The increasing interest attached to all that part of the American Continent situated within and near the tropics, has suggested the publication of the present edition of Humboldt's celebrated work, as a portion of the SCIENTIFIC LIBRARY. Prior to the travels of Humboldt and Bonpland, the countries described in the following narrative were but imperfectly known to Europeans. For our partial acquaintance with them we were chiefly indebted to the early navigators, and to some of the followers of the Spanish Conquistadores.
A noted English lawyer-author has declared that the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes is the final word of the
world's philosophy; that no ancient or modern thinker has uttered a profounder word. And in the seventh verse
of that chapter it reads, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God
who gave it.
I CAN not more appropriately introduce the Cosmos than by presenting a brief sketch of the life of its illustrious author.* While the name of Alexander von Humboldt is familiar to every one, few, perhaps, are aware of the peculiar circumstances of his scientific career and of the extent of his labors in almost every department of physical knowledge. He was born on the 14th of September, 1769, and is, therefore, now in his 80th year.