New news and views on news, usually by George Beccaloni
Below is a table of the events running during Wallace week in Neath, Wales between 15th – 22nd June 2013.
Click on the event and it will take you to a page with more details.
A Week of Wallace: Alfred Russel Wallace and His...
You Should Ask Wallace
A Week of Wallace: The Amazing Adventures of Wal...
A Week of Wallace: Discover Neath Famous Alfred...
On my various visits to Ternate over the years (and now especially as part of the ‘In the Wake of Wallace’ cruises I have taken an interest in the location of Wallace’s house where he felt so relaxed and able to recuperate to gain strength before his next voyage in the eastern seas. There has been a lot written about the candidate sites and houses, and it is generally felt that the house owned by the Sultan’s family opposite the Sultan’s Mosque cannot be the correct house because of its dimensions and structure.
On my last visit in January 2013 I thought I’d take a measuring tape and measure it myself. Referring to Wallace’s floor plan in The Malay Archipelago, the room on the left is marked as 11x20 feet – and when we measured it, it was 11x21 feet. The veranda which people have said is wholly out of proportion is marked as 40x10. We found it was 50x12 (which is proportionately roughly the same, if somewhat larger). The biggest difference is the central Hall which is marked as 20x18 and we found was 26x21. So, to be sure, this house is different, but it is not so different. I find it strange that measurements for a Dutch-inspired house should have been so precisely round in its British Imperial measurements: 40, 20, 10 and others. Maybe he was giving us are talking approximate measures?
Floor plan of Wallace's house in Ternate from his book The Malay Archipelago
Other posts on this blog (see Here and Here Also see Here) have noted that the house has concrete pillars and brick/concrete walls not the wooden ones which Wallace describes. The wood was off the floor to avoid the worst of the termite damage, but exposed timbers still suffer from some termites but also from carpenter bees. Anyone who has lived in the tropics will have been pestered by these in the woodwork, and it is no wonder that as funds and materials became available that wood would have been replaced by brick and plaster. I think of all the Georgian houses in the UK which are Tudor half-timbered constructions with a Georgian facing built over them – but it is no less of a Tudor core.
The story I was told was that Wallace stayed in this house for a while until he found his long-term house. Maybe. I think I will keep taking people to this one because the floor plan is basically the same and is contemporary (even if altered). It’s certainly a lot more interesting than the possible actual site!
Tony measuring a room in the house ©Isabelle Desjeux
Please support the Ancestor's Trail who are very kindly trying to raise the other half of the money required for the Wallace Fund's bronze statue of Wallace for London's Natural History Museum. Check out the Ancestor's Trail website and their Facebook page. The event they are organising on the August Bank Holiday looks like great fun!
One of the many things I collect is any memorabilia associated with the two 'founding fathers' of modern evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Whilst items bearing Darwin's likeness, such as fridge magnets, key-ring fobs, figurines, old cigarette cards, postage stamps and even sugar packets, are relatively common, it is much, much more difficult to find any 'tat' emblazoned with Wallace phizog. In fact the only things I have discovered in the last 15 years are: an experimental Poole pottery medallion made by Wallace's son soon after his father's death (which was never commercially available anyway), two postage stamps (the UK, and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé & Príncipe), a laser etched Christmas tree decoration, a "Zombified Alfred Russel Wallace Wants To Eat Your Brain" hand painted necklace from Etsy (I kid you not), and an attractive sterling silver medallion produced by the Birmingham Mint in 1976.
|Front of the booklet||First page of the booklet|
|Close-up of the front of the medal||Close-up of the back of the medal|
The silver medallion was produced as part of a set of 24 called "Discovery in Silver", which commemorated the world's greatest explorers - people like Christopher Columbus, Captain Cooke etc. Each medal came 'embedded' into the cover of a 12 page booklet about the explorer in question. For a long time I thought that the Mint had made an unfortunate mistake and used an image of Wallace's friend and travelling companion in the Amazon, Henry Walter Bates, on the medal rather than Wallace, because it looked very similar to the engraving of Bates in the frontispiece of his book The Naturalist on the River Amazons. However, after studying it more carefully and doing some research, I now believe it IS actually Wallace, or at least a Wallace-Bates hybrid. This is what I found:
The image used on the medallion originates from a drawing used for the frontispiece and dust-jacket of Darwin's Moon, a biography of Wallace written by Amabel Williams-Ellis, published in 1966. Williams-Ellis says on page 46 "The picture used here as a frontispiece...also forms the frontispiece to Bates's one [own?] book, and, although Bates does not say so, it is clear that the tall spectacled figure in the foreground can only be Alfred Wallace." She goes on to say "...it is clearly an excellent likeness of Wallace when dressed for the rainforests." So what's wrong with this you might ask? Well, the problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that the illustration in Bates's book is Wallace, and it is puzzling why Williams-Ellis thought it was him. Perhaps she believed that only Wallace wore glasses, but Bates did as well (e.g. see http://www.oceansbridge.com/paintings/artists/recently-added/july2008/big/Henry-Walter-Bates-xx-Charles-Sims.JPG). Two good reasons why it must actually be Bates are that: 1) when Bates recounts being mobbed by curl-crested toucans [aracaris] in his book he doesn't mention that Wallace was there, and in Wallace's book Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro there is no mention of this dramatic incident; 2) Bates had a moustache, whereas Wallace never had a 'stand alone' moustache.
