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Record number: WCP733

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
25 April [1905]

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, ?Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on 25 April [1905].

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Advises Birch on his business dealings with Janson.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP733.905)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418729
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, <Wimborne> [MS damaged]

April 25th. <1905> [MS damaged]

My dear Fred

Yours of April 6th. arrived 2[0?] [MS damaged] [.] Your attack of fever was sharp and very [MS damaged] I never had such preliminary symptoms. [MS damaged] took too much quinine at a dose. Had y[ou] [MS damaged] taken it earlier & half the dose daily it [MS damaged] probably have stopped the attack with no [MS damaged] effects.

3Now as to what you say a[bout] [MS damaged] Janson4, and Mr. Druce5, and the collections [MS damaged] which Prof[essor]. Poulter tells me of the absurdly low prices [MS damaged] of butterflies & moths from places where [MS damaged] are resident or mature collectors, it see[ms] [MS damaged] that Janson was not far off in his [MS damaged][.] As I told you, my only doubt is as to the <sum> [MS damaged] Druce paid for the first series of all the Lep[idoptera] [MS damaged] [.] It seems to me that sh[oul]d have been ab[out] [MS damaged] 6d, as it included a sprinkling of rar[e] [MS damaged] some new sp[ecies]., and all in fine condition [MS damaged] that pick, no doubt on average of [MS damaged] much as he can get. I [MS damaged] I think I said before [MS damaged] [[2]]7 [MS damaged] <most> of your collections from Trinidad [MS damaged] [J]anson, as there appears to be no [MS damaged] [rea]son whatever for breaking with him [un]less he actually refused to give the [MS damaged] [in]formation as to the prices you asked for. [MS damaged], as to the beetles -- who had the first <pick> how many he took, and at what [MS damaged] [pri]ce? That all comes in one line of [MS damaged] <the?> statement of account , and cannot be [MS damaged] [ref]used[?] on grounds of “too much work” without some ulterior object.

Again, pray do not think of sending anything to anybody without a previous [MS damaged] [de]finite arrangement. By doing so you [MS damaged] [wi]ll be putting yourself entirely in their <power>, besides putting them into an awkward position. It is almost sure [MS damaged] <to> lead to dissatisfaction, and perhaps [MS damaged] <a> quarrel, and then you will have to seek another [MS damaged] <purchaser> -- “better to bear the ills you [sic] have [MS damaged] <than fly to others> than you know not of” -- [MS damaged] <something?> just as [[3]]8 greedy and unfair as needs [MS damaged] be. I repeat what I said before -- [MS damaged] I hear that it is necessary to part [MS damaged] <from> Janson, & that you have actually [MS damaged] then I will and make and arrang[ement] [MS damaged] with Druce and Rothschild9 for your collections; but it is evident from [MS damaged] <what> Mr. Jordan said, that they will not [MS damaged] any more Venezuelan insects [MS damaged] apparently had enough from [MS damaged] Santa Catalina is so near B[ritish]. Guiana that you [MS damaged] <can’t?> expect more than a small propor[tion] [MS damaged] <of> new species. But should it turn ou[t] [MS damaged] <to> be a really rich locality for inse[cts] [MS damaged] generally (nearly equal to Para [MS damaged] <)> so that you can, as Jordan says, [MS damaged] insects of all orders, then, no <doubt you> [MS damaged] can profitably stay a year there [MS damaged] it is poor again, Trinidad, [MS damaged] 2-3 months would be <enough> [MS damaged] last accounts in your letter <dated?> [MS damaged] [[4]]10 <managing?>, and I really hope you will [MS damaged] <be at> length rewarded. You do not say if [MS damaged] <there> are any Indians about, or if all the [MS damaged] [wor]kmen[?] are negroes. It will be a great [a]dvantage to the hospitality and [f]riendship of Mrs Boynton, and no [do]ubt the Scotchman, Mr. Stanley Adam [w]ill be equally hospitable, as visitors [MS damaged] <if they> are not business competitors are [al]ways welcome in such countries.

I do not myself think that any “hills” or mountains [MS damaged] generally so rich in insects as the lowland, [MS damaged] [g]enerally[?], very poor. Roads, paths, and [MS damaged] <the> banks of streams are the places.

Of course the Andes or other big moun[tains] are different, but there too, I feel [MS damaged] [pre]tty sure it will be the valley bottoms [MS damaged] [tha]t will be richest.

[MS damaged] <It is> interesting what you say about frogs [MS damaged] butterflies! Do not think I shall [MS damaged] -- I am too busy Perhaps the [MS damaged] bit[?] of wing it bites out [[5]]11 (5)12 and is satisfied with it [word illeg.] the wing [MS damaged] be distasteful even in Heliconids. So [MS damaged] a frog could hardly swallow the who[le] body of the butterfly. Again there [sic] little [MS damaged] don’t hurt the butterfly, so it[?] needs [MS damaged] protection from them! Look out for a fr[og] swallowing a whole butterfly!

