Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP4317

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Francis Polkinghorne Pascoe
20 December 1860

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Ternate Island, Moluccas, [Indonesia] to Francis Polkinghorne Pascoe [none given] on 20 December 1860.

Record created:
11 July 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


Has received letters of January and March on his return last month. Thanks for papers but has not received the list of longicorns of Australia. "The quantity of obscure species in my collections are beginning to frighten me." Has just packed over 13,000 specimens, but they are particularly poor in longicorns and Coleoptera generally. The geographical distribution of insects in the archipelago is far less strongly marked than that of birds and mammals, may be imputed to the greater liability of insects to accidental dispersion etc

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP4317.4458)

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

Held by:
Hope Entomological Library, Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Finding number:
ARW 238
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information





Dec[embe]r. 20th. 1860

My dear Mr. Pascoe

Yours of January & March last were only received by me on my return here last month. Many thanks for the papers you have sent me (the list of Longicorns of Australia I have not however received) & especially for your ideas on the subject of publishing genera & species. Your plan has removed a considerable weight from my mind, for the quantity of minute & obscure species in my collections were beginning to frighten me.

My collections now just packed are immense as regards specimens (above 13,000) [[2]] but they are particularly poor in Longicorns & in fact in Coleoptera generally. There will be no doubt some curious & new things among the small ones wh[ich] are very numerous. They are from Ceram[,] Mysol & Waigiou, & if you are taking to Homoptera you will find I think the largest collection of these you have ever seen.

The Geographical distribution of Insects in the Archipelago is certainly far less strongly marked than that of Birds & Mammals, but I think that it may be in a great measure imputed to the much greater liability of insects to accidental dispersion. Still such cases as Tmesisternus & its allies strictly confined to the Australian region of the [[3]] Archipelago & Collyris almost equally peculiar to the Indian region point to the same primary distribution in the one case as in the other. More generally however the same genera have I think sub groups with a characteristic "facies" in each region. Insects moreover are much more affected by as to form by local circumstances than Birds & Mammals, thus the extreme general similarity in climate & vegetation between Borneo & N[ew] Guinea has led also to a general similarity in the most prevalent insect forms, while the really close zoologic connection between Australia & N[ew] Guinea is obscured by the very strongly contrasted physical features of the two countries being favourable to [[4]]1 the propagation & development of distinct forms of insect life. Thus the Anthribidae of the Indian region have increased & developed rapidly in the equally luxuriant forests of the Moluccas & N[ew] Guinea, while in the arid plains of Australia they barely exist. On the other hand the numerous Melolonthidae of Australia favoured by the dry climate & numerous flowering shrubs of [word crossed out] its plains, are unknown in the damp & flowerless forests of N[ew] Guinea & the Moluccas, where also the more bulky forms of the Indian region have not been able to penetrate. Hence the excessive paucity of Lamellicornes in N[ew] Guinea.

The distribution of insects is therefore more obscure & complicated than that of the vertebrates. It was originally the same, but it is more rapidly affected by time & the accidents of distribution & differences of climate.

In haste Yours very faithfully Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

F. P. Pascoe Esq.


1. This is actually the verso of the first sheet of the letter.

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