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Record number: WCP1702

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Samuel Stevens
12 May 1856

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Singapore to Samuel Stevens [none given] on 12 May 1856.

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


Talks of the difficulties he has had in getting to Macassar and his preparations he has made for collecting once he arrives there. He is sending two cases to Stevens - one full of books which he wants to sell and the other full of monkey skins, shells, insects for sale as well as insects, birds and monkey skull for private collection. Also some items addressed to Mrs Wallace and Mr Sims. Encloses a letter for forwarding to Bates.

Record contains:

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LETTER (WCP1702.1584)

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

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
Add 7339/233
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information





May 12th. 1856

My dear Mr Stevens2

At last the expected vessel has arrived, having been sent to Bally3[sic] & Lombock[sic], & delayed by Calcus[?]. It will sail again in 4-5 days; so I shall not be able to get the next mail first. We have to go again to Bally where we shall stay a few days, & shall try to pick up something. Our voyage against the monsoon will be about 45 days. You will see therefore that to get from Sarawak to Macassar4 will have has taken me, (a months waiting at Sarawak, ½ month voyage, 3 months at Singapore, and 1½ month to Macassar) in all 6 months utterly lost & at great expense. Such things people never reckon when estimating the profits of collectors. However I will take all precautions that such a thing shall not happen again, & trust that the country I am now going to will repay me for it. I trust such instructions will arrive to Hamilton Gray & Co. by this mail as to enable them to forward me money without any more difficulty as 3 months expenses here & the necessary stores have made a great hole in the £100 they let me draw for.

I have made preparations for collecting extensively by engaging a good man to shoot & skin birds & animals, which I think in the countries I am now going to will pay me very well. When in Singapore before small shot was abundant, now I have had great difficulty in getting a bag at a high price. You had better therefore send me 2 bags of No. 10 shot and 2 of no. 6 with the other shoes & 2000 percussion caps &c. in a month or two, in a strong packing case.

Ask Mr Gould or Mr Sclater5 if the remainder of Bonapartes6 Conspectus, cont<inuin>g the Gallinaceae &c. is out, & if so send it me by post. I enclose a letter for Bates7 which please forward him when you next write. The Papilio Cdrus ? [?] at the sale, I see sold for more than £1 which makes me hope to do well with the fine & rare Papilionidae8 of Celebes & the Moluccas. [[2]] I have heard again from Bowring9 who tells me that the duplicates of his Java coll<ectio>n are not numerous & that he will keep them all to exchange with me when I return to England. He comes home for his health by next mail so you will probably see him. Remember never dispose of all the duplicates of any of my species to the foreign dealers. Always leave from 2 to 12 for me. I have been making a small collection of crustacea from the market. The small ones I can succeed with pretty well, but those of large size will rot & fall to pieces notwithstanding all my care to dry them. Will the B. M. buy fish from here or from Celebes &c. There is a young man who would make a collection. How did Madame Pfeiffer10 preserve hers. She must have had a good many to fetch £25.

I have just taken to Hamilton Grays two boxes. The larger one contains a lot of books principally of classics and Divinity about 170 volumes. There is a list of them at the top of the box. Quaritch11 who lives in a court out of Leicester Square, a dealer in all dictionaries & prayer books will I dare say buy them, or another man in Holborn who deals almost entirely in school books. You can show the list to two or three such persons & accept the highest offer. I should think they will fetch from £10 to £20. If Can you can find no one to buy the whole, they must be sold by auction, & you can send the proceeds deducting expenses & your Commission by an order on the Oriental Bank to Mr Geo. Rappa Jun<io>r (care of W. Crawl Mr W<illia>m Kraal at Hamilton Gray & Co. Singapore) He is the son of the collector who lived many years at Malacca, but has quarrelled with his father & is very badly off. At the top of the box are two volumes of mine the Cyclopedia of Nat. History, which I find too bulky to carry about, so please keep it for me.

Insure for £20. Books for £1012

In the other case are 2 Monkey skins, 38 crustacea, 70 small shells, and near 700 insects, for sale; with about 440 insects for your private collection and 37 Birds all private; the monkeys scull is also private. There are also a few articles addressed to Mrs Wallace [[3]] and Mr Sims. I have put a complete set of the insects now collected in Singapore for my private coll<ectio>n but there are several among them of which I got one specimen only before, the least perfect of the two specimens may therefore go to Mr Saunders if you will carefully [illegible word crossed out] select them. There are many pretty new things shewing that Singapore is far from exhausted yet, & would furnish hosts of novelties to a resident collector.

