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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

An Illustrated History of Primatology

By: Matthew Richardson
400 pages, 200+ colour illustrations
An Illustrated History of Primatology
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  • An Illustrated History of Primatology ISBN: 9781784274573 Hardback Sep 2025 Available for pre-order
Price: £79.99
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About this book

From ancient Egypt and classical Greece to the twentieth-century development of primatology as a scientific field, we have always been fascinated by our closest animal relatives. This book offers an in-depth overview of primatology, taking the reader on a journey through the ages.

Reaching back as far as the Carthaginian explorer Hanno and Pliny the Elder, Matthew Richardson investigates how ancient cultures thought about other primates. With the birth of 'natural science' and the compilation of medieval bestiaries, we find the first recorded anatomical studies, along with captive chimpanzees and orangutans appearing in Europe. The development of the Linnaean binomial system and the era of global exploration saw great advances in primatology, in tandem with the growth of biological collections in European museums. In the nineteenth century, Darwin codified humans' relationship to our primate relatives in The Descent of Man. Meanwhile, the growing collections and expeditions inspired natural history artists to create a wealth of primate paintings and scientific illustrations still familiar today.

In the modern era, we see the growth of primatology as a science, where a trio of remarkable women – Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas – would devote their lives to studying primates in the wild. Gerald Durrell and others would pioneer captive breeding to help to save species now increasingly threatened. By the late twentieth century, a 'decolonization' of primatology would take place in Africa, Asia and South America. Taxonomic splitting based on differences in DNA has resulted in an explosion of new species, as conservation becomes the main focus, with numerous primate species highly endangered.

This comprehensive one-volume synthesis will be essential reading for students of primatology, academics and anyone fascinated by humankind's history with our closest relatives.

Customer Reviews


Matthew Richardson is an award-winning non-fiction author based in Quebec, Canada, focusing on natural history. He co-authored Lemurs of Madagascar (Conservation International, 2010) and the primate volume to the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series (Lynx Edicions, 2012). His most recent published book, Threatened and Recently Extinct Vertebrates of the World was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023. It’s the first book to discuss all relevant IUCN Red List species and subspecies, and to arrange them by where they live in the world.

By: Matthew Richardson
400 pages, 200+ colour illustrations
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