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Join the campaign for a Google Doodle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death. To do so, please send an email to proposals@google.com saying that you would really like to see a Wallace-related Doodle on Google's homepage on the date of the anniversary, 7 November 2013. They did a Doodle for Darwin's 200th birthday, so they may consider one for Wallace if enough people ask them!

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Ancestor's Trail and Entangled Bank Events are very kindly helping to raise the remaining £25,000 for the statue of Wallace that the Wallace Memorial Fund has commissioned and which is destined for the Museum. It will be unveiled by Sir David Attenborough on the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death - 7 November 2013.

 

Richard Dawkins has very generously agreed to help with the fundraising, by giving a talk on the 24th August in Bristol as part of this year's Ancestor's Trail. What follows is an excerpt from an interview Richard recently gave about the event:

 

 

Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins talks exclusively to Venue about his forthcoming visit to Bristol to take part in this year's Ancestor's Trail in August. Interview: Tom Phillips.


You’re coming to Bristol in August for the ‘Wallace in Bristol’ event which is, in turn, part of The Ancestor’s Trail. What will you be doing at this event and what else will be happening on the day?

 

I’ll be one of a number of speakers honouring Wallace, the “other Darwin”. The event is in aid of a good cause, raising a statue of Wallace to join Darwin’s in the Natural History Museum. My talk is called ‘Give the under surface to Mr Wallace, but yield the upper surface to Mr Darwin.’ Enigmatic, yes, intentionally so with a meaning both literal and metaphoric. All will become clear, and I shall leave plenty of time to answer questions at the end.

 

‘Wallace in Bristol’ is in honour of Alfred Russel Wallace: how important was his work to the study of evolution?

 

Natural selection is a remarkably simple yet powerful idea, and it is astonishing that it had to wait till the mid nineteenth century before anyone thought of it. And then two English naturalists thought of it at almost the same time. Charles Darwin is well known. Alfred Wallace is often forgotten, but he really did have the same idea as Darwin, at almost the same time, and he expressed it in almost exactly the same terms. Indeed, in some ways Wallace’s way of putting it was even clearer – dare I say even more Darwinian (and, by the way, Wallace coined the word “Darwinism”) than Darwin’s own.

 

The Ancestors’ Trail is inspired by your book ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ in which you relate the history of evolution using reverse chronology. Why did you choose to adopt that particular strategy?

 

Forward chronology has a pernicious weakness. It can suggest, if we are not very careful, that evolution is “aiming” at some distant future target. It becomes even more pernicious if that distant target is considered to be humanity. Since we are human, it is entirely pardonable to be especially interested in our own ancestry. I wanted to pander to this, but at the same time the last thing I wanted was to suggest that evolution was aiming towards us, or that we are “evolution’s last word” etc. When you put it like that, a solution leaps to mind. Tell the story of evolution backwards. Begin with humans and work backwards to the origin of life. We could begin with anything, hornet, hippopotamus or hummingbird and work backwards. The end point would be the same in all cases: the origin of life. That is the beauty of working backwards, and that very fact tells us something important about evolution.

 

Read more at venue.co.uk

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Moulding the Statue

 

Sculptor Anthony Smith writes:

 

During the past couple of months I have been putting the finishing touches to the clay sculpture of Wallace, and we have now finally finished making its all-important mould. Taking a mould of a large, immovable object, such as a clay statue, is a rather complex operation, but hopefully these photos will help to explain exactly how we went about it...

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The front and back of the statue are moulded separately, so the first step involved creating a dividing line all around the edge of the statue (above). This was done by building up a wooden support behind the statue, then adding a clay wall along the dividing line. Chalk powder is put on the surface of the clay statue first so that the clay wall can be removed without damaging the surface of the statue itself.

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Once the clay wall has been added it is time to start coating the front side of the statue with a layer of silicone rubber (above). This is a fantastic material for mould-making as it can be easily applied to almost any surface, capturing the tiniest of details in the original sculpture (right down to the sculptor's fingerprints!).

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Above you can see the front of the statue, with the wooden support behind and some of the clay wall still visible. The whole front and base of the statue is coated in a thick layer of white silicone rubber. The circular dents that you can see in the rubber are there so that the rubber sits correctly in the plaster casing... see below.

6.jpgPreparing the plaster.

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Above you can see that the first section of the plaster casing has been added, encasing the base of the statue. Wooden supports are included within the plaster to add strength.

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Once the whole of the front of the statue is encased in plaster it is time to work on the back (above) – the wooden support and the clay wall are removed and a layer of rubber is added over the top of the clay, just the same as for the front.

 

Once the rubber on the back of the sculpture has fully set, it too is enclosed with a plaster casing. Only once the plaster has fully dried is it time to take the mould apart...