The "Water Lily" will be near arriving I hope soon after you get this, & I trust the Orang skins will arrive in good condition. Remember the spectacles I mentioned in my last some time back to be repaired & 2 pair new. The endogenous wood is I think of a species of Dracaena. Lobb13 is still here waiting to go to Labuan14. He appears a first rate collector & has had great experience in the East. If the B. M. take any of the Crustacea will you ask Mr White as a favour to furnish me with a list of them, as there are only about 15 or 20 species. The fish were most beautiful & varied & I longed to make a collection but I could not afford to lay out money on a cask of Arrack. There are among the insects I think a few diptera which were not sent before, these must be added to the list. The few books I have returned, keep for me. I shall 15thus gradually reduce my luggage as I go on. I think you will find that my male orangs are quite as large as that in B. M. & the large one in the last cask probably larger. At all events none of the specimens described by Temminck16, Owen17, or Blyth18 are larger than measurement shews them to be. Of course I wish you always to select for me first any Lepidoptera not already in my private collection to make the series for each locality complete. Also keep the localities in separate Boxes. Drawing on you is a very expensive way of getting money here, as besides getting only a dollar for 4s/10 ¾ d I am charged 2½ per cent commission by H<amilton>. G<ray> &Co. for negotiating the bill, which makes each dollar cost me 5s/. [[4]] I have not much more to say, but that I shall always like to hear what is wanted from the countries I am about to visit. I presume good specimens of were[sic?] the common lories Cockatoes[sic] &c will sell, and I expect to get a good many new & some very handsome birds. If I can reach the bird of paradise Country (the Arroo19[sic] Isles) I shall be able to prepare good specimens of those gorgeous birds, one of the greatest treats I can look forward to.

I shall have I think 4 or 5 months of fine weather at Macassar & can then if inclined go on to Amboyna & have a fine season there, as the seasons are reversed in all the Islands E. of Macassar & Timor -- by this going backwards and forwards I hope to be able to escape the wet season for the next two years. I enclose a long letter to Bates which please forward to him by the first opportunity & I hope he will write to me in return.

Lobb has been in Moulmein20 & Burmah which he says is the finest country he has been in for plants and he thinks all branches of Nat. Hist. but very expensive travelling & other expenses. He does not think much of the Moluccas for plants but I have great faith in them for insects & birds. I hope a new Cheirotomus21[sic] or something equally fine may turn up, & I think I deserve one at least. My next letter will let you know what prospects I have & I trust I have good news to tell you.

Yours sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Sam[ue]l Stevens Esq.


1. "Add 7339/233" in pencil in an unknown hand in the top right corner of the page.

2. Samuel Stevens, ARWs collections agent.

3. Bali.

4. Now more commonly spelled Makassar, a city in Indonesia.

5. Philip Lutley Sclater (1829-1913), ornithologist.

6. Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803-1857), ornithologist.

7. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892), entomologist.

8. Papilionidae are swallowtail butterflies.

9. Probably John Charles Bowring (1820-1893), son of Sir John Bowring (1792-1872). John Charles Bowring was an insect collector like the father. In this letter Wallace mentions that Bowring "...comes home for his health by next mail so you will probably see him." This was written in 1856, but Sir John Bowring's tenure as Governor of Hong Kong lasted until September of 1859, making it likely that Wallace was referring to Sir John's son.

10. Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858), traveller.

11. Bernard Alexander Christian Quaritch (1819-1899), bookseller and collector.

12. These notes are written vertically in the left margin of the page.

13. William Lobb (1809-1864), plant collector.

14. Labuan, in East Malaysia.

15. A square bracket on the left margin begins here and ends after "select for me first".

16. Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1778-1858), naturalist.

17. Richard Owen (1804-1892), zoologist.

18. Edward Blyth (1810-1873), naturalist.

19. The Aru Islands in Indonesia.

20. Moulmein is now known as Mawlamyine or Mawlamyaing, a city in Burma.

21. Cheirotonus is a genus of Scarabaeidiae.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.