Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP727

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
19 January 

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 19 January .

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Discusses the importance of finding the best collecting districts to work in, based on Wallace's correspondence with Bates on his time in the Malay Archipelago.

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LETTER (WCP727.899)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418631
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, W<imborne> [MS burned]

January 19th [MS burned]

My dear Fred

I got your letter of Dec[ember] [MS burned] yesterday. It was stamped at P[ort] of Spa<in> [MS burned] so it was 20 days coming this way. A[MS burned] mail goes to morrow from Southampto<n> [MS burned] <I> am sending you the books by Parcel Post, [MS burned] to c/o Messs Harriman<?> as you wished.

What you say now about your diet satisf<ies me> that your food is good, and the indicat[MS burned] recuperation you give are quite sati[MS burned]. With sufficient variety of such food y<ou> [MS burned] to do very well without "plasmon" which [MS burned] needed at all for healthy people. Bu[MS burned] nevertheless good cooking & appetising [MS burned] is also advantageous. Why are there so [MS burned] and so varied delicious foods in the [MS burned] and why have we the capacity of di[MS burned] & enjoying all these refined [MS burned] was not good for us to [MS burned]. This is one of the [MS burned] man [MS burned] [[2]] [MS burned] longing to be able to live, like a [MS burned], on grass only! But no more of this. [MS burned] satisfied. Let us turn to more important <th>ings.

[MS burned] More collectors! And he too sending to Tring! [MS burned] <I> am glad he only collects moths. His account of [MS burned] officialdom of Venezuela and Surinam is [MS burned] <a>larming, and Mr K. Jordan2 evidently had [MS burned] <r>easons when he bade you avoid it Venezuela. But [MS burned] <un>der the wing of Captn Boynton3, you will [MS burned] <I> hope escape all this, though I dare say [MS burned] will have to pay duties on some of your [MS burned]res. But I should think he knows what [MS burned] legal & will not allow either himself or [MS burned] to be robbed. Although therefore, Maracaibo [MS burned]pting, and I have fairly good reports [MS burned] as being little known, I now think it will [MS burned] to give up all idea of any more of [MS burned] as soon as you have cleared [MS burned] should do easily at S. Catalina [MS burned] way to the [[3]] Andes, to one of the richest and least [MS burned] districts which I have just heard of, [MS burned] I will now tell you about, & how to ge[MS burned].

About a month back I saw in the Tr[?]. G[?][MS burned] a paper on some new S. Am[erican] butterflies <by> Mr Percy I. Lathy4 in which here referred <to> "his collection in Peru". I therefore wrote t<o> him as to whether he knew any butterfli<es> from the country round Lake Maracaibo [MS burned] what part of S America he considered le<ast> known. In reply he sent me one or two [MS burned] that no collector was known to have been[?] [MS burned] there [?], but that Venezuela, generally, w<as> [MS burned] well known as any part of S. Ameri<ca> [MS burned]. He then said, that he considered that the [MS burned] slopes of the Andes of Ecuador were the l<east> known and the richest parts of S. Amer<ica> [MS burned] richer even than Peru, "though [MS burned] district of Northern Peru his [illegible word] [MS burned] him over 1000 species [MS burned]. This district [MS burned] [[4]] [MS burned]ia, on a tributary of the Uycayali5<sic> & [MS burned] to 2500 ft. above the sea. There is a [MS burned]ay from Lima to within 20 miles of the place [MS burned] Remon[?]) so that it is easily accessible. He [MS burned] there have been no good collections from the [MS burned] <Ecua>dor districts since Hewitson6 had a collector [MS burned] nearly 50 years ago, and if I remember, he <wa>s not a very good one. I then remembered [MS burned] my dear friend Dr R. Spruce, the botanist, [MS burned] been through this country, and I looked up [MS burned] <de>scription of his journey there which he had written [MS burned]uch, as an introduction to his descriptions [MS burned] S. American Hepaticae published in a French [MS burned]ical Journal. I found that he described [MS burned] <di>strict of "Canelos" on the head waters of the [MS burned] a northern tributary of the Ucayali as being [MS burned] richest in Hepaticae in the whole world, [MS burned] <(a>uthority on Hepatica) <ex>tremely rich in flowering plants. I will [MS burned]te his account of this part of his [MS burned] most interesting.

