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The Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, was the brainchild of one man – its remarkable founder Walter Rothschild. 


Walter was a scientist and collector, as well as museum-founder, and in addition to all this was the eldest son of the Rothschild banking family – therefore having to balance his scientific passion with his familial responsibilities. 



On his death in 1937 Walter bequeathed his extensive collections and his museum to the nation, and the Natural History Museum as South Kensington has been managing it ever since.






    Exterior, Tring Natural History Museum





The correspondence of Tring Museum, particularly from the time of Walter, is incredibly rich – partially because that museum was so small in comparison to the South Ken museum, and so letter writing was often much less bureaucratic and more informal and discursive.

Interior, Tring Natural History Museum.jpg

                                                                            Interior, Tring Natural History Museum




This correspondence contains letters from wide range of writers - specimen dealers, taxidermists, artists, scientists, publishers and booksellers, museum curators and tradesmen. 


Some of the most engaging material though is from the large number of collectors which Walter employed, many of whom travelled the world acquiring specimens for him - writing from all over the globe including jungles, war zones, tropical islands, and prisoner of war camps.  In their letters these collectors would often detail their personal experiences and problems they encountered on their expeditions as much as the scientific detail of the collecting they were carrying out.


One particularly fascinating case (although there are many many more) is Edward Baker (1864-1944), a British ornithologist and police officer who worked in Assam, India. Baker was not a professional collector, but sent a great many eggs and birdskins to Tring in the 1890s, and also went on to publish books about the birds of India.


Letter from Edward Baker.bmp




His correspondence really shows the close relationships between the Tring Museum curators and collectors out in the field.

It seems that collecting and trading birds with Tring was a way for Baker to stay connected with the ornithological community in Europe, whilst being stationed far away in India.


He mentions being quite lonely and often invites one of Walter’s curators to come and visit him (suggesting he stay a whole year!). 

Baker also talks about the size of his collection, and it being the best collection of Indian bird eggs in the world. Sadly enough, later on, however, he does then have to sell his collections as his family grows and he has less time for collecting.


Perhaps the most exemplary letter from Baker to the museum, however, is that in 1894 where he begins ‘I don’t think I have written to you since my accident.  I got very badly bitten about the left arm by a leopard & have had to have it taken off in consequence’.






       Letter from Edward Baker to Tring Museum

This sentence alone would seem to sum up every cliché we hold dear of the Victorian gentleman – stiff upper lip, focussed, utterly blasé about his hardships.  The fact that this is the last mention of this in his letter, and he then goes on to discuss entirely separate matters – as if the loss of an arm is only a very minor incident! – is, if someone of an extreme, perhaps indicative of the dedication of some Victorian scientists!


This letter, and a number of others, are on display at the Tring Museum as part of their Daring Explorers exhibition.  This free exhibition runs until 12 November 2012, and tells the story of what life was like for a Victorian collector – where they went, the specimens they collected, and the hardships they faced.


The Library catalogue is available online at Library Catalogue

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460


Anthropology / Palaeontology




The current issues of Paleolithic studies in Asia : proceedings of the International Symposium "The current issues of Paleolithic studies in Asia and contiguous regions" : June 24-30, 2008, Denisova Cave, Altai / edited by A.P. Derevianko, M.V. Shunkov.

Novosibirsk : Publishing Department of the Institute of Archaeology and Enthnography SB RAS, 2008.

A 2 o DER


Paleolithic and neolithic of the northern face of the Valley of Lakes / otvetstvennyĭ redaktor A.P. Derevianko

Novosibirsk : Izd-vo Instituta arkheologii i ėtnografii SO RAN, 2000.

A 3 q DER





Geophysical studies in the Caucasus / Lev Eppelbaum, Boris Khesin

Berlin ; New York ; London : Springer, 2012

P 72Z o EPP


Upper Paleozoic of marginal seas of Angarida / A.G. Klets

Novosibirsk : GEO, 2005

P 73A q ELK


Silurian of the northwestern Siberian Platform / I͡U.I. Tesakov ... [et al.]

Novosibirsk : Izd-vo SO RAN, filial "Geo", 2002

P 73A q TES


Gletscher der Saale-Kaltzeit am Niederrhein : Untersuchungen zur Petrografie und Leitgeschiebeführung der Stauchmoränen des Niederrheins und deren Anbindung an die Moränen des Münsterlandes / K. Skupin & J. G. Zandstra.

