Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Wallace-Related Archival Materials

    Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: The following 'Bibliography of Wallace Archival Sources' was provided by Michael Shermer (, Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic Magazine (, and was compiled during his research for his doctoral dissertation on Wallace (Shermer 1991). The bibliography is published as an appendix in his biography entitled: In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace (Oxford University Press, 2002). There is currently a Wallace correspondence project under way, so if anyone knows of materials beyond those listed below, please contact me so I can pass this information along.

    [Note from Michael Shermer: I am pleased to provide this bibliography to Charles Smith's web page on Alfred Russel Wallace because he has provided an invaluable service to Wallace and Darwin scholars as well as historians of science in general with this remarkable archival achievement. My biography of this most fascinating scientist and scholar benefited greatly from Smith's important work, for which I am grateful.]

Bibliography of Wallace Archival Sources

    There are, briefly, fifteen primary-source archives in England that contain varying amounts of Wallace material, ranging from a couple, to a couple of thousand letters. A few comments here may help the reader understand the general historiography of this book, and direct future historians of Wallace to the specific source they may need. First of all it should be noted that there is, as yet, no central clearing house for Wallace archival materials. Unlike the Darwin industry where virtually all the correspondence (or copies thereof) are at the Cambridge University Library (and most of his personal artifacts and library are at his home in Down), Wallace's correspondences are scattered hither and yon. The British Library contains the most at approximately 1,400 letters, seven book manuscripts, and thirteen journal article manuscripts, while the Wellcome Institute, the Imperial College of Science and Technology, and University College, London house the least, with just a handful of letters each.

    Working approximately eight to ten hours a day, six days a week, it took my wife and I five and a half weeks to read thoroughly through all the primary source materials. It was a surprisingly easy task, enhanced by Wallace's legible handwriting, along with the majority of those who wrote to Wallace, with the exception of Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, and Lyell. All of the archivists were quite helpful, and some of them very knowledgeable on both Wallace and nineteenth-century evolutionary thought, particularly Gina Douglas at the Linnean Society, an excellent research facility and a warm introduction to the Wallace archives.

    The Linnean Society is one of the gold mines of archival materials, housing Wallace's letters, superb nature sketches, and annotated books from his personal library (including a copy of Darwin's Descent of Man). More significantly, the original notebooks in Wallace's hand from the Malay Archipelago are available, as well as his never-before-published American journal, containing fascinating descriptions of the American landscape, cityscape, universities, and his spiritualism experiences abroad. A small museum contains the skin of a giant python Wallace killed in the jungles of the Malay Archipelago (described in his book of the same name), as well as Darwin's satchel in which he kept his scientific instruments on the Beagle voyage. While the room in which the Darwin-Wallace papers were read into the record on July 1, 1858 is now gone, another room is set up with most of the original furniture, such that one can touch history by sitting in the Linnean Society President's chair and, with imagination, hear the ground-breaking ideas presented publicly (and generally ignored) for the first time. Likewise, the Museum of Mankind contains artifacts Wallace brought back from Malaya, and the British Museum of Natural History has many of Wallace's butterfly and other entomological collections, as well as the magnificent color portrait painted in 1923 by J. W. Beaufort that adorns the cover of this book. The British Library contains a fascinating article written by Wallace in 1900, simply entitled 'Evolution' [[Editor's note: S589]]. Although it is reported by the archives catalogue as never published, it first appeared in the New York based The Sun under the title 'The Passing Century' on December 23, 1900, and was reprinted in The Progress of the Century in 1901. It is a splendid summary of the state of the science at the fin de siècle, by one of its major scientific players.

