During the past two weeks, a seven strong group of Harvard undergraduate students have had their heads down in the Library working hard to transcribe letters as part of the Wallace Correspondence Project.
Back row L to R (from the viewer's perspective): Eric Chen, Michael Truong, Antone Martinho, Will Murphy
Front row L to R (viewer's perspective): Mary Griffin, Alyssa Botelho, Alex Bradbury
The students are in the UK for a total of eight weeks and are funded by the David Rockefeller International Experience Grants Program (DRIEG). After they finish at the NHM this week they are attending the Harvard Summer Program course called "An exploration of evolutionary biology" at Oxford University.
The students learning first hand about Wallace from Dr George Beccaloni Curator of orthopteroid insects
at the Natural History Museum & Director of the A. R. Wallace Correspondence Project
The Wallace Correspondence Project commenced in October 2010 and aims to finish in October 2013. For more information about this exciting project visit the Wallace Correspondence Project official website.
Below is an example of one of the letters that Antone had to tackle; it is a good example of some of the problems encountered when transcribing old documents. Not only do you need to get to get to know an individual's handwriting, but you also have to contend with the condition a document may be in. In this case, the letter has been partially burned at some point.
Letter from Alfred Russel Wallace to Fred Birch October 9th (WCP700 /L872) page one and page four.
Oct. 9th [MS burned]
My dear Fred
I was very plea<sed> to receive yesterday the enclosed letter from the Controller of Customs, in reply to mine of Aug. 17th. The “conditions specified” were, that about half your time would be free for collecting and I mentioned your el[MS burned] qualifications & that I woul<d> guarantee your integrity, sobriety &c. in any position <of> trust. His mail goes n[MS burned] [[p. 2]] [MS burned]s [1 word illeg.] next Wednesday so you had perhaps better write to Mr. De Jouge yourself asking him to be so kind as to let you know what the work would be &c.
But as I wrote to the Commissioner of Mines about the Post of Sun-warden, by the next mail (Sept. 2nd.) I may have a reply from him in a fortnight, & you can very well wait for that, as he [following parenthetical note added above line] (Mr. De Jouge) suggests your waiting two months, which I suppose [[p. 3]] will suit you very we<ll as> it will give you more time to prepare. The salary Mr. De Jouge offers is small, but having your board is a great thing, & I presume it includes lodging.
I have just written to the Controller of Customs thanking him for the trouble he has taken, & saying you will write to Mr. [name inserted above line] De Jouge.
I think now, your chance of going out looks very promising and I think you may tell any persons to whom you writ[e] for information, that you rea[MS burned] [[p. 4]] [MS burned] decided to go in a month or two.
Let me know the result of your interview with Mr. Schill as soon as it has taken place.
[1 word illeg.] is up the Esseguibo a little below the Potaro river, & seems to be in a hilly country. I long for you to be there almost as much as if I were going myself!
Yours very sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]