New news and views on news, usually by George Beccaloni
Prof. Indraneil Das, an ecologist and herpetologist with an interest in philately who works at the University of Malaysia Sarawak, recently sent me a copy of an interesting poster which he and a colleague produced for the recent Wallace conference in Sarawak about postage stamps featuring Wallace. Neil has kindly agreed that I can share it on this website - please see below. For a much easier to read pdf version click HERE.
I have written about Wallace stamps on this blog before - see:
It would seem that the UK stamp issued in 2010 is the only 'real' postage stamp (i.e. one intended for actual postal use) ever produced which features Wallace. This is sad considering that over one hundred stamps have been issued which feature Darwin!
It always amuses me to think that my name appears on a set of Darwin stamps issued by Portugal!
Tony Whitten, Asia-Pacific Regional Director of Fauna & Flora International and leader of the 'In the Wake of Wallace' cruise has sent us an account of the Wallace centenary celebrations in the town from which Wallace sent his world-changing letter to Charles Darwin on the mechanism of evolution:
On the morning of the anniversary, November 7th, the burghers of Ternate woke up to the leader page in their daily newspaper, the 'Malut Pos', being a reminder of Wallace and his legacy. But in the evening, thanks to the generosity of Seatrek Sailing Adventures, government officials, members of the royal family, passengers on the In the Wake of Wallace cruise, and a troupe of dancers and musicians celebrated in style in the old house which some claim was lived in by Wallace during at least part of his time in Ternate. Dancers accompanied the guests as they arrived after which Mr Ismunandar Syah, a member of the royal family who has lived in the house all his life, welcomed everyone to the celebration. I then offered a few words about Wallace and his legacy, and was followed by Ir Arief Gani, Expert Staff of the Ternate Mayor, representing the Mayor.
The speeches closed with Dr Syaiful Bahri Ruray, the Chairman of the North Moluccas Parliament who for 20 years has been a great Wallace fan and has wanted to get him better known and appreciated. Significantly, he then told us that he expects local budgetary resources to now be available to establish a Wallace centre (library, exhibition) in the house. Now, we all know there will be squabbles as to the validity of the house as a site, but I’m not sure that erecting a new house at one of the sites suspected of being where Wallace’s house stood is any more valid. Let’s face it, we won’t know for sure about the house unless Wallace tells us through a visitation at a spiritualist séance. While the arguments rage, we lose the opportunity to have a focus for Wallace interest in Ternate.
I presented the major government officials there with copies of Kepulauan Nusantara, the large format Indonesian translation of The Malay Archipelago which includes the Introduction which I penned for the Periplus English edition of the book. John Priebe, co-owner of Seatrek Bali, presented Mr Ismunandar with a copy of Tim Preston’s beautiful hand-printed book The Letter from Ternate as an early contribution to the house’s collection of Wallace collection of materials. I also presented the representative of the Mayor with a plaque for the house which reads:
"Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) – British traveller, biologist, collector and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection – is said to have lived in this house during his stays in Ternate in the 1860s while exploring the islands of eastern Indonesia. Unveiled on the 100th anniversary of his death – November 7th 2013."
We then enjoyed a wonderful buffet meal of sumptuous local curries, and after a final local dance we all departed, feeling we had witnessed something significant.
The island of Ternate
The house where Wallace may have stayed during his time in Ternate. The house is located on Jalan Sultan Babulla, close to the Sultan’s Palace in Ternate town.
The keynote speakers of the evening, left to right: Ir Arief Gani, Expert Staff of the Ternate Mayor. Dr Syaiful Bahri Ruray. Chairman of the North Moluccas Parliament. Mr Ismunandar Syah, member of the Sultan’s family and caretaker of the Wallace House. Tony Whitten, Asia-Pacific Regional Director of Fauna & Flora International.
A new sculpture of Wallace is to be made for the town of Hertford where Wallace went to school. Sculptor Rodney Munday has been awarded the commission to produce the piece and he has sent me the following article which explains the project:
'To commemorate the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace, Hertford Civic Society in conjunction with East Herts Council and Hertford Town Council have commissioned sculptor Rodney Munday to produce a large wall relief of the naturalist, who was for a time educated at Hertford Grammar School. The maquette for the 2m high work which will be placed on an external wall of Hertford Theatre was exhibited at a Wallace celebration event at the theatre on 14th November. The final work will be installed next spring.
Commenting on his work, Rodney said: “Creating a visual image of a character from the past should be akin to writing a biographical novel. Research into the subject’s personality is essential in order to produce something of enduring value. In this context, Wallace’s two volume autobiography was fascinating reading in coming to know him as a person. It reveals the man as a polymath of truly Renaissance proportions. Not only was he (together with Darwin) the co-author of evolutionary theory, but he was at the forefront of the geology of his time, and an eminent social theorist - as well as an adventurer. The autobiography together with Wallace’s two volume Malay Archipelago, gave me an idea for a sculpture which hopefully goes beyond mere portraiture and which, I believe is more interesting and attractive as an artistic design. It presents the torso of Wallace reaching out for a greater bird of paradise. The bird itself is based on the image which forms the frontispiece of Malay Archipelago, and its form is reflected in the image of Wallace, giving those sort of visual references which set up internal rhythms analogous to rhyme and rhythm in poetry, at the same time, by its imagery, saying something about the man and his work. Evolutionary theory had been in the air for some time before Darwin and Wallace, and it is more than coincidence that they had the same revolutionary idea at the same time. Philosophical and scientific ideas are frequently “in the air” at certain periods, ready to be snatched from it by those extraordinarily perceptive people we sometimes refer to as geniuses. Wallace reaching out and grasping the bird of paradise which so enthralled him, can therefore be seen as symbolic of his greater achievement.”'