[MS burned] the Amazon [[5]] Steamers, how far they went, the fares, [MS burned] wrote to the Secretary of the Booth Line [MS burned] who, I saw in an adv<ertisement> run steamers to Para and Ma[MS burned] asking them to send me any particulars [MS burned] could of the Steam communication on the U<pper> Amazon and its Tributaries, with any Guide <books> if they knew of any. He very politely sent [MS burned] a book published by the Amazon Steam Na<vigation> Company called "The Great River" with [MS burned] Map & photos, and particulars of the Reg[MS burned] Steamers up to Peru and up many of the [MS burned] great tributaries. I find that they run [MS burned] fortnightly steamers from Para to Ma[MS burned] and monthly on to Iquitos in Peru 20[MS burned] from Para. This is only about 250 miles [MS burned] the foot of the Andes towards Quito and [MS burned] very likely be itself a good place to colle<ct> [MS burned]. Anyhow it would be a good base of [MS burned] it is in communication by local st[MS burned] boats with all the chief rivers [MS burned] they are navig<able> [MS burned] [[6]] [MS burned]y the Peruvian province of Loreto, & [MS burned] inhabitants, and there are sure to be [MS burned]sh & American traders there. (Most of the traders speak English) As it is 400<?> <mi>les beyond Bates7 farthest it would <pro>bably have many new species and some [MS burned]dean forms. It would also have the [MS burned]l advantage of regularly monthly com<mu>nication with Para and with Liverpool, <so> that you could send all your collections <in> small packages by Parcel Post.

<A> through fare 1st. [class] Cabin [from] Para to Iquitos [MS burned] only £15 -- and no doubt 2nd. [class] Cabin or <dec>k passengers are taken at much lower <ra>tes -- but even the 1st class is not dear for <the> distance. As the Yankee, Clagus, is going [MS burned], when you see him you can learn about [MS burned] passage there, but probably you know <alrea>dy. Thus the cost of getting to within [MS burned] of the Andes in its richest part [MS burned] be less than by any other [MS burned] & enjoyable.

[[7]] From Iquitos you would have [MS burned] two Andean districts, both very [MS burned] far enough apart to be very distinct [MS burned] species. Trading vessels run frequently [MS burned] Iquitos up the Huallaga8 to Yurimaguas9 (250 m<iles>) [MS burned] head of the navigation for large vessel<s>. Thence by native boats and Canoes there [MS burned] frequent communication for 150 miles f[MS burned] with a short land route to Tarapoto10 [MS burned] Moyobamba11, both splendid stations, <the> former Spruce lived at for 2 years, [MS burned] you will see what he says of it wh<en I> send you translation of his narrative<.> Moyobamba is centre of the trade in <">[MS burned] hats", which are brought thence to [MS burned] and thence to Para and the world.

It seems to [1 word deleted illeg.] me, therefore, th<at the> very best thing you can make [MS burned] mind to, is to stick to S. Cat<alina> [MS burned] earn enough to go [MS burned] and make [MS burned] [[8]] [MS burned] your stay in South America. [MS burned] work in the Andes (the lower <slo>pes) in the two districts I have <m>entioned, for ten years at least, <w>ith the probability of getting some of <th>e grandest things that remain to be <d>iscovered in the western tropics.

<I ra>ther think it would be quicker to write than <s>tamp circular tickets.



S. Cat.12

is all you need [MS burned] on the labels, or differently arranged.

<A>s there are such a large number of foreigners <in> Peru and such an immense trade in metals, [MS burned]ine and rubber I think it probable that <it> is not so bad a place for officialdom as <Vene>zuela, especially if you keep away <from> the mines, or the hotels. Whymper13 <was d>readfully plundered by the hotel keepers [MS burned] <p>lateaux -- but your richest ground [MS burned] lower forests and valleys. I hope [MS burned]tion before you have to

[MS burned] | <Alfred R.> Wallace [signature]


1. Plasmon was a proprietary dried milk. Plasmon biscuits were considered a health food.

2. Dr Karl Jordan (1861-1959).

3. Possibly Captain George B. Boynton (1842-1911), adventurer.

4. Percy I. Lathy (1870-1943), herpetologist.

5. Ucayali, a river considered one of the headwaters of the Amazon.

6. William C. Hewitson (1806-1878), zoologist and illustrator.

7. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892), entomologist.

8. The Huallaga River is a river in the Amazon Basin.

9. Yurimaguas is a port town in the Loreto region of Peru.

10. Tarapoto is in Northern Peru.

11. Moyobamba is in N. Peru.

12. ARW has written these abbreviations inside a freehand circle.

13. Edward Whymper (1840-1911), mountaineer.

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