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Record number: WCP704

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
5 February ?1904

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 5 February ?1904.

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Advice on the importance of having an agent to handle the sale of specimens. Private buyers and museums are possible clients. Birch should check if bird skeletons are required.

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LETTER (WCP704.876)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418497
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, Do<rset>

Feby. 5th. [MS burned]

My dear Fred

Do not accept any such offer as Mr. Kaye’s - yet.

Sir G. Hampson[?] stated very clearly & very properly, that you wanted an "Agent" to sell for you on Commission.

Then, when you are introduced to an "agent" - Rosenberg - you let him make you an offer to buy your collections, & come away withou<t> even asking him if he will be you agent ! - on Commission!

His terms are ridiculous anyhow.

Surely I told you long ago that an Agent was essential, & if not to be had, then Stevens’ Auction Rooms was the only alterntive [MS burned] you could not live selling [MS burned] [[2]] [note written up left side of page burned beyond legibility]

<butter>flies at 2 1/2 each; & I suppose beetles @ 1-d & other orders at 1/2d!!!

Of course I was in a far richer & less known region in the East but one private buyer -Mr. W. W. Saunders - took a complete set of all my insects (butterflies, to bugs & ants) @ s1/6d a specimen, - after the museum had had their pick!

I am afraid there is no time now to do anything much as Saturday is a half-holiday, - but you should have asked some of the Museum People who is to be had as a trustworthy agent, who will sell on Commission, keeping strict accounts, with every buyer, & rendering you an account of [[3]] each separate consignm<ent> [MS burned] sales to each separate purchase with price of each lot sold, so that you can check them by applying to the purchaser if you think proper.

It would certainly be worth your while to pay one third commission for this work honestly done, and even half (50 p[er]cent) would be far better for you than selling to dealers whole collection, by the hundred at any ridiculous price you they like to offer.

It is no good your asking the Museum people or any private buyers what they will give. The case of the mammal skins is different as they want all and they are not numerous. But in insects [MS burned] every one must buy what they [MS burned] [[4]] [MS burned] a fair market price, & [MS burned], only an agent who is also something of an entomologist can tell.

I see in the "Naturalists Directory" two dealers in the S.W. District:

1) E. H. Meek[,] 56, Brompton Road, S.W.

2) B. G. Rye, 281, Fulham Road, S.W.

The latter put F.E.S. after his name but it is not down in the List of Fellows. Perhaps he has given up.

As the Fulham Road is not more than half a mile from you, why not go to him immediately, tell him plainly [what] you want, an Agent to sell on Commission, that you are a thorough Collector, will give your whole time to it, are going to Trinidad & B. Guiana first, then perhaps to less known parts, must have accurate accounts, & regular [MS burned]ittances, & ask if he can give [[5]] references as to capab[le] [MS burned] integrity & business capacity to any of the Museum people, [or] any well known Entomologists. Then ask him what commission he wants - if he asks you what you will give - say 25 p[er]cent to a good agent. If he asks more, say perhaps you will if the first years dealings are satisfactor[y].

He being near the Museum could take your boxes over for them to choose, arrange prices [&c.?] Having a Commission, he will ge<t> the highest possible price, & find ou<t> the rarity of species.

Take notes of what he says - then to the Museum, see Kirby & Waterhouse, - ask if either o[f] them can recommend a bet[ter] [[6]] [MS burned], we will see what his references say, & what you think of him (from his manner &c.) and decide.

Also ask the Museum people what they think about sending a few boxes of what you think to be good things to be sold at Stevens’ Auction Rooms, as Poulton recommended. But if Rye (or the other) is a decent Agent he can do that on your instructions after the Museum have picked. And as he will have the sorting & lotting what are to be sold, he must have his Commission on <i>tems also, which will be well [[7]] worth while, as then Com<mission> is I think only 10 p[er]c[ent].

Tell him plainly that you are a very poor man & must have returns quickly, or you will have to give up collecting & get an overseership on a sugar estate or mine. Above all things - no hesitation - Show him exactly what you want - an honest and capable Agent, & nothing else will do.

I believe there must be some entomologists in London who have no occupation & slender means & would be glad of such an Agen[cy?][MS burned] which would be both interesting [&] profitable employment.

[[8]] [MS burned] [Ask?] the Museum people if they know any - but you can see both Meek & Rye - both are near you - & see which you like best, which gives the best references, & above all which seems most like a business man & is most interested in the work.

There is nothing to be done so important as to see these two men, & then the Museum people. Also enquire if Bird’s skeletons or sterna are wanted, or about similar terms with mammal skins; & you could send them together. You could supply the genera they want if Bowdler Sharpe will give [y]ou a list. Also enquire of Edgar A. Smith [ab]out "Land Shells."

Till Tomorrow Evening | Yours &c. | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

[note written up left side of page][MS burned] 10/- or 20/- accordingly.

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