Krefeld : Geologischer Dienst NRW, 2010

P 72L o SKU



Norfolk Island's fascinating flora / Peter Coyne.

Belconnen, A.C.T. : Petaurus Press, 2011.

581.9(938) COY


Seaweed biology : novel insights into ecophysiology, ecology and utilization / edited by Christian Wiencke, Kai Bischof.

Berlin ; London : Springer, 2012.

ALGAE 582.26 WIE


A botanical journey : the story of the Western Australian herbarium / by Roger Underwood.

Perth : Dept. of Environment and conservation, 2011

58.005 WES UND


The flora of the Cairngorms National Park : an annotated checklist / Andy Amphlett

London] : [BSBI], 2012.



A field guide to the Eremophilas of Western Australia / Andrew Brown and Bevan Buirchell.

Hamilton Hill, W.A. : Simon Nevill Publications, 2011.

582.4P123 BRO 





Environment-agriculture-sustainable development : Optimization of integrated wheat pest management technologies under the dynamics of agroecological changes in Transylvania

Cluj-Napoca : Editura Argonaut, 2008






Tidal freshwater wetlands / edited by Aat Barendregt, Dennis F. Whigham and Andrew H. Baldwin

Leiden : Backhuys ; Weikersheim : Margraf, 2009

L 10E q TID


Sentinelle di Pietra : i massi erratici dell' anfiteatro morenico di Rivoli - Avigliana / Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino ; coordinamento editoriale - Giorgio Fea

Torino : Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, 2010

L 72I o MUS


Biodiversity Atlas of China / Xie Yan, John MacKinnon, Mike Hunter

Chang Sha Shi : Chinese Corporation for Promotion of Humanities, 2009

L 73H q MAC


Mari nawi : Aboriginal odysseys 1790-1850 / State Library of New South Wales.

Sydney, N.S.W. : State Library of New South Wales, 2010

L 77C o SMI


Influence of advection and sedimentation on linking microbial phosphorus, carbon and nitrogen cycling in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre (LINK) / principal scientist: M.V. Zubkov, editors: P.G. Hill, M.V. Zubkov

Southampton : National Oceanography Centre, 2012

L 80 q INS


Il gelso : albero dimenticato nel paesaggio agrario piemontese-- e il suo legame con il baco da seta / a cura di Giancarlo Bounous ... [et al.].

Torino : Museo regionale di scienze naturali, 2011

L 85 o TUR



Developing research proposals / Pam Denicolo, Lucinda Becker

Los Angeles : Sage, 2012

L 98 o DEN



Ornithology (Tring)


Collections from the Muséum / Muséum national d'histoire naturelle

[Paris] : Éditions du Muséum, c2005.

PAMPHLET BOX 1                       


Nest : The art of birds [hardback]. / Janine Burke

Crows Nest, NSW : Allen & Unwin, 2012.

ORNITHOLOGY 3A BUR                        


Video surveillance of nesting birds / editors: Christine A. Ribic, Frank R. Thompson III and Pamela J. Pietz

Berkeley : University of California, 2012

EGG RIB         





Phylactolaemata i Bryozoa of the continental waters of the continental waters of Eurasia. Tom 1, Faunistics, ecology, zooogeography and evolution of the Phylactolaemata invertebrates and Bryozoans of the continental waters of Eurasia / Anatoliĭ Vinogradov,


Z 72Q o VIN


Phylactolaemata i Bryozoa of the continental waters of Eurasia. Tom 2, Systematics of the Phylactolaemata and Gymnolaemata Bryozoans of the continental waters of Eurasia. / Anatoliĭ Vinogradov,


Z 72Q o VIN


The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world: an expert reference guide to 840 amphibians, reptiles and mammals from every continent / Tom Jackson, consultant

Wigston : Southwater, 2011



A history of pike fishing. Vol. 1 / Graham Booth

[S.l.] : Harper, 2011.



South Asian Mammals : their diversity, distribution and status / Chelmala Srinivasulu, Bhargavi Srinivasulu

New York : Springer Verlag, 2012



Amphibians of Suriname / by Paul E. Ouboter, Rawien Jairam

Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2012.