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First, the various parts of the plaster casing are prised off (above - you can see one of these parts leaning against the wall behind the statue). Then the rubber is peeled from the surface of the clay and laid back inside the plaster casing. This way the rubber holds the exact same shape as it did when it was on the surface of the statue and an accurate replica can be made. Finally, the moulding is complete!

 

So what next? Well, the mould is currently at the foundry where they are busy creating a hollow wax replica of the statue. Next week I will be joining the foundry to put the finishing touches to this replica, then we will move on to the 'investment' and casting stages.

 

If you're already curious to learn exactly how the mould is used, here's a good summary of the lost-wax casting process.


My next update will be coming from the foundry... stay tuned!

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The Wallace Correspondence Project has just said goodbye to 11 Harvard students who have spent the last two weeks in the library reading room transcribing Wallace letters for the project.

 

The students are in the UK for a total of eight weeks and are funded by the David Rockefeller International Experience Grants Program (DRIEG). They have now relocated to Oxford and are attending the Harvard Summer School Programme course called "An exploration of evolutionary biology" at Oxford University.

 

The students transcribed a massive 412 letters for the project, which is no mean feat when you’re grappling with Victorian handwriting. Their great contribution means we have the majority of letters Wallace wrote up to 1908 transcribed and demonstrates how important citizen science is to the project; without the help of willing volunteers we would only have a fraction of the 2,600 letters we currently have transcribed. Time will now be spent checking the transcriptions and adding them to Wallace Letters Online.

 

We wish them all luck with their studies in Oxford.

 

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2013's Wallace Harvard students

 

The project are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help us transcribe more letters, so if this is something that interests you and you want to find out more, please send me an email for more information

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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As Archivist for the Wallace Correspondence Project, I get to read a lot of Wallace’s letters and embedded amongst all of the intellectual debate are little gems that make you chuckle (or me at least!). The Victorians certainly had a way with words and their turns of phrase are sometimes hilarious, if not mildly offensive, but are above all a delight to read!

 

As we are well into the third year of the Wallace Correspondence Project and 6 months into Wallace100, I thought I’d share some of the little gems I’ve come across in the letters so far….

 

On moustaches: “Has Eliza Roberts got rid of her moustache yet? Tell her in private to use tweezers. A hair a day would exterminate it in a year or two without any one’s perceiving.” (WCP365 Wallace to Fanny Sims 10.12.1856).

 

On scientists: “I have found that a scientist can make an ass of himself as readily as any other man.” (WCP2599 J. Clegg Wright to Wallace 31.08.1893).

 

On boils: “I long to get into the country guided by your new lights, but I have been now for ten days confined to my room with what is disagreeable though far from dangerous - boils.” (WCP4095 Wallace to Darwin 23.05.1862)

 

On boils (again): “I am sorry to hear that you are suffering from Boils; I have often had fearful crops: I hope that the Doctors are right in saying that they are serviceable.” (WCP1849 Darwin to Wallace 24.05.1862)

 

On health: “My health is, & always will be, very poor: I am that miserable animal a regular valetudinarian.” (WCP1849 Darwin to Wallace 24.05.1862)

 

On handwriting: “I do not know whether you will care to read this scrawl.” (WCP1900 Darwin to Wallace 30.04.1868)

 

On truth: “I sometimes marvel how truth progresses, so difficult is it for one man to convince another, unless his mind is vacant.” (WCP1900 Darwin to Wallace 30.04.1868)

 

On spiders: “P.S. A big spider fell close to my hand in the middle of my signature wh[ich]. accounts for the hitch.” (WCP370 Wallace to George Silk 30.11.1858)

 

On being an enthusiast: “So far from being angry at being called an Enthusiast it is my pride & glory to be worthy to be so called. Who ever did any thing good or great who was not an enthusiast? The majority of mankind are enthusiasts only in one thing, in money-getting; & these call others enthusiasts as a term of reproach, because they think there is something in the world better than money getting.” (WCP371 Wallace to Thomas Sims 25.04.1859)

 

On not quitting the tropics: “to induce a Naturalist to quit his researches at their most interesting point requires some more cogent argument than the prospective loss of health.” (WCP1454 Wallace to J D Hooker 06.10.1858)

 

On suffering: “I have myself suffered much in the same way as you describe & I think more severely. The kind of "tedium vitae" you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence.” (WCP374 Wallace to Henry Walter Bates 24.12.1860)

 

On freedom of thought: “Freedom of thought is essential to intellectual progress.” (WCP4866 Wallace to Charles Lyell 10.11.1872)

 

On the British weather: “I trust you have passed unscathed through the glacial period of January and the semi-tropical period one of February. Already they are bringing me nosegays of wild flowers – primroses, violets and buttercups.” (WCP1661 Richard Spruce to Fanny Sims  27.02.1867) – proving that the British weather was just as odd in the nineteenth century!