As to what you say about Poulton’s [MS damaged] insects I should simply ask him to [MS damaged] them to Janson to be sold on your <behalf> [MS damaged] You cannot expect him to hunt for [MS damaged] publisher He is tremendously busy -- has a big book [MS damaged] purchaser . Besides you ought to sen[d] [MS damaged] them to Janson as long as he is your agent. I really hope he (Janson) will agree <to> [MS damaged] you asked and you have no need to to give him up. It will be far better on the whole.

As to your enquiry about Prof[essor]. [MS damaged] mimicking specimens I should say, send all to Janson [MS damaged] make up a box or more of ill[ustrations][?] [MS damaged] of Mimicry, for Prof[essor]. Poulton [MS damaged] first pick from [MS damaged] [[6]]13 [MS damaged] the £10. is paid, you can still [MS damaged] all the cases of mimicry in separate [MS damaged] from which Poulton is to have [f]irst pick. As I said before, if you [MS damaged] begin sending things separately [MS damaged] <to> a number of people without a [p]revious clear arrangement as to [p]rices and time and mode of payment, you will involve yourself in endless trouble, and will find it impossible [MS damaged] <to> satisfy all, or even any. That is the immense advantage of a good agent, and paying him a liberal commission. As I said as the very first, 20 p.c. is not too much for a really honest and [MS damaged] [cap]able agent, who will give you [MS damaged] information of all important [MS damaged] [sa]les[?]. It will then be his interest to [MS damaged] <find?> always the best prices, and he can [MS damaged] infinitely better than you [MS damaged] if Janson is honest [[7]]14 -- and we really have no reason [MS damaged] <to> consider him otherwise -- your. [sic] [MS damaged] [MS damaged] collections could never pay him for <the> [MS damaged] trouble of disposing of them. I think [MS damaged] therefore that if he meets you half-<way?> [MS damaged] you might say a word of apology [MS damaged] regret for having complained of the[?][MS damaged] low prices (so far due to your ignorance (and mine [?]) of these low pr[ices] [MS damaged] for if he is not [MS damaged] actual swindler he must feel [MS damaged] to be very unreasonable on your <part.?> [MS damaged]

I think you had better offer h[im] [MS damaged] the 20 p.c. for all your future colle[ctions] [MS damaged] on condition that he gives you a full statement of names of all buyers of more than 20/- value, [MS damaged] numbers & prices of specimens bou[ght][?][MS damaged] names of any species of special val[ue] [MS damaged] for your guidance. This is only [MS damaged] you asked for at first. This [MS damaged] sure, will be far better th[an][?] [MS damaged] to bargain yourself with[?] [MS damaged] [[8]]15 up the Amazon!16

[MS damaged] <This?> will leave you with an immediate [MS damaged] <set?> of duplicates (and miscellaneous collect[io]ns.) on hand, which will deteriorate in value before you return home.

When writing to him next you might ask him what he thinks of Nicaragua <and?> Brazil, as regards saleability of insects, <and?> if he knows any district known to <be> rich but insufficiently worked, not <too> remote from where you are. He was <an> entomologist, and I think a dealer in [ins]ects before I went to the East, and [m]ust know better than any one else [w]hat districts of Tropical America are [le]ast known. But you must smooth [MS damaged] [h]im down a little! I wish you had [MS damaged] an Agent as Sam. Stevens was to [MS damaged] <me> and Bates. Perhaps Jansen [sic] is really [MS damaged], but conditions as to the market for [MS damaged] now very different.

[MS damaged] sincerely

[MS damaged] <Alfred> R.Wallace -- [signature]


1. There is fire damage to the top right-hand corner, and 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”. And to the left of this, there is a catalogue reference number. It reads: “83”.

3. This sentence commences on the same line as the previous sentence. However, Wallace has left a noticeable gap between the two sentences and has clearly changed the subject. Consequently it has been transcribed as the start of a new paragraph.

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

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

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

7. There is fire damage to the top left-hand corner, and left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

8. There is fire damage to the top right-hand corner, and right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

9. 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.

10. There is fire damage to the top left-hand corner, and left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

11. There is fire damage to the top right-hand corner, and right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

12. Wallace has numbered the page.

13. There is fire damage to the top left-hand corner, and left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

14. There is fire damage to the top right-hand corner, and right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

15. There is fire damage to the top left-hand corner, and left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

16. There is a stamp following the end of this sentence. It reads: Entomology BMNH Library”.

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