The maquette for the sculpture. Copyright Rodney Munday.
I had been looking forward to reading John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker's new book Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago as the adverts for it state that it contains "recently discovered letters". I was keen to see these and add them to our comprehensive online archive of all of Wallace's correspondence, Wallace Letters Online, and was at the same time puzzled by how they had found letters which we had missed! Turning to the list of letters in Appendix 1 of their book which lists the repositories which own the originals of the letters plus other details about them, I saw that 5 letters did not have WCP numbers - the unique identifiers which our Wallace Correspondence Project gives to each letter that we catalogue. Great, I thought, these must be the ones we missed! I was to be disappointed, however, as every one of them was already present in our database, and clearly the authors had simply omitted the WCP numbers for them.
Searching through the book for reference to the Wallace Correspondence Project, I eventually found that the project had been briefly mentioned in the Acknowledgements - but strangely, nowhere in the book is the project's online archive, Wallace Letters Online, mentioned or its url given. Good scholarship should dictate that it was cited in the book's reference list at least (for no other reason than the fact that our project's "WCP" numbers are given, yet readers will not know what their significance is), but it was not. This 'oversight' is rather ironic given van Wyhe's frequent complaints that scholars do not cite his "Darwin Online" resource in their publications! I also spotted the following misleading statement in the Acknowledgements "..we provided early transcriptions of the letters in this volume to the WCP project." This seems to imply that the transcripts of these letters in Wallace Letters Online, are perhaps based on the transcripts sent to the project by van Wyhe, but this is far from the case. He sent these transcripts to us a long time ago, and they were full of errors and lacked formatting. They were sent in order that he could check that we had no letters that he had missed - not so we could use the transcripts! In fact all of the letters in our online archive were transcribed directly from scans of the originals by our many volunteers - so no thanks are due to van Wyhe and Rookmaaker in this regard! Ironically, the publisher (OUP) even cautioned us against using the transcripts published in the book - despite the fact that the Wallace Literary Estate, which I am a co-executor of, owns the copyright of all of Wallace's unpublished writings. They wrote "Van Wyhe and Rookmaaker's particular interpretation of the letters should not be used by anyone else without applying for permission to OUP." and "The editors’ copyright is quite separate...it covers any editorial input, including their interpretations of defaced or illegible words, as well as interpolations, arrangement, and all scholarly apparatus."
Finally, the Wallace Literary Estate, permitted van Wyhe and OUP to publish copyrighted letters written by Wallace for no charge. Normally the Estate would charge a fee for commercial publication of such texts (note that no permission is required for non-commercial publication). Although copyright of these letters is stated in tiny print on the second page of the book, no thanks are given in the Acknowledgements to the Wallace Literary Estate for generously waiving our fees... We weren't even sent a free copy of the book!
These gripes aside, I do think that it is nice to have the letters in 'hard copy' so I would recommend this book. Do bear in mind though, that every letter in it is also present in Wallace Letters Online, and that WLO also contains images of the actual letters, plus other information about them, which this book lacks. To see and read all of Wallace's letters from the Malay Archipelago in Wallace Letters Online CLICK HERE
Biodiversity Heritage Library's (BHL) digital campaign celebrating the life of Alfred Russel Wallace will run over the course of next week, Nov 4-8. The BHL is a digital library project dedicated to providing open access to the world's legacy biodiversity literature and thus have some of Wallace's works in their collection, see http://biodiversitylibrary.org/creator/1522#/titles. In an effort to highlight his impact on science, they are launching an iTunes University collection of selected works (https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/celebrating-alfred-russel/id735335039?mt=10) and are focusing their social media efforts via their blog, Twitter and Facebook, exclusively on Wallace. Please see the BHL's social media platforms: http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/, https://twitter.com/BioDivLibrary and https://www.facebook.com/BioDivLibrary. Note that all their materials are available for free online, including the iTunes U materials.
The BEST film ever made about Wallace has just been made available on YouTube - the first time it has been made publicly available since it was broadcast by the BBC as part of its 'The World About Us' series back in 1983. It is called 'The Forgotten Voyage' and everyone who is interested in Wallace should watch it. It is around an hour long and was directed by Peter Crawford, who kindly gave the Wallace Memorial Fund permission to put it on YouTube to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death. This film was extremely well researched and written by Elaine Morgan, who sadly died recently. Much of the script was directly taken from Wallace's writings with little modification.
For more information about it see http://www.petercrawford.co.uk/tvdrama.php
To watch the film on YouTube CLICK HERE
To mark the centenary of Broadstone, Dorset's most famous resident, Alfred Russel Wallace, the Broadstone Chamber of Trade is sponsoring a one day only postal cover and postmark for 7th November, 2013. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this unique souvenir of the Wallace anniversary year then CLICK HERE for an order form. It costs only £5.00.