 

On death: “the writer, who has doubtless ere now been gathered to Abraham’s bosom.” (WCP3281 Walter William Skeat to Wallace 11.10.1909)

 

On the respect of women: “I trust you will not feel put out if, as an individual woman and by a private letter, I venture to offer you homage and thanks for your published utterance respecting women which I have read in the Daily Chronicle of today. At this time of day it is true our prospects are no longer what they were and you as their champion resemble happiness as characterized by Goethe.” (WCP3147 Caroline Augusta Foley to Wallace 04.12.1893)

 

On gifts of venison: “May I ask your acceptance of this little leg of venison?  It is ready to be cooked, I trust you will find it tender.” (WCP3196 Theodora Guest to Wallace 22.08.1900)

 

On cats: “The cats are all right. Cats always are. They never want enquiring about till they get over 12 years old”. (WCP297 Wallace to his daughter Violet 24.11.1887)

 

On bacon: “send me the address of the Bacon Man!!” (WCP273 Wallace to Violet 25.03.1896)

 

All of these letters are available to view on Wallace Letters Online. Why not see if you can find some more hidden gems embedded amongst the intellectual conversations!

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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This month’s selected letter was written on 26 June 1898 to Michael Flürscheim (1844-1912), a German economist who worked on economic and social reforms that focused on the single tax, land nationalisation and an improved currency. This letter highlights Wallace’s involvement in socialism; an area he became very involved in later in his life.

 

The short letter begins with Wallace expressing regret that Flürscheim has moved to New Zealand and also that he has, as Wallace writes

 

“given up working primarily for land and social reform & are devoting yourself mainly to the Currency question.”

 

Wallace disagreed with Flürscheim on this matter and believed it wouldn’t “abolish the unemployed, or enable every man to get the whole produce of his labour.”

 

Flürscheim believed currency reform was needed to complement single tax and land reform to cure the ills of society. There were two types of currency reform at the turn of the twentieth century; one where the state would manufacture more money to put into circulation believing this would spur the economy on and the other, which Flürscheim advocated, wanted to replace the currency that was based on gold and silver with something such as a ‘labour note’ - where people could trade in hours of labour.

 

Wallace hoped “we shall soon have you back here working for land reform and the extension of cooperative industry” - two causes Wallace felt very strongly about.

 

Although becoming more active on social matters later on in his life, Wallace first encountered socialist ideas as a young man, being greatly influenced by the writings of Robert Owen (1771-1858). He attended lectures with his brother John when he moved to London at the Hall of Science in Tottenham Court Road.

 

Wallace became President in 1881 of the newly formed Land Nationalisation Society – a society that believed land should be the property of the state to ensure everyone could be free to use and enjoy it equally. He remained its President for 30 years and, as well as calling for public ownership of land, he also advocated the land colony as a solution for unemployment, a pure paper money system (Fiat Money), he supported women’s suffrage and wrote on the dangers and wastefulness of militarism.

 

At the July 1892 meeting of the Land Nationalisation Society, Wallace spoke in his Presidential Address to Herbert Spencer’s newly released book, Justice. Wallace explains that his first encounter with Spencer’s work was reading Social Statics in 1853. He says that through this work he learnt, in Spencer’s words, that “to deprive others of their rights to the use of the earth is to commit a crime inferior only in wickedness to the crime of taking

away their lives or their personal liberties”.

 

wallace-socialissues.jpg

WP5/1/2: 1892 Report of the Land Nationalisation Society containing Wallace's Presidential address

 

Wallace ended the letter to Flürscheim by informing him he had recently attended a Congress of Spiritualists in London, where he “tried to induce Spiritualists to take up the social problems” - a quote I love, as he seemed to be a man who was never one to pass up an opportunity to recruit more people to the socialist cause!

 

The Wallace Collection webpages contain more information about Wallace's socialism and features key socialist material we hold in the Wallace Family Archive in the library's Special Collections.

 

We have many letters written by Wallace in Wallace Letters Online that discuss and advocate socialism and if you are keen to explore more letters written to Flürscheim, we have 11 of them that you can read here.

 

Check back next month, when I'll be writing about another letter that caught my attention.

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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Friday 7 June saw Wallace enthusiasts descend on the University of Bournemouth for a one day conference on Wallace, fittingly held in the Alfred Russel Wallace Lecture Theatre, organised by the Linnean Society and The Society for the History of Natural History.

 

Entitled "Unremitting passion for the beauty and mystery of the natural world" the day included 6 talks about different aspects of Wallace’s life and work, a theatre performance by Theatr na n’Og called "You should ask Wallace" and an evening reception at Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences.

