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The English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse (1810–88) travelled to Jamaica in 1844 and stayed for eighteen months to observe the diverse wildlife there. Upon his return he described his findings in a trilogy of books. The first two examined the island's birds - he has been hailed as the 'father of Jamaican ornithology' - but he used the present work, first published in 1851, to describe all the other forms of life on the island, from beetles to fruit trees. Lamenting that natural history was too often presented as a 'science of dead things', Gosse made his investigations come alive in this work by writing it in a diary form, discussing what he encountered as his journey progressed, and providing a number of illustrations. His lively and engaging style won him a wide audience, and this work remains an important early example of popular natural history.