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My readers will naturally ask why I have delayed writing this book for six years after my return; and I feel bound to give them full satisfaction on this point.

When I reached England in the spring of 1862, I found myself surrounded by a room full of packing cases containing the collections that I had, from time to time, sent home for my private use. These comprised nearly three thousand bird-skins of about one thousand species, at least twenty thousand beetles and butterflies of about seven thousand species, and some quadrupeds and land shells besides. A large proportion of these I had not seen for years, and in my then weakened state of health, the unpacking, sorting, and arranging of such a mass of specimens occupied a long time.

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