 

2013-06-07 13.30.30.jpg

 

The morning was kicked off by Andrew Sortwell and David Orr Kerr who gave a fascinating talk of following, quite literally, in Wallace’s footsteps with two expeditions to the Amazon, one in 1978 and one in 2007. They shared with us amazing photos of some of locations Wallace would have visited during his 1848-52 expedition there and shared with us photos of native boats, much like Wallace would have travelled in. In 1978 the Wallace Expedition to Amazonia spent three months in remote regions of the Amazon studying the flora and fauna and in 2007, the second expedition involved travelling to the Rio Negro and spending some time in an Indian Reserve. They also visited São Joaquim, now deserted but the village where Wallace nearly lost his life to illness during his expedition. Their talk was fascinating and it was great to see photos of specimens Wallace would have collected and also to see some of David’s beautiful watercolours from the trip.

 

Janet Ashdown, conservator at the Linnean Society was the next speaker and spoke about the project she worked on to conserve Wallace’s 10 notebooks from the Amazon and Malay Archipelago. The Society acquired the notebooks in 1936 after Wallace’s son William offered them via Edward Bagnall Poulton. In 2011 funding was awarded by the Mellon Foundation to digitise the notebooks, but they were in a poor state of repair and needed to be conserved first. Each notebook was in a varying state of disrepair with his Amazon notebook needing the least intervention. There were four notebooks that were really degraded with Janet commenting they had been strangely constructed with straw-board covers. There were also old repairs that had been undertaken and unfortunately old covers had to be permanently removed because of degradation, however they have been kept and the new covers have been modelled closely on the originals. This was a really insightful talk and I enjoyed learning about the method and the time it took to restore these notebooks to their former glory. These notebooks have also just been digitised and are free to view on the Linnean Society’s website.

 

The final talk before lunch was given by Professor Jim Costa on insights and observations into Wallace’s Species notebooks. Professor Costa’s research into these notebooks will be published in October this year in his new book entitled On the Organic Law of Change. The species notebook (held by the Linnean Society, mc. 180) covers the period 1855-1859 whilst he was in the Malay Archipelago, a period of "remarkable creativity" for Wallace as Jim put it which saw the publication of the 1855 Sarawak Law and the 1858 Ternate Essay that saw him catapulted to fame alongside Charles Darwin. Jim also highlights Wallace’s critique of Sir Charles Lyell in his notebook, showing Lyell to be an inspiration to Wallace during this time. Jim has studied, transcribed and annotated the notebook for his new book, which is bound to give new and interesting insights into Wallace and his time spent in the Malay Archipelago.

 

After lunch, I was lucky enough to have been asked to speak about the Wallace Correspondence Project and it was great to be able to share with so many people details about the project and to show people just what an amazing resource Wallace Letters Online is.

 

Also speaking in the afternoon was Annette Lord, a volunteer at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History who spoke about Oxford Wallace’s collection, which consists of over 300 paper items in the Wallace archive, mostly letters and postcards dating from 1860 to 1913 and tens of thousands of specimens collected by Wallace and numerous type specimens, including Wallace’s famous giant bee, Megachile pluto. It was really interesting to hear Annette talk about Oxford’s collections on Wallace and she recounted many great stories told in the letters, mostly to Edwards Bagnall Poulton and Raphael Meldola, all of which are available to view on Wallace Letters Online.

 

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Some lovely specimens from the Oxford Wallace Collection

 

The final talk of the day was given by Dr Charles Smith and focused on Wallace and Natural Selection. Charles explored Wallace’s 1858 Ternate paper - the one which he sent to Darwin and was subsequently read with Darwin’s work on 1 July 1858 at the Linnean Society - and asked how much we really knew about Wallace’s own evolution of thought and explored Wallace being influenced by the works of Alexander von Humboldt. A thoroughly interesting talk and a great end to the presentations.

 

We were then treated to an excellent performance by Theatr na n’Og with a play called "You should ask Wallace". The play tells Wallace’s story, with one actor playing Wallace who recounts his childhood, early surveying career and expeditions to the Amazon and Malay Archipelago. They perform the play in schools around Wales and this year are busy with performances to a wide range of audiences. It was excellent and the actor who played Wallace bore more than a passing resemblance to the young naturalist! It’s a great way to engage a younger audience in Wallace’s extraordinary life and to inspire them also and it was really interesting seeing the play as it helps you to better imagine the challenging feats Wallace undertook.

 

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A Q&A session with Theatr na n'Og after their great performance

 

To round off the day there was a drinks reception at Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences, which gave the delegates a chance to chat to one another about the days interesting talks. It was lovely talking to people so enthusiastic about Wallace, in such interesting surroundings, with the Society’s headquarters full of interesting specimens.

 

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The lovely surroundings of the Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences

 

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Wallace and Darwin both honoured at the Society's headquarters

 

I’d like to say a big thanks to the Linnean Society for organising such an interesting day; another great success for Wallace100!