    One of the most valuable sources of Wallace letters, books, and general memorabilia is his descendants. While there is no extant Wallace home, his grandsons Alfred John Russel Wallace and Richard Russel Wallace, from Bournemouth and Lymington respectively, have carefully saved a number of important items of their grandfather. Among these is included a binder of early correspondence that contains the famed letter to Bates, apparently sent the same time as the 1858 letter to Darwin with the paper on natural selection, that Darwin claims arrived on June 18. One can clearly see on the Wallace-Bates letter the postmark of London, June 3. The grandsons also have Wallace's sextant he used on the Amazon excursion, as well as numerous family photographs, portraits, and even their grandfather's grandfather clock. Both grandsons were extremely helpful and cordial, and John's hospitality in extending a luncheon for us was above and beyond the call of historical duty. John, now retired, was a science teacher and fully understands the importance of his grandfather's work within the larger context of the history of science. He incurred a not-inconsiderable expense in photocopying a number of letters for this book, for which I am grateful. The warm reception dispelled a rumor that a prior Wallace biographer had apparently started about the unapproachability of the grandsons, done, it is speculated, to discourage future historians from getting to these archives. If so, the plan backfired, as John steered us to a set of letters henceforth lost to the historical community. As we were leaving his home I inquired whether there were any other archives that might contain Wallace documents that were not on my list. He replied that he thought he remembered his father, William, mentioning that he had turned over a couple of boxes of his father's letters to Oxford University.

    A couple of phone calls and a train trip later my wife and I were at the Hope Entomological Collections in the University Museum at Oxford University. There were two boxes of letters, about 200 items in all, of exchanges between Wallace and primarily E. B. Poulton and Raphael Meldola (and a handful of others including a letter from Darwin about the feeding habits of caterpillars and the coloration of insects, not mentioned in any Darwin correspondence source). It was immediately obvious that no one had looked at these before, or at least for a very long time. (They are mentioned in no primary- or secondary-source bibliography.) William Wallace had joined each letter together with its envelope and a thin piece of tissue paper with a straight pin to protect the letter from others piled on top. This produced two holes in each letter and envelope. Not only were the pins rusty and a little difficult to pull out, but to put them back together in such a way that the holes were all aligned was very difficult. It was my impression that no one had done so before and there was no indication at the museum that anyone had ever requested or seen these letters. (The content of these letters, which is important, is discussed in Chapter 7.)

    The following appendix is the most complete archival source bibliography to date on Wallace. It was compiled during the research for the book as the previously published sources of primary documents were incomplete and impractical for research purposes. As much information as possible was recorded at each location so that historians will have only to turn to a single sourcebook to begin archival research. Due to space limitations not every letter is listed (though they were all recorded at every archive except the British Library, whose over 2,400 letters made this task impossible). General summaries and categories of correspondence are provided, as well as details of particularly important or interesting archival material, and lists of letters and manuscripts where space or importance warrants.

Alfred John Russel Wallace/Richard Russel Wallace Archives:
    [[Editor's Note: This collection was purchased by the Natural History Museum, London, in 2002. It can now be searched electronically, at: ]]

    Alfred Russel Wallace and his wife Annie had three children: Herbert Spencer Wallace, William Randolf Wallace, and Violet Wallace. Only William had children: Alfred John Russel Wallace and Richard Russel Wallace. Richard has two children: Richard and William Wallace. John has one daughter, Susan, whose daughter Rosamund is the great, great, granddaughter of ARW. The grandsons live in Bournemouth and Lymington respectively, and have carefully preserved much of their grandfather's archival material, including a binder of fifty-eight letters, dated July, 1835 - May, 1869. These include correspondences to and from his father, mother, George Silk, his brothers John, H. E. and W. G. Wallace, his sister Frances Sims, her husband and Wallace's friend, Thomas Sims, R. Spruce, and Henry Walter and Frederick Bates, including the now famous letter allegedly sent the same time as the letter and essay to Darwin, and arriving in London on June 3. They also retained some of Wallace's personal library (109 books), including foreign translations of The World of Life (Spanish and Dutch), with some minor marginalia in mostly the later editions. Many of Wallace's books were sold off after his death. A hand catalogue of the library was produced by RRW. Also featured: a pencil sketch of Wallace; a watercolor of Wallace's birthplace (the home is still extant); a watercolor and painting of Wallace, his parents, and some children (in one frame); a sextant used on the Amazon trip; a butterfly collection; a grandfather clock; a three-dimensional likeness of the Westminister Abbey monument; an article on the BBC docudrama on Wallace; original photographs, many never before published. A handlist of the letters by AJRW, entitled 'Old letters to and from A. R. Wallace and other members of his family,' reads as follows:

