Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP731

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

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 13 March 1905.

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Advises Birch on where to go collecting in continental South America.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP731.903)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418721
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, Wimborne

March 13th. 1905

My dear Fred

I was very glad to get yours of Feb[ruary]. 24th. last week, & to hear nothing more of your swollen lip which I was afraid might have laid you up for a month as it did me. Your account of the scarcity of insects in the dry season is most amazing to me, and shows how comparitively [sic] slight changes of climatic conditions affect life, especially insect life. But all my experiences of good beetle collecting was in the East, but you have no doubt read all that Bates3 wrote about his Amazon collecting. I know in some [MS damaged] letters to me he gave some numbers [MS damaged] of species & specimens collected <on> [MS damaged] a good day, and [MS damaged] [[2]]4 were a little higher than my best. But I do not remember his saying anything about the richness of fallen trees, & they may not be so good as in the East. With me in Borneo &c. Laniidae[?] were much more abundant (in species) than Cerambycidae, whereas on the Amazon the reverse was the case. Now the former are preeminently [sic] wood-gnawers -- the latter flower & leaf harvesters, & that may make a great difference in the two countries. Still as H.H.Smith5 specially mentioned the rich collecting among the fallen trees &c. at Santarem, and the Brazil Engineer the same among old rails[?] & new-cleared forest in Central Brazil , the absence of any in Trinidad is really [MS damaged] <incomprehensible>. [[3]]6

The two places you think of going to seem both highly promising.

Guanipa, on my map is a river just to the north of the Delta, its mouth being in the mouth of the most N[orth]. E[ast]. Entrance to the Orinooko [sic]. You would have there the same fauna as at the great-pitch lake at Guanoco, but a mangrove swamp sounds horrid. They usually swarm with mosquitos and are impassable without a plank path to the dry land. The important thing is how near is the dry land & the villages of the Indians, have they plantations, is there wood-cutting &c.

Santa Catalina seems more promising as you would be there in the extreme N[orth]. Of the Guayana district, and only 80 miles from El Callao. It seems to be on a side branch of the main river, with a range of hills midway between the [MS damaged] two places.

You don’t say what the [MS damaged] [[4]]7 are doing. Are they planting or timber cutting or what? I think it would be advisable for you to go for a month or two to both places, as you would probably find them more distinct in species than usual for only 100 miles apart, as the one is Venezuelan the other is the Guayanan subregion. If at all suitable for comfort, paths, food, natives &c. you could hardly have two more interesting localities so near.

At all events you might begin collecting everything there -- birds, mammals (small) land & fresh water, shells, as well as insects of all orders. Of course they are not remote enough to have a large proportion of new species, but still you might to [MS damaged] at both, a good sample of [MS damaged] Continental S[outh]. America. I long to hear [MS damaged] <of your> experiences there.

[MS damaged] 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”. Above, and to the left of this, is a catalogue/ reference number. It reads: “28”.

3. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892). British zoologist with whom Wallace travelled to Brazil in 1848.

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

5. Herbert Huntingdon Smith (1851-1919). American collector and museum curator.

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

7. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges 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.