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Dates and times: Every day, 1 July - 23 November, 10.00-17.50 (last admission 17.30)

 

This summer, take time to uncover the extraordinary adventures of Alfred Russel Wallace in a new family friendly trail at the Natural History Museum. Running from Monday 1 July, the Wallace Discovery Trail celebrates his role as the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, with Charles Darwin. The free trail is part of our Wallace100 celebrations, a series of activities commemorating the centenary of Wallace’s death.

 

Wallace was a British naturalist and explorer who collected more than 100,000 specimens on several epic journeys and discovered over 5,000 new species to science. His observations and notes on animal diversity in the Amazon and southeast Asia helped him discover evolution by natural selection independently of Darwin.

 

Follow the trail through the Museum’s iconic building, from the Central Hall to the spirit collection, to discover some of Wallace’s most important specimens and retrace his journey around the world.

 

The trail includes many items that have never been on public display before, revealing highlights from Wallace’s life and work:

 

  • exotic birds, reptiles and insects he collected, among them toucans and birds of paradise
  • his watercolours and drawings
  • tools of his trade, such as his telescope and sextant
  • a portrait, unveiled earlier this year by comedian and Wallace-enthusiast Bill Bailey
  • an adult orang-utan, probably the largest of all the specimens he collected

 

Dr George Beccaloni, curator at the Natural History Museum and expert on Wallace says:

 

‘This trail explores Wallace’s extraordinary adventures in South America and southeast Asia, in his quest to understand how life on Earth evolved. His travels were funded by the sale of animal specimens he collected, and a selection of some of the most spectacular of these will be on display. Wallace achieved his goal and discovered the process of evolution by natural selection while in Indonesia in 1858, a scientific breakthrough that is considered to be one of the most important ever made by anyone. Although Wallace was one of the most famous scientists of his era, he has largely been forgotten. This trail will help to remind people of his extraordinary life and many great achievements.’

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This month’s letter was written was written by Wallace to his good friend Edward Bagnall Poulton (1856–1943) on 28 May 1889 and it is a letter that reveals much about Wallace’s character. The main reason for Wallace sending Poulton this letter was to inform him he had declined an honorary D.C.L. (Doctor of Civil Law) from Oxford University which he had been informed of by Professor Price. Wallace writes:

"You will probably be surprised and disgusted to hear that I have declined it."

 

He gives his reasoning for declining the D.C.L. to Poulton as a "profound distaste for all public ceremonials" and says that attending such a ceremony would be "positive punishment". He explains that health problems, work commitments and moving to a new cottage in Parkstone, Dorset all mean he is unable to "rush away to Oxford" to receive the honorary degree.

 

Wallace’s language may seem quite ungrateful to what is in reality a huge honour which reflected his reputation in the wider academic community, but I think this is a good example of how humble and in a way dismissive Wallace was about his achievements in the academic world. In all of his extensive scientific work he didn’t need honours bestowed on him from institutions or societies; he was more interested in using his work to educate others.

He ends his letter to Poulton by writing; "really the greatest kindness my friends can do me is to leave me in peaceful obscurity, for I have lived so secluded a life that I am more and more disinclined to crowds of any kind."

 

And that, you may think is the end of that little story. Not so, however. Sadly, we don’t have Poulton’s reply to this letter but we do have the next letter Wallace sent to Poulton on 2 June 1889. It’s obvious from Wallace’s first paragraph that Poulton has tried to convince Wallace to accept the honour and whatever he wrote obviously worked as he writes,

 

"I am exceedingly obliged by your kind letters, and I will say at once that if the Council of the University should again ask me to accept the degree to be conferred in the Autumn as you propose, I could not possibly refuse it."

 

Although somewhat a reluctant acceptance, it is at least an acceptance. Wallace goes on to write, in a typical self-deprecatory fashion,   

 

"I really feel myself too much of an amateur in Nat[ural] Hist[ory], and altogether too ignorant (I left school - a bad one - finally, at 14) to receive honours from a great University. "

 

When I first read this sentence, it truly astounded me to think that Wallace saw himself as merely an "amateur". Education or not, Wallace did so much to change our view of the natural world; he was a visionary of his age. Later letters to Poulton in November 1889 discuss arrangements for the D.C.L. ceremony which was officially awarded to him on 26th November.

 

Whilst researching this blog, I came across a passage in Wallace’s autobiography My Life, volume 2 (p. 201-202) which recorded the event. He wrote,

 

"In the autumn of this year the University of Oxford did me the honour of giving me the honorary degree of D.C.L., which I went to receive in November, when I enjoyed the hospitality of my friend Professor E. B. Poulton."