1. Mrs. Wallace (ARW's mother) to Thos Wilson July 1835
2. Mrs. Wallace to Miss Draper Aug. 1835
3. ARW to G. Silk (childhood friend) Jan. 1840
4. ARW to John Wallace (brother) Jan. 1840
5. ARW to G. Silk Jan. 1840
6. T. V. Wallace (ARW's father) to Miss Wallace June 1841
7. ARW to H. E. Wallace (brother) Mar. 1842
8. W. G. Wallace (brother) to Fanny (sister) Aug. 1844
9. ARW to H. W. Bates (entomologist/Amazon companion) Apl. 1845
10. ARW to H. W. Bates May 1845
11. ARW to H. W. Bates June 1845
12. ARW to H. W. Bates Oct. 1845
13. ARW to H. W. Bates Oct. 1845
14. ARW to H. W. Bates Nov. 1845
15. ARW to H. W. Bates Dec. 1845
16. ARW to H. W. Bates Aug. 1846
17. ARW to H. W. Bates Oct. 1847
18. ARW to G. Silk June 1848
19. H. E. Wallace to R. Spruce Dec. 1850
20. H. E. Wallace to R. Spruce Mar. 1851
21. H. W. Bates to Mrs. Wallace Oct. 1851
22. A. R. Wallace to R. Spruce (botanist) Sep. 1852
23. R. Spruce to A. R. Wallace Oct. 1852
24. R. Spruce to A. R. Wallace July 1853
25. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk (copy) Mar. 1854
26. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace Apl. 1854
27. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace May 1854
28. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace July 1854
29. John Wallace to Mrs. Wallace Aug. 1854
30. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace Sep. 1854
31. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk Oct. 1854
32. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims June 1855
33. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Sept. 1855
34. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace Dec. 1855
35. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Feb. 1856
36. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Apl. 1856
37. A. R. Wallace to H. W. Bates Apl. 1856
38. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Dec. 1856
39. A. R. Wallace to H. W. Bates Jan. 1858
40. A. R. Wallace to Frederick Bates Mar. 1858 (used to date letter and essay sent to Darwin allegedly the same date, postmarked Singapore March 21, London, June 3, Leicester, June 3)
41. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Sep. 1858
42. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace Oct. 1858 (extract only)
43. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk Nov. 1858
44. A. R. Wallace to Thomas Sims Apl. 1859
45. A. R. Wallace to H. W. Bates Nov. 1859
46. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk Sep. 1860
47. A. R. Wallace to H. W. Bates Dec. 1860
48. A. R. Wallace to Mrs. Wallace July 1861
49. A. R. Wallace to Fanny, Mrs. Sims Oct. 1861
50. A. R. Wallace to H. W. Bates Dec. 1861
51. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk Dec. 1861
52. A. R. Wallace to John Wallace Jan. 1863
53. R. Spruce to A. R. Wallace Nov. 1863
54. R. Spruce to A. R. Wallace Jan. 1866
55. R. Spruce to Mrs. Sims Feb. 1867
56. R. Spruce to A. R. Wallace Apl. 1867
57. A. R. Wallace to John Wallace May 1869
58. A. R. Wallace to G. Silk 1858 (note on the smoke nuisance; no explanation for out-of-order sequence)

British Library, Department of Manuscripts:
    A total of 3,071 folio pages of letters, dated 1848-1913, to and from Wallace, including:

