Letter (WCP1532.1311)



31st Oct[obe]r 1857

My dear Wallace

Before I quit Singapore for England I must tell you that your papers1 on the Orangs turned up, after my letter had been dispatched— I agree in your conclusion of the ridge on the cranium being attributable to individual peculiarities, but on the whole before coming to any positive conclusion on the number of species it will [2] be advisable to wait for more facts and a larger field of investigation. Your collection was made in [illeg. word crossed out] a limited space of country and should not therefore be held conclusive as appli settling the general question— Here for instance is the measurement of a Mias killed by my nephew C[harles]. Johnson2, with his remarks —

"September 3rd 1857

"Killed female Orangutan[;] "Height, from head to heel 4f[t] ″6i[n] [3] "Stretch from finger to finger (across body), 6″ 1[inch][.] Breadth of face including callosities, ″11[.] Callosities large — middle aged animal — hair reddish brown, thick and shaggy, with beard, and hair on the upper lip."

He added that the callosities were hard, ie as hard as the gristle of a man’s nose— The head I will direct to be sent home when cleaned. This points from size alone to a distinct species — however I have not time to discuss—

[4] I wish you very well and happy— I am neither very the one or the other at present and suffering the consequences of follies long passed[.] — Change I hope will do me good and if England suits me not I shall take refuge on the Continent—

Write me whenever you feel inclined you know it affords me pleasure to hear from you and of your success —

Believe me | yours very sincerely | J Brooke. [signature]

A Wallace Esq.

ARW published three papers on the Orangutan for Annals and Magazine of Natural History in 1856 which he evidently enclosed in a letter to Brooke. In his paper On the Orang-Utan or Mias of Borneo, ARW discusses the ridge of the crania in distinguishing species of Orangutan. ARW argues that the variations in crania and cheek-excresences noted by Brooke does not indicate a new species but rather a variation within species. (Wallace, A. R. 1856. On the Orang-utan or Mias of Borneo. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 17 (2nd s.): 471-476 (June 1856: no. 102, 2nd s.). Also see: Wallace, A. R. 1856. On the Habits of the Orang-utan of Borneo. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 18 (2nd s.): 26-32 (July 1856: no. 103, 2nd s.) and Some Account of an Infant "Orang-utan." Annals and Magazine of Natural History 17 (2nd s.): 386-390 (May 1856: no. 101, 2nd s.).
Brooke, Charles Anthoni Johnson ("Charley") (1829-1917). The Second White Rajah of Sarawak and nephew of James Brooke.

Published letter (WCP1532.5138)

[1] [p. 98]

In a letter to Sir James Brooke, dated October 1857, in which he acknowledges the receipt of my Papers on the Orang, published in the "Annals and Magazine of Natural History", he sends me the measurements of a specimen killed by his nephew, which I will give exactly as I received it: "September 3d, 1867, killed female Orangutan. Height, from head to heel, 4 feet 6 inches. Stretch from fingers to fingers across body, 6 feet 1 inch. Breadth of face, including callosities, 11 inches."

Please cite as “WCP1532,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 29 February 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1532