 

No mention is made in his autobiography of his initial refusal of the honour or of not feeling worthy enough for such an accolade and this is one the reasons why the letters are so important to the study of his life. They give a more honest representation of emotions and opinions. Of course, I’m sure he wouldn’t lie in his autobiography but one could infer after reading that passage, Wallace was nothing but delighted at such an honour when initially that couldn’t be further from the truth. Either that or he simply forgot he was very wary about accepting the D.C.L. in the first place! 

 

Wallace wrote extensively to Poulton and you can read the letters here. If you don’t already, then follow the Library and Archives on twitter, where we’re tweeting weekly about Wallace as part of the Wallace100 celebrations. Also watch out for the next instalment of Letter of the Month in June.

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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Wallace’s Hut Lives!

Posted by George Beccaloni May 18, 2013

By Tony Whitten, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific, Fauna & Flora International

 

Included in the Waigeo chapter of The Malay Archipelago is an engraving of a hut Wallace lived in whilst staying at Bessir (now Yenbesir) village while he was focusing on collecting the Red Bird of Paradise. During the first ‘In the Wake of Wallace’ cruise in January 2012, I paid a visit to this village to present a copy of the Indonesian-language edition of Wallace's book – Kepulauan Nusantara - to the Head of the village. I started to think how it might be possible to reconstruct the hut and during the following year I worked with the cruise owners and Rosita ‘Mona’ Tariola of Conservation International who occasionally visited the village in the context of a marine conservation programme.

 

43.jpgIllustration of the hut in 'The Malay Archipelago'

 

We ensured that the reconstruction was as faithful as possible to the measurements in Wallace’s text and to the illustration, and by Christmas 2012 it was ready. On the following cruise shortly after this I took the first group of visitors to see it. The exact location of the original hut is in doubt, but we are told that the grandfather of the man on whose land the hut was built used to say that a European lived in the spot where the new hut stands.

 

Luckily we had someone (a former President of the Law Society) with us who is the same height as Wallace (6’ 1”) so we had the perfect means of imagining Wallace in and under his hut. The shape is slightly different from the illustration, but I checked the measurements and they are fine. The bindings, etc. are all done without nails and the walls are made from the leaf bases of palms as was traditionally done. The men who built it are quite proud that they now have an example of a house from former times. It is near the path to a Red Bird of Paradise viewing site so that tour groups can take in both during their visits and the owner may even let people stay in it for a consideration.

 

The photos show the hut and the builders. I have also included a view of Yenbesir, and also of Fruin, the village where Wallace stayed with the Chief before going across to Yenbesir.

 

This is Wallace's description of the hut:

 

"It was quite a dwarf's house, just eight feet square, raised on posts so that the floor was four and a half feet above the ground, and the highest part of the ridge only five feet above the flour. As I am six feet and an inch in my stockings, I looked at this with some dismay; but finding that the other houses were much further from water, were dreadfully dirty, and were crowded with people, I at once accepted the little one, and determined to make the best of it. At first I thought of taking out the floor, which would leave it high enough to walk in and out without stooping; but then there would not be room enough, so I left it just as it was, had it thoroughly cleaned out, and brought up my baggage.

 

The upper story I used for sleeping in, and for a store-room. In the lower part (which was quite open all round) I fixed up a small table, arranged my boxes, put up hanging-shelves, laid a mat on the ground with my wicker-chair upon it, hung up another mat on the windward side, and then found that, by bending double and carefully creeping in, I could sit on my chair with my head just clear of the ceiling. Here I lived pretty comfortably for six weeks, taking all my meals and doing all my work at my little table, to and from which I had to creep in a semi-horizontal position a dozen times a day; and, after a few severe knocks on the head by suddenly rising from my chair, learnt to accommodate myself to circumstances. We put up a little sloping cooking-but outside, and a bench on which my lads could skin their birds. At night I went up to my little loft, they spread their mats on the, floor below, and we none of us grumbled at our lodgings."

 

Lo res Wallace at work.jpgThe reconstructed hut with Wallace substitute sitting underneath
© Tony Whitten
Lo res Wallace entering hut.jpgEntering the hut
© Tony Whitten
Lo res Inside the hut.jpgThe inside of the hut
© Tony Whitten
Lo res Hut bindings.jpgDetail of the hut's construction
© Tony Whitten
Lo res Yenbesir village (1).jpgYenbesir village
© Tony Whitten

 

Lo Res Fruin village opp Yenbesir (1).JPGFruin village opposite Yenbesir village
© Tony Whitten
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Sculptor Anthony Smith writes:

 

The rather spooky-looking plaster outline of Wallace shown in my last post has now been fleshed-out with a surface layer of clay and is now looking a lot more human. There are many possible sculpting materials, but I have found nothing better than a good quality water-based sculpting clay, which is similar to common potters clay, but with no grit or 'grog', which gives it a nice smooth finish.