  • 349 folio page letters to and from Charles Darwin (including a few from George and Francis Darwin to Wallace).
  • 14 letters to and from Herbert Spencer.
  • 1395 letters 'On Scientific Subjects' grouped by the following dates:
           1848-1878: 432 letters (including 21 from C. Lyell on biogeography and never published).
           1879-1894: 348 letters.
           1895-1908: 310 letters.
           1909-1914: 305 letters.
  • 437 letters 'On Spiritualism' (1864-1913).
  • 292 letters 'On Socialism, Land Nationalization' (1867-1913).
  • 60 letters 'On Opposition to Vaccination' (1883-1912).
  • 261 letters 'General Correspondence' (1853-1904, including two from W. E. Gladstone, 1895 and 1898).
  • 239 letters 'General Correspondence' (1905-1913).

        There are also seven book manuscripts, including:
    Bad Times
    (1886, autograph draft with corrections).
    Darwinism (1889, autograph draft with corrections).
    The Wonderful Century (1898, autograph draft with corrections).
    Man's Place in the Universe (1903, extracts from revised edition).
    My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905, original text same as published).
    Is Mars Habitable? (1907, autograph draft with revisions).
    The World of Life (1910, autograph draft with revisions).
        'Contributions to Periodicals 1890-1908' (some of which are republished in Studies Scientific and Social in 1900). These 'Contributions' include thirteen journal article manuscripts:

    'Progress without Poverty' (Fortnightly Review [FR], 9/90).
    'English and American Flowers' (FR, 10/91).
    'Our Molten Globe' (FR, 11/92).
    'Spiritualism' (Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1892).
    'The Ice-Age and its Work i; Erratic Blocks and Ice-Sheets' (FR, 11/93).
    'The Ice-Age and its Work ii; Glacial Erosion of Lake Basins' (FR, 12/93).
    'The Palaearctic and Nearctic Regions Compared as Regards the Families and Genera of their Mammalia and Birds' (Natural Science, 6/94).
    'How to preserve the House of Lords' (Contemporary Review, 1/94).
    'Revd. George Henslow on Natural Selection' (Natural Science, 9/94).
    'The Method of Organic Evolution' (FR, 2/95).
    'The Expressiveness of Speech, or Mouth-Gesture as a Factor in the Evolution of Language' (FR, 10/95).
    'Evolution' (possibly published in The Sun, 1900, and reprinted in Progress of the Century, 1900).
    'The Legend of the Birds of Paradise in the Arabian Nights' (Independent Review, 3/04).
    'The Native Problem in South Africa and Elsewhere' (Independent Review, 11/06).
    'The Remedy for Unemployment' (Socialist Review, 6/08).
    'The Present Position of Darwinism' (Contemporary Review, 8/08).
        Also stored in the archives is a picture postcard of Wallace, and an intriguing printed press release and proposal to raise funds to finance a utopian society in Africa, based on Dr. Theodor Hertzka's novel Freeland, for which Wallace founded the British Freeland Association, with an office address of London. Most of this material was donated by Wallace's son William George Wallace.

    British Museum (Natural History):
        Manuscript materials are under 'Wallace Collection.' Twenty letters; two Species Registries (one on birds and insects and the other on mammals). Also, a large color portrait commissioned and painted ten years after Wallace's death (featured on the cover of this book). [[In 2002 the Natural History Museum purchased a large collection of Wallace items from his family and incorporated it into their archives. --Ed.]]

    Darwin Archive, Cambridge University Library:
        Original letters between Wallace and Darwin, all recorded in the Handlist of the Darwin Papers, Cambridge University Press, 1960. Included is the letter clipping from Wallace to Darwin, dated September 27, 1857, in which Wallace discusses his "plan" for a "detailed proof" of his theory first proposed in 1855. See also the Calendar of Darwin's correspondence for cross referencing Wallace and tangential figures.

