Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP728

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
12 February 1905

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 12 February 1905.

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Advises Birch on his business arrangements.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP728.900)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418635
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, Wimbourn

Feb[ruar]y. 12th. 1905

My dear Fred

Yours of Jan[uary] 27, received last week saying you are going to the S[outh].E[ast]. if island, & also think of going to Gr.- [word illeg.] on the Pamia Peninsula. Tell me in your next whereabouts this is as if near the point of the pen[insul]a. it is so narrow that it is hardly likely to be rich in species. But if you hear from your Spanish friend more favourable accounts, it would be well to try the El Callas district, & first you try the port or railway terminus op[posite]. the Orinooko [sic] where there is since to be a settlement, & wood cutting for houses, wharfs, railway &c. and just as likely to be rich in species as inland -- perhaps more so. And if there is regular communication with P[ort]. of Spain you could easily get away, & if you did [MS damaged] go near the mines[?], there would be less jealousy of you as an Englishman, & [MS damaged] would see that you really were [MS damaged] [[2]]3 explorer in disguise This is really important.. I hope my last long letter about Brazil did not alarm you & make you think I want to drive you there. No such thing. But if other places fail it is just as well to have information that may be useful. I am sure if you can arrange to work the Orinooko [sic] mouth district all your friends will be pleased, and I have no doubt you might collect birds there to advantage. I am rather surprised you never seem to have even thought of working the Tucuche district with those fine roads through the forests, but I suppose you had your reasons. Very likely where you are, when you get this, will be newer & richer -- I am longing to hear.

The box of butterflies you sent to Poulton4 are enough & more to pay your debt, & he thinks so, but he tells me they are not what he wants, but only mimicking or singularly protective coloured forms – but mimickers especially I rather think [MS damaged] [it] would be better to ask him to [MS damaged] to Janson5 -- he picking out [MS damaged] species at a fixed [[3]]6 price not less than 1/- or 1/6 each I think -- but you leave that to him and Janson.

Now as to Janson’s letter. I think that probably £17 is the price Mr. Druce7 paid for his first picks, taking a complete set of the Lepidoptera up to 4 specimens when there were so many. Now as there were 584 sp[ecies]. And 1739 specimens he would probably have had an average of 2 of each sp[ecies]. making 1168 specimens in all -- but supposing he had only 1000. This would be only about 4d each -- which I call a ridiculous price -- even though most were small.

If I were in your place I would now write asking Janson for a statement of sales up to date, with names of purchasers -- number of specimens bought by the chief of [MS damaged] and average price. [MS damaged] [[4]]8 have heard from me that Mr. Druce had bought a complete set of the Lep[idoptera]. Up to 4 specimens of each when available and you was [2 words illeg. crossed-out] very much pleased with these. That you do not understand why you he did not tell him you this yourself himself, and that if he is going to conceal names & prices, in that way you will not send[?] him another collection, & but send all the Lep[idoptera]. To Mr. Druce & the Coleop[tera]. to Mr. Schill, and the Mammals to [the] B[ritish]. M[useum]. -- and all the duplicates sent home till your return. That may perhaps bring him to his senses.

Mr. Druce wrote me that he had asked you to call on him before going out, as he thought it likely he could “come to some arrangement with you to send him[?] you out”! He added that he thought some parts of Ecuador or Bolivia

would [MS damaged] far the best countries. No doubt, but [MS damaged] of going is prohibitive at present, [MS damaged] that you can get [MS damaged] 9 [[5]]10,11 512 money advanced by him now at any time, and if you wish it & will

write to him to that effect I will come to some arrangement with him as to prices, and conditions. The same[?] can be done with Mr. Schill for beetles, &

you could then send small lots to each frequently by Parcel post, let them pick as much as they want at a fixed price, & return the remainder to your sister. I have very little doubt Mr. Rothschild13 would do the same with birds or perhaps for butterflies also, giving a better price than Mr. Druce. I think it would be well to collect a series of birds at Guayaguayáre14 and send a dozen put up in your best style to Mr. [MS damaged] Ernst Hartert15 as he requested

[MS damaged] will prepare the way for [MS damaged] of this sort. [MS damaged] [[6]]16 depend on Janson’s reply, & the openness & clearness of his statements. As soon as these people are all satisfied of your being a good collector, & that you are determined to stick at it for some years, they will be only too glad to have first pick each in their special groups, and of course they

must pay a reasonably good price for the priviledge [sic]. But at present it rests with you to find a good locality on the main land, and as Trinidad seems now to be quite a trade centre you can probably reach anywhere on the coast of Venezuela or New Granada or up the Orinooco [sic] [MS damaged] I

presume you can get a [MS damaged] P[ort]. of Spain but if a Foreign Office [MS damaged] use I dare say [[7]]17 we can get one for you -- Make enquiries [MS damaged] [.] So long as places near the coast are not well worked do not think of going long journeys inland. Here is not only the cost of going there but the long times of communication, & risk of sending things safe home, while except for being near great mountains like the Andes the lowlands seem

richer than the uplands and certainly the inhabited parts always make these the uninhabited. Always remember[?] that! Roads, paths, banks of streams or lakes, are necessaries for good collecting and the grandest forests I have often found absolutely barren of life! All Bates’18 best places were populous villages or small towns with plenty of Indians about. Roads, paths and clearings -- these are necessary.

It is most depressing what you say about beetles so far. But some day you will come upon a really good place for them & then you will enjoy it! It even beats butterfly-catching!

In writing to Janson I would [MS damaged] not complain of prices &c. but [MS damaged] say decidedly that [MS damaged] [[8]]19 [MS damaged] information I have stated.

If Venezuela & Orinooko [sic] should fail & you decide to try Guiana rather than Brazil or the Eastern Andes with the help of Mr. Druce, then I would certainly not go hundreds of miles up the rivers, before you have tried the Missionary Settlements.

Have you made enquiries about [the] cost of getting up the Meta or the Apure to the forest near the Andes and if there are any settlements there in the forests? That no doubt would be the newest country you could go to, and I expect Mr. Druce would be glad to pay your expenses there, but you had better have a year’s collecting near the coast first & get all the information possible & learn some Spanish!

That’s all at present from | your sincere friend | Alfred R.Wallace -- [signature]


1. There is fire damage to the right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

2. There is a stamp in the top left-hand corner of the page. It reads: Entomology BMNH Library”. Overlaying part of this, there is a catalogue reference number. It reads: “89”.

3. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

4. Edward Bagnall Poulton (1856- 1943). British evolutionary biologist.

5. Possibly Oliver Erichson Janson (1850-1925). English entomologist.

6. There is fire damage to the right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

7. Possibly Herbert Druce (1846-1913) or Hamilton Herbert Druce (1869-1922). Both were British entomologists

8. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

9. Wallace has written, vertically, in the left-hand margin of the page. Much of the script is damaged and illegible.

10. There is fire damage to the right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

11. There is a stamp in the top left-hand corner of the page. It reads: Entomology BMNH Library”. To the left of this, there is a catalogue reference number. It reads: “90”.

12. Wallace has written the page number at the top of the page.

13. Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild (1868-1937). British banker, politician and zoologist. Established a zoological collection at Tring which is now a division of the Natural History Museum.

14. Located on the south-eastern coast of Trinidad.

15. Ernst Johann Otto Hartert (1859-1933). German ornithologist and curator at Rothschild’s museum at Tring.

16. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

17. There is fire damage to the right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

18. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892). English naturalist and explorer, with whom Wallace journeyed to Brazil in 1848.

19. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

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