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Record number: WCP1701

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Samuel Stevens
10 March 1856

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Singapore to Samuel Stevens [none given] on 10 March 1856.

Record created:
21 October 2011 by Catchpole, Caroline
Verified by:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


Talks of administrative matters. Tells of some collection that left by the "Water Lily" Singapore on 5th March including, orang skins and skulls, ferns and insects bird and mammal skins, shells, reptiles and directs Stevens what should be done with these collections.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP1701.1583)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by unsigned.

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
Add 7339/232
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information





March. 10th. 1856

My dear Mr. Stevens

I have received your letter of Jan. 6th. announcing the arrival in good order of the Insects by the "Connubia". At the same time I got the parcel of Books etc. which had been delayed a month as usual at Ceylon. The other shoes &c. do not send till I want something else. Do not send me more B.M. Catalogues, except new ones of Coleoptera, Birds, & Butterflies. The moths have scarcely 50 Indian species in it. I send in the box a pair broken spectacles. Get repaired at the makers, & get another pair exactly like to be sent in next parcel. Get me Crawfords Malay Dictionary 2 vols. (£.2. I think) & send me the 2nd. vol. only by post, as the 1st. is only a grammar & treatise which I do not now want, but keep it for me.1

I have been here already near a month, and must probably remain a month longer doing nothing. I can go nowhere for a short time, owing to the expense of travelling etc as it will be three months before I get more money from you, and after my expenses here and the necessary outfit of clothes[,] ammunition & other necessaries which I must now get, I shall have little enough to pay my passage to Celebes & live for two months. Had I cash to spare I would make a collection of Fish in Spirits & go to some place on the main land, but I am afraid of any expense, as I know the excessive inconvenience & misery of being without cash in a strange country. I ought to lay in a much larger stock of many things here than I can do, for if sent for afterwards I shall get worse articles at double the price. The exchange too is now very bad for me 4.11¼ to the dollar the intrinsic value of which is only 4.2.

[[2]] You say the Bangalore Coll[ectio]ns. are "a very poor lot for Borneo": But you must remember they were all collected in the wet season & before I had found a good locality, and if you turn to my letter when I sent them, you will see that I characterised them myself as a "very miserable collection" except the Moths. I told you in my last that I would not trouble you any more about fixing prices, except in a few instances. Where there are a great number of duplicates you may dispose of some to the Paris dealers, but not till you have sold as many as possible to private parties and not till you have had the collection in your hands a good while, say 12 months. Never sell all the duplicates however. Keep back 10 or 12 always for me.

The remarks of Count M[illeg.] are very amusing, but he is no Entomologist to despise small insects. He errs as most people do in believing that the tropical insects are generally large and beautiful. Mr. Payens coll.[ection] which he mentions was the result of many years collecting, not in Java only but over the whole Archipelago, & as it was no doubt principally obtained through natives, did not contain the smaller & more obscure species. The show therefore would be very great. But if at the end of 5 years collecting you pick out the finest things from my private coll[ectio]n I have little doubt they will surpass it. Even from my Sing[apore] & Bornean collections you may select a very fine series of large and handsome insects of which perhaps half will be single specimens. I believe that when any tropical country is as thoroughly worked as England is, the average size of the insects will be found to be no greater, neither will there be found a larger proportion of bright coloured ones. In a paper I enclose for Newman I have said something on this point.

Before I left London the constant cry was "Do not neglect the small things." "The small things are what we want because they have never been collected in the Tropics."

[[3]] By the "Water Lily" left Singapore March 5th. 1856

2 casks with 5 Orang[utans] skins in Arrack.

1 Box cont[ainin]g 16 orang[utans] sculls[sic] & 2 skeletons[.]

1 Box cont[ainin]g a bundle of ferns & 6 boxes of Insects & sundries.

1 large case cont[ainin]g Bird & Mammal skins, shells, reptiles [,] 1 box of insects & private papers.

1 box cont[ainin]g 2 boxes of Insects - Books & papers & broken specs2.

About the Orang[utan] skins I have written before, stating that I should wish if possible one purchaser for the whole series £250 or £300 (if in good condition) -otherwise to be kept if they can be without any injury & with not much expense. Consult Messrs. Owen & Waterhouse.3

The orang[utan] sculls[sic] & skeletons are all private.4

Of the ferns, keep one complete set including the numbered specimens for me.5

The shells dispose of as quick as possible.6

The Bird skins, in the tin box only, 60 in number are for sale. all[sic] others private[.]7

The Mammals as before, sell, keeping back for me a series of the squirrels, & of all others which Mr. Waterhouse cannot name.8

The Reptiles sell to any one who will furnish me with a list of them the whole! On those conditions they can go at a low price.9

There are about 5000 insects for sale besides upwards of 2000 private. There are two boxes of Butterflies in papers among which are a few good things. Of these you must select a series for me, if not [[4]] already in my private coll.[ection] from Borneo. There are about 1500 more moths, which I worked very hard to get, staying alone up on the top of the mountain for a month or more. You must complete my series from them & substitute better specimens where required, & you will then have left a fine series for Mr. Saunders & for sale. There are many fine new species among them & the small ones are better pinned & preserved than in my former coll[ectio]n.

Value for insurance

2 casks of Orang[utan] skins-------------------------------- £50

1 box of skeletons etc.--------------------------------------- £100

Insects (7000)-------------------------------------------------- £75

Mammal & Bird skins etc------------------------------------- £25

Total £250

I put the skeletons high because those sent before will be workless without these sculls.[sic]

Should the first cask of skins have arrived & the skins be spoilt, reduce the amount above mentioned to £25.

A human scull[sic] in the larger case is for J. B. Davis Esq.

Shelton, Staffordshire who will send for it.


1. The text "Lacordaires vol. is as Bates says very good, send me the next vol. when out" has been added up the left margin of the page.

2. This list of items is enclosed in the left margin by a curly bracket and labelled "Six" and "6", presumably denoting the total number of boxes sent.

3. The block of text from "About the Orang[utan] skins…" to " Consult Messrs. Owen & Waterhouse." has been separated from the text above by a horizontal line across the whole page and from the section below by a short horizontal line at the left side of the page. A vertical line has also been drawn beside this text in the left margin.

4. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page and has been highlighted by a vertical line next to the text in the left margin.

5. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page.

6. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page.

7. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page.

8. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page.

9. This section has likewise been separated from the one below by a short horizontal line at the left of the page.

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