    Hope Entomological Collections of Oxford University Museum:
        Approximately 200 letters in two boxes between Wallace and primarily E. B. Poulton, dated 1886-1913, and Raphael Meldola, dated 1879-1910. There are a handful of others, including one from Darwin to Wallace (July 9, -) about caterpillar feeding habits and coloration of insects of Sydney, and from C. Lloyd Morgan (1891). The Poulton and Meldola letters are particularly important for understanding Wallace's hyper-selectionism, and his stance against use-inheritance, Mendelian genetics, and mutationism. Also, a manuscript by R. Meldola on Wallace and his theories; a copy of The Scientific Aspects of the Supernatural, with the account by Frances Sims of spirit writing on the frontispiece (see Chapter 8 for a photocopy and reprint); 'A. Russel Wallace Spiritualist Library' [[Editor's Note: This collection is now held by the University of Edinburgh Library, Special Collections Department]]; and a sizable insect collection from Malaya, the listing in detail of which fills an entire page in Audrey Smith's 'Lists of Archives and Collections,' an appendix in her A History of the Hope Entomological Collections in the University Museum Oxford (Oxford University Press, 1986). There are also photos of Wallace.

    Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine, London:
        Letters are in the 'Huxley Collection.' Eight letters from Wallace to Huxley, dated 1863-1891, most dealing with either the evolution of man, or fossils and their use as evidence for evolution. There is one letter from Raphael Meldola and others related to the Alfred Russel Wallace Memorial Fund.

    Kew Royal Botanic Gardens:
        A total of 139 letters of correspondence, dated 1848-1913 and listed in the 'Director's Correspondence,' mostly between Wallace and the directors of Kew, including D. Prain, W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, and, of course, J. D. Hooker. The subject of most of the letters is, of course, of a botanical nature, dealing with the identification of seeds, plants, or flowers, the investigation of specimens, plants for personal use (gifts), biogeography of plants, requests for seeds for gardening experiments, revisions on Wallace's Island Life, recollections for My Life from Hooker, information for book on Richard Spruce Wallace edited, orchids, extinct animals and missing links, request for letter of recommendation from Hooker, proofread Darwinism, and request for lecturn slide of bird pollinating.

    Linnean Society of London:
         Letters; four notebooks from the Malay Archipelago; the American journal; four other journals from both the Amazon and Malay Archipelago; manuscript of Palm Trees of the Amazon; 'Some of My Original Sketches on the Amazon'; books from Wallace's library with marginalia (including Darwin's Descent of Man); Registry of Consignments (specimens sent to London agent Stevens). Also, a small museum contains the skin of a giant python Wallace killed in Malaya, as well as Darwin's satchel in which he kept his scientific instruments on board the Beagle. The room where the Darwin-Wallace joint papers were read on July 1, 1858 is no long extant, but the original furniture and other room artifacts are set up exactly as before in a room at the current Linnean Society building. The Journals and Notebooks contain the following:

    Wallace Journals (approximately 25,000 words per volume):
        V. I: 13 June 1856 - 9 March 1857
        V. II: 13 March 1857 - 1 March 1859
        V. III: 25 March 1859 - August 1859
        V. IV: 29 October 1859 - 10 May, 1861

    Wallace Notebooks:
        (i) The Species Register
        (ii) Financial Accounts
        (iii) Notes on Habitats, etc.
        (iv) Notes for Papers

    These have all been transcribed, though it is advisable to check the
    transcripts with the original source, as, not infrequently, there is obvious
    misreading of words, or blank spaces where words could not be read.

    Museum of Mankind:
        Anthropological artifacts brought back from Malaya, including carvings, tools, and trinkets made by native peoples with whom Wallace interacted or lived. Many of these are mentioned or discussed in Wallace's Malay Archipelago.

