The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle/Preface

HIS MAJESTY'S ship, Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, was commissioned in July, 1831, for the purpose of surveying the southern parts of America, and afterwards of circumnavigating the world. In consequence of Captain FitzRoy having expressed a desire that some scientific person should be on board, and having offered to give up part of his own accommodations, I volunteered my services; and through the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, my appointment received the sanction of the Admiralty. I must here, as on all other occasions, take the opportunity of publicly acknowledging with gratitude, the obligation under which I lie to Captain FitzRoy, and to all the Officers on board the Beagle, for their constant assistance in my scientific pursuits, and for their uniform kindness to me throughout the voyage. On my return (October, 1836) to England, I found myself in possession of a large collection of specimens in various branches of natural history; but from the great expense necessary to secure their publication, I was without the means of rendering them generally serviceable.

The Presidents of the Linnean, Zoological, and Geological Societies, having given me their opinion respecting the utility to be derived from publishing these materials, I addressed a letter to the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer (T. Spring Rice, Esq.) informing him of the circumstances under which I hoped that I might venture to solicit the aid of Government. In reply, I received a communication (as below) announcing to me that the Lords of the Treasury, from their readiness to promote Science, were willing, under certain conditions, to give me the most liberal assistance.

" Treasury Chambers, August 31, 1837.

" Sir,

" It having been represented to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, from various quarters, that great advantage would be derived to the Science of Natural History, if arrangements could be made for enabling you to publish, in a convenient form, and at a cheap rate, the result of your labours in that branch of science, my Lords will feel themselves justified in giving their sanction to the application of a sum, not exceeding in the whole one thousand pounds, in aid of such a publication; upon the clear and distinct understanding that the Work should be published, and the plates engraved, in such a manner as to be most advantageous to the Public at large, upon a plan of arrangement to be previously submitted to, and sanctioned by the Board, after consultation with those persons, who, from their attainments in this branch of science, are the most capable of advising their Lordships thereupon; and that the payments on account of the said sum of one thousand pounds are to be made to you from time to time, on a certificate that such progress has been made in the engravings, in accordance with the plan previously approved of, as to justify the issue then applied for. My Lords have therefore directed me to communicate to you the views they entertain upon this subject; and to apprize you that they will be prepared to act in conformity with their arrangement, upon learning from you that you are ready to proceed with the Work upon the principles above laid down, and upon receiving from you a statement of the manner in which you think the Work should be published, and the plates engraved, so as most effectually to accomplish the object my Lords have in view, in sanctioning the payment from the Public Funds, in aid of the expenses of the Work in question.

" I remain,

" Sir, Your Obedient Servant,


The object of the present Work is to give descriptions and figures of undescribed and imperfectly known animals, both fossil and recent, together with some account, in the one case, of their geological position, and in the other of their habits and ranges. As I do not possess the knowledge requisite for such an undertaking, and as I am, moreover, particularly engaged in preparing an account of the geological observations, made during the voyage, several gentlemen have most kindly undertaken different portions of the Work. Besides the very great advantage insured in thus enlisting the attainments of these Naturalists in the several departments of science, to which they have paid most attention, a great delay is avoided by adopting this method of publication, which must otherwise have been incurred before the materials could have been made known.

An Account of the Voyage, drawn up by Captain FitzRoy, (and to which I have added a volume) being on the point of publication, I shall not in this Work enter on any minute details respecting the countries which were visited, but shall merely give a sketch of the geology in the introduction to the part containing Fossil Mammalia, and a brief geographical notice in that attached to the account of existing animals. At the conclusion of this Work, I shall endeavour to place together the leading results in the natural history of the different countries, from which the collections were procured. I may here state that Mr. Owen has undertaken the description of the Fossil Mammalia ; Mr. Waterhouse, the Recent Mammalia; Mr. Gould, the Birds; Mr. Bell, the Reptiles; and the Rev. L. Jenyns, the Fish. Whatever assistance I may obtain in the invertebrate classes, will be noticed in their respective places. The specimens have been presented to the various public museums, in which it was thought they would be of most general service: mention will be made in each part where the objects described have been deposited.