 

I have begun by sculpting Wallace more-or-less nude, so that all of the limbs and muscle groups are correctly modelled, and it is onto this naked form I will soon be adding the clothes (again, all in clay). In order to get all the anatomy and the folds of the clothes correct I am working with a model with a similar physique to Wallace, who will also be wearing the same sorts of clothes that Wallace wore when out hunting specimens in the jungles of the Malay Archipelago. Quite a lot of research has gone into tracking-down the correct clothing, based on Wallace's own writings and the advice of experts, and I now have a Victorian 'hunting-shirt', just like the ones Wallace describes himself as wearing.

 

"To give English entomologists some idea of the collecting here, I will give a sketch of one good day’s work. Till breakfast I am occupied ticketing and noting the captures of the previous day, examining boxes for ants, putting out drying-boxes and setting the insects of any caught by lamp-light. About 10 o’clock I am ready to start. My equipment is, a rug-net [bag-net], large collecting-box hung by a strap over my shoulder, a pair of pliers for Hymenoptera, two bottles with spirits, one large and wide-mouthed for average Coleoptera, &c., the other very small for minute and active insects, which are often lost by attempting to drop them into a large mouthed bottle. These bottles are carried in pockets in my hunting-shirt, and are attached by strings round my neck; the corks are each secured to the bottle by a short string". Wallace in a letter to Stevens from Sarawak in 1855

 

Since the statue of Wallace is around 10% larger than life-size, I am constantly taking measurements from my model and doing enlargement calculations before making the additions to my sculpture.

 

We don't want to give too much of the design away at this stage, so future posts will be limited to written descriptions and perhaps a few detail shots. All will be revealed on 7 November at the unveiling!

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WallaceConference.jpgAlfred Russel Wallace and his Legacy - Wallace100 conference

 

A free one day conference about Wallace will be held at the Museum on Wednesday 23 October 2013. This event is aimed at people who are interested in Wallace's natural history collections and want to find out more about the Wallace-related material kept in the Museum.

 

In the afternoon there will be a unique chance to join an exclusive tour of the Museum Library's Rare Books Room, showcasing manuscripts, artwork, publications and specimens collected by Wallace. Places are limited, so it is essential to book your place in advance. For more information and to register go to the Museum's Wallace conference webpage.

 

Note that the Museum's conference follows on from a two day discussion meeting about Wallace's legacy at The Royal Society, London, which is being held on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 October. This meeting will discuss Wallace's major scientific interests, including evolution, natural history, biogeography, animal colouration, sexual selection and astronomy. It will also examine current thinking on issues that preoccupied him, including his contributions to the social sciences. This event is intended for researchers in relevant fields. It is free to attend but places are limited.

 

Visit the Royal Society website for registration and more details.

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It will be broadcast this Sunday 28 April on BBC2 at 8 pm and will be available on BBC iPlayer not long afterwards. The first part was very highly praised, and in my opinion the second part is even better. Don't miss it!

 

JungleHero2.jpg

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This month’s letter was written to Henry Eeles Dresser (1838-1915), an English ornithologist, on 28 April 1871 - a time when Wallace was well and truly settled back into life in England after his expeditions to the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago.

 

I chose this letter as it reveals not only information about the next big publication he was working on but also more about another great passion he had; building houses. Wallace lived in a fair few places throughout his life; on his return to England from the Malay Archipelago in 1862 he rented a few different properties in London, before building his first house, The Dell, in Grays Essex, living there from 1872-1876. He then moved again and rented three different houses, one in Surrey and two in Croydon, before building his second home Nutwood Cottage in Godalming Surrey, living there from 1881-1889. In 1889 he moved west to Dorset, renting and then buying Corfe View in Parkstone. He built his last home, Old Orchard in Broadstone, Dorset, and lived there from 1902 until his death in 1913.

 

His training as a land surveyor early on in his life no doubt had an enormous impact on his ability to plan his houses as he wanted them - his superb draughtsmen skills are reflected in some original plans we hold in the Wallace archive in the Museum’s library.

 

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Above: Ground plan of The Dell, by Wallace c. 1871 (WP4/1/3).

 

The Dell - the first house he built is the one he references in his letter to Dresser. He begins by apologising to him for not replying to a letter Dresser sent on the 6 February. He explains, “I obtained a piece of land I had been trying after for a year & a half, & have ever since been so busy clearing, roadmaking, & planting, & preparing for building a house, that insects, birds, & Geog. Distribution have alike been driven out of my head”

 

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Plan of the front view of The Dell, c.1871 (WP4/1/4).

