New news and views on news, usually by George Beccaloni
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 my 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 my 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 our online archive, Wallace Letters Online, mentioned or its url given. Good scholarship would 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 This 'oversight' is rather ironic given van Wyhe's frequent complaints that scholars do not cite his "Darwin Online" resource in their publications!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! To see and read all of Wallace's letters from the Malay Archipelago in Wallace Letters Online CLICK HERE.
Finally, the Wallace Literary Estate, which I am a co-executor of, kindly 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. 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. One last thing: it is curious that the Patron of the Wallace Correspondence Project, Sir David Attenborough, wrote the Foreword for the book, but neither he nor the authors mentioned his association with the WCP!
A proper review of this book will follow when I have time.
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.
As many of you will know, the Natural History Museum in London has been celebrating the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace this year in a big way. As part of the celebrations, the Museum's magazine evolve has published four interesting articles about Wallace, and thanks to an agreement with evolve's Senior Editor Helen Sturge, and the authors of the articles in question, they can be downloaded as pdf files from the links below. Note that issue 17 of evolve hasn't even been distributed yet, so you will get to read the two interesting articles in it before everyone else!
ISSUE 16: Caroline Catchpole's article "Letters of a naturalist: the Wallace Correspondence Project". DOWNLOAD HERE
Copies of evolve can also be purchased from the Museum's shop here: http://www.nhmshop.co.uk/all-books/evolve-magazine/product.html
The 100th anniversary of Wallace's death on the 7th November 2013 is being marked by two public events at the Natural History Museum in London - plus two private events afterwards which are open only to invited guests who were involved in Wallace100.
The two public events are:
1) A performance of Welsh theatre company Theatr na nÓg's brilliant play "You should ask Wallace" in the Museum's Flett Lecture Theatre from 15.00 - 15.45. Tickets are free but have to be booked in advance here: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/events/programs/nhm/you_should_ask_wallace_-_a_wallace100_play.html?date=07.11.2013
2) The public unveiling by Bill Bailey and David Attenborough of the life-size bronze statue of Wallace which the Wallace Memorial Fund is donating to the Museum. This will take place in the public atrium of the Darwin Centre 2 building from 16.15 to 16.45 and I suggest that if you want a good view you should get there by 16.00. More details can be seen here: http://wallacefund.info/bill-bailey-david-attenborough-unveil-wallace-statue
I would highly recommend that you also take the opportunity to see the Museum's excellent Wallace Discovery Trail exhibition - which finishes on 24th November. It features lots of interesting objects including specimens collected by Wallace and items owned by him. The display cases are scattered all over the Museum so you need to pick up a leaflet at the Museum's Main Reception Desk so that you can find them! That's why it is called a 'discovery trail'! For more information about this exhibition see: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/special-displays/wallace-discovery-trail/index.html
I hope to see you on the 7th - it will be an historic occasion!
Just to let people know that I will be leaving the UK on the 8th November and travelling to 'the Malay Archipelago' (rather more rapidly than Wallace did!), as I have been asked to be a keynote speaker at the Wallace conference in Wangi-Wangi Island in Indonesia (see http://wallacefund.info/wallace-conference-beautiful-wakatobi-islands-indonesia). The conference runs from the 10th to the 13th November and after that I will take a holiday (I need one!!), before giving other lectures on Wallace in Singapore and possibly Malaysia. I will be back in the UK on the 14th December. If you need anything from me (e.g. Wallace related images which I have been supplying to numerous exhibitions and other events worldwide) please bear in mind that I will be very busy preparing for the trip. I also have to give three talks before I depart (at the Royal Society's Wallace Conference, the Natural History Museum' Wallace Conference and Oxford University's Wallace Day) and am heavily involved in the anniversary events at the Museum on the 7th November - the anniversary of Wallace's death (not least the donation that day by the Wallace Fund of the bronze statue of Wallace which will be unveiled by David Attenborough). Finally note that it is likely that I will be out of email contact during much of my trip (hurrah!).
Defining Wallacea: a conference about Wallace and the Wallacean Region has just been announced. It will be held in the Patuno Resort Hotel on Wangi Wangi Island in the Wakatobi Islands off south-eastern Sulawesi Island from the 10th to the 13th of November 2013. More information will soon be posted on the following website: http://www.aipi.or.id/en/
A flyer about the conference can be downloaded by CLICKING HERE.
Anyone attending the Wallace conference in Sarawak (7-8 November) should consider attending this conference as well!!