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Record number: WCP4872

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Lyell
25 April 1867

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 9 St Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park, London, N.W. to Charles Lyell [none given] on 25 April 1867.

Record created:
16 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4872.5273)

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

Held by:
American Philosophical Society
Finding number:
The Darwin-Lyell Collection
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




9, St Mark’s Crescent N.W.

April 25th. 1867

Dear Sir Charles

I wish to send you a few notes of the distribution of pigs in the Malay Archipelago, because in connection with the facts you have of their power of swimming at sea it becomes especially interesting.

Species of wild pig are found in every large island from Sumatra to New Guinea, but not I believe further East. In Borneo[,] Java[,] New Guinea and Timor there are distinct species and probably many others in the other islands for they have been little studied. [[2]] I was assured by one of the Dutch Officials at Ternate that he had killed in Gilolo 3 distinct kinds of wild pig.

Comparing this with the distribution of other placental mammals, Deer extend to Gilolo, Ceram and Timor but not to Morty or Mysol2. One of the Carnivora (Paradoxurus musanga)3 has nearly the same range, but extends also to the Ke’ Islands4, -- but not to Aru, Mysol or Waigion5. Wild Cats are found in Celebes, and Timor, but not in the Moluccas -- Monkeys in the islands between Java and Timor. A baboon in Celebes and Batchian6 only. Squirrels reach [[3]] Celebes and Sumbawa, but no further East.

You may depend on these facts. The lists given in Murray’s7 book are exceedingly accurate.

The curious thing is that pigs are found in all the small islands where none of the other mammalia occur as, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, -- the island of Morty, N[orth]. of Gilolo, -- Obi.8 S[outh] of Batchian, -- the Abu Is[lands]., 100 miles from N[ew]. Guinea, -- and Banda, 60 miles from Ceram.

One of the small outlying islands of the Aru Group is called Pulo babi, or "Pig islands" because it hasa race of pigs descended from some that escaped from a shipwrecked vessel some 30-40 years ago. I was told they were much larger and very different [[4]] from the Sus papuensis of Aru. They had not spread to any other island.

In a short article in the last number of the "Quarterly Journal of Science" on the The Polynesians, I have given a few facts as to the birds of the Pacific islands, which may be of interest to you.

Beetles would I think be occasionally carried immense distances. Their wing cases standing up erect during flight would form sails & they would might be carried hundreds of miles by a strong gale, and then specific gravity is so small that they would be blown from the surface of the water if they fell on it. Many beetles stand immersion in alcohol 24 hours without any injury, & would therefore probably stand sea water many days.

I no longer see insuperable difficulties in any of the anomalies of distribution.

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Sir C. Lyell9

I enclose a card for seeing my Collections which are now on view at Bayswater.10


1. The number 412 is written in the top right-hand corner of the page. It is not in Wallace’s hand-writing.

2. Wallace is probably referring to modern day Morotai and Misool. Both islands are situated in the Maluku Islands.

3. A sub-species of the Asian Palm Civet, first described by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1821.

4. Wallace is referring to the Kai Islands, located in the south-east of the Malaku Province.

5. Wallace is probably referring to present day Waigeo, an island in the West Papua Province of Indonesia.

6. Present day Bacan.

7. Unfortunately it is not clear precisely to whom Wallace is referring.

8. Present day Obira or Utara. The island lies south of the larger Halmahera in the Maluku Islands.

9. Wallace has written the addressee’s name at the bottom of the page.

10. This sentence, written as a postscript, is written vertically in the left-hand margin of the page.

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