Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP708

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

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 16 February ?1904.

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Gives advice on dealers and the advantages and disadvantages of dealing with personal dealers such as Druce, Janson, or Trevor compared to institutions such as the British Museum.

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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP708.880)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418501
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, [MS burned]

Feb. 16th 190[MS burned]

My dear Fred

What a hasty fellow you are to jump to conclusions! Just as I was feeling satisfied with all you had seen & learnt in London as rendering your success tolerably secure, you coolly propose to throw it all overboard because Mr. Druce offers to take a few sets of your Lepidoptera! That is, you would be risking your very life & the entire success of your voyage & work, on the health, life, or fortune of one man! Why, even if he were away on the Continent, for health or pleasure for two or three months it ought to delay your getting any remittance from him as to leave you actually penniless, and obliged to com[MS burned] [[2]] [MS burned] Georgetown (or some other [MS burned]) to earn your living. Besides you will supply him with sets of most of the common things in the first six months, say; and o you think you can live and travel on the few rarities you will meet with afterwards? In the mean time you lose all the advantages of the British Museums purchases of all orders of insects, which will amount to more, & be a far more secure source of income than Mr. Druce, & which is in fact absolutely essential for the success of a collector, - and by success I do not mean making a fortune but making a living and at the same time accumulating sufficient capital to enable you [[3]] to travel to more remote [MS burned] countries, and even to collect properly, which you cannot do without employing at least two native servants or collectors.

See what a deal of trouble you give me, explaining all this to you, which is yet so obvious that half an hours cool thought on the subject would have enabled you to do it for yourself. Again, you have made no allowance for your collections being damaged or lost on the way home, nor any other risks. Again, you put itas if the question were between sending direct to private persons and selling to dealers, when you know that dealers are now out of the question altogether.

Again, the extra trouble involved in sending separate consignments to several people, keeping, separate accounts of each, with the certainty of your of[MS burned] [[4]] [Ms burned] things they don’t want, or [MS burned]ending them something they do want; and again, the difficulty of fixing on such a price beforehand as to be fair to both parties, amid all the uncertainties of collecting & transmission and still greater uncertainty of the proportion of new rare, or fine things may get, - an all so great, that I again most strongly advise you to arrange with Jauson to send him everything, except Prof[essor] Poulton’s little lot, wh[ich] being paid for in advance are in quite a different category. Tell Jauson what Druce wants, & to give him the first choice of them, at a fair price, & that I am sure will in the end please Mr. Druce himself best, while being far better & fairer for you, & the only one that will be permanently satisfactory.

I advise you therefore to write to Jauson at once offering to send him the whole of your collections, and asking him to send you a letter in which he undertakes to be your agent to render full accounts of the sales to each buyer, keeping each consignment separate, to send you information as to best things, new species &c. and remit proceeds of the early collections as soon as possible. [[5]] Also state, that as you wi<ll send> him everything, he must charge the lowest commission as stated by his son to you. You then write to him accepting his terms, & the business will be settled.

Afterwards you can write to Mr. Druce saying that all your collections will be sent to Mr. Jauson & that you have asked him to let Mr. Druce have first choice of the Lepidoptera, which of course as he [is[ a rich buyer he will be very glad to do.

Mr. Trevor Baltye[?] is not I believe a collector except perhaps of mammals and Birds - as he is not a fellow of the Nat. Soc[iety]. I expect he is going more for pleasure than anything else & you have [[6]] [MS burned] better be independent.

Of course any special series you reserve for yourself you can send direct to your sister, or if more convenient to enclose in the case you are sending to Jauson, then mark it Private, & address it to your sister, asking him to send it on by Parcel Post or sail.

You may also say that you write him to undertake to send you all information that may be useful to your work - which of course he will be glad to do, as with such an arrangement your interests will be identical. During the 12 years S. Stevens was my agent I never had the slightest cause of complaint in this respect. He used [[7]] to write me long letters [MS burned] consignment giving me [MS burned] information about special sales & good prices for certain things which were most useful & encouraging. All this you lose if you d’ont[sic] have an agent, as private buyers will not take the trouble & have no interest in telling you the real value of everything or anything.

In haste | Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

I would not trouble about Mr. Schill now, but just write to say where you are sailing & [[8]] <that> Mr. Janson is your agent. Even less than in butterflies you cannot fix prices for beetles beforehand.

A.R.W. [signature]

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