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1 June 2013 Synonymy and its Discontents: Alfred Russel Wallace's Nomenclatural Proposals from the ‘Species Notebook’ of 1855–1859
James T. Costa
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Alfred Russel Wallace made fundamental contributions to biogeography and the establishment of evolutionary thinking. He was also a working collector who spent a total of twelve years traveling in Amazonia and southeast Asia, his immense collections yielding hundreds of new species. Wallace was, accordingly, intimately familiar with the diversity of species and varieties, and was attuned to fine shades of morphological difference in a geographical context. In identifying, preparing, labelling and cataloguing his myriad specimens Wallace often confronted nomenclatural issues, foremost among them keeping track of taxonomic synonyms. In the absence of internationally recognized codes of taxonomic nomenclature, synonyms proliferated in the 19th century. In Wallace's ‘Species Notebook,’ the most important of his field notebooks kept between 1855 and 1859 during his travels in southeast Asia, Wallace devoted several pages to addressing synonymy and related issues. I discuss Wallace's far-ranging proposals, which range from ways to stop the proliferation of synonyms to establishing central reference works to obviate the need for naturalists to redundantly review synonyms, and from cooperative natural history libraries to international committees to oversee designated publications for new descriptions. I also discuss Wallace's struggle to design an efficient catalogue layout for his collections, and how he sought to build information on geographical distribution into his cabinet and catalogue format. I consider, finally, Wallace's engagement with the principle of priority in the Species Notebook and other writings. While not all of Wallace's proposals proved practicable, several are in essence realized today; as seen through the lens of the Species Notebook, Wallace was far ahead of his time in regard to his creative solutions to the nomenclatural frustrations of his day.

James T. Costa "Synonymy and its Discontents: Alfred Russel Wallace's Nomenclatural Proposals from the ‘Species Notebook’ of 1855–1859," The Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 70(2), 131-148, (1 June 2013).
Published: 1 June 2013

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