    Royal Entomological Society:
        Materials listed in the 'Wallace Collection': The original copy of the article Wallace wrote on 'The Origin of the Theory of Natural Selection;' Obituary Notice (with portrait) by E. B. Poulton and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (1923, Vol. 95); a hard-to-come-by copy of Harry Clements' Alfred Russel Wallace: Biologist and Social Reformer (1983); and a paper by Gerald Henderson on 'The Present Position of Darwinism,' in which he discusses his 1959 dissertation on Wallace and Darwin: 'Diverging Currents in 19th Century Evolutionary Thought.'
    Royal Geographical Society:
        Materials listed in the 'Wallace Collection': Twenty-three items total, including letters from Wallace, dated 1853-1878; a request for funding or assistance for the Malay Archipelago trip; and the correspondence from John Hampden and the Flat-Earth Society.

    Royal Society of London:
        Wallace materials are scattered throughout the archives and listed in the card catalogue under 'Wallace.' Four letters, dated 1868-1908, regarding the Copley Medal, the Copley gift, expenses in copying letters and journals, dust particles carried by the wind worldwide, and one to Professor A. Schuster on biogeography. Also, an article by C. F. A. Pantin on 'ARW, FRS and his Essays of 1858 and 1855,' RS, Notes and Records; a good collection of books by and about Wallace and Darwin; as well as busts of Darwin, Lyell and other luminaries in the history of science, including Newton. (They also have on display the original 'Newtonian' reflecting telescope, though apparently many of the parts are not original, having been replaced bit by bit over the centuries.)

    University College London, Bloomsbury Science Library
        Letters and assorted materials are in the Manuscript Room under 'Galton Papers.' Correspondence of Wallace and F. Galton, and of particular interest Galton's attempt to survey the eminent men and 'noteworthy families' of his time, including Wallace, and Wallace's reticent (and modest) response declining participation in the study. Letters discuss an 'Evolution Committee on Breeding' and a request for Wallace's fingerprints. There is also a 'Scrapbook of Darwinia,' including a letter from Darwin to Wallace.

    University of London
        Letters listed by MSS number in the 'Spencer Collection.' Limited correspondence between Wallace and Herbert Spencer, listed under Wallace letters in the Spencer collection.

    Wellcome Institute
        Letters in the 'Wallace Collection.' Nine letters, dated 1863-1910, to T. C. Eyton, J. D. Hooker, D. Cook, Mrs. Dammeather, Mrs. Alice K. Wyme, S. Waddington, and three to P. L. Sclater. Mostly botanical and zoological observations and comments. No theoretical discussions.

    Zoological Society of London
        Letters in the 'Sclater Letters.' Thirty-three letters, dated 1850-1901, mostly to P. L. Sclater on zoological matters, zoogeography, and the sales of specimens in London, particularly birds, to finance research. Also, an interesting 'Proposal as to a Joint Residential Estate,' by Wallace and his partners in this proposal, for a planned community outside London in which the natural beauty of the landscape would remain preserved.

    *                 *                 *                 *                 *

        Editor's Note: In addition to the materials noted above by Dr. Shermer, McKinney (1972) lists the locations of other personal letters known to exist as of the date of that publication. More have surfaced since, and undoubtedly will continue to do so; I have recently come upon Wallace correspondence and other archival materials mentioned in the library catalogues and/or manuscript collections of the following institutions: Indiana University (Bloomington), New York Public Library Research Libraries, University of Liverpool, American Philosophical Society, Wagner College (New York), Strathclyde University (Great Britain), Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library (UCLA), John Innes Archives (Norwich, U.K.), Manchester Archives and Local Studies (Manchester, U.K.), University of Virginia, University of Texas (Austin), Princeton University, University of Chicago, University of Florida, Iowa State University, Gray Herbarium (Harvard University), Michigan State University, West Virginia State Archives Manuscript Collections, Edinburgh University, University of Wisconsin (Madison), Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California (Berkeley & Los Angeles), Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Manuscripts Department at the Library of the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Cambridge University, Ernst Mayr Library (Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Dittrick Medical History Center (Case Western Reserve University), National Library of Australia, American Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian Institution.

    *                *                 *                 *                 *

    Return to Home