 

It took a year to build the Dell and he moved in on 25 March 1872. Prior to this, he was renting a house in Barking, East London, which isn’t too far away from Grays. His move to Grays and desire to build a house was no doubt partly influenced by his young family. He had married Annie five years previous in 1866 and three children quickly arrived; Herbert in 1867, Violet in 1869 and William in 1871. A move to Grays, which was surrounded by countryside, whilst still being close to London by train for business, seemed the best of both worlds.

 

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The Dell, the first house Wallace built, once complete.

© A. R. Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni

 

The Dell was one of the first houses in England to be built mainly of concrete, facilitated by a cement works nearby. The architect was Thomas Wonnacott of Farnham and it is the only house Wallace built that still survives - today it is privately owned but can still be seen from the road.  The Wallace Memorial Fund designed and paid for a commemorative Thurrock Heritage Plaque to be placed on The Dell in 2002. Quite timely for this blog post also is the fact that The Dell has just been put on the market. Anyone rich enough and who wanted to, could live in the house that Wallace built!

 

Whilst at The Dell, Wallace wrote and published one of his landmark texts - The Geographical Distribution of Animals: With a study of the Relations of Living and Extinct Faunas as Elucidating the Past Changes of the Earth’s Surface. It is also the other reason I chose this letter to feature as letter of the month. Wallace writes to Dresser, after urging him to write a paper on the “Birds of Scandinavia & Northern parts of the Palearctic Region”, that he expects he won’t have time until the autumn to “work at the subject of Geog. Distribution… when I hope to be settled in my new abode”.

 

In fact, Wallace wasn’t able to really start work on Geographical Distribution in earnest until 1874 due in part to problems with assembling the  taxonomic classifications for many types of animals, which were not clearly defined and in flux during this period. Philip Lutley Sclater had developed an earlier map showing the world distribution of birds which Wallace built on and expanded in his study to include mammals, reptiles and insects. Wallace's landmark text spilt the world into six distinct zoogeographic regions (known as Wallace's Realms) which are still in use today and he is known as the “father of evolutionary biogeography” because of his contribution to the founding of the subject.

 

Wallace had been observing the geographical distribution of species since his time in the Amazon from 1848-1852 and continued these observations in the Malay Archipelago. He would make notes during his travels on this topic and he gradually realised that the species of a particular region are generally more closely related to each other than they are to species in other regions. It was only realised much later that the reason that Wallace's Realms more-or-less correspond to the Earth's continents is a result of plate tectonics.

 

The ‘Wallace Line’, named in his honour, separates the zoogeographic regions of Asia and Australasia and was discovered by Wallace in June 1856 as he made the short 22 mile journey from Bali to Lombok. He observed many distinct differences amongst the animal species on the two islands. One example that illustrates the many differences he observed is the presence of cockatoo’s on Lombok, which were generally found to have a mainly Australasian distribution. No doubt his early surveying training also had a part to play in this work, as it gave him a keen sense of how things are spatially arranged.

 

The Wallace Collection pages on the Museum’s website features key items from the Wallace archive, including a section on architecture and plans of the three houses he built, as well as some observations made by Wallace on geographical distribution.

 

If you don’t already, then follow the Library and Archives on twitter, where we’re tweeting weekly about Wallace as part of the Wallace100 celebrations. Also watch out for the next instalment of Letter of the Month in May.

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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A very special book is currently being produced to commemorative the Wallace anniversary this year. The Letter from Ternate is being hand printed by Tim Preston on his Victorian Albion printing press at a rate of only about two pages per day. It is a labour of love and poor Tim has been printing for five weeks so far. Fortunately the end is now in sight. Once printing is finished, the book will be professionally hand-bound and engravings and other illustrations tipped-in. There will be a pocket on the inside back cover with additional pictures and other material. The book will consist of 96pp (not 80pp, as I stated in an earlier post). It is being printed on a beautiful mould-made paper from St Cuthbert’s Mill.

 

The book should be of considerable interest to Wallace aficionados since it includes new transcriptions from the original manuscripts of all surviving correspondence relating to the original publication of the Ternate essay, plus the famous essay itself and the speech Wallace gave at the Linnean Society in 1908 to mark the 50th anniversary of the essay's publication. This will be the first time that accurate copies of all the surviving correspondence relating to the publication of the essay have been published together in this way.

 

Only 100 copies of the book will be printed. Most have been reserved already, but a few are still available at the pre-publication price of £50 (£80 after publication). All profits will be donated to the Wallace Memorial Fund. The publication date is late Spring, 2013.

 

Specifications are as follows: the book will measure 12.5 x 18.75cm. Printed letterpress by hand on Somerset Book Soft White 175g, quarter bound in cloth with decorated paper sides. The introduction is by yours truly (George Beccaloni).

 

If you are interested in a copy please contact Tim directly by email.

 

See my earlier post for more information about the book.

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Title page of the book
standardwing.jpgAn illustration from the book: Wallace's standardwing bird of paradise.
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