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Record number: WCP4676

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Heinrich Ernst Karl Jordan
17 February 1910

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Heinrich Ernst Karl Jordan [none given] on 17 February 1910.

Record created:
23 August 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4676.5004)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM TR/1/1/31/628
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Old Orchard,



Feb[ruar]y. 17th. 1910

Dr. Karl Jordan1

Dear Dr. Jordan

I want the names of a few butterflies which I dare say you can give me without trouble. I am writing a chapter on Colour, and I want the names of those species of butterflies which have changing phosphorescent glows. I know of 3 only -- but you probably know of many more. One is Papilio catord[?] (G.R. Gray)2 the red spots on hind is chang[ed] to intense luminous [word illeg.] [2] when viewed very obliquely from the head.

Another is a rare Ornithoptera from the Philippines -- the yellow on the hind wings of which changes in a similar manner to this O.megallanus?

The third is a wonderful little genus of Erycinidiae which Bates3 got at Ega4 (I believe) in which the whole upper surface is if I remember a buff-yellow, but which changes to the phosphorescent glow when viewed obliquely.

I was immensely struck by these 3 butterflies because they [[3]] seemed to me to go beyond any colours even in birds or beetles.

Will you kindly give me the correct names of these I have referred to -- also, how many other species you know of in these or in other groups -- also, do you agree with me that the appearance is best described as phosphorescent or opalescent. I used to use the latter term, but last summer looking closely at a very fine glow worm, it struck me at once that the Papilio [[4]] (the only one I have that shows it --) changed into such a luminosity, -- as if it gave out light rather than reflected it. Has any one written on these changes of colour?

Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. Heinrich Ernst Karl Jordan (1861-1959). German entomologist.

2. George Robert Gray (1808-1872). English zoologist and author.

3. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892). English naturalist and explorer. Wallace's associate in his expedition to the Amazon.

4. Modern-day Tefé. A city in northern Brazil.

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