very last page. It was impossible to predict what would happen next.

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