To William Thiselton-Dyer   11 September 1882



I happen to be very busy in my Department, dear Mr Dyer, as among other duties to be attended to, I have to go up the country to deliver a lecture, conduct an examination &c,2 so that I have really no time to get the additional material of Cycadeae ready for you from here just now, but there is a good deal both of Cycas and Zamia in store for you. I have written to the very scientific and obliging Colonial Secretary of Fiji, the hon. Mr Thurston, begging to send to Kew stems of the two species or varieties of Cycas from thence.

Enclosed a pattern of wood books, such as I got done for the Amsterdam Exhibition. If my Department had not been broken up, I would have had hundreds of volumes by this time of such “woody publication”! Whether I was really the first who devised wood collections in imitation of volumes I do not know; but this I do know, that I had no knowledge of such being adopted to illustrate timber specimens prior to my getting the large collection done from my pattern and my specimens of wood in our Penal Department for the Exhibition of 1863. That collection, I think, went finally as I requested then to Kew.3 I found it however difficult, to get woods, done in booklike boxes not to warp or even to split; besides the expense is considerable for each sample well done in that fashion. So I hit this time upon the present simple design as my future standard-pattern, & submit a specimen to Sir Josephs & your criticism.

Without wishing to be intrusive I might go farther, by suggesting, that you could easily get a few samples of this shape done in deel,4 and send by post one to each bot. Garden under British rule abroad, requesting to have every available wood done in that way. They would likely charge nothing for such things, as they could be made gradually, and have done a set for their own use simultaneously according to my pattern. Perhaps in justice to myself you would let them know, that the design was mine, as I have not “patented” this very important discovery!!! though it is so simple as to remind of Columbus’s egg.5

You would soon get thousands of wood-books together and you will admit, that there can be nothing more handy and pretty and cheap, and even useful; for if the portion, which imitates the pages externally, is not polished, you get a good sight on the grain of the wood in several directions.

That Grevillea annulifera is now in flower there6 is all the more interesting as it is the only species, in a great genus, of which the seeds are largely used (see “Select plants”)7 for food8 by the natives, from Shark-Bay to the Murchison-River.9 I sent some years ago a good lot of these seeds (testa very thick, but spongy, kernel of almond-taste) to the Kew Museum,10 to be put with the fruits of Guevina, Macadamia & Brabejum.

Regardfully your

Ferd von Mueller.


G. annulifera is growing here at a private friends place from seeds collected by me in 1877. leucopteris accompanies G. annulifera, and has flowered in the bot. Garden 20 years ago.





Grevillea annulifera

Grevillea leucopteris




Annotated by Thiselton-Dyer: An[swere]d Oct. 31. 82. and9x6x2. Thiselton-Dyer's letter not found.
M gave an evening lecture at the Ballarat School of Mines on 13 September, and also examined a student in botany; see A. Berry to M, 19 September 1882.
Marginal annotation by Thiselton-Dyer: no.
'Columbus … the explorer, irritated at being told that his exploits were easy, challenged the guests at a banquet to balance an egg on its end. When all had failed, he succeeded by flattening one end by tapping it against the table, a trick that any would then have been able to repeat. Repetition is easier than innovation' (Senn [2003]).
Grevillea annulifera was reviewed by N. E. Brown as a 'New garden plant' in Gardeners' chronicle, 29 July 1882, pp 134-5, as a 'handsome species' that would 'make a very desirable decorative plant were it not for its very powerful odour—an odour that resembles a bad-smelling, unventilated sick-room’ which in the afternoon 'becomes almost unbearable, and that in a very large room'. It was illustrated, with text by J. Hooker, in Hooker (1865-1904), series 3, vol. 39, Tab. 6687.
B80.13.07, p. 144, and subsequent editions.
used for food underlined in red pencil.
Kew underlined in red pencil. See RBG Kew Inwards book, March 17, 1880: ‘Baron Von Mueller | Seeds Grevillea annullifera ... | "highly ornamental shrub with edible seeds" | West Australia’.

Please cite as “FVM-82-09-11,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 22 September 2021,