|Dust jacket of Williams-Ellis's book.||Frontispiece from Bates's book. Public domain.|
There is, however, a curious twist to this tale. If you compare the illustrations in Bates's and Williams-Ellis's books they are clearly rather different: the person depicted in Bates's frontispiece has a moustache and a checked shirt, whereas in Williams-Ellis's book he lacks a moustache, has a plain shirt, and has a scarf or cravat around his neck. The person depicted in Bates's book is almost certainly Bates as I have already argued, but the illustration in Williams-Ellis's book looks uncannily like a well known photo of Wallace aged 24, the year before he left for the Amazon (note the cravat, lack of moustache, wider mouth and more pronounced lower lip). So it seems likely that the artist who drew the illustration for Williams-Ellis's book based it on the one from Bates's book but modified the person in it to better resemble Wallace. This illustration was then used 10 years later for the Birmingham Mint medallion!
|Wallace in 1847. Copyright of scan: A. R. Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni.|
I can't help mentioning a true case of mistaken identity involving Darwin and Wallace: in 2004 Barnes & Noble published The Autobiography of Charles Darwin but printed a photo of Wallace on the cover instead! When someone noticed the error the book was quickly withdrawn from sale and presumable destroyed. I am delighted that I managed to get a copy!
|Cover of The Autobiography of Charles Darwin!
A very special book is currently being produced to commemorative the Wallace anniversary this year. The Letter from Ternate is being hand printed by Tim Preston on his Victorian Albion printing press at a rate of only about two pages per day. It is a labor of love, and poor Tim has been printing for five weeks so far. Fortunately the end is now in sight. Once printing is finished, the book will be professionally hand-bound and engravings and other illustrations tipped-in. There will be a pocket on the inside back cover with additional pictures and other material.
The book will consist of 96pp (not 80pp, as I stated in an earlier post). It is being printed on a beautiful mould-made paper from St Cuthbert’s Mill.
The book should be of considerable interest to Wallace aficionados since it includes new transcriptions from the original manuscripts of all surviving correspondence relating to the original publication of the Ternate essay, plus the famous essay itself and the speech Wallace gave at the Linnean Society in 1908 to mark the 50th anniversary of the essay's publication. This will be the first time that accurate copies of all the surviving correspondence relating to the publication of the essay have been published together in this way.
Only 100 copies of the book will be printed. Most have been reserved already, but a few are still available at the pre-publication price of £50 (£80 after publication). All profits will be donated to the Wallace Memorial Fund. The publication date is late Spring, 2013.
Specifications are as follows: book will measure 12.5 x 18.75cm. Printed letterpress by hand on Somerset Book Soft White 175g, quarter bound in cloth with decorated paper sides. The introduction is by yours truly (George Beccaloni).
If you are interested in a copy please contact Tim directly by email at email@example.com
More information about the book can be found in an earlier post.
|The title page of the book.||Wallace's standardwing: a woodcut illustration from the book|
The Dell, the amazing house Wallace built in Grays in Essex from the profits of his trip to the Malay Archipelago is up for sale! See http://www.thedellessex.co.uk/ Considering it has 9 bedrooms the price of £1,500,000 isn't too bad I guess! However, I don't think I will be snapping it up!
I have always fantasized about buying this house and turning at least part of it into a Wallace Museum, and/or using it for some purpose that would benefit the study of the natural world in some way e.g. using it as the headquarters for a natural history society or a conservation organisation. However, knowing how much effort it took to raise the £50,000 for the Wallace statue, I don't fancy trying to raise £1,500,000 plus running costs, unless I was to give up my job and do it full time.
For more information about the history of the house see http://wallacefund.info/2002-dell-plaque
Be sure to watch this on BBC2 this Sunday (21st April):
For more information, plus clips from the programmes and a lot more, go to the BBC's Jungle Hero website.
I have finally produced a list of all the donors to the Wallace statue campaign, which was not a straightforward job for various reasons. A total of 74 generous people and organisations contributed - so a very big thank-you to all of you!
An additional 104 people entered the Fund's Free Prize Draw, which means that there will be a total of 178 names in the draw - giving each person about a 1.7% chance of winning a prize (if my maths is correct). That certainly beats the UK National Lottery - where I believe you have about as much chance of winning a major prize as dying in a plane crash (thankfully a very low probability!). The draw will be held very soon, so watch this space.
The major donors (£1,500 or more) who will be listed on the plaque which will be put on the base of the statue are:
Dr Alan Smith (£13,268)
Mr William Wallace & family (£3,000)
Dr Miguel Bastos Araújo (£1,500)
Very many thanks for your generosity!
A c. 30 minute video of a talk by George Beccaloni and Caroline Catchpole about Wallace's early life and his adventures in the Amazon Basin and the Malay Archipelago is available at the following link for a very limited time only [it is an experiment]: https://vimeo.com/58786695 (the case sensitive password = Wallace). The talk was given at the Natural History Museum in London on the 25th January 2013 to mark the simultaneous launch of the Museum's Wallace100 events programme and Wallace Letters Online. It features footage of Bill Bailey unveiling a magnificent portrait of Wallace in the Museum's Central Hall. Enjoy!
Exciting news - we have just reached the halfway mark in the fundraising for the statue - we now have about £25,0001 of the £50,000 needed!! We can now afford to commission a large-than-life head-and-torso bust with plinth, which is about half the bronze which would go in to making a 10% larger than life statue which is obviously the ultimate goal. Since we have received some large donations recently (£3000, £1500 and £500) we are reluctant to stop just yet, so we have discussed the situation with the sculptor, Anthony Smith, and he has agreed to extend the deadline by two weeks - to Saturday 16th February. This deadline is set in stone. Hopefully a generous major donor or three might step forward, but as this is sadly not very likely to happen, please consider donating even relatively small amounts. Lots of small amounts equals one large amount!
Thanks very much indeed to all people who have donated so far - and thanks in advance to all who will (hopefully) donate in the next two weeks!
NOTE (30/01/2013): Since writing the above I have done a more accurate calculation of the donations received and have disappointingly found that the total is in fact less than £21,000.